Growing Up Into Salvation — from milk to solid food
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)
Why do we consistently find that pastors, church leaders, and church members seem to be blind and deaf to the issue of evil hiding in the pews of their churches? Is it mere naivety? Sometimes. Is it that wolves are the leaders? Sometimes and more often than we want to know. But let me suggest another reason that is far more widespread than most anyone realizes — the majority of church leaders and professing Christians are spiritual infants who have no capacity to discern good and evil. Let me show you.
Our justification in Christ is passive. Christ has actively accomplished it for us and we simply receive it by faith. Here, Peter is calling upon us to DO something. Put away. Long for. Grow up. This is what, of course, we call sanctification and it is anything but passive on our part. Sanctification is active, requiring action by us in conjunction with the leading and sanctifying work of the Spirit of Christ in us.
Because we have tasted that the Lord is good — that to say, because we have tasted His grace shown us in Christ by which we have been born again — we must turn away from our old futile ignorant life in sin and get what Peter calls “the pure spiritual milk” which enables us to grow into salvation. Any infant longs for his mother’s milk — a baby that doesn’t eat will die. These images are what Peter is using to tell us about our new life in Christ. A newborn Christian must have this “pure spiritual milk.” And this requires US to long for it and take it in. And so Peter leads us here to ask two questions:
- What is this pure spiritual milk?
- How is it that we must grow up into salvation? Aren’t we already saved?
Question 1 – What is this pure spiritual milk?
There are other Scriptures that refer to this milk and show us what it is. For example:
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)
The basic principles of the oracles of God. Milk. That is what it is. We need it but we must not remain on it as our diet. We must press on, as growing infants do, to solid food as the Apostle says.
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? (1 Cor 3:1-3)
Same imagery once again. When Paul led the Corinthians to Christ, he gave them what he calls “milk.” The diet of an “infant in Christ.” The basics of the gospel you see. This milk is, I conclude, what Hebrews 6 is referring to —
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. Hebrews 6:1-3
Now, here is a vital point:
In all of these Scriptures, the MILK is basic doctrine which is essential for immature Christians, and from there we are urged to press on to the solid food necessary for maturity. And the diet of those pressing on in maturity in Christ is PRACTICE and APPLICATION of that truth.
In all of these Scriptures then, notice what is the real mark of maturity in Christ — Putting away the old ways of sin, putting to death the deeds of the flesh, loving one another, and being trained to distinguish good from evil.
Because THIS is where the milk is supposed to lead us! To the real food. To Christian adulthood.
This means that the Christian who is all caught up in minutiae of doctrine and nuances of theology, or the preacher whose every sermon is an evangelistic altar call, or who preaches primarily on hair-splitting doctrinal issues that sound Christians are uncertain of (the regulatory principle, the impassivity of God, the continental theology of the Puritans, etc.) is feeding on and dishing out spiritual baby food. And so often these kinds of people are characterized by jealousy, strife, ignorance of good and evil, because they are still a baby Christian at best! It means that the “diet” served up at most seminaries and in many, many Christian books, is mere milk.
And this is why most church leaders and even big name Christian figures gag when we point out the evil that is lurking in the churches. It is like serving a thick steak to a 6 month old child.
Obviously the pure spiritual milk Peter is speaking of, telling us to long for, is the Word of God. But even Peter notes that the purpose of all of this diet is that we “grow up into salvation.” Maturity. Wisdom.
This is an excerpt from a sermon that Pastor Crippen delivered on 16 October 2016. The entire audio and PDF of the sermon can be found here.