As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.
1 Peter 2:2
To become more like Christ you need to know the Word of God. You need to know how Christ lived when He was on earth, and the only place to learn that is the Scriptures, which are the revelation of Christ. The Old Testament sets the scene for Him, creates the need for Him, and predicts His coming. The gospels record His arrival. The Book of Acts describes the immediate impact of His ministry. The epistles delineate the long–term significance of His life and ministry. And Revelation details His future return and judgment of earth.
Christ is the focus of the entire Bible, and you need to study it to know what He is like. Too often we study the Bible for the sake of theological arguments or to answer questions. Those things are important, but the main point of Bible study is to know more about Christ so that you can be like Him.
Admitting Their Need
like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, (2:2a)
Believers need God’s truth like a baby needs milk. Peter compares the strength of that longing for divine revelation to the singular and dominant desire of newborn babies (artigennēta brephē) for their mother’s milk. Peter could have made his point just with the term brephē, but to underscore it he added the modifier artigennēta, which literally means “born just now.” The two words identify an infant that has just emerged from its mother’s womb and is crying for milk from her breast. That sole and desperate hunger for milk is the newborn’s first expressed longing designed by God to correspond to their greatest need, and it illustrates how strongly believers ought to desire the Word. It is singular and relentless because life depends on it.
Long for (epipothēsate) is an imperative verb that commands believers to strongly desire or crave something. The apostle Paul used the word seven times (Rom. 1:11; 2 Cor. 5:2; 9:14 kjv; Phil. 1:8; 2:26; 1 Thess. 3:6; 2 Tim. 1:4), and in each instance it expresses an intense, recurring, insatiable desire or passion (cf. Pss. 42:1 and 119:174; James 4:5). Its meaning encompasses such things as the strong desire a husband or wife has for a spouse, the strong physical craving that accompanies extreme hunger, the poignant longings one has for a deceased loved one, the intense desire a Christian parent has for a spiritually wayward child to repent and return to obedience, and the strong desires believers have for the salvation of an unbelieving family member or close friend. Those definitions each illustrate the kind of strong, consuming desire Peter wanted his readers to have for Scripture. None is stronger, however, than the desire a baby has for milk.
Peter compares the object of their craving with pure milk. Pure (adolos) means unadulterated or uncontaminated and often referred to farm products such as grain, wine, vegetable oil, or in this instance milk. Believers are to crave what is unmixed and pure, that provides real sustenance, namely, the pure milk of the word. Of the word translates logikos; however that rendering is not the usual translation of the term. In Romans 12:1 the nasb uses “spiritual” to translate logikos. In that verse other reliable English Bible versions render logikos “reasonable” (cf. kjv; nkjv), a fact which demonstrates that one cannot be overly narrow concerning the word’s meaning. Originally, logikos meant “belonging to speech,” or “belonging to reason,” which conveyed a sense of rationality and reasonability. If that meaning were applied to Peter’s use of the word, translators would have rendered his phrase “pure rational milk,” or “pure reasonable milk.” But the nasb translators here chose to render logikos. of the word, because that adequately conveys Peter’s intent to refer his readers to Scripture. The rabbis traditionally referred to God’s law as milk and Psalms 19:8–9 and 119:140 say God’s Word is pure and clean. Therefore the translation pure milk of the word is a legitimate, fair option that describes the Word as the source of pure spiritual milk for believers.
The broader context of verse 2 further supports the nasb rendering of logikos. Peter concludes chapter 1 with a focus on “the living and enduring word of God,” which is the source of believers’ new life. Therefore his reference to spiritual milk contextually relates back to the Word of God. Such milk is thus synonymous with Scripture.
It is notable what Peter did not command. He did not charge believers to read the Word, study the Word, meditate on the Word, teach the Word, preach the Word, search the Word, or memorize the Word. All of those things are essential, and other passages do command believers to perform them (cf. Josh. 1:8; Ps. 119:11; Acts 17:11; 1 Tim. 4:11, 13; 2 Tim. 2:15; 4:2). However, Peter focused on the more foundational element—which believers need before they will pursue any of the other things—a deep, continuous longing for the Word of truth (cf. 2 Thess. 2:10b).
