Newborn Babes and the Higher Israel
1 Peter 2:1-10
Why laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, all evil speakings,…


1. Duty conditioning appetite for the Ignorant. "Putting away therefore all wickedness, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings." This duty is connected with the foregoing ("therefore"), as coming under it. As the regenerate, we are to put away all dispositions and manifestations that offend against good brotherhood. We are to put away first, as being the radical vice, all malice (as we should read, with the old translation), i.e. the desire to hurt, from the slightest beginnings up to the most deadly passion. We are also to put away all guile, i.e. want of openness, of straightforwardness, also in the whole compass of the idea. With all guile we are to put away its manifestations in hypocrisies, i.e. all attempts to personate, especially to make ourselves appear better than we really are. We are also to put away envies, i.e. pinings on account of the good estate of others. Finally, we are to put away manifestations of envy in all evil-speakings, i.e. attempts to injure the good name of others. From the way in which this duty is brought in, it is evident that it has a bearing on what follows, which is probably this - that unbrotherliness is a bar to our life being properly sustained.

2. Appetite for the Word. "As newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation." The apostle seizes upon the fact of his readers having been lately regenerated, and calls them "newborn babes" in relation to God. Babes have suitable nourishment provided for them in their mother's milk; as (whether lately or long ago regenerated) we have suitable nourishment provided for us in what in the spiritual sphere is milk, viz. the Word (without any reference to the distinction of weaker or stronger in it). [Babes] save a pure provision ("without guile" is another unhappy change); so what is provided for us in the Word is pure as mother's milk. Babes have a strong natural craving for milk; so we are to have a strong craving for the Word. Babes are constituted with a strong craving for milk, that their growth may go forward; so we are to have a strong craving for the Word, that our higher development may go forward, which is to issue in salvation (both the elimination of all evil elements and the acquisition of all good elements). From the connection the teaching is that we are thus to see to our individual development for the sake of the society to which we belong. We owe it to Christians collectively that we grow individually.

3. Appetite for the Word encouraged. "If ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." The language is based on Psalm 34:8. It is to be observed that "the Lord" of the psalmist is here taken to be Christ (as appears from the following verse). There is kindness displayed in the nourishment that is provided for babes; so there is the kindness of Christ displayed in what is provided for us in the Word. As the Word, or Divine Revealer, Christ is also the Divine Nourisher. Christians are those who know this, not merely by report, but by experience. They have "tasted that the Lord is gracious." And Peter goes upon the supposition that those who have tasted once will desire to taste again, and will not be easily satisfied.


1. Characterization under temple imagery in relation to Christ.

(1) Way in which we are related to Christ. "Unto whom coming." With this there is transition to new imagery. The language is general; yet it was frequently associated with the going up of worshippers to the temple. We are to make our approach to Christ for union to him and communion with him; and our approach to him is to be habitual, that with stronger union there may be closer communion.

(2) Representation that is given of Christ. "A living Stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious." This is a very striking though homely image applied to the most wonderful event or series of events in history. Let us call up the scene from which the language is taken. A building is being erected amid dust and rubbish and confused noises. The builders are ever wanting stones for each new place as it arises in the building, and search about among what are laid down for them. One stone they all pass by because of some defect or blemish that it has in their eyes. You can see, from the way in which they treat it, that it is not deemed worthy to have even an obscure place in the building. But the architect comes and sees to this stone, which was to have no place, being put into the place of honor. It becomes, as we shall see afterwards from its designation, the most important stone in the building. Now, the great archetypal building which is being erected - that of which every building, common or sacred, is a type, that of which the Jewish temple was in a special manner a type - is the Church. The Jewish rulers were employed by God in carrying out his purposes of love and mercy toward the race. They were the builders, having subordinately the selecting and preparing of the stones and the putting them into their places. In this first introduction of the imagery they are not directly referred to; it is simply men that are mentioned. But in accordance with Psalm 118:22, afterwards quoted, we must think of men representatively, i.e. in the builders. Christ was a living Stone, i.e. he was absolutely in living significance all that a stone can be in a building. He came before the eyes of the builders with extraordinary claims, with most exalted ideas, with a most wonderful manifestation of love. He was as a stone laid down for them, and they could not but pass some judgment upon him. What they did (and not merely in their own name, but as representing men) was to reject him even to crucifying him. We see him the "despised and rejected of men" in being a Stone rejected of the builders. He was to be of no use in the Church or theocracy with which these had to do. Ay, they thought that they were relegating him in God's name to a different fate altogether. But what was despised among men was highly esteemed with God. So in striking contrast with the human judgment, it is said here - " with God elect; precious," i.e. he was the great Object of electing love, and had all the qualities on which the Divine approbation could rest. And God, having allowed men to go so far, takes things out of their hands, and, in accordance with his ancient design as to the ordering of things in his Church, instates Christ in the place of highest honor and serviceableness, making him, as we are now to see, the Stone in which we are built up.

