INTRO: Good morning. In Matthew 5 verses 1 through 12 we find the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 5:1-16 – “1. And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.
2. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
3. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
7. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
8. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11. "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
12. "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Following the beatitudes, Jesus tells His followers that people who receive these blessings matter:
13. "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
14. "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15. "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
16. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
I know this passage is familiar to us, and I’m glad it is. I think repeatedly reading the Bible is probably one of the best things we can do for ourselves. Reading the Bible often, gets us familiar and comfortable with the contents. Then, as we get into deeper study on the text, we will find the studying easier and more productive.
This morning we will be looking at the last few verses of this passage, 13 through 16, about the salt and the light.
I. First of all, salt. Salt is absolutely fascinating. In ancient times, salt was considered very valuable. In our time we don't really have a feel for that. Salt was accepted and collected as taxes by the Romans. One of the main sources of salt for Palestinians of course, was the Dead Sea, or Salt Sea. Salt was also an important article of trade, and was transported by boat across the Mediterranean, along specially built salt roads, and even across the Sahara on camel caravans.
A. In the days before refrigeration, the only way to preserve meat was to salt it. They would rub the salt into the meat or soak it in brine. They either kept it soaked in brine or they just left the salt on and let it harden. Salt is a preservative.
1. The word salary comes from an ancient word meaning “salt-money,” referring to a Roman soldier’s allowance for the purchase of salt. Someone who earns his pay is still said to be “worth his salt.”.
2. Salt was a sign of friendship. Today in some cultures, if two men partake of salt together they are sworn to protect one another—even if they had previously been enemies. People in other cultures throw salt over their shoulders when they make a promise.
3. Aristotle wrote about a Greek proverb; “As the proverb says, men cannot know each other until they have eaten salt together.”
B. There were salt covenants and one is mentioned in II Chronicles 13:5 - “Should you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the dominion over Israel to David forever, to him and his sons, by a covenant of salt?” Here, Abijah refers to the strong, binding promise of God to give Israel to David and his sons forever.
C. Salt was a very important commodity in ancient times. When Jesus said, you are the salt of the earth, and they heard just that phrase… they could have thought about a lot of different things. They could have thought Jesus was saying, for instance, that they were valuable, since salt was valuable.
D. Salt was also used to season food. Food without salt just seems to have something missing. Many people have a difficult time when they are asked to go on a salt free diet.
1. The Bible illustrates that concept. In Job 6:6 “Can flavorless food be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?” What a difference there is between an egg with salt and an egg without salt. Those listening may have thought of this seasoning idea.
2. They could have thought of… …Well in Ezekiel, chapter 16, there's an interesting use of salt at the birth of a baby in verse four. “As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor swathed in swaddling cloths”
a. It was a practice in ancient times that when a baby was born it is first washed with water and then salt is rubbed all over the baby's body. The practice is not well understood now. It may have been that in the process of birth, some nicks or scratches may have occurred and the salt would have acted as a healing agent that would be good for the skin.
b. It may have had something to do with the idea that salt would help toughen the newborns skin. However, a baby that was not salted at birth, was considered neglected in very ancient times.
E. Salt, though, could also serve a destructive purpose. In Judges 9:45 – “So Abimelech fought against the city all that day; he took the city and killed the people who were in it; and he demolished the city and sowed it with salt.” Land that has been salted will not grow most plants that are used for food. Asparagus has a higher tolerance for salt in the soil than many weeds do, so an old practice was to pour the salty water from the ice cream maker over the asparagus bed to kill weeds. However, this is no longer done, because too much salt in the soil will eventually kill the asparagus, too!.
1. It was such a horrible thing to do, to salt the fields of an enemy that it was almost unheard of. In fact, Judges 9 is the only time in the Bible that I can think of where it was done.
2. In history the Romans did the same thing to the city of Carthage.
F. We can see how the statement you are the salt of the earth could take people's minds in several directions and that several understandings of it were possible.
II. Commentators. I'll mention to you in passing, a few of the things that commentators on this passage suggest. And I'll tell you the one that I think is best.
A. Some of the commentators think that Jesus had purity in mind here. Salt is white, and white is the symbol of purity.
B. Some state that Jesus was connecting the salt with verse eight—blessed are the pure in heart. Certainly it's true that we are to be examples of purity and hold up God's standard in thought and speech and action.
