Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.
I. WE HAVE HERE THE IDEA OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH.
1. That implies life. Only living things can grow. Peter can speak of growth because he calls them "new-born babes." Spiritual life is not a mere change or reformation, but an entirely new principle of being. Not only is that implied in such words as, "Ye must be born again;" "If any man be in Christ Jesus, it is a new creation;" "You hath he quickened who were dead;" but entire arguments are based on the use of those words in this sense. It is as impossible for the natural heart, which is enmity against God, to bear fruit to God, as for grapes to grow on thorns; for Divine fruit there must be a Divine nature. This is implanted by the Holy Spirit through the Divine Word. The cry, "Father, Father? is the birth-cry of a new life; from that moment we are of God's family.
2. Also that this life is immature. That truth is helpful to those who have followed the apostle so far, to their discouragement, and are inclined to say, "If holiness is the proof of salvation, and holiness is measured by Christian love, and I have so little of this, is it possible that I am a Christian at all?" These words, however, assume that there may be life without perfection. We are all born babes, and have to reach a full-grown manhood stage by stage. Only Adam came from God's hand perfect. "A babe" is equivalent to weakness, helplessness, ignorance, rudimentariness. Who could guess what a babe could become, or see in the new-born child of God the perfected spirit bowing in the eternal glory before his throne?
3. Also that it is natural for the life to progress. It never occurs to us to wonder if a child will grow; we know it will unless it dies. Disease may retard growth, only death can permanently stop it till maturity is reached. Growth is part of life; naturally, silently, steadily, the babe increases in stature and strength. Then, since spirituality is a life, it only needs that we fulfill the ordinary conditions of life to ensure that it advances from strength to strength. Growth is spontaneous; no man by anxious thought can add to his stature one cubit; give it but the right conditions, and life cannot help growing. Moreover, growth should naturally affect all parts of our spiritual nature, as of our physical; it is only by disuse that some faculties advance alone - faith, or hope, or patience, etc. There is provision in what we are for growth up to him who is the Head "in all things."
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH SPIRITUAL GROWTH IS SECURED. IS not this simpler - not easier, but simpler - more reasonable and possible than many suppose? How do we treat a babe that it may grow? let us treat the spiritual babe-life in the same way.
1. There must be the avoidance of what is antagonistic to life. "Laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings." These are but a selection of the evils that are hurtful to the Divine nature; they are probably mentioned here rather than others, because, judging from the frequent exhortations in the Epistle to love, to subjection to one another, etc., they represent a class of sins to which these Christians were specially prone; these were the sins which most easily beset them. As in homes where there are children, there are many devices to keep them from harm, so the spiritual life of the young believer must be jealously guarded from what would check its progress.
2. And there must be the partaking of suitable food. "Desire the sincere [pure, unadulterated] milk of the Word." It is the invariable teaching of Scripture that Christian growth depends on the proper use of the Word of God (Psalm 1:2, 3; Psalm 37:31; John 6:63; John 17:17; Acts 20:32; 1 Timothy 4:6; 2 Timothy 3:17). Christ is the food of the soul, but he is imparted through his Word. The Word of God has for its substance God the Word. Spiritual feebleness is probably spiritual starvation.
III. THE ARGUMENT BY WHICH THE SOUL IS PERSUADED TO USE THESE MEANS. "If so be ye have tasted," etc., that is, seek this spiritual growth:
1. Because your experience of Divine grace has been only a taste of what is possible. We are predestined to be conformed to the image of God's Son. Think what that involves of character and blessedness; and of this most of us have as yet had only a taste! But that taste makes us long for more.
2. Because, also, by growth you prove your reception of Divine grace. "If so be." Then is there doubt about it? Let spiritual growth destroy that doubt. Growth is a sure proof of life. A deeper sense of sin; a more earnest desire for holiness; a greater joy in God, his presence, service, will; - are the clear proof that we have tasted of Divine grace. But if there be no growth, if the means of grace are no more useful to us than rain is to a rock, Divine life within us is not yet. - C.N.
I. WHAT IS TO BE LAID ASIDE? "All malice, guile, hypocrisies, envies, evil speakings." These are only a few specimens of the many lusts which are to be cast out, if we would enter the kingdom of heaven. If a child has swallowed poison I could not expect that wholesome food would confer any benefit upon him — the poison must be first removed; and if these poisonous evils lodge in your hearts and be not repented of, they prevent the Word of God having its proper effect, they effectually neutralise it.
Wherefore laying aside all malice.I. THAT REGENERATION AND THE LOW OF SIN CANNOT STAND TOGETHER, it must needs be accompanied with a new life. Do vines bear brambles?
II. THAT THERE IS NO PERFECTION HERE TO BE ATTAINED, for even the best have sin dwelling, though not reigning, in them.
III. THAT IT IS NO EASY THING TO BE A CHRISTIAN.
IV. THAT UNDER THOSE CORRUPTIONS HERE NAMED ALL OTHERS ARE INCLUDED.
V. THAT MOST OF THOSE HERE MENTIONED ARE INWARD CORRUPTIONS WHICH WE MUST AS WELL AVOID AS THE OUTWARD.
II. THE SPECIAL REASON WHY THESE ARE TO BE "LAID ASIDE." The fact of their being "newborn babes," the apostle urges as a reason why they should put away all these evils. This reason is a very efficacious one. If you are born again, what have you to do any more with the old habits of corruption?
III. WHAT IS TO BE DESIRED? "The sincere milk of the Word."
IV. FOR WHAT IS THE "SINCERE MILK OF THE WORD" TO BE DESIRED? "That ye may grow thereby."
(H. Verschoyle.)I. It is exceedingly PROFITABLE TO GATHER SPECIAL CATALOGUES OF OUR SINS WHICH WE SHOULD AVOID, to single out such as we would specially strive against, and do more specially hurt us.
II. THE MINISTER OUGHT TO INFORM HIS FLOCK CONCERNING THE PARTICULAR FAULTS THAT HINDER THE WORK OF HIS MINISTRY where he lives. It is not enough to reprove sin, but there is a great judgment to be expressed in applying himself to the diseases of that people.
