1 ¶ Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: 3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
Peter tells these Christians to put aside all malice, guile, hypocrisies, envies, and all evil speaking. The context is the spoken word. Malice is the maliciousness, holding hostile feelings in your heart and words for other Christians, meaning them no good. Paul told the Gentile Christians over which he ministered;
1Corinthians 5:8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
1Corinthians 14:20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
Colossians 3:8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
Titus 3:3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
Malice is the context of the evil spoken of following in 1Thessalonians 5 as the passage is on how we are to act as a church toward each other from our bishop or presiding elder who we call a pastor today, through teachers who are pastors in the Bible, and toward each other.
1Thessalonians 5:11 ¶ Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. 12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves. 14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. 15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
16 ¶ Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. [don’t hold preaching in contempt] 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.[check what you hear by the Bible, chew the meat, and spit out the bones] 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
Malice doesn’t have to be a desire to hit someone, get them fired from their job, ruin their marriage, damage their reputation, key their car, or let the air out of their tires. Malice can be expressed in seemingly harmless ways. This can be anything from mean-spirited gossip behind a person’s back to snide comments made just so the person can hear. For instance, someone has made a cake for an event with the church and you say just so they can hear, “I don’t see how anyone could eat that,” and then you smile so sweetly as you walk away. Come on, you’re being a jerk and you know it. You need to get right with God. There is the, “your sermons are getting better!” as if that was a compliment when what you are saying is that you thought the sermons before this one were trash. You’re being a jerk. Another one might be telling a child from unfortunate circumstances that you need to buy him some clothes, thereby cutting his parents to the quick because they can’t afford new clothes for him or themselves. Maybe you tell a child whose parents have told them to say, “Yes, sir,” and, “No, Ma’am,” that the child doesn’t have to say that to you, thereby downgrading the authority of his or her parents. That can also be done by ‘taking someone under your wing,’ so to speak, and trying to replace a parent’s authority and affections, which you hold in contempt, with your own. Malice can take many forms. You know what you’re doing or you’re being thoughtless, which is worse.
You want to drive someone from the congregation, act like their authority over their own children is garbage in your eyes, act like their responsibilities and family ties are trivial, call their job an idol, their fashion sense worldly, and make it clear that their precious time and energy should be there for you to spend in any way you see fit. Do it all in the name of the Lord, and smile sweetly and say plenty of, “praise God.” You’re malicious. Put it aside.
Then, there is the bitterness you feel because someone else was made a deacon and you weren’t or the pastor visited someone but not you, or during a church meeting that you didn’t attend because your favorite football team was playing something was discussed that you had an opinion about and the whole church function wasn’t placed on hold so they could consult you and you are angry and you’re going to teach someone a lesson. You know who you are. Get right with God now.
Guile is deceitful speaking, not saying what you mean, not telling the truth, but trying to maneuver someone to a position where you want them. It can be emotional manipulation to get someone to do something or even just misrepresenting yourself in some way. Telling someone you will pray for them when you have no intention of doing so to express concern is one piece of guile and deceit. You’re sly, you’re cunning, and you use psychology to get what you want. Preachers use guile when they hold an ‘altar call’ so long that someone breaks down from the emotional pressure and ‘gets saved all over again,’ a person certain old-time twentieth century preachers called a retread. Another example might be using someone’s guilt to get them to do something like, “I know since the church helped you when…that you’ll want to come out this Friday and help so and so,” instead of just offering them the opportunity and trusting that if they can make it they will.
Hypocrisies? Like when you say, “I don’t like to gossip but…,” just before you talk about someone. When you complain about another Christian being worldly and carnal because he takes a weekend off to go hunting with family members but you aren’t when you go on vacation to visit your family. Hypocrisies? Like when you criticize a brother because maybe he seemed to appreciate feminine beauty a bit too long with his eyes for your taste while you have that website on your computer you like to click on that has those beautiful air-brushed girls. You know the one that came up when you hit the search function and were trying to show your wife or brother Billy Bob another website and you just exclaimed innocently, “I don’t understand why that showed up.”
Envy is a bitter curse among Christians.
Proverbs 27:4 Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?
For you women you see a girl in the congregation and she’s very pretty. You make snide comments to others about how worldly she is and how you don’t even know if she’s saved. It is clear you don’t like her. But, in reality you are jealous and envious of her youth and beauty and the attention she gets because of it. Or you men, there is someone in the congregation who started a business with his savings of less than a thousand dollars and built it to a nice little business for himself and his family. But, well, you comment about how he doesn’t know what it’s like to worry about paying his bills when the truth is he worries about paying his bills and his employees paying theirs. You have envy, and you are jealous. Christ was killed because of envy.
Mark 15:9 But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? 10 For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.
All evil or malicious speaking will destroy a fellowship, split up a church, and drive people from the congregation.
Peter implores that these Christians, like infants, desire the sincere milk of the word and to grow by it, having tasted it and experiencing firsthand the graciousness of Christ. It is more important that they grow in grace through God’s feeding of them by the word than in numbers with just more butts in the pew who are cultural Christians just there because it makes them feel justified. Perhaps they are Super Bowl Christians just there for an emotional high or political Christians just there because the preacher justifies their political bigotry. What Peter is hoping for is that real Christians will feed on God’s word, not their own evil desires, poisoning the fellowship with their own evil speaking.
As Paul said in Ephesians;
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.