Whether believers are recent converts or more mature in the faith, craving the Word of God (cf. Neh. 8:1–3; Ps. 119:97, 103, 159, 167; Jer. 15:16; Acts 17:11) is always essential to spiritual nourishment and growth (Job 23:12). Jesus affirmed this when He told Satan in the wilderness, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’ ” (Matt. 4:4; cf. Deut. 8:3; Luke 4:4). In view of postmodern culture’s relentless output of informational junk food through radio, television, films, the Internet, computer games, books, periodicals, and even so-called Christian pulpits—all of which causes spiritual malnourishment and dulls appetites for genuine spiritual food—believers must commit to regular nourishment from God’s Word.
Pursuing Their Spiritual Growth
so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, (2:2b)
It is always sad to see a human being who is malnourished, weak, and retarded in development. But far sadder is seeing believers who are spiritually malnourished and underdeveloped. All believers should be motivated by the opportunity to grow strong and mature in Christ, enjoying greater blessing and usefulness. May grow (auxēthēte) is a passive verb, literally meaning “it may grow you.” Peter used the same verb at the close of his second letter when he commanded believers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18; cf. Acts 20:32; 1 Tim. 4:6). It is by the intake of the truth that the Holy Spirit grows and matures believers (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18).
In respect to salvation is the obvious objective of believers’ spiritual growth. The Word will grow them into the full, final expression of the sanctification aspect of their salvation, as Paul commanded the Philippians,
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12–13; cf. John 8:31–32; 2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 1:21–23; Heb. 3:14; James 1:25)
Peter’s exhortation for believers to grow through the Word strongly implies the necessity of discontent with the present condition of spiritual development. It also recalls what Paul said about his dissatisfaction with the status quo in his life:
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:7–14)
Motivation for genuine spiritual growth arises out of a righteous sense of discontent, coupled with a sincere desire to be satisfied with nothing but the Word of God.
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3. now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
“Like newborn babies.” Is Peter intimating that the readers are recent converts? Not necessarily. Possibly he uses the phrase like newborn babies figuratively to give the readers of his letter the mental picture of infants craving nourishment. Parents know how newborn babies vocally and ardently express their desire to be fed regularly. In fact, newborn babies act as if their life depends on the next feeding. Likewise, believers must show their longing for the Word of God. Peter encourages his readers to crave the milk of God’s Word. He does not chide them (see, e.g., 1 Cor. 3:2; Heb. 5:12–13) but wants them to crave spiritual nourishment.
“Crave pure spiritual milk.” The verb crave in the Greek must be understood favorably, not unfavorably. For example, Paul uses this verb approvingly when he expresses his longing to see the believers to whom he writes his epistles. Similarly, Peter exhorts the readers to crave spiritual food, just as newborn babies long for milk at feeding time.
Peter describes the word milk with the adjectives pure and spiritual. He does not say that the readers eventually will receive solid food when they mature, but that their nourishment is pure and spiritual. Only here in the entire New Testament the Greek adjective pure occurs. It denotes an absence of fraud and deceit (see John 1:47). The term spiritual in this context points to the Word of God. Notice that in 1:23, Peter tells the readers that they are born again through the Word of God (also consult 1:25). In the Greek, the term translated “spiritual” comes from the same root as the expression word. Because this particular term occurs only once more in the New Testament (Rom. 12:1, where Paul speaks of spiritual worship) it is difficult to translate. In English we lack derivatives and therefore furnish the reading spiritual. We rely on the context, which clearly indicates that Peter has the Word of God in mind. The spiritual food the believers consume comes to them verbally through the Word of God.
“So that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” The main verb in this clause is “grow.” The result of consuming the milk of God’s Word ought to be the spiritual growth of the believers. As a mother constantly looks for evidence of growth in her child, so God wants to see continued spiritual growth in his children. The verb to grow literally refers to physical growth in children. Interestingly, Peter makes no distinction between babies and adults, milk and solid food. Instead he indicates that all believers continue to be babies whose constant diet is the milk of God’s Word.
Once again Peter introduces the concept salvation. In fact, we observe a parallel between the first chapter, where the writer teaches that we experience rebirth that leads to salvation (see 1:3, 5, 9), and the second chapter, where he says that we grow up in our salvation (2:2).
