1 So 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. – 1 Peter 2:1-3 ESV
Peter has just told his readers to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22 ESV). He has reminded them that they have been born again as a result of hearing the good news regarding salvation through Jesus Christ. They have been ransomed from the empty way of life they had inherited from their ancestors “with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:19 ESV). They were to “live as God’s obedient children” and, as he put it, “Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires” (1 Peter 1:14 NLT). Now, he gets specific, and provides them with a list of things they were to “put away.”
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. – 1 Peter 2:2 ESV
As a result of their new life in Christ, made possible by God Himself, they were to take concrete steps to live as who they now were. Their outward behavior was to match the inward reality of their born-again status. Peter lists five different characteristics or evidences of their old way of living that they were to cast off or set aside. There is the imagery of forcefully removing something and getting rid of it. These things are no longer to be acceptable to the child of God. They are like worn and filthy garments that are ill-suited to our newfound status as citizens of heaven. We have been born again by imperishable seed, the Word of God, and are new creations. And the five things Peter instructs us to get rid of are inappropriate and unacceptable for those who have been given new life by God.
The first word on Peter’s list is “malice”, which comes from the Greek word, kakos, which means “evil.” But this word is more specific in nature, referring to an evil that desires to injure another. These are relational words. They reflect the opposite of the “sincere brotherly love” Peter talked about in the first chapter of his letter. Malice is an attitude, as is guile, which refers to intentional deceit. An individual characterized by guile is someone who knowingly attempts to deceive someone, using cleverly crafted ploys to take advantage of another. Malice and guile never have the well-being of another person in mind. They are inherently selfish and self-serving. And they can be accompanied by the next three characteristics: Hypocrisy, envy and slander. Someone who attempts to deceive another individual will inevitably display hypocrisy, displaying a false front in an attempt to come across as trustworthy and caring. They will live a lie. Their goal is to deceive, so they will go out of their way to disguise their true intentions. The apostle Paul described this kind of attitude in his letter to the church in Corinth.
13 These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve. – 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 NLT
Malice and guile are not acceptable attire for the believer. We are to get rid of them, at all costs. Hypocrisy is like wearing a disguise to fool others into believing you are something other than what you truly are. It is intended to deceive. It is a cover-up. And the next word in Peter’s list, “jealousy”, deals with an envy of others that is accompanied with a desire to damage or destroy them. In other words, it is not a harmless desire for what someone else may have. It is accompanied by a deep-seated ill-will that wishes the other harm. And this can lead to and be accompanied by slander. The Greek word Peter uses for “slander” is katalalia and it literally means “evil speaking.” Remember, the Greek word for “malice” is kakia. And they both come from the Greek word for “evil”: kakos. Malice is an attitude, but slander is that attitude put into action. It is our evil thoughts about another put into words that others can hear, and the intent is to do harm. It is the art of rumor-spreading, with the intent of damaging someone else’s reputation.
Peter says we are to put away all these things. There is a continual action conveyed in his words. This will be an ongoing, lifelong process and it must be accompanied by yet another action: “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation” (1 Peter 2:2 NLT). Peter chooses an interesting Greek word to convey his thoughts: epipotheō. This word literally means “to lust for.” It is a craving, a deep-seated desire. And if you thing about it, the five negative characteristics that we are to put away are each driven by a desire for something. They are selfish. They are me-centered. They lust for recognition and self-satisfaction. They long for what we think we deserve and what we believe others have. But Peter tells us to lust after the “pure spiritual milk.” The Greek word for “spiritual” is logikos and Peter is using it as a play on words that reflects back on what he wrote earlier in his letter.
“you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” – 1 Peter 2:23 ESV
We are to long for the abiding word of God, the gospel regarding Jesus Christ. That is to be our greatest desire. It is what we need to “grow up into salvation.” All the other things Peter has just listed are detrimental to spiritual growth. They are damaging, stunting our growth and delaying our transformation into the likeness of Christ. And since Christ-likeness should be our desire, we should crave the one thing that makes it possible: The Word of God. Knowledge of the Scripture is essential to our spiritual growth. Like milk for a baby, it is a non-negotiable necessity for spiritual transformation. And notice that Peter encourages us to grow up in our salvation. Salvation is not a one-time event. It is a life-long process that begins with placing our faith in Christ, but continues throughout our lives as we continue to abide in Him, growing in our knowledge of Him. Salvation includes our initial justification, our ongoing sanctification, and our ultimate glorification. All are necessary. And because we have gotten a taste of God’s goodness, as revealed in His love for us, demonstrated in His Son’s death for us, we should crave more and more of that goodness. We should desire more of the Word, both the living and the written Word.
And when we crave the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word, we will find it hard to live with malice, deceit, hypocrisy,envy and slander. The Word of God convicts us of those things. The Holy Spirit of God provides us with the power to say no to those things. We can live free from those characteristics that once marked our old nature. But we must want to put them away. We must develop a deep-seated aversion to their presence in our lives. They don’t belong. They are inappropriate attire for a child of the King. We are to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, not the rags of this world. The apostle John was given a vision of a day in the distant future when God will clothe His people with white, sin-free, unstained garments:
4 “Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. – Revelation 3:4-5 NLT
We are to be like the church in Sardis, remaining unstained by the malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy and slander that marks this world. Our motivation is to be our future reward, when we will walk with God in white, stainless garments, an image of our sinless perfection and righteousness. We have to cast off and put on. We have to put away and pursue. We have to get rid of those things that hinder our pursuit of holiness and long for the one thing that can make it possible: the Word of God.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.