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. – 1 Peter 2:1-3 ESV
So. Therefore. As a result. Consequently. With that in mind.
That little word, “so” is a transitional word. It links everything in chapter one with what is about to follow. In chapter one, Peter has provided us with some indicative statements. As the word suggests, they indicate something. The statements Peter makes in chapter one point out or show us something that is a truth or fact. For instance, he says that according to God’s great mercy, “he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3 ESV). He tells us that, as a result, we have “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven” for us (1 Peter 1:4 ESV). We are being guarded through faith by God’s power for salvation (1 Peter 1:5 ESV). During this lifetime, our faith will be tested, but in the end it will only prove that our faith was genuine, bringing praise and glory to God (1 Peter 1:7 ESV). We have been called by God and have been set apart by Him to live holy lives (1 Peter 1:15 ESV). And our souls have been purified because we obeyed the truth of the gospel (1 Peter 1:22 ESV).
So, as a result…
This is where the imperatives come in. Indicatives are always followed by imperatives, which are simply commands. According to Dictionary.com, an imperative is “something that demands attention or action; an unavoidable obligation or requirement; a necessity.” So chapter two begins a long series of imperative statements that provide us with clear insight into how our behavior should reflect our new standing in Christ. He begins by saying, “put away all malice and deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1 ESV). To understand this verse, we have to go back to verse 22 of chapter one. Peter wrote, “love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again.” The five nouns found in verse one of chapter two are all antithetical to the kind of love to which Peter is calling us. Malice is a kind of evil that desires to harm others. Deceit describes a subtle, hidden intent to trick or bait someone in order to harm them or get something from them. Hypocrisy is another form of deceit, where one tries to dishonestly portray himself as something other than what he is. Envy is a form of jealousy mingled with spite. It not only longs for what the other person has, but hates them for having it. Slander is a form of backbiting or gossip with an intent to harm the reputation of another individual.
You can see how these five attitudes or actions stand in direct opposition to the kind of brotherly love that Peter has called us to. So he tells us to put them away. The Greek word he used is ἀποτίθημι (apotithēmi) and it means “to cast off, to renounce” (Greek Lexicon :: G659 (KJV). Blue Letter Bible. http://www.blueletterbible.org). There is a certain forcefulness to the word. It was a favorite word of Paul. He told the believers in Rome to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12 ESV). He wrote to the Ephesian believers, “having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25 ESV). To the Colossian church he wrote, “you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (Colossians 3:8 ESV). Even the apostle, James, got in the act, using the very same word when he wrote, “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21 ESV).
Because of who we are in Christ, we are to live differently. We are to love one another. But it is impossible to pull that off if we are constantly backbiting, deceiving, envying and attempting to take advantage of or harm one another. So we have to take an aggressive attitude toward these things in our lives – casting them off like filthy clothes. They should repulse us and be repugnant to us. And it is important that we keep in mind that, like most of the letters in the New Testament, this letter has a corporate message to it. These imperatives are written to the church, not just the individual believer. Together, we are to put aside these things. We are to make sure that they are not present in our fellowship. Any one of these things can become a cancer, spreading disease and ultimately spiritual death to a congregation if it is allowed to linger. So we are to put them away.
And in their place we are to long for the “pure spiritual milk” of God’s Word. As we rid ourselves of these things, we are to fill ourselves with Scripture. We are to long for it. In fact, the Greek word Peter uses is ἐπιποθέω (epipotheō) and it is a word that is often used in a negative sense to refer to lust. It means “to earnestly desire or long for” (Greek Lexicon :: G1971 (KJV). Blue Letter Bible. http://www.blueletterbible.org). We are to crave God’s Word like an infant craves milk. And the Word of God plays a formative role in the life of every believer, strengthening and nourishing them, providing them with all that they need to grow up in their faith. It’s interesting to note that Peter says the Word of God helps us “grow up into salvation.” For many of us, salvation was a one-time event that took place some time in the past. We prayed a prayer. We walked the aisle. We gave our life to Christ. But Peter seems to indicate that, while our salvation had a beginning, it is to be ongoing. To grow up into salvation is to mature in our faith and our understanding of just what God has done for us through Christ. Our understanding of and appreciation for God’s mercy, grace, love and forgiveness should grow day by day. Our dependence upon God should increase over time. Our realization of our own weakness and His power should grow exponentially as we spend more time on this planet.
Maintaining his imagery of a nursing infant, Peter tells us that if we tasted the goodness of the Lord at our conversion, we should long for it more and more as we grow older. We should want more of that goodness with each passing day. And we should be willing to get rid of anything that would stand in the way of us receiving it. We will never fill up on God’s goodness if we are filled with malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy or slander. So we need to purge these things from our system. And in reality, these things are less like dirty garments we wear than they are like destructive elements we have ingested into our system. Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19 ESV). So, in a sense, we need to regurgitate what is inside us so it can be replaced with the nourishing, nurturing Word of God, and grow up into salvation.