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Lesson 8: Getting Into The Word (1 Peter 2:1-3)

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In his book, A Quest for Godliness [Crossway Books], subtitled “The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life,” J. I. Packer reports that a Puritan preacher named Laurence Chaderton once apologized to his congregation for preaching for two hours. They responded, “For God’s sake, sir, Go on, go on!” Ah! Every preacher’s dream! At 82, after preaching for 50 years, Chaderton decided to retire. He received letters from 40 clergy begging him not to, testifying that they owed their conversion to his ministry of the Word (p. 57). Packer states (p. 98):

Puritanism was, above all else, a Bible movement. To the Puritan the Bible was in truth the most precious possession that this world affords. His deepest conviction was that reverence for God means reverence for Scripture, and serving God means obeying Scripture. To his mind, therefore, no greater insult could be offered to the Creator than to neglect his written word; and, conversely, there could be no truer act of homage to him than to prize it and pore over it, and then to live out and give out its teaching. Intense veneration for Scripture, as the living word of the living God, and a devoted concern to know and do all that it prescribes, was Puritanism’s hallmark.

I assure you that I won’t preach for two hours (or even one hour) this morning. But I would to God that He would use my feeble attempt today to motivate each of you to get into God’s Word consistently. More than the food you eat, you must have God’s Word! Cut out of your life newspapers and television, and even sleep itself, if you must; but you must have God’s Word in your life! That is Peter’s point:

We must have God’s Word to grow in our salvation.

He writes, “Therefore (because you have been born again through the living and abiding Word of God), like newborn babes, crave the pure, spiritual-rational milk, that by it you may grow toward salvation.” God’s Word not only imparts life to us, it nurtures and sustains it. Apart from God’s Word, we shrivel and die like a starving child whose mother’s breasts have dried up and who has no other source of food. Therefore, we must have God’s Word.

We’ll look at three things: What the Word is like; How to be motivated to drink it in; and, How to drink it in.

1. What the Word is like:

I could spend many messages here, ranging over the whole Bible. But to limit myself to these verses we learn three things:

A. The Word is pure (2:2).

The Greek word means, literally, not deceitful. It is the same word as in verse 1 (translated “guile”) with an alpha added to the front, which negates the meaning. It means unadulterated, not watered down. Dishonest merchants in that day would add water to their milk to make more profit. This was “deceitful” milk. Peter tells us to long for the pure, not-deceitful milk.

This means that the Bible, if you take it straight, tells you the honest truth about yourself. It exposes the very thoughts and motives of your heart so that you have no where to hide (Heb. 4:12-13). It is not uncommon, after I preach, to have someone come up to me and ask, “Did anyone tell you about what I went through this past week?” When I assure them that no one told me anything, they say, “It seemed like you knew everything and you were aiming that sermon directly at me.” It isn’t me; it’s the Bible! We tend to deceive and flatter ourselves. But the Word of God cuts through the deception and lays out the honest truth so that we can deal with our problems.

I must warn you that there are legions of so-called evangelical churches where the Word of God is being watered down by upbeat preachers who want to be liked and who want to make everybody feel good about themselves. But that’s like going to a doctor who doesn’t talk about sickness, but who gives his patients sugar-coated pills that make them feel good without dealing with the root cause of their problems. As the Lord said to Jeremiah, “They have healed the wound of My people superficially” (Jer. 6:14).

The Bible declares that the root cause of our problems is our sin. By confronting our sin and presenting God’s remedy for it, the Bible brings lasting healing. So I try to preach the Bible in its pure, not-deceitful form, because then it confronts us with where our lives have gone astray and shows us God’s way to get back on the path.

B. The Word is rational (2:2).

The literal translation of verse 2 is that we should long for “the pure, spiritual milk.” The word “spiritual” also means “rational” (Greek = “logikos,” from “logos”). The only other time it occurs in the Bible is in Romans 12:1, where Paul says that presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice to God is our “spiritual (or rational) service of worship.” He means that it is a spiritual thing to do, since we don’t do it literally (as a burnt offering), but rather spiritually by yielding ourselves to the will of God. And, it is the reasonable thing to do in light of God’s great mercies to us.

Thus the term is purposefully ambiguous. Peter uses it to show us that he’s not talking about literal mother’s milk, but rather about the spiritual milk of the living and abiding Word of God (1:23). This spiritual milk is rational--it is grasped with the mind. Thus Christianity is essentially rational, but not rational in the worldly sense, but rational in a spiritual sense. Human reason must be subject to the written revelation God has given of Himself in the Bible. But you cannot know God without using your mind, since He has revealed Himself in the propositional revelation of the written Word.

Dr. Packer says that the Puritans were educators of the mind. They believed that “the mind must be instructed and enlightened before faith and obedience become possible” (p. 69). While they deeply believed that God’s truth must affect not only the head, but also the heart, they also “regarded religious feeling and pious emotion without knowledge as worse than useless. Only when the truth was being felt was emotion in any way desirable” (p. 70).

