Church of Christ
Locks Cross Roads
6) Matthew 5 - Salt of the earth and light of the world
Matthew 5:13 Ye are the salt of the earth. Jesus maintains as undeniable fact that His disciples are this salt.
Whether or not the disciples will serve effectively in that capacity, as good salt preserves meat from spoiling, will
depend upon the flavor of their discipleship.
For the moment, Jesus looks at His disciples not as they were, but at what ideally they could become and do. He
was trying to get them to see in themselves the ability to transform the moral tone of their age.
Salt does not preserve by acting upon itself: it preserves that which needs its influence by being brought into
contact with every inch of that which will corrupt without it. Jesus' disciple is of little value to the community as long
as his influence remains boxed up in a church building or a monastery.
Salt retains its value only if it retains its distinctive character. "If the salt loses its savor, wherewith shall it be
salted?" This is an ominous warning of the doom of the degenerate disciple, for Jesus speaks of one who has truly
possessed this inner reality of regenerate power but has lost it.
Jesus was describing salt that His hearers knew well. If they had bought some of that salt native to Palestine it
would not be like our salt. It came chiefly from the crystals gathered from the residue of evaporated water taken
from the Dead Sea. It is said that this salt changes its flavor because of the presence of salts other than sodium
chloride, actually losing its saltiness and worth through exposure to the sun and rain. At that point it might look like
salt, but it fails to do what good salt does.
Luke reports (Luke 14:34-35) this same figure of speech used by Jesus here, but adds this interesting detail: "It is fit
neither for the land nor for the dunghill; men throw it away."
Savorless salt is not even of this much use in that it destroys fertility wherever it is thrown. The only place left for it
is the roadway where fertility is no problem.
Some of the warning signs of salt losing its savor:
Where there is a loss of distinction between the Christian and the world he is supposed to save, then real,
serious deterioration has begun to set in. This is the chameleon character which is more and more controlled
by the environment rather than that clear, courageous ethical sense that sets the pace in terms pleasing
sometimes only to God (Romans 12:2, 1st Corinthians 15:33);
When we find a Christian that maintains the forms of religion but basically possesses no vital force of internal
godliness, then we have encountered savorless salt.
A growing indifference towards Christ's first love, the saving of mankind by the preaching of the gospel, is
indication of deterioration (Matthew 9:13, Matthew 20:28, Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 19:10, John 12:47,
Matthew 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. Christ is the only true Light of this world (John 8:12, John 9:5, John
12:35, John 12:46, Matthew 4:16). His disciples, according to Jesus' metaphor here, do not merely reflect his light,
but burn as lamps lit from His fire (John 12:36, Phillipians 2:14-16, 1st Thessalonians 5:4-8, Romans 2:19).
What do Christians and light have in common?
Light makes sight possible in the darkness. Darkness is often used in the NT to mean:
a) Ignorance which is the lack of opportunity to learn, or the failure to see connections between possessed
knowledge and its practical expression (Matthew 4:16, Luke 1:79, John 9:39, 1st John 2:11)
b) Moral perversity which refuses to admit truth which condemns it: (John 3:19-20, John 9:41, John 12:37-43,
Matthew 6:23, 1st John).
c) The state resulting from ignorance and unwillingness to learn the truth (Luke 22:53, John 1:5, Acts 26:18,
Romans 13:12, 2nd Corinthians 6:14, Colossians 1:13, 1st John 1:5-6).
Therefore, the light that is intended to illuminate this darkness is primarily the revelation of God Himself seen in the
face of Jesus; secondarily, the disciples of Jesus who are being changed into His glorious likeness from one degree
of brilliance to another, becoming His kind of light; and capable of illuminating as did He (2nd Corinthians 3:1-8, 2nd
Corinthians 4:6, Romans 12:2, 1st John 3:2-3, 2nd Peter 1:3-4).
A city set on a hill cannot be hid. You cannot hide the obvious.
Jesus gently urges His hearers to count the cost of discipleship, for it will mean being in the public eye either for
good or for ill.
Just the sheer novelty of a man practicing exactly what he preaches immediately focuses the world's gaze upon him.
People usually begin an immediate inspection of his life to see if he really is all that he would have them become.
This world is quick to sense hypocrisy and selfishness in those who profess devotion to the Master.
Jesus let His light shine before men, because when He did His good deeds, God got the glory. The apostles caught
this same spirit (Acts 4:21, Acts 11:18, Acts 21:20, Galatians 1:24).