III. THE APOSTLE DOTH NOT NAME HERE ALL THE SINS THAT HINDER THE WORD, but he imports that in most places THESE HERE NAMED DO MUCH REIGN, and marvellously let the course of the Word.
IV. IT SHOULD BE CONSIDERED HOW THESE SINS DO HINDER THE WORD.
MaliceEphesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8).
1. We ought to take heed of the beginnings of unadvised anger. God is slow to wrath, and so should we be.
2. If we be overtaken (as a right good man may) take heed it fester not, grow not to hatred; heal it quickly as we do our wounds. The devil is an ill counsellor.
Scientific illustrations.There are plants which may be said to distil venom of their own accord. The machineel tree, for example (by no means uncommon in the West India Islands), affords a milky fluid which blisters the skin as if it were burnt with a hot iron; and indeed so dangerous has the vegetable been accounted, that if a traveller should sleep under its shade it was once popularly believed he would never wake again. The venomous disposition of these plants has its representative in the human family. There are persons to be met with who are so spiteful as to cause pain the moment you come into contact with them. Their lips distil malice, and it seems the object of their life to inflict malignant wounds. If you trust them your happiness will sleep the sleep of death.
Hypocrisies1. Keep thyself in God's presence; remember always that His eyes are upon thee (Psalm 16:8; Genesis 17:1).
2. Thou must pray much and often to God to create a right spirit within thee; for by nature we have all hypocritical hearts (Psalm 51:10).
4. In all matters of well-doing be as secret as may be (Matthew 6) both in mercy, prayer, fasting, reading, and the like.
5. Be watchful over thy own ways, and see that thou be as careful of all duties of godliness in prosperity as in adversity, in health as in sickness (Job 27:9, 10).
6. Converse with such as in whom thou discernest true spirits without guile, and shun the company of known hypocrites.
7. Be not rash and easy to condemn other men for hypocrites, only because they cross thy opinions, or humours, or will, or practice. It is often observed that rash censurers that usually lash others as hypocrites fall at length into some vile kind of hypocrisy themselves.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
EnviesI. Consider THE SUBJECT PERSONS in which it usually is. It is found most in natural men (Titus 3:3), yea, in silly men (Job 5:2). This was the sin of Cain (Genesis 4). yea, of the devil himself.
II. Consider THE CAUSE OF IT. It is for the most part the daughter of pride (Galatians 5:26), sometimes of covetousness (Proverbs 28:22), and often of some egregious transgression, such as in Romans 1:29, but ever it is the filthy fruit of the flesh (Galatians 5:25).
III. Consider THE VILE EFFECTS of it, which are many.
2. It deforms our natures, it makes a man suspicious, malicious, contentious, it makes us to provoke, backbite, and practise evil against our neighbours.
3. It begins even death and hell, while a man is alive (Job 5:2). It destroyeth the contentment of his life, and burns him with a kind of fire unquenchable.
IV. It is A NOTABLE HINDRANCE TO THE PROFIT OF THE WORD, and so no doubt it is to prayer and all piety, as evidently it is a let of charity (Philippians 1:15).
All evil speakings
I. HE MUST LEARN TO SPEAK WELL TO GOD AND OF GODLINESS. If we did study that holy language of speaking to God by prayer, we would be easily fitted for the government of our tongues toward men: we speak ill to men because we pray but ill to God.
III. HE MUST KEEP A CATALOGUE OF HIS OWN FAULTS CONTINUALLY IN HIS MIND. When we are so apt to task others it is because we forget our own wickedness.
IV. HIS WORDS MUST BE FEW, for in a multitude of words there cannot want sin, and usually this sin is never absent.
V. HE MUST NOT ALLOW HIMSELF LIBERTY TO THINK EVIL. A suspicious person will speak evil.
VI. HE MUST PRAY TO GOD TO SET A WATCH BEFORE THE DOORS OF HIS LIPS.
VII. HE MUST AVOID VAIN AND PROVOKING COMPANY. When men get into idle company the very complement of discoursing extracteth evil speaking to fill up the time; especially he must avoid the company of censurers, for their ill-language, though at first disliked, is insensibly learned.
VIII. HE MUST ESPECIALLY STRIVE TO GET MEEKNESS, and show his meekness to all men (Titus 3:1, 2).
IX. If he have this way offended, then let him follow that counsel, "Let his own words grieve him" (Psalm 56:5); that IS LET HIM HUMBLE HIMSELF SERIOUSLY FOR IT BEFORE GOD by hearty repentance; this sin is seldom mended, because it is seldom repented of.
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the WordI. THE SIMILITUDE BY WHICH CHRISTIANS ARE HERE REPRESENTED.
1. This may relate to the commencement of the spiritual life at regeneration, as compared with its subsequent growth in this world. Not only has this life a beginning here, after the natural birth, but it begins like that, in a small, feeble, and almost imperceptible manner.
2. But this childhood may relate to the whole state of the spiritual life in the present world as compared with its future manhood.
II. WHAT THAT GROWTH IS WHICH THE SCRIPTURE IS CALCULATED THUS TO PROMOTE THOUGH THE WHOLE COURSE OF OUR MORTAL EXISTENCE.
1. In knowledge. At first this principle is weak in its perception of the things of revelation. It begins with those parts of Scripture which lie nearest to human observation, and in which the Bible most accommodates itself to human ignorance. It proceeds to those passages suited to an awakened and quickened state of feeling.
2. In purity. The mind naturally conforms itself to the sentiments with which it is conversant.
3. In heavenly mindedness. To that world from which the Scriptures Came, and about which they frequently treat, they insensibly draw the devout peruser. They facilitate the withdrawment of our minds from this world by the transitoriness which they attach to all earthly excellences, and by making them to stand for signs of others, yet greater and better, in the celestial economy. Hence our elevation is effectively promoted.
