Solve Your Problems With Fellow Believers – Now! (1 Peter 2:1-3)

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Peter has talked in generalities so far about personal holiness and all that entails:

  • “Don’t act like you used to before you were saved! Be holy, because the God who called you to salvation is holy . . .” (1 Peter 1:13-16).
  • “Don’t cheapen the salvation God has given you . . .” (1 Peter 1:17)
  • “Christ died to redeem you from your sins today . . .” (1 Peter 1:18-19)
  • “Love fellow believers with a pure heart fervently . . .” (1 Peter 1:22-25)

All of this is good, Biblical and correct; it’s also general and a little bit vague. What does change look like? How is it done? What are the first steps toward making it happen? It’s easy to sit here and nod our heads, but how do actually go about doing something?!

Peter has some very practical advice for us on how to make everything he’s spoken about (1 Pet 1:13-26)[1] happen. He’s specifically zeroing in, like a smart bomb, on our conduct towards other believers – on loving one another with a pure heart fervently. Let’s see how we can each start to make this happen in our lives!

 FIRST – REPENT (v.1):

 

1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,

 

What do you think it means to “lay aside” all these sins? It means to repent! If you lay something aside, you pick it up, put it down and walk away from it. You aren’t engaged with it anymore. You aren’t toying with it. You aren’t sneaking a little bit of it when you have a chance. You’ve walked away from it.

We did an entire series on growth in Christ, and one sermon very specifically about repentance earlier this year in my church.[2] The clearest and plainest teaching from Scripture I know of that captures what real repentance looks like was written by Solomon: 

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy,” (Proverbs 28:13).

Think about what this means. If you try to cover up your sin from God, you will not prosper spiritually at all. Your walk with God will be horrible. You will not have peace with God. Whoever confesses their sin to God, and forsakes (e.g. walks away from) their sin will have mercy from God. This means:

  • You don’t just admit you were wrong
  • You stop the behavior
  • You lay it aside
  • You walk away
  • You abandon it
  • You leave it behind

Don’t ever separate confession and forsaking sin – they’re an inseparable part of real repentance! So, in a general sense, every believer has a duty to (1) ferret out and identify sin in their life, (2) confess that it’s wrong and contrary to God’s Word, and (3) lay it aside and walk away.

Let’s get down to brass tacks – Peter has been talking about holiness. Part of that holiness means we love fellow believers in this local church with a pure heart, fervently (1 Pet 1:22). How do we make that happen? How do we leave the ivory tower behind and see where the rubber meets the road? Here’s how:

  • First, confess and forsake the sin of malice towards other believers in your church. This includes ill-will, nasty thoughts or wishes.[3] It doesn’t have to be malevolent, like wishing for their death! It can be more subtle, but still pretty cruel. You could intentionally ignoring their prayer requests, being intentionally nasty or icy in attitude or demeanor, making it clear you don’t care for them, and much more.
  • Second, confess and forsake the sin of guile towards other believers in your church. This is being two-faced, deceitful, tricky and slimy in any way towards.[4]
  • Third, confess and forsake the sin of hypocrisy towards other believers in your church. Do you act pious and spiritual on the outside, but spend your energy trying to hurt other people?
  • Fourth, confess the sin of envy towards other believers in your church. This means to want, desire or be jealous of something someone else has. It could be envy about a bigger house, better car, higher paying job, nicer family, etc. “A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones,” (Proverbs 14:30).
  • Fifth, confess and forsake the sin of evil speaking towards other believers in your church. Do you engage in gossip, slander, or in general talk behind somebody’s back? How many times do we cloak our gossip and back-biting in a “prayer request” to a friend?

All of this presupposes the fact that we’re actually convicted about our sin towards other believers. Conviction is an inner acknowledgement of guilt. It’s when we know we’ve done wrong, because the Holy Spirit has brought it to our attention very directly![5] We can be convicted all we want, but that’s not the same as actually doing anything about it.

Something that Peter has said over the past few weeks may have convicted you. Conviction is meaningless without action – without repentance. Repentance means to confess and forsake their specific sin. It means to (1) admit to God that you’re wrong and to (2) lay that sin(s) down (“lay aside . . .”) and walk away from it.

After we put off the old person and actions we used to be before we were saved, we’re supposed to replace those old ways of life with a Godly way of life (Eph 4:17-32):

“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

How do we do this?

SECOND – LET THE BIBLE CORRECT YOU (vv.2-3):

 

2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

 

We let the Bible correct us! Just like a newborn baby desires milk, we (as believers) ought to desire the pure, sincere and uncorrupted milk of the Word of God – the Scriptures.[6] Why is that? Because that’s how we grow – by the Word of God! We grow by systematically getting rid of sin and replacing it with Godly behavior. It’s a perpetual exchange system; bad for good; sinful for holy

Growth will not happen unless we sincerely want to change. Our repentance has to be genuine. That means it has to be based on real conviction. Peter says we ought to desire the Word of God just as enthusiastically as a little baby desires milk. Other versions translate that as to “crave” or “yearn” for the sincere milk of the Word, so that we’ll grow.[7] Do we have a desire to actually change any of these sinful attitudes and actions towards fellow believers, if you have any? What have we been growing on recently? We’re supposed to desire the sincere, pure and undiluted Word of God so that we’ll grow.

