One of the ways in which God keeps the Bible relevant throughout the ages is by using timeless illustrations. And for our instruction, the Holy Spirit has given us one of those illustrative metaphors right here. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”
Babies have been essentially the same since the birth of Cain. There has been no evolutionary development in the birth of babies or in the babies themselves. The delivery process has not changed in 6,000 years, despite all the advances in medicine and technology. I know we could talk about pain meds, Caesarian sections, contraction inducement drugs and life-saving post-birth treatments, but in reality what Eve experienced so did my wife, Judy. And the primary need of Eve’s newborn was provided by God before it were needed, and that too has remained the same for many thousands of years. The evolutionary mythologists cannot explain, with their fancy theories, the simple existence of the breast and mother’s milk.
It was the Lord Jesus who first spoke of salvation as a birth – a second birth. Peter has just mentioned that these recently-saved people had been “born again… by the word of God…” And he had earlier said that they had been “begotten” by God. Now he likens these new Christians to babes, and therefore they should yearn for the only nutritional food created by God especially for them. “Desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”
I know that according to evolution, 6,000 years is not much time, but still… why haven’t babies evolved since Eve’s first child? For example, why can’t newborns stop wailing long enough to simply say, “Mother, would you be so kind as to feed me?” Why can’t they say, “Mummy, my tummy hurts?” or “My diaper needs to be changed?” One reason today’s babies can’t ask for such things is that there has been no evolutionary development of speech in the unborn or the newborn. I know that I sound silly, but I’m not being any more silly than the evolutionist.
And with that I come to the title of tonight’s message: “Questions Babies Never Ask.” Newborn babies in the neonatal ward of the hospital never ask the questions I have in mind. And I suppose that newly born babes in Christ might not ask them either. Nevertheless, for the sake our lesson, I’d like to put three questions into their mouths:
First: Is the Lord truly gracious?
“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” You have noticed that the Lord is gracious, haven’t you? I wonder how much light-hearted facetiousness there was in Peter. I wonder if he wrote verse 3 with a smile on his lips. Or was he deadly serious? If these people were genuine Christians, then they had “tasted” the Lord, so to speak. Peter was assuming they were genuine children of God, not hypocrites or fakes. They had done as Jesus had said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” Peter had heard that these people had had “tasted” and then “eaten” Christ by faith. They had tasted and enjoyed, so they went on to fill their hearts with the Lamb of God, finding Him to be “gracious.”
It might surprise you to learn that this word “gracious” is not referring to the “grace” you usually picture. I’m not implying that this “grace” is not in any way God’s “unmerited favor,” but it’s not the same word. This word is found in only seven verses, and it is translated in various ways, a couple of which read: “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” – Romans 2:4. And Ephesians 4:32 says – “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
The context of this verse tells us that when Peter used the word “Lord” he was speaking about Christ the Son. But let us not forget Jesus’ words: “I and the Father are one.” It is impossible not to jump back and forth between the Father and the Son in these verses.
Peter is asking: “Haven’t you found the Lord to be the perfect Father and the perfect Brother?” As wonderful as your mother has been to you, God is a better mother than your mother could ever be. Their kindness, for example, is infinitely greater than any human kindness – even motherly kindness. The Father proved his love “in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” He loved us before we were His children; He loved us when were enemies, filled with hatred toward Him. Peter is saying, “Look at the goodness, grace and kindness which God has already rained upon you.” You have tasted a few morsels and enjoyed them, and now you can be sure there is more yet to come.
“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” The word “desire” is found in nine verses, and it is translated eight different ways. For example, Paul told the Romans, “I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift…” And to the Philippians he wrote – “God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” Perhaps the power of the word is best seen in II Corinthians 5 – “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved (if we die); we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.” What Peter is saying is that normal Spiritual babies yearn for nourishment as strongly as a new born baby yearns and screams for his mother’s milk. Have ye tasted that the Lord is gracious? Are you a babe of God?
With that, our second question becomes: “Is there really a need for milk?”
Absolutely. There a need for that baby to put on weight, strengthen a muscle or two and develop his mind. Just as human parents expect their children to grow and develop, the Lord has a similar expectation of us. When human parents begin to see their child lag behind in average growth, they become worried. And Peter, as a representative of the Lord, expects to see spiritual growth in his younger Christian brethren.