This balance would correct many of the excesses of our day. I meet many Christians who are heavily subjective. They operate on a feeling level, devoid of solid theological content. Others emphasize theological content, but they’re afraid of emotions. The Word of God ought to fill our minds with the knowledge of God and move our hearts with His majesty and love.

C. The Word is nourishing.

Peter is referring to a mother’s milk, as the analogy of newborn babes makes clear. He isn’t contrasting the milk of God’s Word with meat, as Paul does (1 Cor. 3:2). We are always to be feeding on this nourishing milk. It is simple enough for the youngest infant in the faith, but solid enough for the most mature saints.

God has designed a mother’s milk as the perfect food for newborn babies. It will immunize her baby from many illnesses and nourish her baby for growth. God’s Word will protect Christians from the many spiritual diseases which abound and nourish them to grow in the Lord. A mother’s milk will make her baby grow for months without any other food. God’s Word will nourish Christians so that they “grow toward salvation” (2:2). Peter means salvation in its ultimate sense, which includes everything that God has provided for us who are His children. We never reach a place in this life where we can stop growing.

One thing about kids is that they’re excited about growing. Just about every home with children has a growth chart. Every few months you measure your kids and say, “Wow, look how much you’ve grown since last time!” God’s children should be that excited about growing in respect to their salvation. Just as physical growth is not instant or readily seen, so with spiritual growth. You probably won’t see it day to day. But if you keep feeding on the milk of the Word, you will be nourished toward growth.

That’s what the Word of God is like: It’s pure; it’s rational; it’s nourishing milk that will make you grow toward salvation.

2. How to be motivated to drink in God’s Word:

Peter says that we should be as motivated as a newborn babe is for his mother’s milk. I didn’t understand this analogy until we had children of our own. Newborn babies have an intense craving for their mother’s milk! It doesn’t matter if it’s 3 a.m. If they’re hungry, they let you know about it and don’t stop letting you know about it until they get what they’re after! You can stick your finger in their mouth and they’ll suck on it for a minute (and what powerful cheek muscles they have!). But then they realize that they aren’t getting any milk, and they’ll spit out your finger and scream for the real thing. A couple of times, I made the mistake of holding our newborn babies with my shirt off when they were hungry. To a newborn, a nipple is a nipple, even if it’s on a hairy chest like mine! When they latched on to my nipple, I gained new insight on what Peter meant here!

The question is, How do you get that kind of motivation for the Word of God?

A. Negatively, put off relational sins that hinder the Word’s effect in your life (2:1).

In the context, it is clear that these relational sins (2:1) will hinder your motivation for the Word (2:2). To “put off” means to cast aside like you take off dirty clothes. These sins are baggage from our past before we were born again. They surround us as we live in this sinful world. They are standard operating procedure for many people in the world, especially when they get into a tough situation. But Peter says that they are opposed to spiritual growth and they must be discarded like dirty clothes.

Let me quickly go over the list: “Malice” is a general word for wickedness of every kind, but especially having it in for someone. “Guile” originally meant “bait” or “snare,” thus came to mean deceit. It means to tell someone something that isn’t true, so that you trick or mislead them. It involves having ulterior motives in your communication. “Hypocrisies” (plural) comes from a word meaning to wear a mask and refers to the many ways we can project a false image to people. If we are inconsistent between how we behave at church and how we behave at home or at work, we are engaging in hypocrisies.

“Envyings” refers to the attitude behind much deceit and hypocrisy. It means being jealous of another person or their things. It was the motive behind the crucifixion of Jesus: the religious leaders were envious of His popularity (Mark 15:10). Envy often works itself out in all sorts of “slanderings.” This word means to speak against someone. Of course, it often goes with deceit. The slanderer says nice things to the person’s face but disparaging things behind his back, with the motive of making himself look good in everyone else’s eyes.

Christian communication stands against all these worldly ways. We are to speak the truth in love with a view to building up the other person (Eph. 4:15, 29). Peter says that we are to put off these wrong ways of relating, which implies that we are both responsible for these sins and able, with the Spirit’s power, to stop doing them. You don’t need years of therapy and delving into your past to stop doing these things. It is a matter of obedience. Make a decisive break with your past and commit yourself to live as a Christian. If you don’t, you won’t be motivated to drink in God’s Word.

B. Positively, focus on the kindness of the Lord (2:3).

“If [or, “since”--there is no doubt implied] you have tasted that the Lord is kind.” For Peter, Christ is the Lord (as 2:4 makes clear). Since this is a quote from Psalm 34:8 (LXX), it shows that Peter believed Christ to be God (“Yahweh” for the psalmist). Psalm 34 must have been Peter’s favorite--he quotes from it again in 3:10-12. Also, the theme of Psalm 34 is roughly the same as that of 1 Peter: “If in distress you seek the Lord, He will deliver you from all your troubles (4), for ‘though the afflictions of the righteous are many, the Lord will rescue them out of them all’ (19)” (J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and Jude [Baker], p. 87).

