There are plenty of gray areas when it comes to Christian living. There are quite a few matters of conscience as well. But in 1 Peter 2:1-2, Peter reminds us that some things are black and white. The crown—our identity in Christ—will win in the daily battle between our flesh and our spirit /our old man and the new man whenever you crave the right thing.
My wife and I recently watched the PBS original series entitled, The Crown – a dramatic series which brought to life the early days of Queen Elizabeth, who is still serving as Queen today.
Using letters, diary notations, personal appearances, televised events as well as eyewitness accounts, the rather private life of the Queen and her family were put into a dramatic presentation.
After her father died, somewhat unexpectedly, she became queen and immediately struggled with all that the crown would mean in terms of responsibility and duty.
Not long after being crowned, still grieving the loss of her father, she received a letter from her grandmother, Queen Mary, who encouraged her to embrace her royal position with determination and dedication.
The letter read; Dearest Elizabeth, you must put these sentiments to one side now that duty calls.
Your people need your strength. I have [lived to see] see three great monarchies brought down by their failure to separate personal indulgences from their duty. While you mourn the loss of your father, you must mourn yourself; for you have been replaced by a different Elizabeth. The two
Elizabeth’s will frequently be in conflict with one another; but the crown must always win.
The two Elizabeth’s will frequently be in conflict with one another, but the crown must always win.
That happens to be a fantastic analogy to the Christian life. You have been crowned a royal member of the King’s family. You are now a royal member of His Kingdom of Light.
Now the real battle begins. Paul the Apostle describes it as the conflict between the flesh and the spirit; between the old man and the new man (Romans 7 & Ephesians 4).
There is an old you and a new, royal version (2 Corinthians 5:17); and the two of you will frequently be in conflict with one another; but the royal version – the new creation in Christ – the crown – must daily win.
You’ve got a fight on your hands. Not against other believers, but that war within you (Romans 7:23):
-that old peasant-self within us that doesn’t want to yield to the crown you represent – and will one day wear;
-that war which tempts you daily to pull away from your duty to the Kingdom to whom you belong – and the kingdom in which you will one day reign with Christ.
So how does the crown – and all that it represents for the Christian – how does the crown win in our daily lives and in our daily battle with sin, our own flesh and the devil? That’s the question.
In light of this analogy and the text we’re about to explore together, the point of the next few verses could be understood to mean this – in a sentence – the crown will win – in the daily battle between our flesh and our spirit – our old man and the new man – whenever you crave the right thing. The crown will win whenever you crave the right thing.
Take your copy of the Apostle Peter’s first letter where we have arrived at chapter 2 and let’s explore the answer in the opening verses.
Therefore – that is, in light of the fact that you’ve been born again into a new family – chapter 1:23; and in light of the fact that you are now under a new authority – the word of God – chapter 1:24 & 25, Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2.
Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3. If/since you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
Once again, these verses constitute one original sentence – evidently the ability to write long sentences was an apostolic gift.
One important thing to point out, grammatically, is that this entire sentence centers around one command; one verb – you’ll find it in the middle of verse 2 – it’s the verb to long for, or you could render it, to crave.i
The pursuit of holy living happens to involve developing holy craving.
Now, before Peter gets to the specifics of holy craving, he mentions 5 attitudes that will, in this context, spoil your appetite.
In other words, in order to really crave what you ought to crave, there are five attitudes you’re going to need to give up.
Notice the first attitude to cast aside, in verse 1 is malice.
Peter writes, casting, or, putting aside all malice.
You might want to circle that little word which repeats itself 3 times in verse 1 – the word, all. In the pursuit of holiness, there is no room for sinful exceptions. Putting aside all . . . and all means all. All malice – or all maliciousness.
Malice is a Greek word that refers in general to bad behavior – a hateful spirit – a evil desire to hurt others. Surely Christians never do any of that, right?
Evidently First Century Christians did, because Peter is writing to people who’ve been born again and now are being exhorted to demonstrate their new birth and royal status.
Paul wrote nearly the same command to the believers in Ephesus with these words, Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice (Ephesians 4:31).
Now just because it’s a 2,000 year old problem doesn’t give the believer a free pass. In fact, a willingness to cast malice aside will be something that distinguishes those believers who are growing up in their faith from believers who are simply growing older in their faith.
And there’s a big difference between growing old and growing up. We’ll see that emphasized in a moment.
