Matthew 5:13-16

Speaking geographically, in broad terms, for a moment, please envision our earth, as God has created it – focusing your minds on those great land masses in the middle East.  Northern Africa, Arabia, Eastern Europe, all of Asia Minor, the Mediterranean basin with its fertile eastern crescent.  The huge land masses with burgeoning populations.

In the middle of it all sits a country insignificant in size – about the same as the state of Delaware – a country ruled by monster pagan nations for seven hundred years; and in the northern part of this tiny country is a small body of water called Lake Gennasaret – or the Sea of Tiberius – or, better known, the Sea of Galilee.

And by that little lake is a town – a fishing village – called Capernaum, population – not more than a few hundred.  And, close to this town are a few hills – hardly high enough to be seen on a topographical map.  A small hill - by a tiny town – close to a small fishing lake – in the northern part of a country insignificant in size – and all surrounded by huge pagan countries with ferocious, warlike people – all teeming with populations in the multi-millions.

And on that hill is one who is speaking to a group of people – not more than a few dozen in number – and He says, “you are the salt of the earth.”

Now, either this man was a strange, eccentric, egomaniacal idolatrous magician, or He was exhibiting an authority as glorious as the Father Who sent Him!  Either He was this laughable creature, wild-eyed and monstrously idealistic, worthy only of scorn, mocking, derision and pity – or He was truly the Son of God foretold by the Law and the prophets, and who truly said, “All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.  Therefore, as you are going, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you every day unto the end of the age.”

This is the One Who has the authority to pronounce each of His Own disciples “blessed!”  “Blessed – those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of the Heavens.  Blessed – the ones who are mourning, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed – the meek ones, for they shall inherit the earth!  Blessed – those who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness, for they shall be filled.  Blessed - the merciful ones, for they shall receive mercy.  Blessed – those who are peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.  Blessed – they who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of the heavens!”

“You are the salt of the earth....”

Now, many of you will probably have Bibles which have some kind of a break between verses twelve and thirteen – indicating a topic change – or a new thought process - or just some means of indicating what’s coming up in the next four verses.  Open Bibles and study Bibles have done that in order to help us find things, and to let us know the topic of the next passage.

That’s all well and good; but very often that kind of help does damage to our thought processes with reference to the context!  And although Jesus does stop the “beatitude” form of His teaching, He doesn’t stop describing His people, does He?  In fact, there’s no break at all!

You, My people, who are poor in spirit, and merciful, and peacemakers, are salt of the earth!  The ones who own the Kingdom – and inherit the earth – and are filled with righteousness – are the salt of the earth!  The ones I’ve described here, because you have My nature and character, are the salt of the earth!  “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and say everything wicked against you for My sake, rejoice and exult, for thus they did persecute the prophets before you....”  “You are the salt of the earth....”

The ones who are new creations – the ones who are different – the ones who are like Jesus – the ones who are participating in the Divine characteristics of Christ – the ones who engage the world order in meekness, and with mercy, and bring the Prince of Peace to the world are the salt of the earth! 

The ones who bring the character of Christ to the world are salt.  The Divine characteristics are salt!

Now, right now we’ve got to release from our minds and put away from our imaginations almost everything we’ve heard about this passage in the past, because, for some reason unknown to the regulative principle of Scripture, teachers and preachers want, desperately, to examine, in infinite detail, all of the properties and benefits and values of salt!

There’s concentrated effort to describe its flavor and its savour – and then the atmosphere it produces – which makes it impossible for bacteria to reproduce, and, therefore, being a preservative.  And it makes the world palatable to God.  And I’ve even seen a lengthy discourse on the similar properties of honey and salt – with the one sweetening and the other salting – and, therefore the need for both!  And there’s only one place something like that could come from, and it certainly isn’t this text!  It comes from the vain imaginations of men.

And there’s all that and much, much more.  And if all the properties of salt are to be examined and applied, it would also have to be considered that salt causes dry mouth, stomach upsets, ulcers, constipation, high blood pressure, kidney failure and heart disease!

But Jesus never meant for us to do that!  The regulative principle of Scripture demands that we look for the “tertium comparationis”, which is a unit idea rather than a duality or a multi-faced idea.  Figures of speech and metaphors and parables have a single purpose.  The comparison is limited to the thing signified; and the use of “salt” as a figure here has a limited metaphorical value!

You see, the context is the Kingdom.  Although we’ve been in this passage for ten or eleven weeks, and a lot of time and many events have taken place, in actuality, as Jesus was preaching, it was only a short time before when He was demonstrating the Kingdom by His authority over sickness, death and corruption, and saying, “repent, for the Kingdom of the Heavens is at hand!”