4. In peace and tranquillity of mind, amidst all the disturbances and ills of life. What book is, or can be, like the Bible, for its perpetual reference of all things here to a Divine superintendence?
5. In fine, the Scripture is calculated to promote the growth of every grace of the Spirit necessary to complete the Christian character. It feeds repentance by the evil it discloses in sin; it feeds Divine love by the excellence it portrays in God, rectifying the misconceptions of the carnal mind; it feeds faith by the representation of its objects, and by the impression it makes of its innate majesty and authority on the devout peruser of its pages. In like manner it feeds hope, patience, resignation, zeal, and every other grace which branches out of the principle of spiritual life, and completes the character of the man of God.
III. WHAT THAT STATE OF MIND IS WHICH CHRISTIANS ARE REQUIRED TO CULTIVATE IN ORDER TO SECURE THIS GREAT BENEFIT FROM THE SCRIPTURE.
1. There must be the removal of what would otherwise prove fatal impediments. James inculcates the same duty under a different metaphor (1 Peter 1:21). He compares the Word to a fruit bearing plant, requiring a clean and friendly soil for its growth. The weeds of evil dispositions must be eradicated, or its roots will not spread, nor its virtue disclose itself. "Purify your hearts," therefore, he adds elsewhere, "ye double minded. Be ye doers of the Word," etc.
2. These impediments being removed, we must cherish and promote the spiritual appetite. The appetite of the infant for its appropriate supply is natural. The spiritual appetite, to be analogous to it, must have several properties.(1) It must be earnest. The child cries, is impatient for its designed support; and it is not an idle, cold, sluggish desire after the aliment provided for spiritual growth that will subserve our growth. "My soul breaketh," says David, "for the longing it hath to Thy statutes."(2) It must be specific and suitable. No toys and gew-gaws, no gifts of gold and silver, no, nor even of the most delicious food, will compensate the infant for the absence of its natural support. Thus we must take heed not to substitute for the truth of Scripture the sentiments of men, though set forth with all the advantages of learning and eloquence.(3) It must be constant, The infant tires not of its proper food, but finds in it all it wants both nutritive and delicious. Nor must we tire of the Word of God, nor seek for a greater variety than it presents. It contains within itself all that is necessary for life and godliness, for comfort and improvement.
(J. Leifchild.)I. OUR CONDITION AS GOD'S LITTLE ONES. "Newborn babes." This world is but the nursery in which the heirs of God are spending the first lisping years of their existence, preparatory to the opening of life to full maturity yonder in the light of God.
1. This word should teach us humility. Our best pace and strongest walking in obedience here is as but the stepping of children in comparison with the perfect obedience of glory, when we shall follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. All our knowledge here is but as the ignorance of infants, and all our expressions of God and of His praises but as the first stammerings of children, in comparison with the knowledge we shall have of Him hereafter. It becomes us, therefore, not to exercise ourselves in great matters, or in things too high for us, but to quiet ourselves as a child that is weaned of its mother. Not surprised, if unnoticed or unknown; not angry, if treated with small respect; not discouraged, if face to face with incomprehensible mysteries.
2. This word should also teach us hope. There is no young thing so helpless as a babe. But He who has appointed the long months of babyhood has also provided the love and patience with which mother and father welcome and tend the strange wee thing which has come into their home. And shall God have put into others qualities in which He is Himself deficient? Shall He have provided so carefully for us in our first birth, and have provided nought in our second? Your weakness, and ailments, and nervous dread, and besetting sins, and hereditary taint of evil habit and dulness of vision, will not drive God from you, but will bring Him nearer.
3. This word should also teach us our true attitude towards God. Throw yourself on Him with the abandonment of a babe. Roll on Him the responsibility of choosing for you — directing, protecting, and delivering you. If you are overcome by sin, be sure that it cannot alienate His love, any more than can smallpox, which has marred some dear tiny face, prevent the mother from kissing the little parched lips.
II. OUR FOOD. "Long for the spiritual milk which is without guile" (R.V.). There is nothing which so proves the inspiration of the Scriptures as their suitableness to the nurture of the new life in the soul. As long as that life is absent, there is no special charm in the sacred Word: it lies unnoticed on the shelf. But directly it has been implanted, and whilst yet in its earliest stages, it seeks after the Word of God as a babe after its mother's milk; and instantly it begins to grow.
III. HOW TO CREATE AN APPETITE FOR THE WORD. "Desire." One of the most dangerous symptoms is the loss of appetite. And there is no surer indication of religious declension and ill-health than the cessation of desire for the Word of God. How can that appetite be created where lacking, and stimulated where declining?
1. Put off the evil that clings to you.
2. Remember that your growth depends on your feeding on the Word.
3. Stimulate your desire by the memory of past enjoyment. "If so be that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious."
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
I. SOUL MORTIFICATION — "Lay aside all malice," etc. This is a sacrifice. It does not come natural to the human soul. It demands effort. It is not an immediate attainment, but demands a period of growth. The series of worldly developments here alluded to are important marks of fallen men, and at the same time are painful disfigurements to professing Christians.
1. There is malice — i.e., ill-feeling of every kind. Under malice may be ranged political animosities which disturb the kindly relationship of men; unreasoning prejudice; the desire to injure those whom we dislike; bitterness, etc.
2. There is guile. This includes deceit.
3. There is hypocrisy — pretending a fictitious goodness which we do not possess. I take it that this includes cant, boasting, parade of religion, etc., for the word is not hypocrisy, but hypocrisies.
4. Envies. Again in the plural, for there are different kinds of envy.
5. Evil speakings. The failing here alluded to goes far to cause all the bitterness of worldly society.
II. SOUL DEVELOPMENT. There must be not only casting out of the evil, but also the taking in of what is good. The first requirement for development is to be brought into a state fit for growth.