Peter is referring to the believer making continual deliberate decisions without he smallest sliver of their lives let off the hook – he’s referring to continual deliberate choices of behavior.ii
Putting aside all malice . . . literally, throwing malice away; you could even understand this series of actions to be something like taking off dirty clothing.
In fact, this is the same word used for people who were stoning Stephen to death in the first century.
Luke tells us that they laid aside their robes at the feet of Saul (Acts 7:58). They took off their robes so they could throw the stones at Stephen all the harder.
This is the same word used by Paul as he exhorted the believer to cast off – to put aside – the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:12)
The Christian in pursuit of holiness is daily – sometimes moment by moment – deliberately choosing to take off the robes of their old life that daily attempt to cling to him – and put on, as it were, the robes of their royal status.
The Christian who is growing in holiness comes to hate all the more that old clothing.
You can’t imagine for a moment Lazarus, having been raised from the dead by Jesus, coming out of the tomb, and then wanting to hang on to his grave clothes – “You know, I’d really like to keep wearing this stuff.”iii
So . . . casting aside . . . and craving . . . putting off and putting on – is all part of the daily conflict between the old you and the royal version of you.
And Peter reminded us in chapter 1 that we are heading toward our eternal and imperishable and glorious inheriting because even now, we are now kings and queens in the Kingdom belonging to the King of Kings.
So, even before that time in eternity arrives when your body and your mind and your heart and your personality are glorified in complete and perfected holiness – Peter is commanding you to deliberately choose right now – in every aspect of daily living – for the crown to win.
Throw away the old garment of malice. Be gracious, not malicious.
I had written into my journal that rather humorous event where as parents we had to keep a straight face . . . our twin sons were in 2nd grade, going to a public magnet school in downtown Raleigh; we were sitting at the dinner table and one of the boys said to me, “Hey, Dad, I think our music teacher is a Christian.” His brother chimed in, “Yea, we’re pretty sure he’s a Christian alright.” I thought, “Man, my sons are so discerning in 2nd grade.” I asked them, “How do you know?” They said,
“Well, we were all really acting up today in music class and all of sudden our Music Teacher walked over to the corner of the room and just stood there . . . and we could tell he was praying.”
I’m sure he was. He was no doubt doing battle . .
. and he evidently wanted the crown to win.
Peter adds another attitude to cast off –
Putting aside all malice and all deceit.
The word for deceit (dolon) means cunning or crafty manipulation. It’s a reference to any and all kinds of deception.
So the question is, how committed to honesty are we – in here, and out there?! What about your final exams this semester? What about your year-end expense report; what about your upcoming taxes?
J. Allen Blair wrote that Abraham Lincoln would not accept a case as an attorney where he did not believe justice was on his side. One time, a man came to employ him as his attorney and as the man gave the facts of the case, Lincoln just sat there leaning back in his chair, looking up at the ceiling in deep thought. The more the man talked, the more convinced Lincoln was that he wasn’t innocent and rather abruptly, Lincoln swung his chair around and said, “You have a good case in technicalities, but a bad case in equity and justice. You will have to get someone else to win this case for you.” The man protested, but Lincoln said, “I cannot do it. All the time while pleading your case before the jury, I’ll be thinking to myself, ‘Lincoln, you’re a liar!’ and I might forget where I am and say it out loud.”iv
Believers in pursuit of holiness are to give great attention, Paul wrote to the Corinthians, for those things that are honest, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men (2 Corinthians 8:21).
Deceit might not be as brazen as malice, but the end goal is the same. I mean, you might not explode at someone or yell at someone or bully someone, but you’re still going to get your way; only in a more civilized, crafty, manipulative sort of way.
In fact, this word for deceit was used in the First Century for baiting a hook to catch fish; it was a reference to the actual bait.
I don’t fish, so I know nothing about what kind of bait to put on a hook, but whenever I want to catch a mouse, I put out that trap and before I pull back and set the hammer, I smear a little peanut butter on the catch.
The Greek word for the concept of using peanut butter on a mousetrap is this word here for deceit . . . and yes, for the record, I am attempting to deceive all the mice I can.
People tell me all the time; why don’t you just get a cat. Well then, I’d be guilty of murder.
Now back to the text.
Peter goes on, thirdly, and says to cast off or put aside hypocrisy.
We discussed this word in our last study where Peter defined sincerity as no-hypocrisy. There’s no mask.
