- Read 1 Peter 2:1-3 here.
- You can listen to this sermon here.
- HERE you can read another good post by John Dobbs on the same theme.
Our congregational theme this year is Taking the Next Step. This certainly applies to our congregation as we seek to increase our involvement with out community. It also applies to each of us individually. The theme hopefully challenges people to resist complacency which I believe poses a great threat to many Christians’ faith in western society.
The Bible consistently urges Christians to continue to grow. The New Testament authors continually encourage Christian to persevere in their faith. Christians are to persist through difficulties and persecutions to ensure we are faithful when Christ returns.
In 1 Peter 2:3 we find an intriguing phrase, “grow up in your salvation” (TNIV). The Common English Bible translates it “grow into your salvation”. Initially, this phrase poses a puzzle, particularly when we recognise that it’s written to Christians. Does my salvation have degrees? Are some people more “saved” than others? Can I grow my salvation?
There really are NOT degrees of salvation. But if we agree that our salvation isn’t actually realised until we’re in eternity with Jesus, then some of us are closer to realising our salvation than others. As I understand the phrase, it’s saying that we need to grow in our relationship with Christ, and as we do we are more likely to endure to the end and secure our salvation. Let me demonstrate this with a little exegesis.
2:1 opens with “therefore”. This connects it to the previous discussion about Christ’s death and resurrection: the Gospel. Because of the Gospel which you’ve accepted, get rid of sin.
2:2 I paraphrase this verse by connecting it with 2:1, “In place of sin, crave pure spiritual milk…“. Many opinions exist regarding the nature of the spiritual milk. The King James Version translates the phrase “sincere milk of the word”. It’s certainly possible that the apostle refers to the fundamental teachings that young Christians need. (Consider Hebrews 5:11-14 that also uses the metaphor of milk.) Also, chapter1 concludes by reminding the readers of the “word” that was preached to them.
Others, drawn to the tenderness of the image, equate the spiritual milk with God’s kindness and mercy. The broader section begins in 1:3 referring to God’s “great mercy” and concludes in 2:10 with the statement “you have received mercy.” In addition, 2:3 reminds them that they have tasted of the goodness of God. So linking “spiritual milk” with “tasting God’s goodness” may well be a legitimate move.
Personally, I don’t want to make the definition too specific. I read it as simply saying “crave the things of God“. Reject sin. Crave God. Crave the life-giving words God has for you. Crave the goodness, kindness and mercy of God. Even though we’re now saved, the apostle, Peter, insists that we continue to crave the things of God, just like a baby seeking a 2am feed.
2:2b This brings us to our key phrase “so that by [the pure spiritual milk] you may grow up in your salvation“. I’ll just quote a couple of different translations to demonstrate the variety of views here.
- “Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.” The Message I don’t like this one because the Greek definitely mentions “salvation” which this translation just sweeps under the rug.
- “So that you will grow into a full experience of salvation.” NLT This translation may be closer to the intent, but they’ve added the word “experience” as a way of explaining the difficulties.
Since the larger section of which this verse is part of starts at 1:3 I’m influenced in my understanding by 1:5 which looks forward to the future salvation that will be revealed at the return of Christ. Also, in 1:9 persistence of faith through persecution leads to “salvation of your souls”. In this context salvation is a future event obtained through endurance of faith. That faith is fed by a constant craving for the things of God.
New Christians enter a state of salvation. But if their faith doesn’t grow, they risk their salvation. Our understanding of salvation and all its implications must grow over time if we’re to make it to the finish line. In that sense the NLT translation is helpful. Our “experience” of salvation will grow as our relationship with God deepens. As we’re increasingly exposed to His pure spiritual milk.
2:3 Our motivation for continuing this three step process is our experience of God’s goodness. How do we taste God’s goodness? Is it the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Is it the love, support and encouragement of God’s people? Is it the way the Bible speaks to us? Is it awareness of the love that motivated the sacrifice of Jesus? Is it the assurance we have that our sins are forgiven?
I believe it will be different for each of us, but our taste of God’s goodness keeps us committed to 1. Removing sin from our lives; 2. Replacing it with a craving for God’s pure spiritual milk; and 3. Committing to growing our relationship with God. There’s no place for apathy or complacence.