III. SOUL INCITEMENT — "Since ye have tasted," etc. The first taste creates a desire for a more abundant supply.
(J. J. S. Bird, B. A.)I. That soul advancement is an EVOLUTION - "That ye may grow thereby." That is, the growth of the whole soul — all its faculties, forces, and germs of power. Growth implies —
1. Inner life. A dead thing cannot grow. Sometimes education is spoken of as if the mind were a vessel into which a certain amount of information is to be poured until the mind is filled. Sometimes, as if the mind were a stone, on which the instructor was to act as a lapidary, and polish it into some beautiful form. Hence we hear so much of accomplishments, painting, drawing, music, etc. Sometimes, as if the mind was arable land, to be ploughed and in which to plant seed to germinate and develop. Philosophically, nothing can grow in the soul. It is the soul itself that grows.
2. An inner life of latent power. A thing may have life, and nothing within for future development. Not so with the soul; it has boundless possibilities.
3. A life possessing developing conditions.
II. That soul evolution involves SOUL HUNGER. "As newborn babes desire [R.V., long for] the sincere [R.V., spiritual] milk." Vegetable life grows without a desire; so, indeed, with animal life. But if the soul is to grow, it must desire it intensely.
1. The hunger must be for natural nutriment.
2. The nutriment must be of the best kind — "Sincere [R.V., spiritual] milk." What is the best kind? The "truth as it is in Jesus."
(D. Thomas, D. D.)I. HEALTHY APPETITE: or, in other words, an earnest desire for spiritual nourishment.
1. It is of prime importance that we have a real craving for spiritual truth, for Christ will benefit us only as we appropriate Him.
2. We should further cultivate a discriminating taste. The babe's taste guards it against unwholesome food; it covets nothing but the mother's milk. So ought we to acquire a sensitive palate in respect of spiritual things, a palate able to discriminate between the precious and the vile. Is not the vitiated taste of many hearers of the gospel a symptom of a long-standing disease?
3. We should further habituate ourselves to desire strong meat, to digest well the great fundamental doctrines of the gospel. This then is the first requisite of orthodoxy, namely that we possess vigorous, healthy digestive organs. Gospel truth must be mixed with faith in them that hear it; that is to say, they must possess healthy organs, able to supply the spiritual secretions necessary to convert what we read and hear into part and parcel of our spiritual life.
II. HEALTHY FOOD; or, in other words, God's truth as contained in Holy Writ.
1. The milk of the Word. The great verses of the Bible are like so many breasts, from which we are to suck in the spiritual aliment necessary to our well-being. Do you know what it is to eat words, and especially God's words? The process is as real as eating bread and meat, and the results are much more abiding. "Thy words were found, and I did eat them": he converted them into an integral part of his spiritual nature.
2. "The milk of the Word," or rational milk. Rational milk in contrast to the rites and ceremonies both of the Jewish and heathen religions. Christians are to live more by mind and less by the senses.
3. "The sincere — unadulterated — milk of the Word," that is to say, milk free from all deleterious admixtures.
III. HEALTHY GROWTH. "That we may grow thereby unto salvation." In this Epistle salvation is used technically for salvation in the future, salvation full, complete, perfect. Now what does this growth unto salvation imply?
1. For one thing it implies growth in knowledge, for spiritual enlightenment is an essential factor in salvation.
2. Growth unto salvation further implies growth in holiness. "Having laid aside all sin, and all malice, and all evil speaking." Other religions forbid particular sins; but whilst prohibiting one class of sins, they tolerate other classes. Mahometanism, for instance, prohibits drunkenness; seldom does a Mahometan get intoxicated. But whilst prohibiting drunkenness it licenses adultery. And by thus flinging away sin from us our spiritual palate will gradually recover its normal, healthy tone; we will relish the unadulterated milk of the Word more than our ordinary food and drink.
(J. C. Jones, D. D.)
1. And, first, all life grows. This may not he apparent to the eye, but it is to the reason. Growth is the most unambiguous and decisive sign of life. A swelling bud, a beating pulse — this is proof. Life and growth go together as inevitable antecedents and consequents; and where there is growth, there is increment. This does not necessitate augmentation in size. It is not untrue to fact or absurd to say of a thing growing that it is growing small. Many a tree, many an animal, not a few persons of our acquaintance, are not as large as they formerly were.
2. Wherever there is growth, there is eating. The plant eats; down in the ground at the end of the rootlets we find spongioles, and these are mouths. In transplanting a shrub or tree the thing we care for is not to destroy these mouths, If true of vegetable life that it lives by eating, it is more obviously true of animal life. Do you say that in many of the lowest forms of sentient life we find no mouths? True apparently; but the bodies of such invertebrates abound in absorbents that serve the same purpose.