One Greek scholar expanded this word to refer to someone who meets you with a face which is different from their heart.v
Peter adds, next, putting aside envy.
Envy is the resentment of someone else’s prosperity, or giftedness or blessings. Envy leads to grudges, bitterness, hatred and conflict (James 4:1- 3). Envy wants to have what someone else has. And by the way, it starts at a very young age.
Joseph Epstein wrote a book simply entitled, Envy, published in 2003 by Oxford University Press. He admitted what we as parents and older people can overlook and then fail to help our children work through. Epstein confessed that his childhood was filled with envy. He wrote, “I envied boys with wealthier parents; I envied kids who were smarter, more popular than me; I envied boys who were more attractive to the girls . . . guys who were better athletes, who seemed more at ease in the world; I was quick to detect friends with more freedoms, more spending money, cooler parents . . . I lived in a faint cloud of envy.”vi
I’ve got news for you – according to the Apostle Peter, becoming a Christian doesn’t automatically clear away the cloud of envy.
You have within you now the empowering Holy Spirit, but you also must, according to Peter’s command, cooperate with the Holy Spirit in make deliberate and daily choices to chase that cloud away.
And Christmas time is such an easy time to do that, right? I’ve noticed, have you, how many commercials during football games actually play on the envy of people for what other people have.
As if to say, don’t let your neighbors get the better of you.
Listen, the world is wrapped up in this cloud – these garments of envy . . . but for you, it’s part of your old, dirty clothing . . . so don’t wear it . . . cast it aside. Make your decision today . . . the crown must win!
Peter adds one more – the fifth attitude to cast aside – putting aside all malice and all deceit and envy and all slander.
The word for slander really doesn’t need any exposition or explanation. It means what we all know it means – gossiping, rumor-spreading; an attempt to destroy someone else’s reputation or testimony.
It’s as if Peter reminds these scattered believers – “This is how the world is treating you – saying all sorts of things about you; spreading all kinds of rumors about the assembly – from cannibalism – you’re meeting privately to eat flesh and drink blood – the rumor goes; or to holding secret orgies called love feasts – so the rumors spread.
As if to say, that’s how the world is treating you, why in the world would you want to treat each other the same way?vii
Give each other in the body the benefit of the doubt . . . think the best of them . . . be slow to
repeat anything about anybody unless you’ve gotten all your facts right – and then don’t repeat it unless you’re a part of the problem or a part of the solution.
Take off the soiled garments the world loves to wear – put away all slander.
One of the better known jingles in the world of communications today is, “I heard it through the grapevine,” which is odd, because if you placed the end of a grapevine next to your ear, you wouldn’t hear anything.
In order to understand that jingle, you have to travel back to a time in American history when the abolition of slavery was gathering momentum.
I spoke at a conference recently and Marsha and I stayed in a hotel overlooking the Ohio River, at the point where it separated Kentucky from Ohio. It was pointed out to us that at this particular point in the river, near our hotel, slaves would swim across or float on lumber or steal away on a boat to get across the river to freedom.
Many of them traveled to the river’s edge by way of the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was simply a reference to safe houses where many white people also risked their lives to shelter these runaway slaves for the night, feed them and help them get to the next safe location.
One of the ways sympathetic people communicated with these slaves along the Underground Railroad was through the use of
laundry, strategically hung outdoors on a clothes line to dry – or so it seemed.
But it was all a part of an underground communication system. One selection of clothing announced that it was unsafe to travel in that area – to stay hidden! Another selection of clothing meant that it was safe to move through the area; other pieces of clothing hanging out on a line identified safe houses where food and rest could be found.
Quilts were also crafted with patterns that actually gave directions to the next safe house.
Since rope was expensive, grapevines were often substituted as clotheslines and the laundry was hung out on the grapevine. This underground system actually became known as the grapevine telegraph.viii
Over time, the word “telegraph” was dropped, and people simply referred to the grapevine.
And now, today, we use the word “grapevine” to refer to the latest news . . . the latest piece of gossip. “I heard it through the grapevine” is now an expression that has nothing to do with bringing people to freedom – or to a safe place; in fact, it brings people into bondage; the grapevine is anything but safe.
So cut up your grapevine. Cast aside the desire to gossip like old rotting clothing.
And in Peter’s mind, it isn’t enough to be casting things aside . . . there’s something you need to be craving after, at the same time.
