Pure Spiritual Milk (I Peter 2:1-3)
Passage: 1 Peter 2:1–2:3
New Life in the Same Old Place
Pure Spiritual Milk
I Peter 2:1-3
March 15th, 2009
Way of Grace Church
I. A Tall Glass of Milk
How good does a tall, cold glass of milk sound right now?
It doesn't matter whether you drink whole milk, or two-percent, or skim, just try to imagine a glass of your favorite milk, sitting right there in front of you. How good does it look? Can you taste it?
I love milk. I think there are two kinds of people in this world: those who leave milk in their bowls after eating cereal, and those who pick up the bowl and drink the milk right from the side. That's a true milk lover.
I don't know about you, but there is one thing that really makes me thirsty for milk: chocolate; any kind of chocolate...or chocolate chip cookies...whatever form it takes, it doesn't matter. It's almost as if there is an automatic response with my taste buds. I just crave milk. I suspect a lot of you are the same way.
Well, before I completely lose some of you to an imaginary snack break, or your tempted to get up and scour the tables in the foyer, I want to encourage you to keep milk in mind as we turn together to I Peter 2:1-3. (page 1014)
This morning we are coming back to this letter written by the Apostle Peter to those that he, in chapter 1, verses 1 described as elect exiles, selected strangers, appointed aliens. These were men and women who had placed their complete trust in Jesus Christ, men and women who had experienced God's newness.
But they were coming to grips with the challenge of living new lives in the same old place they had always lived. The new in the midst of the old typically creates tension, doesn't it?
II. The Passage: "Like Newborn Infants" (2:1-3)
Well, let's look this morning at where Peter goes with his encouragements. As we enter the second chapter, you may remember that in the first chapter, Peter talked a lot about salvation. The word itself is mentioned three times in chapter one, but the idea is describe in other terms as well.
"Salvation" is a good Christian-ese word, but what does Peter mean we uses the term? Well we've seen that Peter uses the word and similar ideas to describe the deliverance of God that God has accomplished, is accomplishing, and will accomplish fully when Christ returns. Paul would describe it as God justifying us (declaring us righteous because of Christ), sanctifying us (making us more and more like Christ), and glorifying us (conforming us fully to Christ).
Well listen to the connection Peter makes here in chapter 2 in regard to the topic of "salvation". Listen as I read beginning in 2:1...
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation- 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Did you see the term "salvation" used here again, in chapter 2, verse 2? Here the idea is "grow[ing] up into salvation", that is, allowing our lives more and more to reflect the reality of what God has done, is doing, and will do because of Jesus and the work of God's Spirit.
But how do we grow? Isn't it your desire to grow? Which of us wants to be the same person we are today ten years from now? No one wants to keep struggling with the same struggles. No one wants to be weaker in their faith instead of stronger. We all want to grow. But how?
Even though we're looking at only three verses this morning, there is a lot here. Let's take some time to look at each verse and see what God has for us this morning in regard to "grow[ing] up into salvation".
A. Changing Our Diet (2:1)
Look at verse one again. Peter calls his reader to "put away", or literally "to take off" like a torn or dirty shirt, to take off these destructive characteristics. Remember, he has just encouraged them in 1:22 to love one another sincerely, with a pure love. The kinds of sins that Peter mentions in verse 1 are enemies of the love he is calling them to live by. These are the kinds of sins that we are tempted to in all of our relationships.
We are tempted to malice, aren't we? Maybe when we are wronged, maybe we are tempted to be malicious in response. We are tempted to that kind of evil that wants to see others suffer, maybe in the same way we're suffering.
We are tempted to deceit, aren't we? We are tempted to obscure the truth, especially if helps us bypass our obligation to love and serve others. We are tempted to conceal our genuine issues and our genuine feelings when it comes to difficult relationships.
We are tempted to hypocrisy, aren't we? We are tempted to be insincere and present ourselves as good and right and honest, when we know that something is wrong. We are tempted to be critics, even though we know we are guilty of the same things as those we're criticizing.
We are tempted to envy, aren't we? Even though we know we should be thankful for the good things the other person has, we are tempted to think maliciously about that person because they have what we want; because they have what we believe we deserve.
And we are tempted to slander, aren't we? We are tempted to speak about someone behind their back; to speak about someone in hurtful ways; to misrepresent them; to cut them down.
Maybe Peter knew that these Christians were struggling in their relationships with one another. Maybe he knew about divisions and conflicts that were hurting this church or these churches. Or at least he knew that such conflicts were always possible.
Whatever the actual situation, Peter follows up His call to love in chapter one with this call to "put away" these enemies of genuine love.
