By BARBARANNE KELLY|CONTRIBUTOR
Congratulations on reaching chapter two of your memorization! This may be a milestone for you—you have memorized an entire chapter of the Bible! Way to go! Now, wherever you may be, whether stuck in traffic or folding laundry, you can recite to yourself an entire chapter of the living and abiding word of God. I hope that you are encouraged by your progress to keep going with the rest of the book.
Looking at this week’s portion of Scripture the first thing you may have noticed is that it’s short. This week will be easy lifting for you chapter-memorizing heavyweights. We have five brief verses dealing with our response to “the good news that was preached to you” (1:25) and God’s goodness and purpose for us in Christ.
Peter continues to interweave God’s actions and our active response. Our passage this week begins with the proper response to our new birth, which led to sincere brotherly love for one another out of pure hearts (1:22, 23). If we are to sincerely, purely love one another, we must put away malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. These behaviors are the antithesis to love and should find no place in purified hearts. Notice that we are told to actively put these away. Sanctification is not passive on our part. The Holy Spirit is working in us, yes, and we are responsible to work out our salvation precisely because God is working in us (Phil 2:12, 13).
Peter next reminds us of our new birth and tells us to long for growth. We have been born again, and so, like newborn infants we are to “long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it we may grow up into salvation” (2). Peter is not saying that we need to be nourished only by milk. We don’t want to remain perpetual infants; the author of Hebrews chastised his readers for neglecting their own growth and needing milk once they ought to have been chewing on more substantial meat (Heb. 5:12, 13). But we do need to be nourished and we are told to long for the nourishment as much as newborn infants long for milk.
Such nourishment will inevitably lead to growing up into salvation. Again, Peter uses “salvation” where Paul might have used “sanctification.” The process of growing into spiritual maturity is fueled by spiritual nourishment: feeding on the word of God, prayer, corporate worship, fellowship in the body of Christ. Believers need the means of grace provided by the Lord to grow to maturity. And once you get a taste of the goodness of God through these means, you can’t get enough. Peter rightly says that if you have tasted his goodness you will long for more.
Peter then pivots slightly to describe what Christian growth looks like as individual believers are built into the fabric of the church. He begins with an allusion to Psalm 118:22 (which he will directly quote in next week’s portion), a prophesy of Jesus’ rejection by the leaders of the Jews. The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was magnificent in size and beauty, but the Lord for whom the Temple was built was rejected by the Jews when they arrested, condemned, and crucified Jesus. He was the cornerstone which the builders rejected, a living stone, which would never die, and we are also living stones when we place our faith in him. He was chosen by God and precious, and is the cornerstone next to and upon which God’s living temple is being built.
Paul spoke of the same idea in Ephesians when he taught that believers are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:20-22).
Let’s go through our passage and find some hooks to hold our memory.
Verse 1 introduces a result of our new birth. Because we love one another, we must “put away” these things which would interfere with and outright kill our mutual love. So, we put these away, all of these, (even though only three are listed with “all,” it all must go). These are issues of the heart, but to bridge over from last week’s final verse which spoke of “the word,” think about how these manifest through our words. Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander all begin in our hearts and show up in our words.
1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy
and envy and all slander.
Instead of being guilty of these, we are to be like innocent newborns. This also reaches back to last week’s reminder of our new birth. Newborns need and long for milk which makes them grow. We are spiritually newborn, so we long for spiritual milk to grow up into our spiritual salvation. The next few verses are going to have several comparisons, set off alternatively by “like” and “as.” (I’m adding underlines to my italics to help them stand out.)
2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual
milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—
Once we taste this milk, it is so good, we will want more!
3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Now that we have tasted that the Lord is good, we are coming to him, the living stone, who was rejected by men, but who God sees as chosen and precious.
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men
but in the sight of God chosen and precious,
We who are coming to him are being built up, also living stones, not into, but as a spiritual house. The purpose for this spiritual house, as with the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple, is to offer sacrifices. Only priests made those offerings, and they hoped they would be accepted. We are to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices. Our sacrifices are accepted—through our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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
Once again, I do hope this helps. We each learn differently. If you have some helpful tips, please share them with us! May your long more and more for the living and abiding word as you memorize, learn, and grow by it.