As if to say, these five attitudes will spoil your appetite for something you ought to be craving.
Notice verse 2. Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.
In this second half of Peter’s long sentence, he now gives us a command, an illustration, a goal and a reminder.
Let’s start with the command: long for the pure milk of the word.
The word for pure here means without deceit. This Greek word was often used in Peter’s day for farm products such as grain or vegetable oil or, in this instance, milk.ix
In other words, the Bible is uncontaminated – it won’t harm you.
There are no imperfections or flaws – it isn’t diluted or mixed with error or deception – it doesn’t sour and it won’t lead you astray.x
So, long for this book . . . this is the key imperative in this long sentence where Peter is commanding us to feed here at this Book . . . and to long to feed here more.
Which leads us to plead with God that He will give us a greater longing to long for His word . . . with a greater longing.
Isn’t it worth noticing that Peter doesn’t command the believer here to read the Word, study the Word, meditate on the Word, teach the Word, search the Word, or even memorize the Word. All of those things are essential and other passages command believers to do all the above. But Peter here is after something much more basic and foundational.xi
He’s effectively asking the believer – do you really even want the Word? How long can you last without the Word? Are you developing an appetite for the Word?
And if not, what is it that is spoiling your appetite?
Children often have no appetite because they have been eating the wrong things.xii
Or even good things, instead of the better things. For the children of God, wrong things . . . or even good things – and it’s diverting your attention, it’s spoiling your appetite for the best things.
You say, but I’ve got an appetite for the Word? I bring it to church with me every Sunday and look at it for a few minutes at least once or twice during the week.
Notice Peter’s illustration of a genuine appetite – verse 2: long for the pure milk of the word – how – like newborn babies
How does a newborn baby long for milk?
Loudly. Obviously, Piercingly . . . Unrelentingly . . . Unforgivingly . . . You’re not going to sleep until you give it to me . . . and that goes for the entire neighborhood.
Peter evidently has some experience . . . we know he was married because in Matthew 8:14, his mother-in-law was healed. You normally don’t get a mother-in-law until you get married. In 1 Corinthians 9:5 Paul defended Peter’s right to travel on ministry trips with his wife.
We’re not told anymore about his family, but more than likely, Peter had some children too – and one of them gave him the personal experience to know how a baby longs for milk.
I know he was the great Apostle, but he probably still got that same poke in the ribs at 4 o’clock in the morning and heard his wife say those terribly tragic words – “It’s your turn.” That’s not in the Bible.
You staggered into the kitchen to find the bottle and then heat up the milk in a pot of water on the stove – and then after it was warm enough, you went into the baby’s room where he has not stopped letting you know he’s been in there longing with a deep unrelenting longing . . . and it was dark in the baby’s room, but you just followed the sound – and then you stuck the bottle where the noise was coming from.xiii
And you plugged up the noise. That’s an appetite.
Now Peter here isn’t suggesting here that all these scattered believers throughout Asia Minor were new Christians, or even immature Christians. He’s not making a derogatory statement here about milk.
In fact, he’s writing this to every Christian, no matter where they are on the spectrum of spiritual maturity. He’s simply making the point that a believer should never outgrow a craving for the pure milk for spiritual truth . . . xiv
That is, the pure, unmixed word from our Heavenly Father – the perfect parent – who never refuses, no matter what time of day or night it happens to be – and He knows just where and how and when to plug up the noise and satisfy our longing.
And would you notice the goal for such longing after the word – so that by it you may grow up in respect to salvation
Peter uses a passive verb, which is really important to understand.
You’re not making yourself grow up in the faith, the word of God is bringing about growth in your life.
You don’t grow up in your Christian experience just because you want to, or decide to; any more than in 5th grade you figured you would grow an inch taller just because you wanted to or decided to.
As long as you’re not refusing to eat or drink, you’ll probably grow an inch taller by the time you get out of Middle School. And that’s because something is happening internally to make you grow.
That’s the idea here. Peter is saying, when you feed on the word, the word of God – it causes you to grow up. And obviously under the direction of the Holy Spirit who lives within you.
You could literally translate this phrase – long for the pure milk of the word so that it may grow you.xv
Spiritual life will not take place externally without the nourishing milk of the word of God internally.xvi
Do you want the crown to win? Well then, the Word has to be at work privately . . . if you ever hope to experience victory publically.