So whatever is meant by Jesus in using salt as a figure of speech, and whatever our explanations are with regard to it, have to be in the light given to us by Jesus’ Own words!  And the context of His words, is the Kingdom – and the nature of those who are entered into the Kingdom.

And the point here is, that the disciples of Christ are to permeate all of society with the character of Jesus – as outlined here in these beatitudes.  And as facets of the society are permeated, they come under the influence of the King and His Kingdom.  That’s the nature of the Kingdom – things progressively become submissive to the sovereignty of King Jesus!  We don’t have to install the Kingdom.  This is a theonomic creation already.  The world simply has to acknowledge it!

And that’s the nature of salt.  Salt permeates the very molecular structure of that with which it comes in contact!  And that’s what Jesus means by “you are the salt of the earth....”  Those who bear the character of their Lord, by their very nature permeate society and influence it for the King!  Salt makes things salty!

They demonstrate the meekness of Jesus – they demonstrate the mercy of God in Christ – they demonstrate by their very nature the peace of God that passes all understanding, by bringing peace between God and men and bringing peace between men and men.  They allow society to see the nature of Christ by not retaliating against anger and scorn and derision.  Society sees the single-minded devotion to God by the salt of a pure heart.  It’s the savour of Christian piety – it’s the savour of the character of Christ.

Let me quickly read you something from the Older Testament ceremonial Law.  And I’ll say again what I’ve said before – the true and eternal but shadowing things found in the sacrificial system of the Older Testament find their reality in the further Revelation of the New  - specifically in the Lord Christ Himself!  I think that is illustrated well with this passage.

It is from the third book of Moses – that is, Leviticus – in the second chapter, and verse thirteen:  “Every oblation of your meat-offering shall you season with salt; neither shall you suffer the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your meal-offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.”

Now – was the salt of the Old Testament Sacrifice so that God could taste it when it was consumed by fire?  Or was it to preserve the meat and the grain?  Or was it to make the offering somehow more palatable?  No.  It was a figure representing a certain reality in Christ!

Let me read you the first two verses – Paul’s letter to the Church at Rome, chapter twelve: 

“I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God – your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your, mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”


Isn’t it so very simple?  We are living sacrifices, having been sacrificed with Christ and in Christ at His crucifixion, salted with the salt of the Covenant of God so that we may be the salt of the earth!  All pre-figured and pre-shadowed in the Old Covenant ceremonial Law!

And, here, Jesus says, “you are the salt of the earth” – a living sacrifice covered with salt.

But, then the Lord, in the second part of this verse, supplies a warning.  And the warning has judgment appended to it.  He says, “but if the salt is rendered insipid, by what will it be salted?  It is of no further use except to be thrown out to be trampled under by men.”

Now, the language of this warning is usually reworked in order to read something like this – “but if the salt has lost its savour, how will it again be salty?”  But that language is just untenable.  It just doesn’t fit the grammar.  And it doesn’t match the figure in the next three verses, either – that of the light of the world.

Jesus isn’t speaking of one who would have the nature and character of the Lord – bringing peace between men and God, and exhibiting the meekness and mercy of God – and then losing it.

What He’s describing is one who professes the Christ as his Lord and Master, but is rendered insipid!  He is rendered, by his own sin, unable to permeate and engage society with the character of Christ!  And his profession of faith is worthless!

This is one of many warnings through the Scriptures about the same thing!  Those who would profess a knowledge of the truth, having tasted the good Word of God, and experienced the joys of public worship, yet continue in their sin!  It renders them insipid according to our Lord!  Worthless.  Of no use except to be trampled under by men.

They’re not mourning their own perversity; they’re not engaging the world order with the meekness of Christ; they’re not hungering for the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus the Lord; they’re not merciful because they’ve been shown mercy; they’re not pure in heart in their dealings with other men; they’re not bringing the Prince of Peace to society; and they retaliate with anger and self-defense every time they’re met with opposition!

How can these be the salt of the earth without the character of Christ?  Their profession of faith and attendance at worship doesn’t cut it!  It’s worthless!

Continuing a profession of Christianity – yet remaining flat and foolish and graceless and insipid is inexcusable!  A wicked man is the worst of creatures!  And a wicked professer of Christianity is the worst of men!  And a wicked minister is the worst of professing men!  And Christ calls them good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled by men!

