“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow up into your salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
Peter was writing this letter to the exiles who were living in Asia Minor. We see this at the beginning of the letter. These churches were made up of both Jews and Gentiles. There may have been divisions among them, and this may have been why Peter wrote the letter. It is equally valid for us today.
He starts with the word ‘therefore’ in verse one. This is referring back to the command in Chapter 1, verse 22. He writes, “Since you have purified yourselves by your obedience to the truth, so that you show sincere brotherly love for each other, from a pure heart love one another constantly…” We do this because we have been born again through the living and enduring word of God. Stick a pin in the second thought because we are going to be coming back to that! We love one another; therefore, we are to rid ourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. Let’s take a look at this.
First it says we are to rid ourselves of these. The expression that is used is similar to the one used in Ephesians 4:22 where Paul writes, “… take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires…” It is an appeal to the reader to stop doing something evil. Peter then lists five things we are to rid ourselves of. These types of lists are common in the New Testament. Jesus lists what comes out of a person’s heart in Mark 7:21-22. “For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.” Paul writes this in Colossians 3:8. “But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.” And in Ephesians 4:31, he writes, “Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice.” This list which Peter writes focuses on those behaviors which are harmful to others. He is referring to the command from Chapter 1 to love one another, and these things are the opposite of that.
What are we to rid ourselves of? He first mentions malice. We may not use that word very much today, but we do use the adjective malicious. It means bad intent or any action that is harmful to others. Next is deceit. That would be lying. Any verbal deception, trickery, or falsehood would be in that category. Hypocrisy is a word most of us are familiar with. In this case, Peter is referring to people who mask their private evil with an outward showing of piety. In the verse I used above where Jesus is writing about what comes out of a person’s heart, he is condemning the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. Next, we have envy. One of the Ten Commandments is “You shall not covet.” When we want something that belongs to someone else, it can lead to breaking the other commandments. It is also the opposite of thankfulness, and we are told to give thanks! Lastly, we are to rid ourselves of slander. Slander is speaking or writing untruthfully of others. We might think that we never do this one, but how often do we gossip? Isn’t this a form of slander? Instead we are to love the way we see in first Corinthians 13:4-7. “Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
We are to rid ourselves of these five things and instead we are to desire the pure milk of the word just like newborn infants. Peter is not using this phrase the way that Paul uses it in 1 Corinthians 3:1-2. “For my part, brothers and sisters, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, since you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready…” Peter is not implying immature believers here the way Paul did in his letter to Corinth. Rather, he is saying that just as a baby needs pure milk to survive, so we as Christians (both new in the faith and mature believers) need the pure word of God. As babies long for milk, eagerly and frequently, we are to long for the word of God. The word desire that is used here is used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) and is used for man’s deepest longing for God. We see it in Psalm 42:1. “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God.”
We are to desire the pure milk of the word so that we can grow up into our salvation. We are not earning our salvation. We already have it! This is the process of sanctification. It is our growing in Christian maturity. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:15, “But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ.” He writes in Colossians 1:9-10, “For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God…” And Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.”
He ends with the phrase, “if you have tasted that the Lord is good.” Peter is directly quoting Psalm 34:8 here. “Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!” Wayne Grudem writes this. “But how can the goodness of the Lord (v. 3) be a reason to long for the words of Scripture (v. 2)? The connection is more natural than it first appears. Peter is assuming that the words of Scripture are the words of the Lord, so to read or listen to Scripture is to hear the Lord speak, to take his good and nourishing words into one’s heart.”
I have tasted and seen that the Lord is indeed good! I love the time I get to spend immersed in his word. The more I study, the more I realize how little I know, and the more I want to learn! I remember praying that he would give me the desire to read the Bible and he has answered that prayer beyond what I could have ever imagined.
I will end with this.
“Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Grace be with you!