by Mike Ratliff
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12 NASB)
Christian apologetics and discernment are very serious things. It is very easy to incorporate the ways of the world into method and focus in this. When this happens then attacks on professing Christians come from an impure motive. This then causes the ones making the accusations to use slander, speaking evil against their target falsely. They revile the Christian, persecuting him and his ministry using innuendo. They have no real evidence that their accusations are true. Guilt by association is their bludgeon and their usage is meant to deceive many into believing their false report. How are we to balance this? We must continue to stand firm and, using the discernment given to us by God, expose false shepherds. It must begin with godliness.
1 Ἀποθέμενοι οὖν πᾶσαν κακίαν καὶ πάντα δόλον καὶ ὑποκρίσεις καὶ φθόνους καὶ πάσας καταλαλιάς, 2 ὡς ἀρτιγέννητα βρέφη τὸ λογικὸν ἄδολον γάλα ἐπιποθήσατε, ἵνα ἐν αὐτῷ αὐξηθῆτε εἰς σωτηρίαν, 3 εἰ ἐγεύσασθε ὅτι χρηστὸς ὁ κύριος. (1 Peter 2:1-3 NA28)
1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. (1 Peter 2:1-3 NASB)
This passage is part of the Apostle Peter’s exhortation to Christians on how to live and fellowship with other believers all within the power of Christian love. The exhortation starts in 1:22 and runs through 2:3 of 1 Peter. In v2:1 we have what must be “put aside,” αποθέμενοι, in order for us to submit to living within the power of this love. Ἀποθέμενοι literally means “having cast off” something as in the laying aside of an outer cloak. Ἀποθέμενοι is in the aorist, participle, middle case. What does that mean? This is a word describing action that is subject in some way to the main verb in the passage. That verb is found in v2, which is ἐπιποθήσατε or “long” or “desire.”
In other words, putting aside or laying aside these evil things from our lives is intimately associated with how sincere and diligently we “desire,” (επιποθησατε) the (το) pure (αδολον) milk (γαλα) of the word (λογικον). We need to go back to v1 and define the evil things that overtake us when we are not subject to this exhortation in v2, however, let us look first at this “desire,” this επιποθησατε. What we are looking at here is spiritual growth. Those who actually do belong to the Lord, the regenerate sheep of His hand, will have a deep desire or craving to be fed from God’s Word. They delight when it is opened up to them. They rejoice in this with an intensity comparable to a baby’s craving for milk. Christians develop this desire to be fed from God’s truth by remembering the source of their salvation (v1:25; Isaiah 55:10,11; John 15:3; Hebrews 4:12) and by eliminating sin from his or her life (v1) and by admitting his or her need for God’s truth as an infant in complete dependence upon the care of parents (v2) and by pursuing spiritual growth (v2) and by surveying the blessings that come from our gracious God (v3).
As we grow in godliness through this, we will also grow more and more in Christ’s character. In this, we will αποθωμεθα those things that are foreign to it. As we become those living sacrifices who are being transformed through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2) we will continue to grow this way only as far as we match up to Peter’s exhortation from v1. So, having put aside (αποθεμενοι) then (ουν) all (πασαν) evil (κακιαν), and (και) all (παντα) treachery (δολον), and (και) hypocrisies (υποκρισιν), and (και) envies (φθονους), and (και) all (πασας) slander (καταλαλιας) let us continue to pursue God’s truth with the intense craving of a hungry infant.
What is this evil, this κακιαν? It is wickedness as an evil habit of the mind. In other words, this is that left over part of our fallen nature with which our enemy attacks us continually to forego walking in repentance and being transformed by the renewing of our minds and, instead, pursue the things of the flesh.
Treachery, δολον, is translated as guile in the KJV. This is referring to the use of deceitful tactics in order to influence people. This is trickery. If this is how a person “ministers” when they are not “ministering” according to God and His ways.
Hypocrisies, υποκρισιν, describe the acting under a feigned part. This is deceit in action. This is pretending to be one thing while actually being something very different. This hypocrisy is usually revealed to those with discernment when one’s methods and focus are examined and compared with God’s truth.
Envies, φθονους, are the envies or pains felt and malignity conceived at the sight of excellence or happiness. It is a synonym of “malice.” I have often wondered why some people always attack excellent Bible teachers and scholars as they attempt to discredit them or whatever. However, as these men of God become more and more firm in their adherence to God’s truth as the solid foundation for their ministries rather than the philosophies of men or man-made religion then they will be attacked, but there will be no grounds for attack in how they handle God’s Word nor in how they preach and teach it. No, the attacks will be focused on their humanity instead with the hope of discrediting them on that basis. This is why it is critical for us to have Christ as our firm foundation instead of any man.
Slander, καταλαλιας, describes the backbiting, slanderous attacks on a Christian meant as defamation. This is attack from the motive of discredit, not the fruit of real Christian discernment. What is the difference? The difference is that real Christian discernment is based on the comparison of what one teaches or says with what God’s Word says. On the other hand, this καταλαλιας is based on innuendo, guilt by association, and the illogical definition of terms and will always have as its motive the discredit of the target Christian.
We must not do these things my brethren. We must examine what Christian leaders teach and preach, comparing that with what God’s Word says and if there are problems then we confront them with it. If they refuse to repent then we expose them, but if they do submit to God’s discipline and repent then we have been obedient to our Saviour and have been part of His process of reclaiming a brother.
Let us, instead of becoming pawns of our enemy, walk in the power of God’s love as we put away these evil things replacing them with God’s truth as we consume it and are immersed in it daily.
Soli Deo Gloria!