3. That nothing eats without an appetite. The etymology of this word (appetitus) gives as its striking meaning a seeking for, longing after. In vegetable life we have the analogue of appetite; for we find that every root, trunk, branch, is elongating itself in pursuit of its required supply. The tree in the thick forest extends itself to get up into the light and heat; and the stray vegetable in the cellar does the same to get out of the dark and cold just where the light and warmth have been pouring in. This power to elongate and reach its supply is one of the most interesting phenomena in the vegetable kingdom. Nor is it otherwise among animals. Their power to help themselves is itself a department of science, and awakens the deepest interest. Besides the power of elongation to get supply, they have the power of locomotion. Appetite unsupplied is hunger, one of the most intense forms of physical unrest; and impels to the most intense exertions to get relief. But what next after appetite? You say that our series of organic facts cannot end in appetite; you say it must have its correlative supply. You add that there is a wonderful law in nature ordaining in every grade of life that there shall be as many forms of reciprocal supply as there are subjective wants. For every mouth there is the required morsel, and, in general a superabundant supply. In man this law bears sway in a three-fold form, for he has in him three lives: life of body, brain, and soul. The physical life grows by eating what the physical appetite craves; the supplies here are found in the outward physical world. This life can live and grow on bread alone. The intellectual life grows by eating what the intellectual appetite craves; the supplies here are found in the truths of fact and principle discoverable in the world of science. The moral and spiritual life grows by eating what the moral and spiritual life craves; here the supplies are found in all the verities that appertain to the soul in relation to God and the immortal life. Having these three forms of life, and, in natural order, these three forms of growth, eating, and appetite, and, having these three forms of supply, man can have three forms of satisfaction: he can be physically, intellectually, and morally supplied and at rest. Therefore he can have three forms of health. He can be whole in body, mind, and soul; or he can be ailing in one department of his being, and well in other respects. In order to perfect health in each life there must be a perfect working of the functions of each in possession of a perfect supply. A man can have as many forms of hunger, starvation, and death by starvation, as he has lives. The inference here is inevitable, that if a man has in him three lives, and, in his prerogative of free will, can make each growthful or not, according as appetite is fed or not fed, then man has in him the power of a three-fold suicide. Thus far we have been considering life as it develops normally. In its various grades we find it growing according to a natural law inlaid in the constitution. We find it interfered with only by encroachment and want of supply. Unfallen human life observed this law in the primeval garden. But this adherence to law in an orderly unfolding did not continue. Sin entered, and with it a new factor, disease. It is an easy consequence of sin, itself wholly unnatural; it belongs to that category of thorns and thistles, toil and sweat and birth pangs, visited upon the race as instruments of probationary discipline and culture. This prepares us to notice the benignity of nature in providing not only for normal but as well for abnormal wants. Not only does she provide for hunger, thirst, rest, to repair waste and recover tone, but she is a storehouse of remedies for disease. There are provisions not only for life when exhausted by expenditure, but when assailed and wounded by assault. It is well known that animals when ill either refuse to eat, or, eating, select a medicinal diet. Such food is found in those forms of supply abounding in nature that are repelled in a state of health. Disease sharpens an instinctive appetite for them, and impels to a search for them. Man as a physical being, diseased, like all animals, finds himself dependent for cure on medicinal remedies stored in nature. There is a more subtle force in man, and a more destructive one, than disease, and whose proper seat is the soul. It is sin: what disease is to the body, sin is to the spiritual powers of man. The spheres in which these destructive forces work greatly differ, but such is the organic connection between them that we are quick to see the natural alliance of sin and disease. As in physical disease there is a suppression of appetite for common food, and a search for a medicinal diet, so in man's apostate condition and severance from God there is disclosed in the remains of his fallen nature, in the intuitions of reason and the instincts of a guilty conscience, a longing after some form of deliverance that has an expiatory value. Sin itself seems to evoke a longing for a remedy that will destroy it. A sick man wants health, and if lie finds it at all, he finds it in nature's stores; a lost man wants salvation, and if he finds it at all, he finds it in Christ crucified. Mark here the point of critical interest: when the sinner in the consciousness of his need turns to Christ and believes on Him, he is born again. In this change, his third life has been taken off the creature as having a supreme interest and placed upon God where it originally belonged; and so, being in Christ Jesus, the man, dead in trespasses and sins, is made alive from the dead. But the new man that is born in him is, to use the apostle's figure, a babe in Christ. There exist still in the converted man the remains of the old nature, and these remains are summed up by the apostle and called the old man. And now what have we? A marvellous phenomenon! a man with four lives in him. The physical and intellectual lives remain; then we have the new life, the babe in Christ, called the new man; finally we have a fourth life in the remains of the old life, called by St. Paul the old man. In the soul of the renewed man then we find two lives; and let us mark their relation to each other. In the first place, the new man though a babe holds the ascendency. He is so much the creation of the Spirit that we can say of him that he is the child of a King. In his minority in this world he has to retain his throne by warfare. In the text, St. Peter, addressing believers, urges them to exercise the appetite, characteristic of newborn babes, in their longing for the spiritual milk of the Word which is without guile, that they may grow thereby. He assumes the existence of life, and life that is to grow by eating in compliance with an awakened appetite. The reign of law is supreme in all growth. All the characteristics of life in the lower kingdoms of nature reappear here in the spiritual sphere. We have seen that all appetite, wherever found, finds its corresponding supply in its environment. This is true of the life of the believer. That life is Divine in its origin from heaven, and in its nature spiritual; therefore corresponding to it is an objective supply equally Divine and spiritual. But you ask, How about the old third life, now called by the apostle the old man, and which we have seen to be living a dying life? Does it grow? I reply that the old man still lives, but, struck with death, is in a mortal decline; there is growth too; but in proportion as the new man grows strong, he grows weak. If the new life is stationary, the old life holds its own; if it is retrograde, the old life waxes and regains ascendency, "sin reigns." But you say that if the old life lives in any form, even a lingering death, it must have food, and what is it? This is a vital question; can we find an answer? We have seen that the new life is in spirit totally unlike the old life, and cannot therefore live on the same diet, unless it is mixed. Here we fall upon the great source of weakness among believers — adulteration of food. The Divine plan for the new life is that it should live and grow "on spiritual milk, which is without guile." The word "spiritual" here does not refer to the Holy Spirit as the originator of this diet, but to the Spirit of the new life itself, with which this diet is perfectly congruous. The new life is spirit, and has a diet fitted to it as such; but the diet must be without guile, unadulterated, the pure Word of God. When the new life has this food, and only this food, and enough of it, it hastens on to full growth. Instances abound in the Church of persons of signal excellence in whom this life has had a luxurious exposition. But this food, so nutritious and medicinal to the new man, is innutritious and destructive to the old man. The Divine plan is to kill the old life by the natural process of starvation. It is said that in certain soils clover will not grow under butternut trees; the roots of the butternut extract from the soil all the elements the clover lives on, and so the clover starves and dies. It is by this same law of death by starvation that the old life in believers is to end its career. But the painful fact is that its law is not obeyed. Strange as it may be, believers do not insist that the spiritual milk they drink shall be without adulteration. They allow a mixed diet — elements introduced that are agreeable to the old man. When the diet is half and half, when both the old and the new man can sit at the same table and partake of the same food with equal pleasure, neither is satisfied; both live a stunted life. It is just here that we find an explanation of the mystery of the weakness that abounds in Christian living. Believers half live, because fed on a diet half of which is prepared for the old life. They consult with flesh and blood. They are self-indulgent; and the self they indulge is the old self. They hanker after forbidden food. In them the old life is robust and well to do, the new is pinched and emaciate. Why is this? Because the Divine law of growth in the text is not heeded. Believers are not studious as to their diet. They do not live on the spiritual milk of the Word, and insist that it shall be without guile. They are too tender and sympathetic with the old self. Vigorous self-denial is here demanded. This order is never introverted. It is always the new man in us that drives out the old; and to have the strength required to do it he must have for his diet the spiritual milk of the Word, which is without guile.