(3) What we are in relation to Christ. "Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." Very beautiful is the way in which we are called "living stones" along with Christ. We also are living stones, only with this difference, that we derive all our living consequence in the building from Christ. A stone, according to the general idea, is not meant to be by itself; it is meant to be placed along with others in a building. So we rise to the idea of our being as living stones built up a spiritual house. Ancient Israel had a temple; the heightening consideration is that we as Christians are the temple. Whereas also material elements (such as in the Jewish temple) can only in a very restricted way be used for the glorifying of God, there is far greater freedom and capability when we come to the spiritual elements that exist in the Church. "To the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10). But that is not all; for ancient Israel the complete conception was broken up. They had a temple, and they had also, distinct from it, a priesthood. The heightening consideration is that we combine the two ideas. We are the temple and the priesthood in one. The Jewish priests had a sacred character. "Once a priest, always a priest." They could not take to trading; God's service required their undivided attention. So even in trading we are to have a sacred character, abjuring self and referring all to God. Our feet are always to be found in the path of God's commandments - which cover things both temporal and spiritual. The Jewish priests offered up fruits, animals; the heightening consideration is that we offer up spiritual sacrifices. These are only acceptable to God through Jesus Christ; and therefore we require to remember that his sacrifice comes first. After it, founded upon it, and deriving all their virtue from it, come our sacrifices, which are distinctively eucharistic, i.e. they are forms of giving thanks. They are this even when we begin, as we must do, by offering up ourselves. Gratitude, especially for what has been done for us in redemption, prompts us first to offer up ourselves, and then ourselves in good thoughts, in earnest prayers, in loving deeds.

2. Scriptural foundation for the characterization. "Because it is contained in Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief Corner-stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame." This is a free quotation from Isaiah 28:16. Attention is called to the declaration of the eternal counsel. It is "the Lord God" who says, "I lay;" but there is not excluded laying by human agents. From the temple in Zion we are to pass in thought to the Church. The chief corner-stone is the most important stone in the building, both combining as being in the corner, and supporting as being the foundation-stone; such is Christ to the Church, with the epithets formerly applied to him. The prophet goes beyond this to the consequence of believing. As it stands in the prophecy, the language is, "He that believeth shall not make haste," i.e. shall go on his way calmly. As altered here, it is, "He that believeth on him [Christ as the Stone] shall not be put to shame." Believing, in builders' language, is taking Christ as the Foundation. If Christ is the Foundation, it must be designed that stones should be laid upon him or in relation to him. That is the design of any foundation - the design, then, of Christ as the Foundation. If we are laid upon Christ as the Foundation, we shall never be put to shame; i.e. shall never have the shame connected with the foundation proving insufficient.

3. Consequence of believing. "For you therefore which believe is the preciousness." It is better to translate, "is the honor." This is the positive side of the conception that we have just noticed. Laid upon Christ as the "chief Cornerstone, elect, precious," there is the corresponding honor; i.e. the honor of having a definite, abiding place in the building, with a share in the glory that is communicated to it by Christ.

