connection between this passage and the Beatitudes is usually overlooked. But
Christ has just taught His disciples that they will be persecuted; now, He
teaches them what they are to be in the face of persecution.
"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become
tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and
trampled under foot by men.
(Mat 5:13 NASB)
us begin with an Old Testament background, for Christ’s hearers – from then
well into modern times – would have understood the common uses of salt which
are no longer with us.
the covenant of the Law was described as a “covenant of salt.”
The covenant God made with the house of David is also described as a
“covenant of salt.”
The symbolism is there for purity and its eternal nature, as we shall see.
offering – with a slight exception – had to be salted. It is a grand
lesson. The exception was the thank offering – one give not as a
requirement of the Law, but given in gratitude. Salt was not required;
leavened bread was used. The things of God are pure and unadulterated;
the offerings of man are made with the symbol of sin (leaven), showing us
that even a sinner’s offering can be made acceptable in gratitude.
thing about salt: a little goes a long way. If you’re a cook, salt is
measured in pinches, not inches. Salt, too, has a rough edge in its taste. It
is a powerful flavoring – and if you use too much, the recipe is a failure.
the picture? The salt of the earth is the same way; the church began with but
twelve apostles; wherever it goes, its people are “different.” Indeed, the
salt of the earth might just be irritating wherever they go. This is one of
the “why” answers to persecution.
than cooking, there are two primary ancient uses of salt:
was used as a cleanser, a purifier.
was often used as a preservative (it’s how we got ham).
the salt of the earth come, they are to lead the people to purify themselves in
confession and baptism; thus will they convey eternal life to the world.
us get the point; if salt loses its ability in taste, in purifying and
preserving – what good is it?
we are taught that even our conversation is to be seasoned with salt:
your speech always be with grace, as though
seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each
(Col 4:6 NASB)
in the voice is the product of grace for the soul. Grace? Yes. You are the
salt of the earth – as opposed to the dirt of the world. Christ has selected
you, sought for you and by his blood obtained you. May your speech show it.
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be
hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the
lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they
may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
(Mat 5:14-16 NASB)
follows salt. As one ancient writer put it, to live well precedes teaching
the light of the world
must first note the dilemma: Christ is the light of the world. Who are we to
say that we are? Christ gives us the answer:
"While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world."
(Joh 9:5 NASB)
then, are the imitators of our Lord Jesus Christ – for as He shined first, we
must shine the same way.
this: We are placed on a hill; the world will carefully examine our conduct. You
might think this unfair; but I say that the hill on which the Christian stands
is no ordinary hill, but the Rock, Jesus the Christ. Just as everything He did
met with scrutiny by His enemies, so will our actions be examined. Being light
is first what we are to the world, and then what we do in it.
nature of light
as metaphor, includes the nature of purity in light. There is no such thing as
dirty light. In the time of Christ, light was mostly sunlight; the rest
candles or other fires. His hearers would have known this, and caught the
more than that they would see light as we would in the phrase, “I saw the
light.” We still “enlighten” people. Christ’s hearers would have recited the
Psalm which declared the Word to be the lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
has, of course, just finished speaking on the subject of persecution. If you
live in a time when Christianity is unacceptable, the temptation is to hide
your light – let no one know that He is your Lord. By telling us to put it on
the lampstand, Christ tells us that we cannot do this. If you put the candle
under the basket, it’s not long before the candle goes out.
you not see that persecution makes your light more visible? While others are
hiding their light, your light remains – and therefore is seen as brighter. Some
of us don’t like that.
there is a warning here, also. Your works should cause others to glorify God,
not be a hypocritical pretense for your own ego. Matthew Henry put it this
lying in ignorance and wickedness, were as a vast heap, ready to putrefy; but
Christ sent forth his disciples, by their lives and doctrines to season it with
knowledge and grace. If they are not such as they should be, they are as salt
that has lost its savor. If a man can take up the profession of Christ, and yet
remain graceless, no other doctrine, no other means, can make him profitable.
Our light must shine, by doing such good works as men may see. What is between
God and our souls, must be kept to ourselves; but that which is of itself open
to the sight of men, we must study to make suitable to our profession, and
praiseworthy. We must aim at the glory of God.
we are to be salt and light, and not be a monument to our own righteousness, we
must seek the righteousness of God. Our own is insufficient to bring glory to
God. But righteousness has its price tag, too.
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I
did not come to abolish but to fulfill. "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth
pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all
is accomplished. "Whoever then annuls one
of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be
called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called
great in the kingdom of heaven. "For I say
to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and
Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
(Mat 5:17-20 NASB)
for the teacher
lady of my acquaintance – Catholic, and therefore much less familiar with the
Scriptures – told me that her theory of the Law and Christ is this: In the Old
Testament we meet the angry Father. In the New Testament we meet the loving
Son. It’s a fairly common theory. It’s also wrong.
truth is that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. All
Scripture points to Christ, one way or another. Jesus does see them in
opposition but in harmony. He exhibits great care for the Law – and no
particular respect for the lawyers.
it is that he cautions the teacher: be careful to keep My commands. Teach the
Gospel, and all of it. Do not set aside any of it. You might think this would
be fairly obvious – but it’s not.
is the teaching on divorce? Divorce is as common as water in the
evangelical, Bible-believing churches. Christ’s words are sloughed off
with the phrase, “Oh, that first century culture.”
is the church’s teaching on greed, or envy?
– for the most obvious point – has anyone heard about hell lately? It’s
passed off as “a Christless eternity.”
teacher’s reward depends upon how well he conveys the Gospel. In this teacher’s
opinion, that means that you make no distinction in which part is “cultural”
and which is not. The application of the truth changes; the Truth does not.
lays upon the teacher a great and heavy burden. But God lays no burden on us
without giving us the means to carry it. It is a heavy burden, but our
Yokefellow is very strong.
are two ways in which Christ may be said to fulfill the Law:
He is the prophetic fulfillment of the Law. Hundreds of prophecies in the
Old Testament are fulfilled by Christ. Most Bibles have a list of these;
it is worth your time to examine this. The sheer number – and in some
cases the utter improbability – is well noted.
He fulfilled the Law as our atonement sacrifice. His death was in
accordance with the Law, in great detail.
can also be seen another way. If you know only the music of Bach, the music of
Beethoven seems a real surprise. But you soon would recognize that Beethoven
worked in the same musical tradition; he has simply extended and enhanced the
ability of the composer to bring his message to us. One craftsman stands on
the shoulders of the prior one. Christ is upheld by the Law; He did not disown
it. We shall see next week His phrasing of this: “But I say to you…”
can our righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees – the right wing legalists
of Christ’s day? There is only one way; by His blood. His suffering is our
righteousness; it is well to keep it in mind.