Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Growing Up in New Life

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (1 Peter 2:1-3)
The old life with its old ways must be set aside; the new has come. These to whom Peter writes are not just born again, they are newly born again — babes! That is one reason why some commentators think this letter is a sort of catechism or a sermon to recently baptized believers.

There are certain things that must be put aside; they do not belong to the new life we have in Jesus the Messiah. The Greek word for “lay aside” is found elsewhere in the New Testament in similar contexts in which the apostles exhort believers:
The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Romans 13:12-13)

Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. (Colossians 3:8-10)

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
Notice that it is not enough to put all these things off. There must also be something that is put on. We are to put on the new man we have become in Jesus the Messiah, wearing now the life of Jesus as our own — because it is!

This involves a renewal in our way of thinking. It is not merely an outward conformity to the life of Jesus, but a transformation that reveals outwardly what is true of us inwardly. How does this happen? James tells us to “receive with meekness the implanted word.” The Greek word for “receive” here means to take up or lay hold of. The “implanted” word is the word that was sown, like a seed, in the heart. Peter spoke earlier in his letter of being born again of incorruptible seed by the Word of God. Now he tells these new believers to “desire the pure milk of the word.” The phrase “of the word” translates the Greek word logicon, but it can just as well be rendered as “spiritual,” that is, to desire “pure spiritual milk” as the ESV, NIV and other versions have it.

The word for “pure” here is adolos and stands in contrast to the word for “deceit” in verse 1, dolos. The a in front of it is an alpha-privative, a negative prefix. Its use in front of dolos means “without,” that is without deceit. The spiritual milk of the word that Peter is talking about is pure, not mixed with or contaminated by any additive; it is wholly as it appears to be and is not a disguise for something else.

Peter continues the metaphor with, “if you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” This is a reference to Psalm 34:8, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good.” The word for “gracious” here is not the word we normally expect, charis, but chrestos, which speaks of virtue, goodness, kindness. Notice that it is very similar to the Greek word for Messiah, Christos. Peter may be making a play on words here, because when he says “the Lord is gracious,” he is referring to Jesus.

“Taste” speaks of an experience. Those who have believed in Jesus the Messiah have received the new birth and experienced the goodness and kindness of God. When you have tasted something good, it stimulates your appetite for more of the same. That is what Peter is getting at here: Since you have tasted the goodness of the Lord, let that stimulate your desire for more of Him, more of this spiritual food, more of His Word. This is the “milk” by which we grow up in this new life in Jesus.

And indeed, it is a process of growth. Nobody is born fully mature, not in the physical realm nor in the spiritual. Having been accustomed to — discipled by — the way of the world for so long, it requires some reorientation and learning for new believers to begin to walk out this new life we have received from God in Jesus the Messiah.

Keeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Keeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Peter’s Letter to Jesus Believers Scattered Everywhere
Bite-Sized Studies Through First Peter
by Jeff Doles

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