If we think of this in terms of growth, these sins, when allowed to get a foothold in our life, these sins hinder growth don't they? When we try to bury these things or ignore them, our attempts to grow will always be frustrating.
The reason is that these sins fail to feed our spirit. It's not that these things are merely like "junk food" when it comes to our souls. Most parents know that junk food won't help their child grow. I remember being so upset with my mom because she wouldn't let us have sugary cereals for breakfast. We had to eat KIX because it was good for us. But she knew what was good for us. So these things are like "junk food" in the sense that they don't nourish us.
But these sins do more than give us spiritual cavities. They poison us. They poison us because they only feed our desire to focus on ourselves, that desire to place ourselves at the center of our lives.
That's why Peter says, "put them away". And even though psychiatrists and psychologist might scoff, he can and does instruct them to simply "put them all away" because he knows the power of God that is available in the gospel of Christ. It is power to change us.
It is this power that has "purified their souls" (1:22), it is this power that has caused them to be "born again" (1:23).
If we want to rid our hearts of these sins, we have to first embrace the power of God revealed in the Good News about Jesus. It's the power to remake us. It's the power to give us a new birth.
To "put away" these things is not about never experiencing similar feelings again. It's about our commitment to never allow such feelings to affect our commitment to the other person. It's about our commitment to trust that God is putting these things away for us as the Holy Spirit is working within us.
But if these things are poisonous to us, then what will nourish us? What will feed us as if we desire to "grow up into salvation" as Peter expressed in verse 2.
B. What Kind of Milk? (2:2)
Well, let's look again at verse 2: Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation-
Peter uses an appropriate analogy here, that of a baby longing for its mother's milk. Remember, he has already described God's work in them as a "new birth".
And as all of us know, if a baby is to grow, he or she must have milk.
Peter is not commenting here on how long his readers have been followers of Jesus. He's not necessarily calling them spiritual babies. The image of the infant is related specifically to the idea of longing.
But what is this milk that he talks about here? Well, we know that he is not talking about the beverage we were discussing at the beginning of our time.
Some Bibles translations describe the milk here as the "milk of the word". These translations do so based on two factors. First, the Greek adjective connected to milk here is the word logikon. It's the word from which we get the English word, "logical". This word is in fact related the Greek word logos, which means "word". The second factor that influences these translations is the context. The word of God was just talked about in the closing verses of chapter 1.
So it makes sense to some that the milk Peter is talking about here is the word of God.
But the problem with this is that the primary meaning of the Greek word logikon is "spiritual" or "rational". This word is only used in one other place in the New Testament, and that's in Romans 12:1 where Paul talks about our "spiritual [or reasonable] service of worship".
If Peter wanted to connect this term "milk" to the word of God, there would have been several more obvious and common ways to do that. And even though the context does mention God's word, the more immediate context seems to be emphasizing something else.
So the term "spiritual" here is probably Peter's way of simply saying that he is not talking about literal milk. We would say something like "so to speak" or "in a manner of speaking".
But again, what is this "pure milk" that we should long for if we desire to "grow up into salvation"?
Well let's think again about the context; and let's do that by moving on to verse 3.
C. The Ultimate Taste Test (2:3)
Let's look at verse 3 together. Let's start by reading verse 2 again:
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation- 3 if indeed [or since] you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Peter is taking his readers here back to Psalm 34, where the psalmist wrote:
O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
So very clearly, Peter's call in verse 2 to "long for the pure spiritual milk" is connected to the reality that they have, in fact, tasted that God is good; that He is kind; that He is gracious.
Now don't miss the connection here. He wants them to long for this milk because they have already tasted who God is.
Have you ever tasted something so good, so delicious, that you immediately longed for more of it? One of the potato chip makers uses the slogan, "No one can eat just one". The implication of course is that these chips are so good that once you taste one, you will crave another one...and another...and another.
Is God like that, in your experience? But wait. Look at how the context reveals the radical way in which Peter is using this language from Psalm 34. The writer of the psalm was speaking about the God of Israel. But who is Peter talking about in verse 3.
Listen to this verse again, and the next verse: ...if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious...
Clearly the Lord that we have tasted of in verse 3, is the same "him" we come to you in verse 4. He is a living stone that has been rejected by men, but chosen by God. It's clear that Peter is talking about Jesus here. So Peter has taken an OT reference to God and applied it to Jesus.
Peter is reminding them that they have indeed tasted that Jesus Christ is good; that He is kind; that He is gracious.
Remember what we've already seen about the goodness of Christ is chapter 1:
We have been "born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1:3)
In 1:9, Peter wrties, "Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory..."
He reminds his readers in 1:18, 19, "you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot."
