1So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. – 1 Peter 2:1-8 ESV
Again, our bible experience tells us that we must grasp this text by understanding what the author, Peter, is referring to. When we see paragraphs and sentences starting with therefore, that means we need to have the springboard of the conversation that the coming section is based on.
22Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible – 1 Peter 1:22-23 NKJV
We touched on the basis of being reborn and becoming a Christian in previous studies, but we cannot overlook the concept Peter is building on, we are adopted, children of God.
In order to embrace the things of God, spiritual things, a new birth is required. God has made our souls and created in us a desire for Him and His son, Jesus. Peter makes mention of our having been born again and then goes into this next chapter wit the consequences and implications of being born again.
I didn’t mean it
Today we don’t use the term of malice on a daily basis, but it is rampant in our society. Our legal systems describes certain actions as being done “with malice”. Malice does not necessarily describe an action by which one person is injured by another. It is the motivation, the reasoning. An action that causes injury might be a malicious action, but the term malicious indicates a desire to harm or injure.
When someone tells us that we have done something to hurt them, we typically respond, “I didn’t mean to do that”. We may have done it and admit to doing it, but we did not plan to bring harm. Malice has to do with a desire in the heart, a purposeful desire to wound or hurt another person.
Let us not reserve this term of malice to physical acts. People are the most malice with their words than they are with their physical actions. Just wanting someone to feel our pain, or pay the cost for their actions, is malicious. Resentment transforms into malice. Check your heart, what are the motivations of our heart. Sometimes it is not our heart that drives our actions. It is our wounded flesh, but we do not do a heart check and let our flesh act out.
Parts of the whole
The components of malice are deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander. When we ask our internal discernment question, “is the next thing I say or do going to glorify God”, we are checking our motives.
The word deceit does not even sound good. Even if you did not know what the word meant, you would not be comfortable if someone called you deceitful. Deceit is borne of malice. Deceit involves a definite attempt to distort, hide or undermine the truth. Deceitful actions are not accidents or mistakes. They are done intentionally. Lying is deceitful. Someone who lies, purposefully attempts to distort the truth or covers up the truth, is deceitful. Their heart is polluted.
We are to lay aside all hypocrisy. Jesus often called the Pharisees in terms of hypocrisy, which was a kind of acting or pretense. A hypocrite tries to deceive other people about his spiritual state. He pretends to be more righteous that he actually is. Peter declares all malice, deceitfulness, hypocrisy has to go.
One of the biggest issues people have with the church and Satan’s biggest weapon is hypocrisy. The reason that charge is brought so often is that we call ourselves Christians but we do not always act in the Christian manner. The biggest form of hypocrisy is someone declaring that the are without sin, a claim that Christians do not make.
It has been stated that the church is the only institution which being a sinner is mandatory for membership.
Just like deceit and hypocrisy go together, so do envy and slander. The primary motivation for slandering people is jealousy or envy toward them. When we envy people, we generally speak badly about them.
Peter says, if you have been born of the Spirit of God, then get rid of malice. Do not let deceitfulness be a part of your character or behavior. Put aside all forms of hypocrisy. Christians must not be envious, because when we are envy, we not only do violence to our neighbor, but we also do insult to God, who has given us everything we will ever need, salvation. We must realize how painful it must be to God when Christians envy unbelievers.
No matter what an unbeliever has, wealth, fame, position, status, it is not comparabele to the unspeakable gift that God has given us. We have no right to envy anyone. Setting aside envy goes a long way toward curing our lips from slandering others.
If we are children of God, slander is unacceptable. Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 2 about this issue:
1You He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. – Ephesians 2:1-3 NKJV
By nature, the bible says we are followers of Satan, and his name means “slanderer”. They whole job of Satan is to slander Christ, His church, and His people. We should not want to be joining forces with the father of lies in that destructive activity. If we are Christian, we need to put slander aside and never go back to it again.
Craving pure milk
Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk – 1 Peter 2:2
Many times in the bible the term babes are used to represent infants in Christ, or their spiritual progress. Peter’s intention is not to indicate that the readers of the letter are recent converts. Remember, he knows he is writing to Jews that are well versed in the law. Peter is focusing on a baby’s desire for milk. A person who is born of God, should have a similar thirst for the Word of God.