The goal of getting into the Bible is so that the Bible can get into you.
Which is why Martin Luther would write 500 years ago:
The Bible is alive, it speaks to me It has hands, it lays hold of me It has feet, it runs after me.xvii
And this is what the believer longs for – and must long for with even greater longing.
And here’s the reminder as Peter completes his sentence – he writes, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord
The word if is a first class conditional participle which is understood to mean, if and since this is true – so Peter concludes – you have this longing because you have indeed already tasted the kindness of the Lord.xviii
Let me remind you – you’ve already tasted His kindness . . . did you forget how it made you long for me? Take another taste . . . and then another . . . then more.
The same thing happens to you and me whenever we go into the ice cream store.
Marsha and I have a tradition in Schroon Lake, New York, whenever we go to Word of Life where I have the privilege of preaching for a week in their Bible conference. We join another couple there at least once during the week and head over to a little ice cream shop; they have incredible home-made ice cream. And I look at all the tubs of ice cream behind the glass counter with names like:
- Creamy Fudge Almond
- Peanut Butter Puddles
- Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake
And I look at them all – and I can’t decide – so I ask the lady behind the counter to give me a sample of that one over there . . . and then . . . after 17 more samples, I’ve decided . . . I had a taste of one of them – and it made me want more.
Peter reminds them – and us – to remember those samples of God’s kindness in our lives . . . and go back for more. It isn’t just the Word we’re coming to know – it is the Author of the Word.
You see, the ultimate aim of Bible study is not to master the content . . . but come to know the Master . . . and be mastered by Christ Jesus, our Lord.
So Peter writes . . . you’ve already tasted His kindness . . . you’ve already tasted His goodness . . . there isn’t any more satisfying Master . . . in fact, the more you taste of His goodness, the more tasteless the world will become.
The crown will win, whenever you crave the right things.
This article was found in the Bible of Billy Sunday, the evangelist, during the early 1900’s. It read – and with this I close –
Twenty-nine years ago, with the Holy Spirit as my Guide, I entered the portico of Genesis, walked down the corridor of the Old Testament art galleries, where portraits of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Isaac, Jacob, Daniel and more hung on the wall.
I passed into the music room of the Psalms where the Spirit swept the keyboard of nature until it
seemed that every reed and pipe in God’s great organ responded to the harp of David, the sweet singer of Israel.
I entered the chamber of Ecclesiastes, where the voice of the preacher was heard, and into the conservatory of Sharon and the lily of the valley, where sweet spices perfumed my life.
I entered the business office of Proverbs and on into the observatory of the prophets where I saw telescopes of various sizes pointing to far off events, all of them concentrating on the bright and morning Star which was to rise above the moonlit hills of Judea for our redemption.
I entered the delivery room of the Messiah and followed Him through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Then into the correspondence room with Paul, Peter, James and John as they wrote their Epistles to the church.
Then I stepped into the throne room of Revelation where tower the glittering peaks, where sits the King of Kings upon His throne of glory with the healing of all nations in His hand, and I cried out:
All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall; Bring forth the royal diadem And crown Him Lord of all.xix
- D. Edmond Hiebert, 1 Peter (BMH Books, 1984), p. 120
- Adapted from John Phillips, Exploring The Epistles of Peter (Kregel, 2005), p. 82
- Adapted from Phillips, p. 82
- J. Allen Blair, Living Peacefully: 1 Peter (Kregel, 1959), p. 93
- Hiebert, p. 122
- Joseph Epstein, quoted by Daniel M. Doriani, 1 Peter (P&R Publishing, 2014), p. 60
- NIV Application Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Peter/Jude (Tyndale, 1995), p. 48
- Adapted from Bringing Home the Bacon (Castle Books, 2002), p. 81
- Adapted from John MacArthur, 1 Peter (Moody Publishers, 2004), p. 99
- NIV Application Bible Commentary, p. 49
- MacArthur, p. 99
- Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Hopeful: 1 Peter (David C Cook, 1982), p. 58
- Adapted from John Phillips, p. 85
- Adapted from Juan Sanchez, 1 Peter for You (The Good Book Company, 2016), p. 67
- MacArthur, p. 100
- Hiebert, p. 125
- Michael P. Green, ed; 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching (Baker Books, 1982), p. 35
- MacArthur, p. 101
- Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart (Word Publishing, 1998), p. 50