In chapter 2 we have continuation of the discussion of conduct by Peter (read earlier comments here). Peter starts off this chapter by telling us what we need to put off and put on. Then Peter describes who we are. The reason is we have to have a secure identity. This identity drives our conduct.
Peter begins in 2:1 with a list of characteristic that need to be removed from the Christian life. Those who have received salvation, have obeyed the truth and purified their soul, should “put-off” certain characteristics:
1. Malice: This is referring to any sort of wickedness. It is a broad “catch-all” term.
2. Deceit: This means to use cunnery or trickery to your advantage. It is a violation of Jesus command to “let your yes be yes.”
3. Hypocrisy: This is claiming to be one thing, but in actuality being something different. This is sadly all too common.
4. Envy: This does not mean wanting what someone else has. This is not a command against ambition. Rather this is begrudging another or desiring harm for another because they have what you want.
5. Evil speaking. Some translations translate this word as slander. It is a shame that it was translated in that manner, because it has given us a misunderstanding what Peter is asking us to put-off. Slander means we are lying about someone. This word includes slander, but is more than that. It is disparaging someones character or “running down” another person.
Peter does not simply want us to put off certain sinful characteristics, but he also wants us to put on a new characteristic. This characteristic is really a new desire (2:4).
The desire is “for the pure spiritual milk.” Older translations have desire for “the sincere milk of the word.” The more literal translation is “pure spiritual milk,” however it seems from the context that the milk Peter is referring to is the Word of God. Thus Peter’s desire is for us to put aside certain practices and “put on” a desire for God’s word.
Why? Well he gives the answer in verse 3 “Since we have tasted the goodness of the Lord.”
The Living Stone
Peter finishes verse 3 with the word “Lord.” This is referring to Jesus as the following verses will prove. Mentioning Jesus here provides Peter an opportunity to transition into an analogy of who we are as Christians. But before he does that He wants to make sure that we know who Jesus is.
Peter is identifying Jesus as the Living Stone spoken of in the Psalms and Isaiah. He was rejected by men (any reader of the gospels sees this clearly and Peter was an eyewitness to this), but chosen by God. What men said was worthless, God said was my chief cornerstone on which I will build my spiritual house.
Peter is going to use the metaphor of a house to describe a Christians identity. Jesus is the cornerstone, chosen by God, as the spiritual house. Those coming to Jesus (2:5) are transformed by God into living stones that are used by God to build his spiritual house.
But those who are part of this spiritual house also work in the house as priests. They are the material of the new spiritual house (think temple) and they are also the temple workers offering to God acceptable sacrifices.
This is how we should view ourselves and our lives. We are those who are built into the house of God and then in that house our entire lives are lived to glorify God through acceptable sacrifices.
What will you do with this Stone?
This now becomes the question. Men have rejected the Stone (Jesus). God has chosen the Stone (same word as elect). What choice will you make? Peter gives two (2:6-8):
1. You believe in Him
2. You disobey Him
The results of believing in Him is you will not be put to shame. The results of disobeying Him is you will stumble. This is not a possibility but rather the divinely appointed result of rejecting the Stone (2:8).
Now notice, for those who subscribe that believe in Jesus is simple mental assent, that disobedience not disbelief is opposite of believing. To believe in Jesus would imply obedience (1 Peter 1:22), because no one could truly say they believe in Jesus and not obey Him.
Peter’s discussion of conduct continues in chapter 2. He begins by commanding the church to put off certain sinful characteristics and instead desire the pure spiritual milk, namely God’s word. He then goes on to describe the new identity we have in Christ. This identity is that we are the new temple and new priesthood being built on Jesus and offering accepting sacrifice to God!