We now come to the next topic after the Beatitudes. After hearing how God grants kingdom virtues to his people, we now transition in describing its result in the lives of Christians living in this world. Beginning at verse 11, Jesus shifts his address from a generic third person subject “those” to a specific second person “you”. He now explains the effect of the blessing that comes with becoming members of God’s kingdom. Instead of acceptance and love, he warns them of persecution and hate. Their behavior will not be received positively by others rather they will be seen as a negative influence. This is the irony we find by the end section of the Beatitudes. This world opposes the poor in Spirit, the meek, and the peacemakers. Yet despite of this, Jesus promises comfort and rewards no only in this world but more so in the world to come.
Now in verses 13-16, Jesus begins to shape the identity of his people. He calls them salt of the earth and light of the world. These are the two ways Christians demonstrate their influence to rest of the world. Jesus uses metaphor that are accessible and easy to understand by anyone who hears his message. Today, we will hear them preached to us. Let us listen to them with faith and believe that God enables those whom he calls to live in accordance to His Word.
We have a simple structure for our sermon points this morning. It follows the two main points Jesus made in this section of verses. 1) Salt of the Earth (verse 13); 2) Light of the World (verses 14-16).
Before we begin, let us pray…
Salt of the Earth
Verse 13: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
Jesus called his disciples salt of the earth. It is a declaration by Jesus and he states the reality Christians are living in. However by way of emphasis, he poses a rhetorical question to challenge his hearers, “but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” We know salt is as a preserving agent so the answer to this question is simple. It can’t. Salt, when it lost it saltiness, is useless. When served its purpose, the salt has become worthless.
Jesus wants his disciples to understand the unbreakable connection between our calling and our living. The declaration and warning Jesus made here express this truth for us. As Christians, we will surely live out our calling. Jesus is exhorting us to lead godly lives and we are responsible for it. Like salt, Christians are useless when they lose their effect to the world; they have no purpose. It happens when Christians lead inconsistent lives and lean toward apostasy. They are short of living like unbelieving pagans. Jesus warns us that Christians who like this useless salt is “…no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
We need to remember who we are in Christ. The effect we have as Christians in this world is a reflection of our citizenship in heaven. As members of God’s kingdom, we become agents of God’s work here on earth. “You are salt of the earth” from verse 13 is an indicative or a statement of fact. Jesus makes us his agents in this world. While we are not to make ourselves agents – it is not a command, Jesus also wants us to desire and will it because it is lawful, good, and true. We put off our old self and put on Christ. In Christ, we live as salt of the earth.
What does it mean to live as salt? What does the metaphor points to? Dr. Ferguson listed in his book three ways salt is viewed in the Bible.
First, salt serves as a preserving agent. Ancient people do not have modern ways of preserving food. They do not have refrigerators like us. Instead, each household uses salt. So when Jesus took this salt metaphor everyone understands. Adding to this understanding, we read from Scripture two ways salt was used. In Ezekiel 16:4, new born babies are rubbed with salt for hygienic purposes. It useful in protecting the infant from infections and diseases. Also in Judges 9:45, when Abimelech defeated the city of Shechem, he scattered salt over its land. It seems to render the ground infertile hence preserving it. So even in the Old Testament, people took advantage of salt’s capability to preserve. And as Christians today, we are called to uphold godly living in the midst of this fallen world. As agents of God in this world, we promote civil and religious liberties, and establish a society govern by laws. As salt, we advance the well-being of our neighbor. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22: 39).
Second, salt seasons food. A pinch of salt makes the flavor of our food come out. So in the say way, Paul uses the salt metaphor in Colossians 4:6 when he wrote, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” The apostle exhorts his congregation to practice godly speech. He encourages every Christian to put off corrupt speech and put on words of encouragement, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).” Paul reminds us to follow God’s law specifically the third command. Christians obey God and his laws. They worship him in thought, word, and deed. And specifically in their speech, they are called to reflect God’s holiness.
