“Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” 1 Peter 2:1-3
Peter, in this text, encourages believers to busy themselves with two tasks. First, to strip away those things that are contrary to a life identified in Christ. Second, to seek the nourishment that is essential for growth in the faith.
There is nothing more adorable and precious than a new-born baby. But no parent expects their baby to remain an infant; they anticipate growth. One of the requirements for growth is nutrition, and the primary source of nutrition is the mother’s milk, or a substitute formula. What happens if the infant is neglected and receives inadequate nutrition? For one thing, growth doesn’t take place.
Peter is using this analogy to emphasize that growth is expected for new believers in Jesus Christ also. The new birth (salvation) is followed by growth. What is the nutrition required for growth? Peter says it is the “milk of the word.” He is, of course, referring to the Bible, God’s Word. But he doesn’t offer this information as though it’s optional. He also doesn’t describe it as a labor of forced effort. He states that just a baby longs for its bottle, the believer should have an unquenchable desire for this “pure milk.”
When a baby has no desire for milk, the parent knows something is wrong and immediately makes a doctor’s appointment. Why? Because the parent knows the result of insufficient nutrition; illness and possibly death.
Is it fair to conclude from this illustration that Peter sees the believer’s need for the Word of God as crucial, and that the absence of it indicates immaturity? Or, is Peter implying something significantly worse with his words, “if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord?”
Consider the response of an infant when the parent does not quickly provide his or her milk. Easily guessed, a temper tantrum is coming. The natural instinct of a child is to know that hunger is undesirable, even painful. Therefore, the infant puts forth every available effort to gain the parent’s attention and get their milk.
Peter equates this truth with the new birth. With salvation comes a hunger and desire to know the Father and His Son. The Holy Spirit is at work in the believer’s heart creating this desire (John 16:5-15), and the primary source of nutrition is God’s Word. Therefore, Peter says, “if we have tasted of His kindness,” we will “long for the pure milk.”