1. Though… when Jesus talked, for instance, about whited sepulchers, He certainly wasn't talking about purity there! He was speaking of “looking” pure. The whiteness there did not have a good connotation at all.
2. If Jesus is connecting purity with the whiteness of salt here, I don't think that's His main point.
C. Another thought is that He's talking about flavor. You are the flavor. You're the flavor of the world. Without you, the world is just tasteless. Now there is a sense in which we flavor the world.
1. First Corinthians 7:14 says “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.”
2. Does the world thinks of us as salt though? … I suspect not. I suspect the world, in general, thinks that we make the world tasteless.
a. They have connected Christianity with that which takes the flavor out of life. Oh, I don't want to be a Christian. You can't do anything.
b. The English poet Swinburne, considered a poet of the decadent school, wrote; “Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean, the world hath grown gray from thy breath.” That's quite a statement, you have lulled the world into gray.
3. Although there is a sense in which we are symbols of purity in the world and we do flavor the world, I don't think that's quite dead center on what was meant when our Lord said, you are the salt of the earth.
D. A third opinion is that salt stings and many commentators point this out. Salt does indeed have medical applications. Today we still use it for easing pain of canker sores, ingrown toenails, bug bites, sore throat, and heat cramps. We also use it in neti pots for sinus problems, as a soak for tired feet and to relieve the scaly patches and inflammation of psoriasis or eczema.
1. Some would say Christians are not to be honey to soothe the sinful world but salt to the world to help to heal it.
2. Second Corinthians 2:15-16 says; “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death to death, and to the other the aroma of life to life…” As McGarvey put it, “To the unbelieving, the news of the gospel is from one who was crucified and is dead; so, for them, it is an odor from death unto death, even eternal death; but to Christians, the news of the gospel is "from life," that is, from One who is alive forever more. Hence, the news of the gospel is "from life unto life" in them that are saved.
3. There are times when we get into the wounds of the world, whether we really intended to or not. And there are times when we have to say things to people in the world that they don't like very well. I suspect though that's not all there is to the salt the Lord is talking about here.
E. Another function of salt is to create thirst. The body does need some salt to maintain a proper balance. The human body regulates how much sodium it contains. If levels are too high, we get thirsty and drink, and the kidneys speed up the process of getting rid of it. We are told too much can lead to kidney stones, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Too little sodium can lead to nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, fatigue, and muscle cramps.
1. Sometimes we have that effect in the world and create a kind of an interest or a thirst. What is it that you've got? How can you be so peaceful in this or that situation? Where does your contentment come from?
2. We are the salt. They may not like our theology. They may not want our Christ, but they do see a lifestyle in us that makes them thirst for what Jesus brings. Is that what Jesus is talking about? He may have meant elements of all of these possibilities.
F. I can see what those commenting on this passage are picturing, because we ought to be pure in the world. We ought to flavor it. We ought to sting it at appropriate times like salt in a wound. We should make the world thirsty for God because our lives are so rich and full.
III. Corruption. There is another key thought that a person hearing this may have had, and that is salt as a preservative. In that age and even today salt is used to preserve food. Salt retards spoilage. It does so by dehydrating the food and being toxic to many microbes. We are in a sense an antiseptic preservative in the world to retard the spread of its corruption. If it weren't for the Christians in the world, the world would be far more corrupt than it is now. We, essentially, preserve it.
A. As we live a holy, Christ-like character in the world, we are adding flavor to the world, a bit of sting where needed, making those in need thirsty for the word, and preserving the world from going completely corrupt. Christians are a check on the rottenness and decay of the world.
1. Jesus also says “but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men”.
2. What a truly worthless state is that of the apostate Christian! The Savior says of them, that they are "good for nothing".
B. Our presence in the world should influence, deter evil behavior, change certain kinds of conversations. It ought to affect, barb, or shock. Our presence should condemn apostasy, affect the way people think, even affect the way the people talk around us.
1. It's amazing how many people alter their conversations in the workplace when they know you are a Christian.
2. If we're going to do that, we cannot live the way the world lives. We're in the world, yet different and separate. We are the only restraint in the rotting carcass of humanity. It's absolutely astounding how God uses something as humble and basic as us.
C. God gives a noble purposes to ignoble people. When He made man in the beginning, He didn't use silver or gold, didn't even use iron, He used common dirt.
