“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”
This word indicates that there is a very close connection between the words of our text and the preceding context. In fact, it points out that our text is a logical conclusion to that of which the apostle had been speaking in the preceding chapter, especially the last part. There the apostle had instructed the saints relative to the fat that they had been born again form above, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God which liveth and abideth for ever. Healso informed them that the Word whereby they were born again is also by the gospel preached unto them. And this is done in such a way that this new life of regeneration is brought to living consciousness in them.
In our text the apostle stresses the point that this new life must be fed. The new man, shall he continue, must be nourished. However, shall he be properly fed, he must feed on the pure milk of the Word. Moreover, shall we be truly ready to feed on the pure milk of the Word, all the wickedness mentioned in the first part of the text must be done away.
Desiring the sincere milk of the Word!
What does this mean?
You realize, of course, that the apostle here is speaking in a figure. The figure is that of a newborn child in the natural sense of the word whose first cry is for the natural milk which his mother is able to supply. Milk in this natural sense has in it all the ingredients for body building. It is an indispensable requisite to the physical health and well-being of the child. Naturally the newborn child is not able to masticate strong meat. It must be fed pure, unadulterated milk. However, when the text speaks of newborn babes and of milk it refers to spiritually newborn babes in Christ, those who have been born again from above, and by the Word of God which abideth for ever. And the milk to which the apostle refers must also be understood in the spiritual sense of the word. It is with good reason that the translators added to the term “milk” the phrase “of the Word.” These words do not appear in the original text, but as indicated in the translation, they are properly understood. The spiritual milk which the spiritually newborn babes in Christ ought to desire can be nothing else than the divinely instituted means of grace, the Word of God, which is proclaimed in the gospel.
Furthermore, according to the original text, the apostle describes that milk in a twofold way. First of all, he speaks of rational milk. This expression does not appear in the translation, but it is important that we see the importance of this. When the apostle uses this term with relation to the milk of the Word, he does so to emphasize the fact that the Word has to do with the mind and heart. He is reflecting on the fact that the soul, in distinction from the mouth, must feed on that which is spiritual and rational. And this is precisely what the Word is able to do. It will feed the mind and heart of the spiritually newborn babe. In the second place, the apostle describes that milk of the Word assincere, that is, unadulterated, without any foreign admixtures. As in the natural sense the child will spew out adulterated milk, so in the spiritual sense the child of God must have pure, unadulterated milk of the Word, lest it nauseate him and he spew it out.
This is what the newborn babe in Christ should desire!
To desire is to long for, to strive after with all the mind, and heart, and being. It is to pursue after that which one knows is essential, is necessary to fulfill a great need.
Here it is imperative that the babe in Christ desire earnestly the pure, unadulterated milk of the Word. As the sucking infant zealously probes with his nose for the nipple of the breast of his mother to procure his food, so the child of God is to desire both breasts of the Word of God, the Word as contained in the Old and New Testaments, the whole inspired Scriptures.
As newborn babes!
The natural child before its birth is connected to his mother by the umbilical cord through which it passively is fed by the mother. But as soon as the child is born and that umbilical cord is cut, the child is on its own. And the very first cry of the child is that it may be fed from the breasts of his mother. He will not stop crying until he has found physical satisfaction in the milk his mother is able to supply.
So in the spiritual sense of the word the newborn child of God will desire the pure milk of the Word. O, do not misunderstand the Word of God here! The implication is not that when the child of God grows older that he should desire anything else upon which to feed. Or, when the born again child of God grows older that its desire for the pure milk of the Word weakens. Rather, we ought to see that the apostle here is simply drawing a comparison between the natural newborn infant and the spiritually newborn infant, and showing with emphasis what his desire ought to be and the eagerness with which that desire ought to be displayed. Always the regenerated child of God ought to desire the milk of the Word, as the natural newborn child desires the breasts of his mother.
Shall this desire for the Word be what it ought to be, it will also be necessary that the child of God lay aside all wickedness as described in the first part of our text. This list which the apostle enumerates is not intended to be exhaustive. Surely all sins, even those not mentioned in the list, must not stand in the way of his realizing the desire for the Word. However, all the wickedness here mentioned is peculiarly that which is found in the church of Christ, where one is to feed on the pure Word of God.
