Meditations in 1 Peter : 19 : Newborn Babies
1 Pet 2:2,3 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Trying to follow the flow of thought in the letter writers in the New Testament is a fascinating exercise. In the previous chapter Peter spoke about us being ‘born again’, and we have given some consideration to that, and so it is perhaps not surprising that he now speaks of “newborn babies.” But he doesn’t now say that we are newborn babies, just that we should be like newborn babies in respect of what he is going on to talk about.
Really the last part of the verse could equally come at the beginning: “now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” i.e. you’ve been born again and you have experienced a little of the Lord, and what you have experienced is good. So, now you know this new life is good, yearn to be fed and grow. That is where this is going, so let’s consider the individual parts of the verse.
“Like newborn babies”. We’ve already noted that he is using new babies as an illustration of what he wants us to be like. What do they do? “Crave…milk” or yearn to be fed, again and again. Young mothers know the reality of this and the first weeks are spent feeding and feeding and feeding which sometimes almost becomes a trial for the mother but is essential for the baby. In those early months the baby may be taken to be weighed and the hope is that it will be putting on weight through feeding, and if it hasn’t then there is a checking out of its feeding.
This is the picture Peter is presenting to us as an illustration of what he expects to see in newborn Christians. He wants to see them craving for “pure spiritual milk.” Now he doesn’t explain what he means by that but it has got to refer to spiritual food which we must take to mean the word of God. This is where the Bible – reading it and being taught it – is revealed to have a unique role as God takes it and feeds the new believer with it. There’s nothing so wonderful as being instrumental in bringing others to Christ, but that is followed by the wonder of having the privilege of feeding hungry spiritual babies, new Christians. They are full of questions and when they first come across truths in the Bible their hunger is a delight to behold.
The writer to the Hebrews chides his readers using the same sort of language: “you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature.” (Heb 5:11-14) There he refers to milk as “elementary truths of God’s word.” Milk, he says, is for infants and you need to go on to something more substantial.
And that is exactly where Peter is going: “so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” Do you remember something we consider earlier in chapter 1: “you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1:9). Do you remember, we spoke of it being an ongoing process that he is referring to there. So this process of going on receiving your salvation involves you receiving the truth of God’s word into your life and thereby growing.
We need to realise that this isn’t merely receiving new information; it is receiving it and applying it. Jesus taught, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, …. teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19,20) Becoming a disciple means becoming a doer of God’s word, not merely knowing about it. For instance Jesus again taught, “Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” and “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man.” (Mt 7:21 & 24). This is what the feeding the Peter speaks about should do. It should be taken in and received and then bring forth fruit of a changed life. Indeed that is what maturity is about.
That, we should note, is the goal of this verse, that we “grow up”. Paul spoke similar language: “as your faith continues to grow.” (2 Cor 10:15). Peter is going to finish his second letter with a further similar exhortation: “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet 3:18). Yes, when we come to Christ that is only the beginning. We have a life of learning infront of us and if we don’t we will never mature but will remain spiritual pigmies. God doesn’t want that; He has something better for you! Receive it, grow in it.