4. Consequence of not believing. "But for such as disbelieve, The Stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner; and, A Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offence; for they stumble at the Word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed." The statement of consequence is preceded by a statement of wonderful fact from Psalm 118:22, which by our Lord himself, and by Peter in his speech before the Sanhedrin, is connected with the action of the Jewish rulers. The blindness of the builders. The position which these Jewish rulers occupied was a very honorable one. They were appointed to build. It is of the greatest importance that those who lead the thought or action in any way should be really builders, clearly and boldly grasping the principles, and earnestly and vigorously carrying forward the work. It is an incalculable evil when any take advantage of their gifts or position to promulgate opinions which are fitted to sap the foundations - to do the work of him who has been a destroyer from the beginning. There are some, not only in other countries, but in this country, who do not see that it is necessary to build. They are levelers, not builders. They would pull down, not merely the wrongs of past centuries, but the rights of all centuries; not merely church establishments, but the Church itself; not merely human speculations, but the everlasting truths of the Bible. It is a gigantic mistake. A nation's greatness will soon be shown to be hollow, if there is no building up in family piety; no just and generous dealing, as between all classes, and toward other nations. A sad havoc some of our destructives would make, if there were not some honorable public men, and many who are quietly building away in their own homes and in their own neighborhoods, as they see to be right before God. But those Jewish rulers were further appointed to build up the Church. They had to deliberate and to devise regarding all that greatly pertained to the ecclesiastical life of the nation. And the honorableness of their position at that time appears in this, that they might have had the placing of Christ in the building. It was something more honorable than had fallen to Moses, who merely introduced the types of Christ. It fell to them, as the representatives of the Church at the time, to single out and introduce Christ himself. But there, also, lay their great responsibility. They might do a great service, putting Christ into the place intended for him; or they might do a great disservice, setting him aside, and putting him in a false light before the nation - who were appointed to lead when the times were becoming full of most profound interest. It depended on how they used their responsibility. It unhappily turned out in the latter way. Their crime is represented as a refusing of him whom God meant to be chief Cornerstone. What made their conduct so criminal was that they acted against the light. True, there were others who rose up about that time claiming to be the Messiah. But they were there, as the appointed, trained representatives of the nation, to sift the evidence. And the damaging circumstance was that they had evidence more than enough, as full as the conditions allowed, presented to them by Christ; and yet they rejected him. He had a wonder-working power greater than was possessed by their great ancestor Moses - which was a clear mark of God on him. And as remarkable as his forth-putting of power was his range of knowledge, extending beyond earth to the things which he had seen with the Father - which was another mark of God. And then the whole tone of his life was in keeping, and fitted to remove all honest doubt. But these builders were blind. They could not distinguish Messiah-ship when they saw it. They would not even give him credit for ordinary goodness. They could have got as much from the old as would have enabled them to slide easily into the new. Had they truly appreciated the types, they would have known the Antitype. Had they been apt students of prophecy, they would have known him to whom prophecy bears witness. But they had not even the right Old Testament point of view. They were falsely conservative. They had substituted authorized lint outward and temporary forms and ceremonies for the living, eternal ideas, and rabbinical traditions for the decisive words of inspiration. And their conservatism would have been most destructive. If they had got their way, they would have kept Christ from having his proper place or any place in the building. And thus there would have been no salvation for man, but black, terrible destruction. No temple would have risen up in this world, each stone a saved soul. That would have been the consequence of the conservatism of those Jewish leaders. What they thought was building up, and keeping to the truth, and resisting innovation, would have been in its results the pulling down of all to the depths of ruin. So blind were these builders. They are not the only destroyers who would raze to the foundation; but those also are making work for destruction who build narrowly, who do not take the breadth of the Word of God for themselves, nor will allow it for others. Had these Jewish builders been loyal to the truth, reverencing the old which had fairly stood the test, and welcoming also the new which seemed to premise larger development, they would not have made the mistake which they did. Had they even had some spiritual affinity to the Messiah, they would have been carried out beyond their narrowness. Israelites indeed, in whom there was no guile, they would have been carried on from a glorious living past to a more glorious and widening, living