(C. B. Hulbert.)1. The Word is compared to milk in respect of the plainness of it to young children, which is therefore opposed to strong meat, that is, harder points, and mysteries of religion, so especially for the nourishing nature thereof.
2. It is also compared to milk for the sweetness of it. The Word is sweet to a newborn Christian.
3. Besides, as milk is a general food for all rich and poor, so is the Word the common food of all Christians, the means of their edifying.
(C. Rogers, LL. D.)
That ye may grow therebyI. CHRISTIANS ARE TO "GROW" — "grow unto salvation." This implies present immaturity — that they have not yet reached "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Their hope is ofttimes indistinct and tremulous, even when it is not averted from its appropriate object. Their holiness is stained by innumerable defilements of the flesh and the spirit. Their fear dissolves into a carnal security or a worldly dissipation. Nor does "brotherly love continue." But if they are Christians indeed all these elements of the new creature exist at least in the germ. Growth may be slow, and, for a time, even imperceptible. Obstructed by the remaining constitutional taint of the old nature, it may be hindered also by unfavourable circumstances, by the diseases incident to childhood, or through neglect of the appropriate means of growth. But the tendency is there, and that tendency is to be fostered by Christian education.
II. THE PARTICULAR MEANS HERE SPECIFIED BY WHICH THIS GROWTH IS TO BE PROMOTED is "the sincere milk of the Word."
III. But, in order to the profitable use of even the pure milk of the Word, there are CERTAIN CONDITIONS PREREQUISITE.
1. There is, first, the necessity of spiritual life. Without it, as there can be no growth, so neither is there any desire after the means of growth,
2. If the soul is to enjoy the full benefit of the provisions of grace it must also be careful of its spiritual health, avoiding all occasions of disease, and especially maintaining a constant guard against the evil tendencies of its own constitutional taint.
3. When the soul has thus been "purified of malice and wickedness," one unfailing sign of its healthy condition is a "desire" — an earnest desire — for the nutriment of the Divine Word.
4. If we would grow by means of the Word it is important that we use the Word for that end.
IV. THE MOTIVES BY WHICH THIS EXHORTATION IS ENFORCED.
1. In this growth itself there is blessing enough to be its own motive and great reward. There are other considerations, however, suggested by the text. Observe —
2. The introductory word, "wherefore," literally "laying aside, therefore," etc., referring back to the illustrious attributes of the Word, as these had been set forth at the close of the first chapter. It had there been magnified as the Word of the Lord, as the incorruptible seed, as the living, abiding, everlasting Word. Seeing, then, says Peter, this precious Word decays not, grows not obsolete, and can as little be exhausted as it can be superseded by the word of man or of angel, what remains but that ye "follow on to know" it, "give yourselves wholly" to it, and drink deep, drink daily, drink forever of the Divine fountains. This might the rather be expected of them as —
3. In the third place, they had already experienced the regenerating power of the Word, "as newborn babes." This is not so much a comparison as a reason. If, moreover, they remember still that they are but children, what more natural than that they should be ambitious to grow?
4. And finally, as they had been made subjects of the gospel's regenerating power, so they had likewise tasted the sweetness and blessedness of its revelations. "If so be" — or if indeed, as you profess, and as I fully believe — "ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious," good, kind. You "tasted," and you are well aware that you did no more than taste, "of the heavenly gift," of that which shall be the eternal satisfaction and joy of all the redeemed. With what confidence, then, in your ready compliance may I not say, Open your mouths wide and the good Lord will fill them. Enlarge to the uttermost both your capacities and your desires, and you will still find this cup of blessing, this river of God, as full as at the first.
(J. Lillie, D. D.)
Homilist.I. It involves YOUNG LIFE. There is no growth without life, and old life grows not. Soul growth consists in the simultaneous and harmonious development of all the powers of the mind under the inspiration and direction of supreme love to God.
II. It involves SUITABLE ALIMENT.
1. The Word must be taken into the soul by hearing and reading.
2. The Word must be digested by the soul by reflection and prayer.
3. The Word must be incorporated in the soul by holy activities and habits.
III. It involves A HEALTHY APPETITE.
1. The soul must have an appetite for truth before it will take it.
2. The soul must have an appetite for the genuine truth before it will get the right nutriment.
(Homilist.)I. THE GREAT END TO BE SOUGHT AFTER. "That ye may grow." The newborn babe is a fit emblem of the Christian. lie is one who has in him the principle of a higher life, and therefore the capacity of growth.
1. In what is it the Christian is to grow? In all that constitutes the new nature which he has received of God.(1) The foundation of the Christian life is laid in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.(2) On this there must be a superstructure of virtue and moral goodness reared, and the advancement of the one must keep pace with that of the other.
2. This growth is a gradual process. We must be prepared for fluctuations and vicissitudes in our spiritual condition.
3. Whenever this growth takes place it will be discernible. Not directly, or in itself. A child grows without being in the least degree sensible of it. Nor can even the keenest onlooker see the child grow. The fact that it has grown is discovered from the comparison of what it is now and what it had been at some period more or less distant in the past. Even so it is with Christian growth.
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH THIS GREAT END IS TO BE SECURED.
1. The truth of God is revealed to us as being adapted to nourish the life of God in the soul.
2. We are to desire God's Word in order that we may grow thereby. It is very possible to desire Divine truth for other reasons and other ends than this. It is quite possible to desire to read Holy Scripture because we have been accustomed to do so, or because this wonderful book is very pleasant to read, and touches every part of our intellectual nature.But we must use it intelligently, perseveringly, to secure the great end.