1. When David was used to deliver the children of Israel from the Philistines, he did not use Saul's Kingly armor. He used a slingshot and a little rock.
2. When Jesus came, He didn't enter a family of wealth and nobility. He came to a peasant girl and was born in a stable.
3. When He chose the Twelve, He didn't choose elite, affluent, educated men. He picked unlearned Galileans.
4. 1 Corinthians 1:26 – “26. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28. and the base things of the world and the things which are despised, God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,” It's always been that way.
D. God declares that we, meager as we are, are the salt of the earth. He wants to use us to retard the corruption. God gets the greater glory, listen to me now, God then gets the greater glory because of the humbleness of the ones that He uses. Notice Jesus says, “You are…”. Whether we act like it or not does not change the fact that as Christians, we are.
IV. The light. In a way salt and light balance each other. You might say that salt is more hidden. It just melts away into whatever it flavors or preserves, but light shines on the outside. Light is open and light is working visibly.
A. We affect society's thinking and living by the power of our lives. We turn on the light so that everybody can see the message that we want to give. It isn't just in our words, but in our overt, open, Godly conduct. We are both a subtle influence like salt and a blatant influence like light. Salt cannot change corruption into incorruption. Salt only retards the corruption. We have to shine the light of the Gospel to transform corruption into incorruption.
B. Verse 16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” It implies that they have heard something about the Father which is in heaven. If they're going to glorify Him by seeing us, they have heard something about Him somewhere along the line.
1. This implies both a life and a message, lived and spoken. Often people ask which is more important, the Christian walk or the Christian talk? To me, they're just like the two wings on an airplane. You're not going to get off the ground without both of them. They're both important.
2. Here's an interesting thing. In the first chapter of the Book of Acts, very first verse Acts 1:1, Luke writes “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.” There's both of them right there—to both do and teach. Those two things go together—the living and the speaking, living the righteous life and speaking the truth in love.
a. 1 John 1:5 – “… God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”
b. Psalm 119:105 – “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” God is light. The Word is light.
c. John 8:12 – “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.''” Christ is the light that lights every man.
d. Second Corinthians 4:6 – “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” We can enlighten people only because God has enlightened us. God passes that light down through us.
e. Philippians 2:14-15 – “Do all things without murmuring and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” If they're going to criticize us, let them have to make something up, because there's nothing true they can use.
3. If we have to be hated, let's be hated like Christ was—hated without a cause, blameless, harmless, children of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom we shine as lights in the world holding forth the word of light. That should always be our motto - holding forth the Word of light.
C. The light has to shine openly. A city that is set up on a hill cannot be hid. Often villages in Jesus day were built on the tops of the hills. That way they could be more easily cooled by the breezes, and they could also be more easily defended. When night came and everybody lit a lamp in their house, it just made the village sparkle.
1. A city could not be hidden. Light was for the purpose of shining forth openly.
2. In World War II during the time of the Blitz, they tried to get everybody to keep their lights off and it was almost impossible. A city is a very, very hard thing to hide.
D. We are not just subtle salt. We are very conspicuous light. We're not a secret society. We're not pagans with mysteries only for the initiated. We don't have a cult that is known only to a few. We're a city, set on a hill, and the whole world ought to see us. There's nothing hidden here.
V. What's the problem with all of this? The problem is that, if sin enters our lives and we no longer walk in the spirit, then we stop being effective as salt and we will become useless as a light.
A. In verse 13, He says, if the salt has lost its saltiness, what good is it? Non salty salt has no use. It's good for nothing but to be cast out and trod under the foot of men. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all that are in the house. There's no place for a secret Christian.
B. Can salt lose its saltiness? Indeed it can, and I’ll mention one way it did in Biblical times. The harvested salt from the Dead Sea contained both the desired salt, sodium chloride, as well as other salts and impurities. It was the custom to store vast amounts of this salt in buildings that had earthen floors. In time, the salt next to the ground spoiled, became bitter, because of the dampness. Since it would be harmful to land because of its salt content, no man would allow it to be thrown on his field. The only place left was the street, where it was trodden under foot. The Greek word here means flat and tasteless.
1. That's what the Lord is talking about in Luke 14:34 – “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
2. Yes, salt can lose it’s usefulness to flavor or preserve and we can lose ours too. If sin begins to dominate our lives, then we lose our saltiness, and with it, we lose our influence for good. We can't retard the corruption of the world any longer, because we are of the world and there's nothing to distinguish us from the world anymore. We forfeit our influence, we lose our impact, and we can become a castaway.