future. But this is their condemnation, that light came into the world; and they loved the darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. Let us beware of self-deception. These rulers thought they were doing God service in what they did to Christ. If they could so far deceive themselves who occupied so prominent a position in the Church, have we not reason to be on our guard? The builders as overruled by the great Architect. It has always been matter for surprise, how bad men get into power. Job makes it matter of complaint in his day, that the earth was given over into the hand of the wicked. There are some who go great lengths in sin without having much in their power. But when men get a long line, as it were, and go the whole length of it, cruelly trampling on the most sacred rights and tenderest feelings of their fellow-men, the evil seems so great as to call loudly for Divine interference. Think of Nero, for his amusement setting fire to Rome, and then, to screen himself, glutting his soul with the slaughter of God's saints. But never did God allow men to go such lengths, while sitting by and refusing to interfere, as when he allowed those builders to refuse him on whom the whole building up of a Church in this world depended. Never was human liberty brought into such antagonism to the Divine sovereignty. Those who were in power at the time, finding Christ troublesome, were permitted to crucify him. They laid his dead body in a tomb, and rolled a stone against the mouth of it, and sealed the stone, and set a watch, and thought they had done with him. It would have been a sad thing if their conduct had prevented the building up of a Church in the world. That, we know, could never be. This may be put on the ground of the Divine purpose. Christ was the living Stone, elect. He was linked to the Divine purpose, the great object of the Divine election. And we are accustomed to think that the purposes of God must travel on securely through all to their accomplishment. In the place that God intended for Christ must he unfailingly be. But deeper than the purpose itself is the ground of the purpose in the character of God, and the fitness of the Stone for the place. Divine love struggled for gratification in the building of us up out of the ruins of sin; that was the deepest ground of the purpose. It must, however, have been forever pent up, if no path had been found for its egress. But when God really formed the purpose, he must have seen his way to the desired end all clear. To begin to build without knowing how to finish is foolishness, with which only man is chargeable. "Every house is builded by some man; he who built all things is God." He must have had the conception of this universe in his mind before he brought forth those worlds and this earth of ours in all their wonderful order; he had the conception beforehand of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:40), and also of the temple (1 Chronicles 28:11-19). So when the great Architect had planned the Church from all eternity, and had for ages been making preparations for it, and directing stones to be put into it, he must have known how the Foundation-stone was to be laid. Christ was a fitting Stone for the place. He was not chosen blindly without regard to qualifications. He was not only elect, but also a tried Stone; and, what is the same idea, precious, proved to be precious by trial. One great strain there was that made trial of him, occasioned by our sin; but he stood the test, he was shown to be a precious Stone, sufficient for the purpose of God, and so he was put into the foundation-place. Those builders had not the placing of him there. He was a Stone refused, disallowed by them. But God was independent of them, and got others more humble than they, but more in sympathy with the purpose, to do what they should have done. Ay, even they were taken up into the purpose as unconscious, involuntary instruments. For it was in the very refusing of him in his death that he became chief Cornerstone. They were thus doing what they did not intend to do. And he rose triumphant out of their hands when they thought they had effectually secured him in the tomb. Let us admire the placing of Christ as chief Cornerstone. "This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes." The Lord had his purpose of mercy to men and of honor to Christ carried out notwithstanding the criminal conduct of the builders. And in the history of these latter times the same triumph will be repeated. All schemes that leave out Christ will prove abortive, and those that build by them will be left behind an advancing tide of Christianity. And at last it will be shown, by a clear and abundant induction of facts, that Christ is the only Stone in whom men can be built up into a glorious temple of God. What, then, is the consequence to them that disbelieve, i.e. refuse to believe? The Stone so honored of God becomes, in the language of another prophecy (Isaiah 8:14)," a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offense;" i.e., in accordance with our Lord's comment on Psalm 118:22 (Matthew 21:44), on which they are broken. They who disbelieve are broken in their spiritual nature; that is their shame. The Foundation-stone which is honor to believers, becomes to them the stone of punishment, the stone of vengeance. They are broken, as if you took a pillar of the temple, and broke it into a thousand pieces. They thus stumble to their hurt and shame, because they disbelieve the Word (as we should translate), i.e. refuse to believe what God says about the Stone. It is God's appointment that they who thus disbelieve should in their fall be broken.

