Disentanglement – 1 Peter 1:22-2:3

by Roger McCay
26 January 2020
Sermon Passage: 1 Peter 1:22-2:3
Link to Audio Version

Have you ever noticed on some laundry detergents, the label says, “In case of accidental ingestion, drink a glass of water or milk, and contact a poison control center?”

Why milk? Is milk an antidote of some kind? No, milk is not an antidote, per se. What it does is form a barrier in your stomach and intestines that puts up a resistance to the poison being digested. This is due to the lactose in the milk. The human body cannot digest lactose by itself. For this it needs an enzyme called lactase. Mark Jaquith explains what happens.

Once all available enzymes are put to work breaking up lactose, additional incoming lactose molecules are put on a waiting list. While they’re waiting for a lactase spot to open up, your incredibly acidic gastric juices start doing a number on the milk that is just sitting in your stomach. The hydrochloric acid in your stomach turns the milk into hard-to-digest curds… sort of like what milk looks like when you leave it out for a few days. These curds end up coating your stomach and your intestines, and give you a case of indigestion. And if you’ve just swallowed a poison, indigestion is exactly what you want![1]

So, “by drinking milk, you not only dilute the detergent (or other poison), you overwhelm the lactase enzymes, allowing your stomach’s hydrochloric acid to curdle the milk. This then coats your stomach and intestines, slowing down the rate with which your body absorbs the poison.” [2]

Milk can save your life—keeping poison from being fully digested by your system, and helping your body to more rapidly expel it from your system.

In our passage today, Peter talks about milk, a metaphor of the Lord’s Word. He tells us a healthy believer is like an infant craving his or her mother’s milk. Drinking the milk, Christians receive the Lord’s nourishment towards growing into the loving people we are called to be, and we receive a defense against the poison of anti-love. Likewise, unless we drink this milk of the Lord’s Word, tasting that the Lord is good, we remain poisoned in the entanglement of anti-love.

In 1 Peter 2:1, Peter lists the traits of anti-love as malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander. These entanglements are all tied together. If one is present, the others are found right there with it. They are community and relationship destroying poisons; for where you find these things, love is not.

Malice is a general evil of ill will towards others, or the nursing of grudges towards individuals or groups. It is a darkness within, tainting one’s outlook towards people. It is the delighting in others’ misfortune. Some say the opposite of love is indifference. Indifference, however, is a form of malice, as they both are an absence of love. It’s kind of like how not deciding on something is actually deciding on something.

Tied in closely with malice is envy. Envy is an internal disposition that fuels malice with its bitterness. It may have a semblance of love for someone or something, but such is an illusion covering a self-dissatisfaction and a self-loathing, which has been turned upon the envied. It is, as Dan Doriani, one of my professors at Covenant, defines:

“the gnawing sorrow we feel when someone else has something that we think we deserve…. it hurts everyone. It torments the subject, who envies, and it hopes to destroy the happiness of the one envied…. The envious compare themselves to others and, for some perverse reason, always decide that they come up short.”[3]

Hypocrisy is acting counter to what one says or believes. It has been defined as “including ordinary inconsistency between belief and practice, between one’s inner and outer life. It includes self-deception as well as deception of others.”[4] It is insane, as action has become detached from ones expressed beliefs. Yet it is sane because the action is consistent with one’s true beliefs. Someone says she believes in love and is loving, and actually thinks she does and is, yet her malice, fueled by envy, is plain to all in her actions. Hypocrisy can be both sincere and hypocritical. Deceiving ourselves we easily deceive others with our sincerity.

Malice, hypocrisy and envy readily lead to deceit and slander, as they are all entangled. Doriani comments:

Deceit and slander are both primarily sins of the tongue. When we deceive, we shade the truth, ordinarily to someone’s face. Slander is bald opposition to the truth, ordinarily behind someone’s back. The deceiver hides the truth. The gossip sometimes tells the truth, but delivers it to the wrong people. The slanderer boldly lies, pretending to deliver the truth. [5]

Deceit is a wide-ranging sin that can be accomplished by word and/or by deed. Slander can be an expression of envy, maliciously hurting another, while hypocritically and deceitfully saying they are just telling the truth.

Some of you might know that my wife and I have dumped Facebook. Now, please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that you should also dump Facebook; such a decision is between you and the Lord. For us, however, it was the right thing to do. Why? Well, the newsfeed always seemed to be a constant stream of the anti-love entanglements—malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander. In casting off Facebook, I can say, in all honesty, that I actually feel better physically, mentally, and spiritually. This passage helps explain why. It’s because I removed a source of poison in my life.

When we gaze upon such anti-love sentiments, they infect our health. They hurt us. We drink them in; we ingest the poison. It steals our joy, fuels our envy which fuels malice, leading to hypocrisy and slander. This is why Paul says in Phil. 4:8,

“whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

And what is more honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise than love in truth of heart and action?

The Lord is love in truth of heart and action—that’s the gospel. As the Lord’s people, he empowers us to love one another. It is his command, after all (John 15:12): “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

This is why Peter can say in 1:22 …

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

Obedience to the truth is to believe the gospel (Gal. 5:11-7; Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5-6). Believing, our souls are purified, made holy by the Spirit of God. He enables us to follow Jesus in obedience to his commands. Thus, in his power we can truly love one another.