There are probably new born babies who are not healthy enough to nurse – or even to desire to nurse. But the vast majority of infants want to nurse, yearn to nurse, live to nurse. And when they can’t have the milk or formula they need and want, they aren’t ashamed to speak up about it. They need the milk which the Creator designed for them.
I can’t say there haven’t been sinners God has saved, who never put on a spiritual pound or developed a spiritual muscle during the rest of their earthly lives. I can’t say the Lord hasn’t saved some souls whose never left their spiritual infancy. But that is not what the Lord intended, and those dwarf saints will leave the Lord’s judgment throne with remorse for the waste of their lives.
God’s children need to grow, and that necessitates God’s spiritual milk – the food our Heavenly Parent specifically created for that purpose. That further means those babes need to be in one of God’s churches where the counsel of God is served. Everyone of us need to be taught to observe all the things whatsoever our Saviour has commanded us. The Lord’s church should be the health food/gymnasium where we can put on the weight and strength we need in order to serve the Lord. Do we need to grow and mature? We need it as much spiritually as we do physically. And the healthy child longs for it. Have there ever been any five-year-olds who didn’t want to be six? Has there ever been a nine-year-old who didn’t long to be ten? There should never be a Christian who isn’t excited to learn something new about his Saviour.
By the way, the Revised Standard Version of the Bible promotes a horrendous false doctriney at this point. In that version, verse two says, “Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation.” That is blatant heresy. Salvation isn’t something we grow into, like our father’s old navy uniform. Salvation is the gift of God; it is something in which we ought to grow. We are to advance in our Christian lives through spiritual growth. That is what Peter was saying, but it was not what Westcott and Hort were saying.
With that we come to our third question: Is the milk of God’s word sufficiently nutritious?
Can we properly grow in a spiritual way feeding on nothing but the Word of God? The answer is illustrated in what we see the new-born baby wanting to eat, and what he actually can eat. I’m not saying that if an evil or stupid man stuffed a piece of steak into the mouth of a three day old baby, that child wouldn’t suck it down. But I will say it could very well kill that child, either through strangulation or creating digestive problems. There is only one food that an infant needs: breast milk or something very nearly the same.
This puts a lot of responsibility upon the parents to whom the Lord has given this child. They are responsible to feed their child milk and not Red Bull Energy Drinks. That baby is not smart enough to study the nutrition label and to make sure there is enough protein and fat in his mother’s milk. The parents, the mother, need to make sure her baby is being properly fed. Some moms have a hard time nursing their child, but they must try their very best or that baby will die.
Of course, there has never been a person born again by the Spirit of God, who died a spiritual death. But there have been thousands who didn’t prosper, because they didn’t sufficiently feed on the milk of God’s Word. Again, this comes back to bringing that infant to the Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. The spiritual newborn needs to sip on God’s Word throughout the week, but he also needs to guzzle the Word with the rest of the family whenever they gather. And 9½ times out of ten, he will not read God’s Word at home, if he is not also being encouraged in the Word at a good church.
Notice the word “sincere” in verse 2. It means “unadulterated,” “pure,” or “undiluted.” I have heard of parents who put chalk in their toddler’s milk, to make it go farther. That is potentially dangerous if not actually criminal. What happens when water or anything else is mixed with milk? First of all it reduces the fat content, along with colostrum and other nutrients the baby needs. And then with the addition of anything, even water, there is the danger of adding pollutants, germs and even poisons.
In the infant stages of the Christian life, those babies need the unfiltered, undiluted, unadulterated Word of God, that they may grow thereby. Their spiritual parents need to remember that even the best Bible commentator may add a virus into the milk. Yes, as that child grows, he will develop a taste for organized doctrine and deeper theology, but as an infant he simply needs milk.
Peter is reminding these Christians of their spiritual birth and urging them from time to time to remember what it was like at the beginning of their spiritual lives. He is saying, you came into God’s family as newborn babes: innocent and helpless – without guile. But you’ve taken on some unhealthy sins and practices. “Laying aside all malice, and all guile… as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby.”
Generally speaking, we have long spiritual lives ahead of us. Lives which we are expected to use for the glory of the Lord. In order to do that we need proper nutrition, exercise, companionship and support. We need to feast on God’s Word especially in the context of a scriptural church family.