We have not the space to dwell on this list of wickedness the apostle sets forth. As suggested above, the apostle could have said: “all wickedness.” He could have included in this such sins as: adultery, stealing, disobedience, profanity, idolatry, etc. But these are intentionally omitted, in order that he might especially mention those wickednesses which one finds especially in the sphere where the Word is preached, and which make it impossible to be rightly and spiritually fed by the Word.
Take note of the text! Malice, that is, the wickedness which takes delight in cruelty that is meant to hurt others. Guile, that is, that wickedness which delights to set traps whereby oneself or others are deceived. In close connection with guile, hypocrisies, that is, to wear a mask as a stage player, in order to feign oneself to be other than he is. Envy, that is, that green-eyed monster that cannot allow another to be esteemed more than self, or that cannot stand to see another to possess more than self. And perhaps the most wicked of all, evil speakings, that is, those wicked utterances, done in the dark, whereby one murders another with the tongue.
These all are to be put away from us! Allowing them to remain can not only spoil the proper reception of the Word upon which we are to feed; but also make it impossible to zealously desire to be fed with the Word. All of these must be put away from us so completely through the grace of sanctification that not one of them can interfere with the longing of our hearts after the Word, nor rob us of its proper reception with our regenerated hearts and minds. All these are not only the common sins found in the Christian church, but they are the present evils found in our old nature, which always clings to us, and against which we daily have to fight.
Put them away from you, and desire with all the love of your regenerated hearts the pure Word of the gospel that is able to save your souls!
That ye may grow thereby!
The apostle does not allow the figure of the newborn child to fade from the picture. The only reason why such a child seeks for and feeds on milk is that it may grow, develop. Such is also the significance of the purpose of the newborn babe in Christ. The only difference between the figure and the reality is that the newborn babe in Christ does this consciously, while the natural newborn babe does not realize what it is doing. The child of God must not only desire to feed on the Word, but also to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. The translation has omitted the phrase “into salvation”; but we see no reason why these words should have been omitted. It stands to reason that if the new birth of which the apostle has been speaking is spiritual, and the rational, unadulterated Word of the gospel on which the new life is to feed is spiritual, that the purpose of the feeding process should also have a spiritual aim, that is, to grow and develop in the Christian experience of the saving grace of Christ. This should be the aim of all sound Christian growth.
If so be ye have tested that the Lord is gracious!
This last is found in italics in the original text. And this indicates that this part of the text is in part a quotation. The reference is to Psalm 34:8, where we read: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”
The thought that should be projected here is the fact that the apostle does not add this part of the text as a condition which we are to fulfill, as the translation might suggest, but the words can better be translated, “seeing that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”
The born again child of God has through regeneration received new spiritual taste buds, and along with regeneration also receives a new and living power of faith, whereby he is able not only to feed consciously on the pure Word of God, but also to taste subjectively how gracious that Lord Jesus Christ, presented in the gospel as the God of his salvation, is.
When we were children, occasionally we were given a box of Cracker Jack for a treat. On the box appeared a slogan: “The More You Eat, The More You Want.” As far as we know, you may still read this slogan on the box. We are not so sure that we always desired more Cracker Jack simply because we ate some. More probably we desired more because of the prizes such a box contains. But, beloved reader, it is absolutely true, that when the regenerated child of God has tasted the goodness and grace of Christ Jesus his Lord and of His saving power, the more he will desire to feed on that Word and that grace continually.
Never will that child of God relish the preaching of the Word that is mixed with the philosophy of man. Nor can he endure false doctrines that militate against the Word of God. Should he continue to be fed with these admixtures, he will continue to spew them out, or pine away in hunger.
On the other hand, when he continues to feed on the pure, reasonable Word of God, he will not only taste how gracious the Lord has been to him, but he will grow into the fulness of that salvation which the Lord has prepared for him. He will be enabled to put away from him every sin that would hinder the proper reception of the Word, and feed on that Word, which has the power to cause him to grow into the fullness of the salvation which the Lord graciously has prepared for him.
O taste and see that the Lord is indeed gracious! For He with sovereign grace has redeemed you with an everlasting salvation!