In 1 Peter 2:1, Peter tells his readers to put away all these things that undermine brotherly love toward one another -- things like malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. But putting things like this away is easier said than done. How does one put away envy? To answer this question, Peter continues with an image to show us what putting these things away looks like. In verse 2 he writes:
1 Peter 2:2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation-- 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Peter uses the image of a newborn infant who longs for her mother’s milk. Newborn babies can’t have solid food yet. Their diet comes only from the milk provided by their mother. But not only is milk what a baby wants, it’s what a baby needs and nothing else can replace it (obviously this was long before anyone thought of baby formula). Also, when babies are hungry, they will let you know it! This is the “longing” that Peter is describing here.
Further, the milk is described as pure. The word is the opposite of “deceit” used in verse 1. Deceit is saying that something is true or wholly true when it isn’t. Pure milk is genuine milk and 100% milk.
But just what is this milk that Peter is telling us to long for? Our translation says, “spiritual milk,” but that can be confusing. The word in the original isn’t related to the word “spirit.” Other translations have rendered it the “milk of the Word” but that’s grammatically impossible and not a good translation. Literally, the phrase means something like “logical milk” or “rational milk.” Now, that just sounds weird. What in the world is “logical milk?”
When we hear the word “logical” we think right away of cool calculations of deduction. But behind Peter’s use of “logical” is an appeal to an aesthetic. Mathematicians will sometimes speak of a formula as “elegant.” When they do this, they usually refer to a formula’s clarity and simplicity. Everything is in its right place. This aesthetic sense of “logic” is what Peter is getting at. “Logical milk” is milk that is reasonable and fitting for the person longing for it.
The idea here is that as Christians, we have been born again and for that reason we need to put off all that pertains to the old world and to our old lives (cf. 1 Peter 1:14). Begin born again means that we are like babes who need what is truly nourishing for us. This is what leads to growth and maturity.
For Peter, this pure milk is Christ himself. Notice what he says in verse 3: …if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Peter ties together the metaphor of an infant longing for milk with an allusion to David’s words from Psalm 34:8 to taste that the Lord is good. This allusion ties the “pure logical milk” and the Lord together. In other words, our longing for this milk is satisfied by feasting on the Lord.
Peter’s point here isn’t to cast doubt into the minds of his readers such that they might begin questioning their salvation. It is a warning, but it serves to make the point that “tasting that the Lord is good” is the beginning of all this and not its conclusion. Tasting leads to eating and eating leads to feasting. The Lord is the fitting and reasonable source for the nourishment we need to grow up into full maturity (i.e. salvation).
Peter then keeps this idea of growing up and tweaks it a little by changing the metaphor to that of a building being built up. Here the image of the Temple is in view beginning in verse 4. We approach Christ as though he was the very cornerstone to a glorious temple. The picture here is one of Christ with his people becoming a single glorious temple. He is the head, we are the body. He is the Bridegroom, we are the Bride. Furthermore, we are called and chosen by God to serve in this glorious temple as a royal priesthood.
Peter is showing us the honor that we have in being a people for God’s own possession. This great privilege is ours and for that reason, we have no reason to return to the old patterns of malice, deceit, envy, and slander.
What Peter is saying here has a lot of similarities to what Paul wrote in Romans 12:1-2. Paul writes:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Like Peter, Paul uses worship imagery of presenting ourselves to God. He calls it our “spiritual worship.” However, this word “spiritual” is the same word that Peter used to describe milk that means “reasonable” or “fitting.”
Both Peter and Paul remind their readers of the great privilege they have in knowing Christ and how God’s mercies have been bestowed upon them.
So how does this all relate back to “putting away” all those habits and practices that undermine brotherly love? The point of both Peter and Paul seems to center on our mindfulness of God’s grace in Christ throughout our day. Are we feasting on Christ, the pure and fitting milk for our salvation throughout the day? Are we having our thoughts and attitudes shaped by his great love for us?
Both Peter and Paul also appear to place worship at the heart of this as well. Long for the pure and fitting milk, draw near to him, and present yourself to him not according to what is no longer true now that we have been ransomed by the precious blood of Christ (cf. 1 Peter 1:18-19).