5. Further characterization under Old Testament designations in relation to God.

(1) God's elect. "But ye are an elect race." This is after Isaiah 43:20. We are not to lay stress upon ancient Israel being of one stone (race), but upon their Divine election, as being the reason of their existence. We owe our existence as the successors of Israel to the fact that we have been chosen by God out of the world.

(2) God's ministers. "A royal priesthood." This is after Exodus 19:6, where the expression is "kingdom of priests." This language, applied to ancient Israel, pointed to all being priests (in token of which the heads of families acted personally as priests in the yearly offering up of the Paschal lamb); it also pointed to their being priests under a great King. The idea was only fully exhibited in the separate yet representative priestly class. They, in a special manner, acted as priests, and had a royal character as belonging to the royal household. This full idea is taken up by us as Christians. We have sacred offices to perform, and we have the honor which comes from our being even here in the "King's palace."

(3) God's saints. "A holy nation." This is also after Exodus 19:6. The leading word is here again the second in the original - holy. "This had to be filled and coined afresh with a new meaning, and thus is one of the words wherein the radical influence, the transforming and newly fashioning power, of revealed religion is most clearly shown" (Cromer). As to the Homeric age, Nagelsbach says, "Holiness, as a constituent element of the Divine viewed in itself, or only perceived in the intercourse of the gods among themselves, is never mentioned. Never is there a title given to the godhead indicating a consciousness similar to that in which the Bible speaks of the true God." According to the conception of ancient Israel, we are to be a community permeated with Bible ideas of God's holiness, and conformed to it in our customs.

(4) God's possession. His right in us. "A people for God's own possession." The idea is contained in Exodus 19:5, "Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people." The language is after Isaiah 43:21 (following, or race-elect). We are already acquired by God; only not fully redeemed (Ephesians 1:14). In so far as the thought of peculiarity is to be associated with the language, it is to be referred to God's right in us, which is peculiar in being supreme. What his right in us involves. "That ye may show forth the excellences of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." It involves that we have been redeemed. We became the objects of an effectual and glorious calling. We were at the pole of darkness - away from God in the darkness and chili of our own thoughts. We are now at the opposite pole of light - near to God in the marvelous light and exhilaration of what he is and what he thinks especially about us in redemption. It involves that, as redeemed by God, we show forth his praises, or excellences. Steiger is wrong in saying that the object of this is the conversion of those who still disbelieve. The thought is rather of what has been gained by God. Having effected for us a change of state, the thought of which is oppressive in its vastness, he has gained this, that we show forth his excellences; i.e. as our tribute to God, we tell on, from the depths of our heart the excellences which he has displayed in our blessed experience. Huther remarks that the word is for the most part employed without definite application to telling abroad what happens indoors. Doxology comes in similarly in Ephesians 1:14. Heightening of doxology. "Which in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." This is after Hosea 2:23. The words here, as in Romans 9:25, seem to be applied to the calling of the heathen. Before their conversion they had no true corporate life. Rome could not give them that; they were no people. Now they were the people of God, with a unity of life in Christ, and inheriting all the titles and privileges of ancient Israel. They had a special call, then, to tell out the excellences of God. What were they to tell out? His excellent power, his excellent wisdom, his excellent righteousness. Yes, these, but especially his excellent mercy. Once not in the possession of mercy, that condition was now ended. By circumstances over which they had no control, the gospel had been brought to them in their heathen state. The message of Divine love had touched their hearts. By God's mercy they were numbered among his people - pardoned and cleansed. Well, then, did it become them to pay their highest tribute of praise to the excellence of that mercy that had found them in their forlorn heathenism. And have we not all reason to praise the mercy that has ordered our circumstances, that has broken down the hardness of our hearts, that has admitted us to glorious privileges? - R.F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,

WEB: Putting away therefore all wickedness, all deceit, hypocrisies, envies, and all evil speaking,

Malice Laid Aside
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