A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Growing Up Into Salvation — from milk to solid food

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:1-3)

Why do we consistently find that pastors, church leaders, and church members seem to be blind and deaf to the issue of evil hiding in the pews of their churches? Is it mere naivety? Sometimes. Is it that wolves are the leaders? Sometimes and more often than we want to know. But let me suggest another reason that is far more widespread than most anyone realizes — the majority of church leaders and professing Christians are spiritual infants who have no capacity to discern good and evil. Let me show you.

Our justification in Christ is passive. Christ has actively accomplished it for us and we simply receive it by faith. Here, Peter is calling upon us to DO something. Put away. Long for. Grow up.This is what, of course, we call sanctification and it is anything but passive on our part. Sanctification is active, requiring action by us in conjunction with the leading and sanctifying work of the Spirit of Christ in us.

Because we have tasted that the Lord is good — that to say, because we have tasted His grace shown us in Christ by which we have been born again — we must turn away from our old futile ignorant life in sin and get what Peter calls “the pure spiritual milk” which enables us to grow into salvation. Any infant longs for his mother’s milk — a baby that doesn’t eat will die. These images are what Peter is using to tell us about our new life in Christ. A newborn Christian must have this “pure spiritual milk.” And this requires US to long for it and take it in. And so Peter leads us here to ask two questions:

  • What is this pure spiritual milk?
  • How is it that we must grow up into salvation? Aren’t we already saved?

Question 1 – What is this pure spiritual milk?

There are other Scriptures that refer to this milk and show us what it is. For example:

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

The basic principles of the oracles of God. Milk. That is what it is. We need it but we must not remain on it as our diet. We must press on, as growing infants do, to solid food as the Apostle says.

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,  for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? (1 Cor 3:1-3)

Same imagery once again. When Paul led the Corinthians to Christ, he gave them what he calls “milk.” The diet of an “infant in Christ.” The basics of the gospel you see. This milk is, I conclude, what Hebrews 6 is referring to —

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. Hebrews 6:1-3

Now, here is a vital point:

In all of these Scriptures, the MILK is basic doctrine which is essential for immature Christians, and from there we are urged to press on to the solid food necessary for maturity. And the diet of those pressing on in maturity in Christ is PRACTICE and APPLICATION of that truth. 

In all of these Scriptures then, notice what is the real mark of maturity in Christ — Putting away the old ways of sin, putting to death the deeds of the flesh, loving one another, and being trained to distinguish good from evil.

Because THIS is where the milk is supposed to lead us! To the real food. To Christian adulthood.

This means that the Christian who is all caught up in minutiae of doctrine and nuances of theology, or the preacher whose every sermon is an evangelistic altar call, or who preaches primarily on hair-splitting doctrinal issues that sound Christians are uncertain of (the regulatory principle, the impassivity of God, the continental theology of the Puritans, etc.) is feeding on and dishing out spiritual baby food. And so often these kinds of people are characterized by jealousy, strife, ignorance of good and evil, because they are still a baby Christian at best! It means that the “diet” served up at most seminaries and in many, many Christian books, is mere milk.

And this is why most church leaders and even big name Christian figures gag when we point out the evil that is lurking in the churches. It is like serving a thick steak to a 6 month old child.

Obviously the pure spiritual milk Peter is speaking of, telling us to long for, is the Word of God. But even Peter notes that the purpose of all of this diet is that we “grow up into salvation.” Maturity. Wisdom.

*****

This is an excerpt from a sermon that Pastor Crippen delivered on 16 October 2016.  The entire audio and PDF of the sermon can be found here.

6 Comments

  1. 3blossommom

    After living with a wolf (who has been both a pastor and missionary), I can attest to the fact that many in the church are exactly as you describe. Now we are divorcing and I find that many of those who have seen or heard confessions of his evil, and know he repeats it, often respond to him as spiritual babes. It doesn’t seem to matter how bad he proves to be; they will open the door to him. Another lie is revealed and they search for a way that it might have been a misunderstanding rather than a lie. Another mistress or girlfriend is revealed and I need to have mercy and think of him as a prodigal who can’t help himself and needs the Father’s love and therefore my mercy. His behavior is blamed (by some) on our bad marital communication and my need to ask his forgiveness, because that is what he has told them. My own congregation is pretty wise and I appreciate it so much, but others seem unable or unwilling to believe that his evil is evil. That he should be avoided and not supported. That he should not be trusted. That his motives aren’t genuine. Some day I’m sure he will have yet another confession and “repentance” and attach himself to another unwary congregation and win them with his charm and good deeds. I just hope I’m not around to see it.
    Thank you for calling the church to grow up. It gives women like me hope that things might change some day.

    • Jeff Crippen

      3blossom – This is the worst of the worst kind. The one who parades as pastor/missionary, who can stand up and preach and pray and talk piety with no pang of conscience at all. This kind never changes. Seared beyond repentance. And the reaction, as you have so accurately described here, of professing Christians to such a person is extremely revealing about them. “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” for them is more appropriately worded, “There is no evil, there is no evil, there is no evil.” Blessings on you in Christ and thank you.

      • anonymous

        Yep!!! The pastor/missionary is the worst. Seared conscience beyond belief. Sense of entitlement that literally makes you sick to watch unfold. Divorced now 4 months and yet because he is in the public to a degree, I can still see things he posts on the Internet to make himself look like a servant and follower of Jesus. He is a fake, a wolf and a predator. He is only heaping upon himself severe judgement. God will NOT be mocked.

  2. I’ll readily admit that I was one of the naive ones until ten years ago. But an important difference you’ve mentioned before, Jeff: if someone is simply naive but wants to walk in truth, when faced with the truth will listen and receive it. There are others, who are naive and want to stay that way, who won’t receive the truth.

    As one who has faced a good bit of backlash from those who won’t receive the truth, I believe a lot of it is because it is simply too earth-shattering for people; their world would turn upside down when they see that the leaders who speak well, in some cases counsel sensibly, and even in some cases show kindness to others–those leaders they thought they could trust–were doing something completely different behind closed doors (whether it’s actually abuse or “just” protecting the abusers).

    These naive people would have to grapple with the new reality, the way I had to do beginning in 2006, and some of them choose not to do that. When they make that choice, they keep their life simpler, more black and white, I guess, but it stays shallow, becomes sterile, and turns sour as they descend into protecting the wrong people, which is a way of doing evil. This is surely a “woe” on the body of Christ.

    • healinginhim

      Rebecca, you’ve stated it very well. Years ago, when I finally started divulging the brokenness (abusiveness) in relationship with my in-laws which affected the marriage which affected the children …. Well, the response I usually received from the ‘churched’ ladies was that my in-laws usually treated them nicely and in referring to the man I married. “Oh, I just can’t believe ‘he’ would show anger.”
      I learned very quickly then to keep my mouth shut. It has taken years but God was faithful in finally allowing the true colours of my abusers to unfold. AND even then some still refuse to see the evil … they choose to be naïve.

      • standsfortruth

        This willful type of church blindness reminds me of the scripture quoted to the rich man regarding his treatment of Lazarus durring his lifetime.
        Abraham’s reply to the rich man’s request to say something to warn the living of the reality of his place of torment.

        Luke 16:11
        But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, not even will they be persuaded if one should rise out from the dead.'”

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