1. Have we any right to call ourselves babes in Christ, children of God, born again? If not, then simply we cannot grow. Dead things, stones, cannot grow.
2. Ought not the necessity of growing to be more deeply felt, and the duty on which it depends to be more faithfully discharged?
(W. L. Alexander, D. D.)
I. First, then, TASTE is prominent in the text.
1. The taste here meant is doubtless faith. Faith, in the Scripture, is all the senses. It is sight (Isaiah 45:22); hearing (Isaiah 55:3); smelling (Psalm 45:8); touch (Mark 5:30, 31). Faith is equally the spirit's taste. "How sweet are Thy words to my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to nay lips." We shall have an inward and spiritual apprehension of the sweetness and preciousness of Christ as the result of living faith.
2. The taste here meant is faith in one of its highest operations. To hear Christ's voice as the very voice of God in the soul will save us, but that which gives the true enjoyment is the aspect of faith wherein Christ, by holy taste, becomes assimilated to us; we feed on Him; He becometh part of us; His living Word sustaineth us, and His precious blood cheereth us as generous wine. Do you ask, "In what respect does faith taste that the Lord is gracious?" It is faith operating by experience.
3. Faith, as exhibited to us under the aspect of tasting, is a sure and certain mark of grace in the heart. It is a sure sign of vitality. Man, by nature, is dead in trespasses and sins. Or, to put it in another light, if men have a taste of Christ, it is certain evidence of a Divine change, for men by nature find no delight in Jesus.
4. This taste, where it has been bestowed by grace, is a discerning faculty. If thou canst live upon a gospel which leads thee to depend upon thyself, thou hast no spiritual taste, or else thou wouldst loathe, as much as ever Egyptian loathed to drink of the waters of Nile when turned into blood, to drink of any river which flows from created springs; thou wouldst only drink of the cool stream of the river of life which rises at the foot of the throne of God and flows around the base of Calvary, where Jesus shed His blood. Say, soul, dost thou love Jesus only? Is He all thy salvation and all thy desire, and dost thou repose wholly and solely in Him? For if not, then thou hast no spiritual taste, and thou hast no reason to believe that thou belongest unto Jesus Christ at all.
5. Faith as a taste is not Simply a discerning but a delighting faculty. Men derive much satisfaction from the organs of taste. I pray you delight yourselves in Christ! Let your faith so taste Jesus as to make you glad. Let your joy be as the joy of harvest, and sing ye with Zechariah, "How great is His goodness, and how great is His beauty! Corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids."
6. This taste of ours is in this life imperfect. As old master Durham says, "'Tis but a taste!" We have not yet rested beneath the vines of Canaan; we have only enjoyed the first fruits of the Spirit, and they have set us hungering and thirsting for the fulness of the heavenly heritage. We groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption.
7. Though ours is an imperfect, we thank God it is a growing taste. We know that sometimes in the decline of life the taste, like the other powers of manhood, decays; but, glory be to God, a taste for Christ will never decay.
II. MEN WHO HAVE THUS TASTED OF CHRIST HAVE SPECIAL SINS TO AVOID AND OBJECTS TO DESIRE.
1. We first dwell upon evils to be avoided.
2. The apostle, having told us what to avoid, tells us what to eat and drink. "As newborn babes desire," etc. The Christian man should desire pure doctrine; he should desire to hear the gospel plainly and truthfully preached — not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but in the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth. It is a sign of declining health in a Christian when he does not love the means of grace.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Essex Remembrancer.I. DEFINE CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE SO FAR AS EXPRESSED IN THE LANGUAGE OF THE TEXT. Tasting supposes life; where there is no spiritual life there can be no spiritual taste. Tasting implies reception, and this is requisite in order to appreciation. They who savingly prove the gracious character of God are such who have the inward evidence of it. Religion is not a matter of speculation, but of experience; not of form, but of hallowed feeling. Such participation is no criterion of extraordinary proficiency in Christianity; it is essential to its existence.
II. THE EXEMPLIFICATION OF SUCH EXPERIENCE OF RELIGION IN THE SOUL.
1. "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious," what thanks do you owe Him?
2. "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious," be gracious like Him.
3. "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious," you know what you are to hope for. Proofs hitherto of His love are pledges for the future.
4. "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious," think what is expected from you. Grow in spiritual stature. The more ample the crop the more delightful to the husbandman and to every beholder who feels an interest in what is excellent.
5. "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious," pity those that have not.
(Essex Remembrancer.)I. We may consider THE GOODNESS OF GOD. He is said to be gracious, or of a bountiful, kind disposition. The graciousness of God is always sweet; the taste of that is never out of season. God is gracious, but it is God in Christ. Though God is mercy and goodness in Himself, yet we cannot apprehend Him so to us, but as we are looking through that medium, the Mediator. His grace is all in Christ. Let us therefore never leave Him out in our desires of tasting the graciousness and love of God, for otherwise we shall but dishonour Him and disappoint ourselves.
II. YE HAVE TASTED. There is a tasting exercised by temporary believers spoken of in Hebrews 6:4. That is merely tasting, rather an imaginary taste than real; but this is a true feeding on the graciousness of God; yet is it called but a taste in respect of the fulness to come. Jesus Christ being all in all unto the soul, faith apprehending Him, is all the spiritual senses. Faith is the eye that beholds His matchless beauty, and so kindles love in the soul, and can speak of Him as having seen Him and taken particular notice of Him. It is faith that touches Him and draws virtue from Him, and faith that tastes Him. In order to this there must be a firm believing of the truth of the promises, wherein the free grace of God is expressed and exhibited to us — a sense of the sweetness of that grace being applied or drawn into the soul, and that constitutes properly this taste He that hath indeed tasted of this goodness, oh, how tasteless are those things to him that the world calls sweet! As when you have tasted something that is very sweet, it disrelishes other things after it. Therefore can a Christian so easily either want or use with disregard the delights of this earth.
