When Peter wrote to Christians scattered and suffering persecution, he impressed upon them the importance of continuing to desire the word of God. He noted its purity and called on the church to long for its truth as newborns desire milk (1 Pet. 2:2). Peter followed up on the command with good reasoning. Christians should know the value of seeking God’s word because they have experienced the Lord’s gracious provision (1 Pet. 2:3). Everything we need is supplied by our wise and loving God (Phil. 4:19; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet 1:3). Diligence in the word is essential for our spiritual growth and development (Ps. 119:9-11; 2 Tim. 2:15). God has delivered to us the model of strong faithful living but refocusing on the proper desire requires us to turn away from the deadly desires of sin. Consider how God tells the church to lay aside these weaknesses to truly live after the Holy Word (1 Pet. 2:1).
The phrase “laying aside” in verse 1 means to set down or to put away. The picture is very much like one taking off an outer garment. We must put sinful desires away if we are truly desiring the word. Christians make this decision repeatedly. We remove wicked desires when we obey the gospel, choosing service to Jesus instead. However, Satan and those who have given themselves over to him will attempt to turn us from our purpose. A desire for God and His word is often replaced in the heart of a Christian who begins to act like the world around him. This call to “lay aside” describes the maintenance of spiritual purity. We must put to death our earthly pursuits, refusing to be conformed to the world or to make friends with what God calls evil (Col. 3:5-8; Rom. 12:1-2; Jas. 4:4).
First, we must lay aside all malice. This could be described as the desire to harm others. The same root word is present in the word malignant. If we allow this evil disposition to be present in our hearts, then we will never respond appropriately to our enemies. When someone insults or attacks us, we may want to respond in like manner. Our Lord has not called us to be avengers though. His doctrine, and the model He lived out, says to respond with good (Matt. 5:28-48). Rather than retaliation, God’s word promotes living peaceably (1 Pet. 3:8-9; Rom 12:17-18).
Second, we must lay aside all deceit. This could be described as the desire to cheat or trick others. Often translated as “guile” or “craft” in the KJV, this same term is used of those who sought to take Jesus by subtlety and kill Him (Matt. 26:4; Mark 14:1). Interestingly, Peter declared the Lord to be free of this evil desire in the very same chapter we are told to lay it aside (1 Pet. 2:22; Isa. 53:9). Our enemy, the devil, is presented in scripture as a cunning trickster. The very name, Satan, means “adversary.” It’s time we realized, to desire to deceive is to desire to be devilish (Gen. 3:1-13; John 8:44)! Rather than deception, God’s word promotes honorably walking in truth (1 Pet. 3:10-12; 3 John 1:4).
Third, we must lay aside hypocrisy. This could be described as the desire to fool others. The word has connections to theater; actors pretend to be someone or something they are not. In the Bible hypocrisy and false religion are denounced by our Lord (Matt. 23:28; Mark 12:15; Luke 12:1). Likewise, many today claim devotion to God, and yet see little problem with contradicting His teachings (Matt. 15:7-9). We could draw specific contrast to the “unfeigned” love Peter noted within the church family (1 Pet. 1:22). Hypocrisy in our spiritual service will draw many away from true religion and bring decay into the church family. Rather than play-acting, God’s word promotes the wisdom of sincerity (Rom. 12:9; Phil. 1:9-11; Jas. 3:13-18).
Fourth, we must lay aside envy. This could be described as the desire to have what rightfully belongs to someone else. Many give in to envy because they have slipped into a materialistic mindset. This can be closely linked with the concept of covetousness (Ex. 20:17; Luke 12:15; Rom. 13:9). When you are envious of another, you have ill will towards them brought on by seeing their well-being. This can ruin our relationships inside and outside the church (Pro. 23:17; Rom. 13:12-14; 1 Cor. 3:1-3). Instead, Christians should be happy when their brother experiences good and be satisfied with what they have been given. Rather than yearning for what belongs to another, God’s word promotes loving support and contentment (Rom. 12:15; 1 Cor. 12:26; Phil. 4:11).
Fifth, we must lay aside all evil speaking. This could be described as the desire to tear down others by lashing out with our tongue. The Greek term used by Peter for evil speaking is a compound word (Lit. “against-speak”). It is far too easy to become inconsiderate with our words. A child of God should never engage in gossip, backbiting, or slander. Always remember how powerful and how dangerous your tongue can be (Pro. 18:21; Jas. 3:1-12). If we become corrupted by the world and lack proper compassion, it shows in our speech. Are you ready to give an account of “every idle word” that comes from your mouth (Matt. 12:33-37)? Rather than the misuse of our tongues, God’s word promotes pure and uplifting speech (Eph. 4:29; Col. 4:6).
May we all desire the word of God to become strong and put off these deadly desires which make us weak!