Summary: Jesus discusses salt, light and law
In the sermon on the mount Jesus called us salt and light, then condemned whoever sets aside the least of God’s commands. Does that mean that Christians should put to death idolaters, Sabbath breakers, adulterers and those who dishonor their parents, sacrifice animals, be circumcised, rest farmland every seventh year, observe the new moons, build leafy huts for the feast of tabernacles, pay wages daily and use no leaven at Easter?
Let’s learn that we already are salt and light, and what our relationship to the old law is.
Let’s examine Matthew 5:13-20, salt, light and the law.
Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Matthew 5:13 Salt versus Salt
Can salt lose its saltiness? Bible critics could reveal their ignorance of history by assuming that it means the same thing by salt as we do. We define table salt as sodium chloride. However, what Jesus meant by salt cannot be explained in our cultural terms. It was probably a mixture of calcium sulfate and our table salt. Calcium sulfate is gypsum and used to make plaster of Paris. This mixture could lose the salt component and thus its “saltiness.” All this reveals a very important step in studying the Bible: get our definitions right. Careful research rather than jumping to hasty conclusions helps us understand the Bible so much better.
Matthew 5:14 What are We?
Jesus said his disciples are the salt of the earth and are the light of the world. This was encouragement to be what they already were. We too are the salt that gives the world a good taste and the light that brightens this dark planet. When we are not, our communities suffer. Salt preserves. When we fail to live up to our calling, our world rots from the inside out and is not preserved. Light helps us see. When we fail to rise up and be the light of the world, others cannot see God in us. Let’s wake up and be who God says we are. Let’s be ourselves.
Matthew 5:15 Covert Christians
Have you ever heard of covert Christians who hide their faith? Some Christians are closet Christians and it contradicts what Jesus taught. He told his disciples that they were a city on a hill that cannot be hid. The followers of Jesus Christ are a light that is meant to be seen, not hidden away in secret. What exactly of Christ’s disciples must be seen? Is it our fancy buildings, our church music, our fancy clothing, our wonderful arguments or something else? Jesus specifically mentioned that we are to let our good deeds be seen, not to show off, as he later explained, but so that others may glorify God.
Matthew 5:16 Evangelism of Good Works
Jesus encouraged his disciples to do good. Christianity is more than worshiping, singing, and hearing sermons about Jesus. It includes doing good things. Do-nothing Christianity is incomplete and weak. Believing alone is not enough. Worship is only a start. Jesus said to go do. What are good works - obedience to the law or helping our neighbor? Jesus’ description is not limited to either of these conditions. It can mean being honest in our business dealings, using appropriate and inoffensive language, being commendable in our charity, honorable in the way we speak of others and praiseworthy in our community life. One of the most effective forms of evangelism is doing good deeds.