Lastly, salt is a symbol of faithfulness. Moses wrote Leviticus 2:13, “Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings”. Of course, all these ritual and ceremonial laws have ceased because they were fulfilled by Christ in his new covenant. It is suffice for us to mention here that salt pictures for us perseverance. And as God’s people, we persevere in this Christian life because we belong to Christ and his Spirit enables us to lead godly lives. Grounded in Christ’s faithfulness, we put on courage and steadfastness as godly and sanctifying virtues.
In the light of these truths about godly living, how can we apply it now in our lives?
Panic is never a Christian virtue. When we worry about God’s provision, it encourages everyone around us to panic and question God’s wisdom and goodness. Today marks the 14th day of our extreme community quarantine. Restrictions seem to be getting tighter and tighter. Businesses are slowly closing down and it becomes harder and harder to buy food for the family. And like everyone surrounding us, we are tempted to cave in and follow their example. We worry and even panic! We profess God’s faithfulness in our speech but we tend to betray him with our actions. We don’t behave as Christian living under God’s care and provision. Remember “Cease to be different, cease to be a Christian.” Dr. Ferguson reminds us to never let the values of this world influence our attitudes and outlook. On the contrary, we let our our mind-set and behavior demonstrate our identity in Christ.
Light of the World
Verses 14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Light is dominate theme in creation as well as in redemption. When God created the world, he made his light shine over all creatures. Despite of the fall, God promised to bring his saving light to all men. He did so when he sent his own Son who himself is Light and bearer of his saving revelation. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” Jesus took it upon himself the fulfillment of this prophecy. Luke wrote in his gospel account Jesus’ own understanding of his ministry. When John’s disciples asked Jesus if he is indeed the Messiah, his answer was, ” And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them (Luke 7:22).” Clearly, Jesus is the light for the nation spoken here by the prophet Isaiah.
Now, those who are united to Christ live as light. This is what Jesus himself declares here in verse 14. After establishing the fact that Christians are light of world, Jesus states another fact about the nature of light. He says light cannot be hidden. Like a city set on a hill, and like a light on a stand, its presence will always be noticed and its effect will always be visible (verses 15-16). Ancient people did not experience living with electricity powering their home every single night. They rely on secondary light source made from fire generated by oil lamps. This means after sunset, the whole town goes dark. Without any light source they are living in darkness and darkness means danger. The people during Jesus’ time understand this and knows the danger of living in darkness. In Ephesians 5:8, Paul took this theme of darkness and light and wrote, “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true).”
As Christians, we are called to dispel darkness with light. This is the ministry of God’s people in the church. Peter wrote, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).” Dr. Sinclair Ferguson reminds us, “The regeneration of men’s lives is a sovereign worm of God’s grace. We cannot bring anyone to newness of life. But it is our responsibility to live the new life in order that others may be challenged by it. It is our responsibility to shine for Jesus Christ so that others will see his salvation expressed in the flesh-and-blood reality of our daily lives….we have a responsibility to show Christ-like light to those around us. We cannot hide it under a cover.”
Christians, we live in the light and bring illumination to everywhere we go and to anyone we encounter. It is quite challenging for us to live sanely in this life under quarantine. We hear a lot of news from TV and social media. It is sometimes tempting to feed on them to fuel our own paranoia and disseminate false information in the process. We discourage other people and act like the situation calls for “survival of the fittest.” – the false doctrine of evolution. Rather than showing God’s light of revelation about his sovereignty and providence, we tend to accept the ethos of the public in doubt and again panic. But Christians, this is our opportunity to shine as God’s people of light. We are called to trust that God is in control, to proclaim the Gospel truth of his grace, mercy, and love, and to encourage everyone to live under his rule and sovereignty.
ZCRC(Imus), we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. As God’s agents in this world, we are called to demonstrate this kingdom identity as God’s people. Let us promote the well-being of our neighbors and encourage godly living in the midst of this dying and fallen world. May the Lord continue to accomplish and apply his saving work for his people living in this world. Amen.