C. It is true that perfectly pure salt does not lose its flavor. Trouble is, none of us are perfectly pure salt. Just like the sea salt has impurities, while we're in the world, we're going to have some impurities. The potential for losing our saltiness is always going to be there.
1. What about the light? What they used most commonly in that time were little terracotta lamps with a spout on one end and a handle on the other, and a wick in the oil. If the lamp was left lit at night to provide light to the house, they would have to keep enough oil on hand and be conscientious enough to keep the wick trimmed so it would burn brightest and not smoke.
2. You and I have this treasure in our earthen vessels. Unfortunately some Christians are not willing to shine that light because of what they perceive it will attract. It may mean they will need to “give an answer to every man who asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you” (First Peter 3:15).
3. The fear of persecution, whether it's subtle or overt, makes us hesitant at times.
4. In verse 16 He personalizes this. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
D. There is a beauty, an attractiveness, in those good works. When you do something good for somebody that affects their attitude towards you. He says, let the world see My beauty in you. This light is in you. You don't have to crank up the light or worry about getting the light started. All you have to do is let it go and let it be seen. Christ lives in you already and He is the light just let that light shine. Don't let Satan blow it out. Like the song says, “This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine”.
1. If you've got a basket of fear over it, all you got to do is take that basket off.
2. If you've got a basket of wanting to be acceptable over the light, all you got to do is take that basket off.
3. Perhaps a basket of not wanting to offend somebody or a basket of not wanting to make waves, just take that basket off.
4. Just simply let it shine by the things you do and say.
CONCLUSION: The purpose of all of this is the glorification of God, that they may glorify your Father, which is in heaven—the last phrase of verse 16.
If that is not your priority, then you're more concerned with yourself than you are with God's glory. If your top priority is the glory of God, then you will be salty. Salt and your light will be made manifest.
Those people 2000 years ago needed to hear the basics and we who know the Bible still need to hear and remind ourselves. What is this about then? It is about your personal influence. As Christians we have been given the greatest gift of all, freely, simply for accepting it, eternal life with our Creator. We are also given the ability to share that gift with the world and honor the Giver. How? Through our life, our personal influence.
What about your personal influence? What's it like? What happens when you walk by?
We need to live and talk so that the world can see who God is, and that we belong to Him. This very day some have passed into the next world. Tomorrow more will pass into the next world. We never know who it's going to be. Often it's surprising.
If you were to die tomorrow, would it be said, could it be said, that you made a difference in the world? Sweep through this life as salt and light and make a difference.
We know it is not always going to be easy. It seems that it is probably going to get harder in this world where we live today, not easier. But just because the world makes it hard on us, we shouldn't hide or keep our mouths shut.
We work God's plan that is for us. The way we change the world is not to go out and try to change the world politically. It isn't to rewrite the laws or to march in a protest. It isn't to use technology for altering society. The way we change the world is to infiltrate it with Godliness and righteousness and holiness and affect it from the inside out.
Those other things I mentioned aren't wrong. It's just that they are powerless to change the world. The way to do it is through the influence of Godly people.
In Matthew 23 Christ told His disciples that the scribes and Pharisees were successors to some of the dignity and authority of Moses, not in the sense of really possessing such authority, but in the sense of being responsible for teaching Moses' Law and faithfully interpreting it to the people. Yet, they did not practice what they taught and their lives were amiss. In verse 37 Christ says, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
God is willing ,yet we may cause Him tears because we too have been unfaithful. May we live to fill this marvelous commandment. May God make us different, that the world may be different because we are.
God may call on us in the days ahead to stand up and be counted for His cause. We don't know what the future holds. Hebrews 12:4 says, “You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.” In this country we haven't been murdered yet, but that time could easily come.
Things have accelerated recently to where we can see possibilities that could really occur even during the lifetime of those who don't have much earth-life left. We don't know what the future holds, but we need, each of us, to come to grips with our intentions.
Right now you've just got one life, just one shot at life, while you're here. You've chosen Christ. You love Christ. His word has penetrated your heart. We have been redeemed at a price and He paid that supreme price for us. He bore the blows that should have been borne by us.
We're the only salt and light. Let's be different and let's make a difference.
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins… If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
Taken from a sermon by Rick Sparks
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