Have we been making do spiritual milk that’s diluted, impure and basically a cheap-knock off? How can a baby grow with diluted milk? Likewise, how can a Christian grow by only following the convenient parts of God’s Word? How can we dilute God’s revelation and expect to be a holy people?[8]

 

3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

 

This is a quote from the OT, where the Psalmist wrote, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him,” (Psalm 34:8). This is an intentional poke by Peter, designed to convict us and gently shame us if we’re getting upset at God’s commands.[9] It’s as if Peter was saying: 

  • “Repent of all these horrible sins that ruin the fellowship in your local church! Malice, guile, hypocricy, envy and evil speaking – repent of all of it!”
  • “Get rid of it, and replace it with Godly behavior. Crave and desire the Word of God, so that you’ll grow!”
  • “That is, if you really are saved and have tasted the salvation Christ provided, and know how gracious He is . . .”

 

Have you experienced and tasted the salvation of the Lord?[10] Have you been resurrected from spiritual death from spiritual life by the Word of God (Jn 11:38-44; Jas 1:18)? Have you tasted how good salvation is? Have you tasted how pure and good the sincere milk of the Word is? Then why don’t we make a firm commitment to stop letting sin keep us from loving one another with a pure heart, fervently? Repent of your sin towards fellow believers in your church, and make a determination to forsake those sins and replace them with Godly behavior. It’s not a suggestion; it’s a command.

——————————————————————————-

Footnotes:

[1] This is clearly the context for Peter’s exhortation (1 Pet 2:1-3). He says “wherefore,” which is meant to connect what follows to what has come before (1 Pet 1:13-25). For some bizarre reason, Thomas Schreiner restricts the “wherefore” to the reality of the new birth in Christ; “[t]he ‘therefore’ (oun) is understood by some to reach all the way back to 1:13–25, and this is a possibility. But it seems more likely that it relates to what has just preceded, namely, the new life that believers enjoy by God’s grace,” (1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary [Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003], 97). This is too restrictive; Peter’s exhortation to lay aside specific sins seems to clearly tied to (1) holiness in general and (2) conduct towards fellow believers specifically.

[2] See also an entire sermon series about Growth in Christ, and a sermon about repentance specifically, preached on 12JAN14. PDF notes and audio are available at the link.

[3] This is not malice in a vague, general sense – it is very specifically targeted at malice towards fellow believers, the very folks Peter has just commanded us to love with a pure heart, fervently (1 Pet 1:22). “In the context, the term seems to have a more specific meaning: it refers to the basic attitude of ill will toward others,” (D. Edmond Hiebert, 1 Peter, revised ed. [Chicago, IL: Moody, 1992; reprint, Winona Lake, IN: BMH, 2008], 121).

[4] “So it comprehends flattery, falsehood, and delusion, which is a crafty imposing upon another’s ignorance or weakness, to his damage,” (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible [Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994], 2425). “It is the selfish, ‘two-faced’ attitude that deceives and hurts others for personal gain,” (Hiebert, 1 Peter, 122).

[5] See Rolland McCune, A Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity, 3 vols. (Detroit, MI: DBTS, 2009), 2:304. “The Holy Spirit does not merely accuse men of sin but brings an inescapable sense of guilt. The Holy Spirit is God’s prosecuting attorney presenting God’s case against the sinner.”

[6] The reference to newborn babies desiring milk is not negative and derogatory, as it is with Paul (1 Cor 3:1-4). See Hiebert (1 Peter, 123).

[7] “Christians must be addicted to the Bible,” (Edmund P. Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, The Bible Speaks Today [Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP, 1988; reprint, Kindle edition, 2014], Kindle Locations 1091-1092).

[8] Jay Adams remarks, “Under the label of pure milk every sort of mixture is offered on the supermarket shelf. Peter wants his readers to be sure that what they drink will promote, rather than stunt, Christian growth . . . Peter wants, rather, to emphasize the importance of (1) developing a desire (craving) for God’s truth over against his former desires for the devil’s lies, and (2) the need to be aware that not all that goes for milk is pure (much has been adulterated),” (Trust and Obey [Greenville, SC: A Press, 1988], 58).

[9] Hiebert writes that Peter’s comment “does not imply doubt – it assumes the reality of the past experience of God’s amazing goodness and compassion in Christ. But the conditional construction is an implied invitation to the readers to self-examination on the matter,” (1 Peter, 126).

[10] Clowney observes, “[w]hat quickens our desire for the life-giving word of God? Peter answers that we know the taste. Our culture makes the image clear; advertisers spend millions to promote the taste of a cola. Reading the Bible is addictive when we begin to get the taste. What we taste in Scripture is not simply the variety and power of the language. What we taste is the Lord,” (1 Peter, Kindle Locations 1130-1133).

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