Such supernatural love from a pure heart is not tainted with the poisons of anti-love. The word “love” used here, is agape love, meaning it chooses to love someone.

Love is an act of will, expressed in action
Love is truly sought after and obtained.
Love is sincere, not feigned—a true thing.
Love is affectionate and heartfelt.
Love is brotherly, seeking the beloved’s best interests.
Love is not calculating or self-serving, but selfless.
Love is earnest, deep;
Love goes the extra mile;
Love is enduring.

Agape is how God loved us, and his love is our example in how we are to love one-another.

It takes both discernment and self-discipline to help us perceive how we can express agape love. Discernment comes from the Lord’s Word and Spirit. Self-discipline comes from a gospel purified heart deliberately following Jesus.

When we actively seek to love someone, it is like light ruthlessly and violently driving away darkness. There are all kinds of ways to do this. One example is to turn envy to praise. Try this, you will surely get the opportunity. Rather than succumb to the temptation to envy a person for some blessing in their life, praise the Lord for his blessings on that person instead. And stubbornly keep at it. Make it heartfelt. Love is a sincere, selfless act of the will that goes the extra mile. God did this for you. He enables you to do it for others.

That is following Jesus my friends. Casting off those things that easily entangle us, we deny ourselves (rejecting malice, envy, etc.). In humility we put our neighbor’s welfare before our own. We take up our cross and kill our sin upon it, putting it to death. And we follow Jesus as he leads the way. We do this every day. We do it each step on the road of righteousness—showing our love for God and our neighbor.

Therefore, let us love one-another. Let us avoid poisoning ourselves. Let us avoid poisoning others. And let us avoid needlessly entangling ourselves, as we follow Jesus. True Christians must love one another.

Take a look again at vv. 23-24

23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for [and Peter quotes from Isaiah 40 here] “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

It is a great comfort that, when we are born again, we know the poisonous entanglements of anti-love cannot kill us with the final death. For, not only have we been born again, we have been born again according to the seed that is imperishable. The fruit of perishable seed withers and falls, but from imperishable seed springs forth life eternal. Our conception came through hearing the living, abiding, eternal Word of God, the gospel. Its promises and revelations are true and never die. The Word of God promises that those who believe in Jesus, even though we die, will live forever (John 11:25-26).

Even so, until the Lord comes again in final Judgment, the entanglements of anti-love are a threat, as we continue to sin. While ingesting these poisons may not kill us in this life (unless it does–Acts 5 and 1 Cor. 11), they can certainly make us sick and ineffective, hindering our walk with Christ. Thankfully, by the Lord’s grace, we are not left gasping in pain on the side of the road.

1 Peter 2:3 tells us, “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” If you are born again, because you are born again, you have already and certainly tasted the Lord’s goodness. You have heard and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ and have been blessed with all its benefits. Having experienced God’s grace in Christ, we are now in a position to cast off the entanglements anti-love.

How do we do this? What defense do we have, and how might the poison be purged, so we might live a righteous life in the Lord? Peter answers this saying in v. 2:

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation

As born-again believers, our needs are like that of newborn infants. We need nourishment to grow up and thrive. How does that happen? Like newborn infants crave their mother’s milk, we long for the pure spiritual milk, which is the living and abiding Word of God in which we were conceived. Drinking that pure spiritual milk keeps the poison from sinking in and destroying us. The Lord, through his Word and Spirit purges it, making us healthy and whole—enabling us to love our neighbor. Disentangled from the elements of anti-love, nourished on God’s Word, we then grow in the grace, knowledge, and love of the Lord—growing into our salvation.

My friends, consider whether you crave the Word of God. Be honest with yourself. If you don’t, is it because you are ingesting something else?

Without the firm foundation that comes from constant study of the Word of God, how can you cast off the entanglements to your walk with Christ? How can you be transformed by the Word and learn self-discipline from the Word? How can you defend against the poison of anti-love? How can you discern what is right and wrong, what is the will of God, so that you might love with agape love?

In a sermon here a couple of weeks ago, I emphasized the problem that most people read the Bible sporadically. So, here we are once again, and, if that described you then, does it still describe you now? If so, why are you hurting yourself? When you don’t have the milk of God’s Word constantly in your system, you become vulnerable to malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander. Why do that to yourself and others? Such is the antipode of love.

Drink the Word of the Lord. Long for it, crave it like a newborn craves mother’s milk. Then you will be able to defend against and expel the poison. Then you will be able to grow up into your salvation, better loving your brother and sister in Christ. True Christians must grow in the Word.

You’ve heard the slogan “Got Milk?” How about “Got Word?”

“Milk from Moo to You.” How about “The Word from God to You.”

“Milk matters.” How about “The Word matters.”

My friends, love one another and grow in his Word. Because true Christians are born again, we must cast off the entanglements of anti-love.


[1] Mark Jaquith, “In Case of Poison Ingestion: Drink Milk?”, last modified October 25, 2005, https://txfx.net/2005/10/20/in-case-of-poison-ingestion-drink-milk/.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Daniel M. Doriani, 1 Peter, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2014), 60.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 61.