We know how passionate a baby can be when he wants milk. He wants to be fed and no matter how much you rock them, pamper them, or try to play with them, only the satisfaction of milk will satisfy. We should desire the pure milk of the Word just like a baby does his bottle.
We are to be people who, having been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit, have a desire within our soul, a hunger and thirst, for the pure milk of the Word.
If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious – 1 Peter 2:3
If you have tasted the spiritual milk of God, there is nothing like it. The world does not care about spiritual things, Spiritual milk is not even on its diet. There is the beautiful lyric we may have heard…
“I have tasted and seen the sweetest of love” – Holy Spirit by Jesus Culture
That desire for more of righteousness is drawn out by Jesus in the sermon on the mount in Matthew chapter 5
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. – Matthew 5:6 NKJV
What motivates you to go to church?
Some people like the community church provides, but that generally is not fulfilled on Sundays. Hopefully it is not about being seen by others. The people who are drawn are the hungry. Like a horse wanting a water trough. Those who have a desire for the things of God because they have tasted and seen. It tastes so good that you want to have more. You want worship to go for hours, you want the preacher to keep going. You don’t want the flow of the Holy Spirit to subside. I even feed my desires as I prepare these studies. Sometimes that is why we can spend hours and days over just a section of scripture. It comes alive and it tastes good!
Not a rock, but a stone
coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God – 1 Peter 2:4
The bible uses metaphors throughout and Peter uses the “living stone” in an important way. We know that Jesus referred to Peter as the rock, but the Greek word used by Peter in his letter is not rock. It is a stone. He is talking about a stone that the people flee from, they reject it. But Peter is talking about the elect stone, choice and precious by God. What men see as worthless and rejected is precious to the living God.
You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:5 NASB
Not only is Christ the stone that is living, elect and precious, but all who belong to Christ are considered living stones, chosen by God. To be used to build up the church. Each one of us comprises the church. This gathering is the church. Each of us is a stone working together to represent the church building. Just like the metaphor used frequently of the church being a body, all the parts are working together for the sum of the whole. When we come together as stones, building blocks of the church, we are not dead, but alive, hence the concept of a living stone.
We are not just a spiritual house, but a royal priesthood. We need to not get hung up on church positions and titles. The old testament church had basic functions of priests. They were to be the ones doing the sacrificing of the offerings. They offered physical sacrifices, animals, grain for offerings to God for people. That is not the priesthood Peter is intending. We are called into a spiritual priesthood, in which each believer is called to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God. At the very heart of worship is the concept of the offering of sacrifices. Paul even expands this thought in Romans:
present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. – Romans 12:1 ESV
The first way we function as spiritual priests is offering the sacrifice of praise to God, which is what worship is. Worship is not entertainment, it is when the people of God lift up their praises, adoration and affection to God. We do not come to church to see others present their offerings. We come to give ours. We know that crowds did not gather around the temple to watch what other people brought for their sacrifice. It was a personal action. Same holds true in our Sundays. Our intention should be to connect to the living God, not to examine and judge others in their offerings.
We bring our sacrifices to the great high priest, Jesus, who is interceding for us now. Apart from Christ our sacrifices would not be acceptable to God. It is Christ who makes our worship acceptable and pleasing to God.
6For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. – 1 Peter 2:6-8 ESV
Peter continues with the metaphor of the building and stones to a conclusion by explaining the same stone that we have been drawn to causes others to stumble. They trip over Christ; in their rejection of Christ, they miss the Kingdom of God. The stone they reject is the cornerstone and key to everything that His church is built on.
The reason people stumble over church, is not because of a preacher, a community group or evangelist. The primary reason people stumble is in Peter’s conclusion; “they disobey the word”. The most important and vital thing we can do is hold fast to the Word of God. It is the foundation of the church. If the foundation is shaken the church cannot endure.
The Prophets and the Apostles are the foundation of the church, and that foundation was laid with the chief cornerstone, Christ Himself. This stumbling block, this stone that the builders rejected and is despised by men, is precious to God.
1-2 Peter (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) – RC Sproul