For an introduction to this series, click here.
January 5, 2008
"So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good." (2:1-3)
Those who have "tasted that the Lord is good" here are those who are saved. Peter says that if we are saved, our desire should be to feed on the food that the Lord provides, not on malice, hypocrisy and the like. Someone who is alive and healthy will have an appetite. If your appetite is always for the carnal things of the world, you may indeed be alive, but not alive to God. It is always a dangerous thing to assume we are saved without taking inventory from time to time.
"As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 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. 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.' 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,' and 'A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.' They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do." (2:4-8)
We as believers are a spiritual body. I don't understand it all, but there is a bond between believers, even when we speak different languages, that can only be explained by the fact that we are all part of God's spiritual house. There are some who because of their theological biases try to downplay the spiritual universal aspects of our faith. I have never understood that. Certainly practical reality dictates that we emphasize service and growth through a local church, but to ignore passages like this is irresponsible.
Peter makes another important point here: the Gospel will always produce a reaction. Sometimes it is positive, and other times it is negative. Christ's message, if it is proclaimed correctly, will have people reject it outright. It is not our job to save everyone; that is God's territory. Our responsibility is to proclaim the Gospel without fear and without mixture from man's ideas.
"Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed." (2:13-24, ESV)
This passage is pretty self-explanatory, but it should be pointed out the circumstances under which this passage was written. Remember Peter was writing this to first century Roman subjects, people to whom either already or soon to be their faith was illegal. Yet Peter tells them to be subject to visible authority in all things. Of course there comes a point when we have to say, as Peter himself did, "We ought to obey God rather than men," but in most situations it is better to submit to authority, because they are not threatening our faith, just a minor aspect of our lives. It is important to keep things in proper perspective.