And in 1:21, he tells them that because of Jesus, through Jesus, they are "believers in God" (1:21).
Peter's audience has absolutely tasted that Jesus is good. And because they have tasted, they should now long for what only Jesus can give.
So what is "pure spiritual milk"? Well, I'm not sure that we can be sure about what it is. But whatever Peter has in mind, one thing is clear: this pure milk nourishes us with the goodness of Jesus Christ.
III. What Are You Longing For?
What are you longing for this morning? I hope it's clear to you that the main instruction in these verses is expressed in that one verb: long...desire...crave.
Listen to the how the Apostle Paul uses this same Greek word:
Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling... (II Corinthians 5:2)
God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection [the compassion, literally, the bowels, something deep in the guts, the compassion] of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:8)
Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. (I Timothy 1:4)
Do you hear the depth of emotion that's connected with that word? But the immediate context in I Peter 2:2 also intensifies this world.
Peter tells them, "Yes, long, but long like newborn infants." Have you ever thought about how a new baby longs for milk? My wife and I were talking about this the other day. Having had three children, I figured she was kind of an expert in this area. But we talked about three things that characterize a newborn's longing for milk:
The frequency of the longing, the intensity of that longing, and the singularity of the longing.
Anyone whose ever tried to get a good night's sleep with a newborn knows about how frequently that baby craves milk. They seem to be hungry all the time.
And the intensity of their desire is evident from the intensity of their screaming and squirming.
And that longing will only be satisfied by a single thing. Only one thing can meet their need: milk. You can't give them a burrito or a chocolate chip cookie. Milk is the only thing they want.
Frequency. Intensity. Singularity.
What are you longing for this morning in this way? I'm sure some of us here this morning are longing, in this way (frequently, intensely, and singularly), for answers, or for peace, or for change, or for escape, or for something or someone that we believe can satisfy us completely.
We long to be admired, and accepted, and approved of by others. And when we are not, we resort to things like malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. All of it is nothing more than rotten milk.
Think about the times that you've smelled rotten milk. Think about you reaction. That's the same reaction we should have to all of those things the world tells us we should long for, that we should desire.
Peter knows that the only "pure milk" is that which nourishes us with Jesus.
It might sound like a strange question, but is it really possible that someone who believes himself or herself to be a Christian can live without a longing for Christ? Is there a Christian life, a life of faith, in which Christ is not the center?
The 19th century English bishop J.C. Ryle commented on this in one of his sermons. He wrote:
There are only too many baptized men and women who practically know nothing at all about Christ. Their religion consists in a few vague notions and empty expressions...They give Christ a certain place in their system of religion, but not the place which God intended Him to fill. Christ alone is not "all in all" to their souls.-No! it is either Christ and the Church,-or Christ and the sacraments,-or Christ and His ordained ministers,-or Christ and their own repentance,-or Christ and their own goodness,-or Christ and their own prayers,-or Christ and their own sincerity and charity, on which they practically rest their souls...There are many who hear of Christ with the ear, and believe all they are told about Him. They allow that there is no salvation excepting in Christ. They acknowledge that Jesus alone can deliver them from hell, and present them faultless before God. But they seem never to get beyond this general acknowledgement. They never fairly lay hold on Christ for their own souls. They stick fast in a state of wishing, and wanting, and feeling, and intending' and never get any further. They see what we mean: they know it is all true. They hope one day to get the full benefit of it: but at present they get no benefit whatever. The world is their "all." Politics are their "all." Pleasure is their "all." Business is their "all." But Christ is not their all...Learn, I entreat you, to look more and more at the great object of faith, Jesus Christ, and to keep your mind dwelling on Him. So doing you would find faith, and all the other graces grow, though the growth at the time might be imperceptible to yourself. He that would prove a skilful archer, must look not at the arrow, but at the mark."
Brothers and sisters, are you longing for Jesus Christ, frequently, intensely, and singularly? Chocolate might make me long for the kind of milk you put in a glass, but only the goodness of God in Jesus Christ can make us long for more of the same.
If you want to follow Peter's encouragement here and truly long like a newborn infant, then you must first personally taste of the kindness of Jesus. Consider all the ways in which Jesus has poured out His goodness into your life. Even now, reach out a receive the goodness He wants to give you. And when you do, you will long for more.
In the Bible, milk is a symbol of God's abundant and sustaining goodness. With that in mind, listen to God's invitation through the prophet Isaiah, an invitation that Peter may have in mind.
"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live." (Isaiah 55:1-3)
Let us put away the rotten milk of sin and self, and let us long for the pure milk of Christ...frequently, intensely, and singularly. By the grace of God, may that describe our hearts this week. Let's pray.