“Now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” Although most translations do not indicate that this verse resembles Psalm 34:8, the similarity is clear. David says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
We mark three points. First we note that Peter indicates a lapse of time since the readers initially became acquainted with the Word of God. They have tasted it and now Peter wants them to continue to receive the nourishment of that Word. He encourages them to “crave pure spiritual milk” with the intensity of newborn babies who demand nourishing milk. Once babies taste nourishment, they do not stop craving it until they are satisfied. Likewise the believers, now that they have tasted God’s Word, must crave it until they are filled.
The second point is that the word Lord in Peter’s epistle relates to Jesus, but in the psalm (Ps. 34:8) it relates to the Lord God of Israel. Peter indirectly teaches the divinity of Jesus by placing him on an equal level with God.
And the last item is the word good. This Greek word is also translated “kind” and serves as a synonym of “gracious.” Peter wants to say that when the believer reads the Bible, he meets his personal God in Jesus Christ, who grants him numerous blessings. The child of God, then, joyfully exclaims that the Lord is good and kind.
Practical Considerations in 2:2
Do you have family devotions? You would like to say yes, but your answer is really no. There are too many conflicts and interruptions for regular family devotions. You have tried, but you cannot get the whole family together. Perhaps you have given up. However, there are times when the family is together.
Mealtime is family time, and family time should include prayer and Bible reading. The Christian family comes together at mealtime, not only to enjoy each other’s company, but also to express thanks to God and to read his Word. Families should look forward to mealtime and make it devotional. We need spiritual food just as much as other food, with the same regularity.
Family devotions ought to be for the entire family, and each member should be urged to participate. We should let the children each read some Bible verses, ask them to present their prayer requests to God, and teach them the practice of regularly reading God’s Word. Consistent family devotions are a spiritual blessing to all members of the family, especially if each one participates. Moreover, the home is the training ground for life, for in the family circle lifelong patterns are set.
Family devotions are exercises in the practice of holiness, because in prayer and the reading of Scripture we enter the holiness of God. Therefore, devotions should never be rushed, conducted thoughtlessly, or skipped altogether. God wants us to come to him with regularity and reverence. As we eat regularly, so we read Scripture and pray regularly. The old cliché is worth repeating: “The family that prays together stays together.” And last, God wants his children to grow spiritually in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
2 Growth in any area of human existence is progressive, incremental. This growth, it goes without saying, is dependent on food as nourishment. Having noted the enduring character of the word of God, Peter depicts this “word” as being the means by which nourishment comes to the Christian. This food, in contradistinction to the vices just enumerated, is “pure” (adolos, GK 100); it is free from mixture, containing not the slightest trace of impurity. Peter describes the word as a kind of “pure spiritual milk,” conjuring an image of life sustenance in its basic form. The believer is to “crave” (epipotheō, GK 2160) the milk of the word, just as a baby craves its milk (the imagery of infants and milk also occurs in 1 Co 3:2; 1 Th 2:7; Heb 5:12). While it is natural for commentators to see in this image the idea of spiritual immaturity (a notion reinforced by the context in which milk is used in Heb 5:12–13), or to view the readers as young in the faith (so, e.g., Beare, 114, and Kelly, 84), the main point of the imagery—illustrated by the verb “crave”—is to stress the idea of hunger and focused pursuit. Peter wishes foremost to convey motivation for growth, not to suggest immaturity on the part of the readers (thus Grudem, 94).
2:2 A second obligation flowing from our new birth is to have an insatiable craving for the pure spiritual milk of the word. The sins mentioned in the previous verse stunt spiritual growth; the good word of God nourishes it.
The phrase as newborn babes does not necessarily mean that Peter’s readers were new believers; they may have been saved for several years. But young or old in the faith, they should thirst for the word just as infants cry for milk. We get some idea of the thirst of the healthy baby by the impatient, aggressive, determined way he sucks and swallows.
By the pure milk of the word, a believer grows up spiritually. The ultimate goal toward which all spiritual growth in this life is moving is conformity to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 153). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 98–101). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 80–82). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 313). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2257). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.