III. THE INFERENCE. If ye have tasted, etc., then lay aside all malice and guile, and hypocrisies and envies, and all evil speakings, Surely if you have tasted of the kindness and sweetness of God in Christ, it will compose your spirits and conform them to Him. It will diffuse such a sweetness through your soul that there will be no place for malice and guile; there will be nothing but love, and meekness, and singleness of heart. As the Lord is good, so they who taste of His goodness are made like Him (Ephesians 4:32). Again, if ye have tasted, then desire more. This is the truest sign of it. He that is in a continual hunger and thirst after this graciousness of God has surely tasted of it. "My soul thirsteth for God," saith David (Psalm 42:2). He had tasted before; he remembers that he went to the house of God with the voice of joy. This is that happy circle wherein the soul of the believer moves. The more he loves it the more he shall taste of this goodness, and the more he tastes the more he shall still love and desire it. But observe — If ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious, then desire the milk of the Word. This is the sweetness of the Word, that it hath in it the Lord's graciousness, gives us the knowledge of His love. This they find in it who have spiritual life and senses, and those senses exercised to discern good and evil, and this engages a Christian to further desire of the Word.
(Abp. Leighton.)Psalm 34:8: "O taste and see that the Lord is good." The passage actually runs — "O taste and see that Jehovah is good," and Peter does not hesitate for a moment to apply the passage to the Lord Jesus.
I. A ROYAL DAINTY. "The Lord is gracious." Jesus is full of grace. Once tasted, this grace is remembered.
1. The Lord is gracious in His person, nature, and character. He would never have been Immanuel, God with us, if He had not been gracious.
2. We have found Him exceeding gracious in the manner of dispensing His salvation. He is most free, spontaneous, and generous in His gifts of grace.
3. As He is gracious by nature and gracious in manner, so is He gracious in His gifts. How gracious was He when He gave Himself for us! What priceless boons follow therefrom! He gave us pardon and life. Where sin abounded, grace doth much more abound. Since we have come to know our Lord, how gracious have we found Him to be! "He giveth more grace." Oh, the wonders of free grace in its continuance and perseverance! Truly "the Lord is gracious."
4. The Lord is gracious, for He hears prayer.
5. Some of you have been favoured with choice times, "as the days of heaven upon the earth." You have climbed the mount and been alone with God. Oh, the rapture of intimate fellowship with God!
6. Possibly your experience has been of a sadder kind; you have backslidden, and He has restored you in His grace. But you do not know how gracious the Lord is.
7. Remember that He is preparing us for a glory inconceivable. Everything is working out His perfect design.
II. But now think of A SPECIAL SENSE which is exercised in tasting that the Lord is gracious. Faith is the soul's taste by which we perceive the sweetness of our Lord and enjoy it for ourselves. In answering the question, What is meant by taste? I would bid you notice the likeness of the word "taste" to another, namely, "test."
1. Taste is a test as to things to be eaten. We prove and try an article of food by tasting it. Even so we do not speculate upon the grace of God, but "we have known and believed the love which God has toward us."
2. In order to spiritual taste there must be apprehension. We must have some idea of what being gracious means, and some conviction that this is truly the character of our Lord Jesus. The clearer the knowledge the m. ore distinct the taste may become.
3. After apprehension must come appropriation. Martin Luther saith, "And this I call tasting, when I do with my very heart believe that Christ hath given Himself unto me, and that I have my full interest in Him, that He beareth and answereth for all my sins, transgressions, and harms, and that His life is my life. When this persuasion is thoroughly settled in my heart, it yieldeth wonderful and incredible good taste." Appropriate Christ, I pray you. Let each one take Him to himself, and then you will know what tasting means. But taste further means appreciation. You may have a thing within yourself and yet not taste it, even as Samson's lion had honey within its carcase, but he was a dead lion, and so could not taste it. A man may get the gospel into his mind, but never taste it. It wants a living man, and a living appropriation, and a living appreciation, or else the royal dainty is not tasted. Have you ever enjoyed the truth that the Lord is gracious? Jesus is all in all to all who are in Him.
III. A SEARCHING QUESTION. "If so be that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious."
1. This is a very simple elementary question. I may not know what a dish is made of, but I may have tasted it for all that. I may be grossly ignorant of the mysteries of cookery, but I can tell whether a dish is sweet to my taste. I put it to every one here, whether babes or strong men Have you tasted that the Lord is gracious?
2. However simple is the question, it goes to the root of the matter; it takes in the whole ease of a man's soul. Do you know Christ by personal reception of Him? If not, you are in an evil case. Oh, that you would come to the feast! Oh, that you would eat that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness!
3. Every man here must answer that question for himself. We cannot in this matter be sponsors for one another. Tasting is an operation which must be performed by the individual palate. There is no other method of practising it. Let me tell you when we have tasted the graciousness of the Lord. We have done so after great bitterness. Our Lord, as George Herbert would say, has put His hand into the bitter box and given us a dose of wormwood and gall. We have drunk the cup in submission, and afterwards He has made us taste that the Lord is gracious, and then all bitterness has clean gone, and our mouth has been as sweet as though wormwood had never entered it. The taste of grace is always on some men's palates; their mouths are filled all the day with the praises of the Lord. These are happy beings; let us be of their number.
IV. A SERIES OF PRACTICAL INFERENCES.
1. "Desire the sincere milk of the Word." If you have tasted it, long for more of it.
2. Next, expect to grow, and pray that you may do so. Pray for more faith, more hope, more love, more zeal, and so let us grow. "Desire the sincere milk of the Word, that you may grow."
3. Next, "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious," abhor the garlic flavour of the world's vices. I mean those alluded to in the first verse malice, guile, hypocrisies, envies, and all evil speaking."
4. I want you also, if you have tasted that the Lord is gracious, to lose taste for all earthly trifles. Let the ox have its grass and the horse its hay, but souls must feed on spiritual meat.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. R. Pentecost.)
(J. A. Bengel.)
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