Peter here is referring especially to the Lord’s kindness or grace that was shown to us when we trusted Him as Savior and Lord. If you’re saved, you have tasted of the Lord’s kindness, because you know that though you deserved His judgment, He showed you mercy. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). The cross of Christ, where a holy God made provision for me, the sinner, so that I could experience His forgiveness and receive eternal life as a free gift, ought to be the focus of every Christian every day. That’s why communion is so important; it focuses us on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ who offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins. Tasting of the Lord’s kindness motivates us to drink in His Word.

3. How to drink in God’s Word:

A. Read it.

I am amazed at how many Christians do not read their Bibles! Maybe you’re thinking, “But I’m not a reader.” Learn to be a reader! God chose to communicate His Word in written form. Reading is a learned skill that most people can master. While you’re learning to read, get the Bible on tape and listen to it. But you also need to learn to read.

If you’re new as Christian, start in the New Testament. Read it through several times. Also, read the Psalms and Proverbs. Then, tackle the whole Bible. You can read through the Bible in a year if you read 15-20 minutes a day. Get a Ryrie Study Bible or something similar in a modern translation to help you understand the flow of thought. You won’t grasp it all in a lifetime. But pray that God would show you something about Himself, about yourself, and about how He wants you to live. Like that newborn babe, don’t let anything keep you from your feeding times!

B. Study it.

It’s not just milk; it’s rational milk. You’ve got to think or meditate on it to understand it. Observe it carefully: What does the text say? To quote Yogi Berra, “You can see a lot just by looking.” Interpret it by comparing Scripture with Scripture and asking, What does this passage mean in its context and in light of other Scripture? Get a concordance and study how words are used in the Bible. Apply it prayerfully: What does it mean to me? How do I need to obey it? Memorize certain portions, so that God can use them in your life during the day. Listen to the Word preached every chance you get.

C. Taste it.

The image of milk and of tasting the Lord’s kindness brings up the fact that the Word is not just to fill your head with knowledge. It is to fill your life with delight as you get to know the Divine author and enjoy Him in all His perfections. Taste points both to personal experience and enjoyment. I can’t taste for you, nor you for me. We can only taste for ourselves. To taste something, we’ve got to experience it up close. You can see and hear and smell at a distance, but you can only taste something by touching it to your tongue. You can only taste God’s Word by drawing near to God and personally appropriating the riches of knowing Him. Once you like the taste of something, you don’t just eat it to live; you live to eat it. You want it as often as you can get it. God’s Word is that way for all who have tasted His kindness.

Conclusion

J. I. Packer (A Quest for Godliness, pp. 47-48, 97-98) tells of a Puritan preacher in the 1620’s named John Rogers who bore down on his 500 hearers for neglecting the Bible. First he personated God to the people, telling them, “I have trusted you so long with my Bible ... it lies in such and such houses all covered with dust and cobwebs; you care not to listen to it. Do you use my Bible so? Well, you shall have my Bible no longer.” And he took the Bible from the pulpit and seemed as if he were going to carry it away from them.

But then he spun around and personated the people to God. He fell on his knees and pleaded earnestly, “Lord, whatever you do to us, take not your Bible from us. Kill our children, burn our houses, destroy our goods, only spare us your Bible! Don’t take away your Bible!”

Then he personated God again to the people: “Say you so? Well I will try you a while longer; and here is my Bible for you. I will see how you will use it, whether you will love it more, observe it more, practice it more, and live more according to it.”

At this point, according to Thomas Goodwin, who was there and who later became a powerful preacher in his own right, the entire congregation dissolved in tears. Goodwin himself, when he got outside, hung on the neck of his horse weeping for a quarter of an hour before he had the strength to mount, so powerful an impression was upon him.

If you don’t have a craving for God’s Word, there could be several reasons. Maybe you’ve never tasted the Lord’s kindness in salvation. You need to believe that He died for your sins and that He offers His salvation to you as a free gift. Take it! And start feeding on the Bible.

You may not have a craving for God’s Word because of sin in your life. Someone has said that God’s Word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from God’s Word. Confess and forsake it! And get back into the Bible.

You may have ruined your appetite by feeding on the junk food of this world. “Hunger makes a good cook,” as the saying goes. If you don’t sense your great need for God and His Word, it may be because you’ve filled up on junk like television. Shut it off! Or, maybe you’ve been filling up on the junk food being sold at Christian book stores under the label of Christian, but which waters down the pure Word of God with modern man’s wisdom. Such junk food makes you feel full, but it doesn’t nourish the soul. Don’t waste your time reading it! There are some excellent Christian books that will help you to understand and apply God’s truth. They’re well worth reading.

But above all else, read your Bible! Hunger for God’s truth. Drink it in like a nursing infant. You’ve got to have it above all else if you want to grow in your salvation.

Discussion Questions

  1. How can a person know if a preacher is giving out pure or watered-down milk?
  2. Must every Christian become a student of the Word in order to grow? What if a person just isn’t a reader?
  3. How can these relational sins (2:1) hinder desire for God’s Word?
  4. Should we read the Word only when we’re motivated or even when we don’t feel like it? Why?

Copyright 1992, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Bibliology (The Written Word), Sanctification, Spiritual Life