Salt and Light

MATTHEW 5:13-16 | Ian Thomas

February 10th 2019 (Note: No audio available)

“Christians are to live in such a way that as men and women look at us we become a problem to them. They will ask ‘What is it? Why are these people so different in every way, different in their conduct and behavior, and different in their reactions? There is something about them which we do not understand, which we cannot explain.’ And they will be driven to the only real explanation, which is that we are the people of God, the children of God.” ~ D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Main Idea: Disciples of Jesus are salt and light, called to live distinct and compelling lives in the world. 

I. The Salt of the Earth (5:13)

Identity: Salt had over 10 uses in the ancient world, but it was primarily used as a preservativeYou would rub salt into meat or fish and it would slow down the spoiling process.

Disciples of Jesus are to have an enduring, lasting, purifying effect on the world around them. God’s people alone are salt in this way. This is their identity as followers of Christ.

Implication: The world (the “earth”) is dying, decaying, and deteriorating. It cannot stop itself from this process of going bad. Something from the outside must prevent this spilling that will inevitably occur.

“Disciples of Jesus are called to be a moral disinfectant in a world where moral standards are low, constantly changing, or non-existent.” ~ R.V.G. Tasker

 Warning: Salt can’t lose its “saltiness” strictly speaking, but it can be adulterated, contaminated, and diluted. The warning here is to fight against the temptation to simply assimilate into the world and the culture. 

“The glory of the gospel is that when the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first” ~ D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

We are called to be distinct from the world but we still must be in contact with it. Salt does nothing if it does not come into contact with the food. 

“The world does not thirst for a religious imitation of itself, nor does it thirst for an “us against them” moral turf war with its zealous religious neighbors. The world thirsts for a different kind of neighbor- not the kind who deny their fellow man, take up their comforts, and follow their dreams- but the kind who deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Jesus in his mission of loving a weary world to life.” ~ Scott Sauls

II. The Light of the World (5:14-16)

Identity: Jesus gives imagery to his disciples being the “light of the world” in 2 ways. They are like:  

1. A City Set on a Hill

2. A Lamp in a House

Disciples are the “light of the world” in a borrowed or a derivative sense from Jesus, who is himself the “light of the world” (cf. John 812). We must be “charged up” from the true light of the world, as we are conduits of this light to the world around us.  

Implication: The world is a dark place. It needs something from the outside to shine a light into its own darkness.

 Warning: We must fight the temptation to “conceal” the light (‘putting it under a basket”). We must avoid isolation from the world. Covering & concealing defeats the whole purpose of the light. 

Light is inherently compelling. We are to “shine as lights” in the world (Phil. 2:15) the glories of the gospel as people who have been fundamentally changed by it. 

“A Christianity that is without friction in the culture is a Christianity that dies… a Christianity that is walled off from the culture around it is a Christianity that dies… Our call is to a Christianity that preserves the distinctness of our gospel while not retreating from our calling as neighbors, friends, and citizens.” ~ Russell Moore

 What happens as we live out this identity? People will see and encounter Jesus through his disciples. As God’s people declare the King and display the Kingdom, they will “give glory” to the Father in worship.

Practical Considerations: 

  1. We must remain in close proximity to Jesus

  2. We are called to do this together

  3. Start with the opportunities right in front of us