Unbrotherliness: Hindrance To Christian Growth

By Jimmy Tuten

When one through faith is baptized into Christ he becomes a “new creature” (Gal. 3:26-27; 2 Cor. 5:17). This brings with it the responsibility of growth expressed in Scripture as working out one’s salvation (Phil. 2:12). The maturing needed to become spiritually mature does not come spontaneously. It requires effort, self-denial, watchfulness and prayer. Peter tells us to grow in grace (2 Pet. 3:8). Just as a plant has to be assisted in its growth, so the Christian needs encouragement. But more importantly he will need to exert effort. The Christian is a privileged person, being a member of the family of God (Eph. 3:15; 1 Pet. 2:9). Bound by these, he is to exhibit a life worthy of his sacred calling (1 Pet. 1:15). Only then can he hope to receive the end of his faith, “even the salvation” of his soul (1 Pet. 1:9). To assist in this growth, the Apostle Peter gives a number of admonitions. One of them is: “wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings” (1 Pet. 2:1).

“Putting Away Therefore”

The “laying aside” (KJV), or literally “putting away,” is translated from apothesthai “which is the word for stripping off one’s clothes” (Barclay). The meaning is to lay aside, to “cast off, used figuratively of works of darkness” (Vine). Coming from a participle, it has imperative force. It is therefore a definite act, the putting away once and for all, or simply the denouncing all manner of wickedness. The Christian must avoid whatever is antagonistic to the development of the new life. There must be a complete right-about face.

The things mentioned in our text are dispositions and manifestations that offend against our relationship as brethren. They are hurtful to our Divine nature due to the fact that they represent a class of sins to which Christians are especially prone. The admonition concerning “subjection” in its various relationships are made difficult if such actions are engaged in to any degree (1 Pet. 2:13,18; 3:1). Peter mentions five things his readers had been swaddled in and these must be put aside as one would discard a filthy garment. These are all offenses against the law of love; they come from Satan and have the taint of hell. They are the essence of unbrotherliness that hinder the family of God (1 Tim. 3:15).

Malice: Desire To Hurt

“Malice” frequently carries the idea of wickedness in general, but in our text it suggests the desire to hurt someone (Oberst). It has reference therefore to a special kind of ill-will or malignity, from the slightest beginnings up to the most deadly expression such as slander. Webster defines it as “active ill-will” or “to do mischief.” It is a state of the mind wherein is the intention to do what is unlawful. It falls into a classification of deeds that are diabolic in nature:

(1) Malice: implies deep-seated animosity that delights in causing others to suffer or in seeing them suffer.

(2) Ill will implies hostile or unfriendly feelings such as dispose one to wish evil on others.

(3) Spite: suggests a mean desire to hurt, annoy, or frustrate others, usually displayed in petty, vindictive acts.

(4) Rancor. implies an intensely bitter ill will that rankles.

(5) Malignity: suggests extreme and virulent malevolence that is relentless in “pressing itself.

(6) Grudge. implies ill will inspired by resentment over a grievance.

The Christian cannot and must not harbor malice. “Grudge not one against another, brethren, less ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door” (Jas. 5:9).

Guile: Sin In The Mouth

“Guile” is deceitfulness, especially lying and false speech. It is usually spoken of as being on the lips or found in the mouth. Since the word more literally means a bait or contrivance for entrapping, deceit or fraud, it carries with it the idea of entrapment through speech. No wonder James lays so much stress on the tongue as a world of iniquity (Jas. 3:5-10). “Speak not evil one of another, brethren” (Jas. 3:11).

Hypocrisies: Spirituality In Pretense

The word “hypocrisies” is used metaphorically and indicates pretense. It comes from a word that originally meant an actor on a stage, one who seemed to be the person he was portraying. It means to impersonate. The Christian is not to appear better than what he actually is, or, to put it another way, he is to live and practice spirituality from the heart. Pretense and deception are sinful (it was the leaven of the Pharisees, Matt. 23:25-26). We cannot pretend to be what we know we are not.

Envies: The Sin Of Discontent

Envy is the feelings of discontent connected with ill-will at seeing the good fortune of another. “It springs from jealousies which are, in fact, concealed malice in hearts that are displeased with all beauty, achievement, virtue, or any other desirable qualities in others” (Coffman). Unlike jealousy which displays displeasure over another’s fortune, envy carries with it the desire for what another has achieved advantage over.

Evil Speakings: An Attempt To Injure

Evil speaking involves the attempt to injure another. It describes the speech that the spirit of malignity inspires (i.e., envies). Wuest says: “the words ‘evil speakings’ are in the Greek text ‘speaking down’ a person, referring to the act of defaming, slandering, speaking against another” (First Peter In The Greek New Testament, p. 51). It literally means to run a person down, to belittle, to speak disparagingly about the reputation, worth or character of another. Any form of false or malicious statement is a sin against brethren (cf. the verb form, “speak against” in 1 Pet. 2:12). James says, “speak not one against another, brethren” (4:11). He uses the same word that Peter uses. This is especially needful concerning our conduct toward brethren who are to be the special objects of our love (Gal. 6:10). In fact, having spoken of the need of brotherly love, Peter probably has in mind the cultivation of it when he speaks of these five things to be put away (cf. 1 Pet. 1:22).


The Jerusalem Bible translates 1 Peter 2:1 as follows: “be sure, then, you are never spiteful, or deceitful, or hypocritical, or envious and critical of each other.” We live in a time when brethren seem less concerned about others who make up the family of God. We do not cease to hear or witness the deterioration of brotherliness in congregations throughout the land. This must not to be. “We be brethren.” Dare we lose sight of this significant fact? After our baptism into Christ we began to live a higher life (1 Pet. 1:22). How has it expressed itself in our lives? Will we desire the milk of the Word (1 Pet. 2:2)? Will we grow, or be smothered in the filthy rags of sinfulness?

Guardian of Truth XXXII: 18, pp. 555-556
September 15, 1988