“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”
I Peter 2:2
Mark every word, every phrase! The language is simple; a little child can understand it. Yet, the meaning is tremendous. Here is an exhortation no child of God, old or young, can afford to neglect. “As newborn babes (just born) – desire, (long for, crave) – the sincere (honest, true, unfalsified, undiluted, unadulterated ) – milk – of the word (reasonable, logical, pertaining to the word) – that ye may grow thereby (increase, develop) – unto salvation.” Let’s pause a moment to let every part sink deeply into your soul.
“Milk,” in this word of Peter, does not refer to the Word of God as such, either as the Personal Word the Son, or as the written Word, the Scriptures. True, the passage as quoted above (“sincere milk of the word” – King James Version) does leave that impression. Therefore we would prefer to follow the Holland and translate: “desire the reasonable, unadulterated milk.” This is closer to the original and avoids the error of simply identifying “milk” and “Word.” There is inseparable connection between the two, of course. The Word of God gives content and quality to the milk. However, they are not one and the same.
That the milk here is not simply the Word of God as such is evident from at least three things. The immediate context, chapter 1: 25, speaks of “the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” There is a clear indication of what the apostle has in mind. Besides, the text plainly presupposes that all milk is not equally pure and good. There is such a thing as contaminated milk; milk that is unreasonable, adulterated, falsified, diluted, full of dangerous bacteria. Surely, this cannot be said of the Word of God as such. Finally, the Word of God as such is never the spiritual food for the church or even the individual believer. We are fed by the preaching of that Word, its presentation, this or that conception of it.
Hence, the “milk” here is the preaching, the presentation of the Word of God, the true conception of it. Therein lies the spiritual food for the church. It is altogether possible, that the pure, reasonable, unadulterated Word of God lies on the pulpit (as is the case even in thoroughly modern churches – their teachers of false doctrine preach from the same Bible we do), and that the church nevertheless receives nothing but adulterated milk. The Word, therefore, as it actually reaches the mind and heart of the church is the “milk,” and this milk is pure, of course, only in as far as it is in harmony with the objective Word of God in the Scriptures.
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Note, too, that “milk” in this word of Peter must not be understood as referring to a light diet in distinction from heavier and more substantial food.
We know that the term is often used in this sense. Think of I Corinthians 3:1, 2: “And I, brethren could not speak to you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk (baby-food, that is), and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” Isn’t it terrible? To be told by the Holy Spirit Himself that you are too carnal to be addressed as spiritual? To be called a “babe in Christ,” a little baby with respect to Christ, and His life and Word, a spiritual idiot, therefore? To have to be fed with baby-food all your life because you are not able to digest something more substantial?
Think, too, of what the Spirit says in Hebrews 5:12: “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” Imagine that! Read it again! You ought to be teachers; you have the age; you’ve been born and instructed in the church all your lives; yet, you’re still in the kindergarten! Still struggling with your simple tables, while you should be working algebra and geometry problems! Still on the bottle, while by all that is reasonable you should be taking heavier and more substantial foods! How about it, young people? You’ve been instructed all your lives in the sound doctrines of the Word of God. Still in the kindergarten, still on the bottle, are you?
In these places the church is being reprimanded for still needing milk?
Here believers are called “babies in Christ,” because they are still infants in that wherein they should be adolescents or adults.
Here “milk” refers to a simple diet, a form of preaching adapted to babes or at best Sunday school children.
Certainly, it is no credit to us always to have to be fed with milk because we cannot stand meat. That’s nothing to brag about; nothing to be proud of. Such Christians should be deeply ashamed of themselves. That situation develops where people have not had sound, covenant training; or, where people have had abundant opportunities for such training, but have neglected the years of their youth and sought the pleasures and sports of the world at the expense of the more important things; or, where people fail to study God’s Word in later years; or, where men crave the senseless literature of the world rather than that which can feed the soul; or, when people are so busy with their homes and work and gardens and amusements and golf and bowling and what not, that there is neither time nor desire for the things of the kingdom of God. There men remain babes (is it a wonder?), for whom everything is too deep (is it a wonder?), and who can stand only the thinnest of diets (is it a wonder?), and have no real appreciation at all of the beauty and majesty of the Word of God. I don’t say that there is no difference in capacity between one Christian and another, or that the meat may not be a bit heavy for some people some times. I do say, however, that there is not reason why any Christian with normal intelligence should remain a “baby in Christ” all his or her life.
It should stand to reason, of course, that the church at large should not be deprived of solid foods for the sake of such delinquents, but the latter should use whatever means God has given to improve their health and spiritual capacity for stronger meats. They should read, study, and take a deeper interest in the truth and kingdom of God.
No, “milk” in our passage does not have that connotation.
“Milk” here refers to the preaching of the full Word of God. The apostle uses this term to continue the figure of the newborn child. As such a child craves milk we must desire the milk of the pure preaching. That milk, that preaching of the whole counsel of God, the church can stand too, if only the preacher himself knows what he is talking about, and if only the congregation is properly concerned about the glory and Word of her covenant God.
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“As new born babes,” says Peter, “desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” The reasonable, unadulterated milk!
That milk, the presentation of the Word, therefore, must be “reasonable.” This is not an exact translation. Some expressions are difficult to translate, because they do not have their precise counterpart in other languages. Such is the case here. The meaning seems to be, however: desire the milk, that is in harmony with the Word, that brings you the Word, that derives its contents and quality from the Word of God only. Understood correctly, therefore, the King James Version is not far from the truth: “the sincere milk of the word.”
Moreover, that milk must be unadulterated and in that sense “sincere.” Especially in our day much contaminated, diluted, poisonous milk is delivered to the door of the church. For God’s and your souls’ sake, be on your guard! All kinds of foreign and heretical elements are carried into the preaching, mysticism, modernism, arminianism, pelagianism, man-ism, free will, universal atonement, gracious offer of salvation to all – anything to make the preaching palatable to the corrupt minds and hearts of evil men. We must desire the unadulterated milk, the pure preaching. To that end study the Word of God! Know your doctrine! Be a good connoisseur, lest your soul be slowly poisoned by that which is not at all of God, but of man.
We all know how an infant desires milk. It cries with all its little being, body and soul, heart and lungs and throat. It cries with complete singleness of purpose. It refuses to be comforted with anything but food. Mother knows only too well, that once babe has its little heart on milk she doesn’t have to walk with it, she doesn’t have to rock it or sing to it or play with it or attempt to lay it in its crib. Babe wants milk, nothing else. Once it gets what it wants it will eat and eat until its little stomach is filled to capacity and the milk runs out of its mouth. Newborn babes are such little gluttons. Nor will babe be fed with just anything. If the milk is not what it should be, babe will vomit it all out again.
What a picture! Thus we must desire the sincere milk of the word.
“That ye may grow thereby,” grow in knowledge and wisdom, faith and love, hope and confidence and all the blessings of salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord. This is possible only through the means of this milk, and naturally, the purer and richer the milk (the true conception and preaching of the Word of God) the healthier and more consistent will be our growth, the more deeply we shall be led into the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and the more we shall be confirmed in the blessed assurance of our salvation in Jesus our Savior.