There are no other means to be applied to make one savory than the character of Christ!  And without it they are a blot on humanity and a burden.  In the Luke parallel passage, they’re said to be not even good enough to throw on the dunghill!  For those who might not have realized it, there was no sewerage system in ancient Jerusalem.  Waste products were thrown out from the south wall of the city, with the garbage, into, what was called, Gehenna, which was a valley underneath the height of the city, and which was always burning.  Insipid salt isn’t even good for the dunghill.

Calvin said, “Let God be glorified in the shame and rejection of those by whom He has been reproached, and who have made themselves good for nothing, not even the dunghill.”

Next, Jesus says, “You, you are the light of the world.”  Now, it’s important that you see that this statement comes in exactly the same context as the statement concerning salt!  It too, is a Kingdom figure, and its immediate context is the character of Christ’s disciples.

And it’s as equally startling a statement as the former one given the insignificance of this small group of people in such an insignificant place in comparison to the world’s size and population!

And it’s equally as condemning to the world that it should need light, for the absence of light indicates darkness.  But not only does the Lord say that the world is in darkness and needs light, but He says that His followers are the only ones who can provide any wisdom or knowledge or instruction to the world!

Why?  Because they have the very nature and character of Christ, Who is the Light of the world.  Our Lord’s promise is, “he that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”  The apostle Paul puts it like this, “for before, you were darkness; but now you are light in the Lord.”

So not only have we received light, but we have light, and we transmit light.  And if we have the character of Christ, that light will shine in the face of men.  It can’t be hidden!  A city on a hill can’t be hidden; A lamp isn’t put under a corn basket; lamps are put somewhere where they can shine light on everything and everybody.  It’s completely illogical to imagine that blazing light could have no effect on oppressive darkness!

Do you remember what Matthew said earlier, as Jesus began to heal sickness and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom among the pagan Gentiles?  The people that were sitting in darkness saw great light.  In the Scriptures light is life!  And darkness is death.  And with our works, according to the character of Christ, and with our discipling of the nations, we bring life to the nations.  It is the light of life!

Paul explains, in one instance, that “light exposes the hidden things of darkness,” and he goes on and says, “the ones that get drunk are drunk in the night.”  The worst things happen under cover of darkness; in fact a goodly portion of the world is under a constant shroud of darkness.  The whole world is divided into “children of light,” and “children of darkness!”

And the “children of light” inevitably expose the things done in the dark.  They can’t help it.  They’re light!  And the light shines in the dark.  And the “children of darkness” hate that.  They don’t like being exposed to light!

It seems that, more and more, in our society things are done out in the open – in broad daylight.  And that seems like a contradiction, but it’s not, because when degradation and perversity reach a certain stage, a pall of darkness even shrouds the daytime.  And we’ve reached that stage.

Need we speculate as to why there are no checks on corruption in this society?  Do we need to wonder why it is that there is open sin and iniquity in broad daylight? – that every abominable thing in the sight of God is done with relish – and with less and less shame?  Ever wonder why more and more sex is seen on TV and in movies – none of which is marital?

In case anybody might be wondering what’s causing it, let me just say it.  The darkness is here because there are very few lights.  Sixty million go to church on Sunday, but there are very few lights.  Two hundred thousand ministers speak about something on Sunday, but there are very few lights.

There are very few aflame with the glorious person of Christ.  There are very few who see their own perversity and mourn it.  Very few meek ones – with the meekness of Christ.  Very few who hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God and who show mercy with His mercy.  Very few who are pure in heart.  And very few who are peacemakers.  And very few who suffer for His sake!  And how can there be exultant joy in suffering in and with Christ when there’s not enough light around to be persecuted?

It has to be obvious to the most casual observer that this generation is the most perverse and abominable in the history of the country!  And it ought to be a simple deduction from reason alone that the great lights of our past, who blazed with the brilliance of the personage of Christ have died!  And the ones who have replaced them resemble the rest of society!

There has been so much compromise and syncretization and melding together that the Church has been rendered insipid and rests in a shadow.  It neither permeates the earth nor shines upon the faces of men.  Men no longer see the brilliant light of Christ, and, therefore no longer give glory to God.

How will it be reversed?  And it will be reversed.  But how?  We must function as men and women and children who have received life in Christ; and who are like Him.  We must live so much like Him that, as people observe us, we become a serious problem for them.  They must ask – “what is it?  Why are these people so different?  Their conduct, their behavior, the manner in which they speak, different in their reactions!  Different in their business practices, they seem to have such wisdom, such authority, such contentment, such joy!”

And they’ll be driven to the only valid explanation – “they’re Christians.”  Children of God, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.  And as He is the light of the world, we too have become the light of the world.