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Salt and Light
12/22/91 & 12/23/01
The Bible talks about leaven or yeast. The kind of yeast with which people are most familiar is a substance that bakers put in dough to make it rise. This yeast consists of a mass of tiny one-celled plants calledyou guessed ityeasts. Yeasts are simple plants, a kind of fungus. Now I know that if you told many people that the bread they were eating was filled with fungus, they would say, "Yuck!"but without this particular fungus, the bread would be as flat as the proverbial pancake.
You can store yeast indefinitely, and it will just sit there, but mixed with the right substances, it grows very rapidly. Yeast reproduces by budding. A small part of a cell wall swells out, a bud forms, breaks off, grows, forms new buds which in turn grow and form more buds. Put yeast in some bread flour, with a little sugar, water, and some heat, and the yeast will explode through the flour and produce that great stuff that we call bread.
When Jesus talked to us, he liked to use simple concepts to teach important spiritual principles. He talked about salt and light and yeast.
In MT 13:33, Jesus gave us the parable of the leaven, or yeast. Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened." Even so, the disciples of Jesus are hid in the world, and there are not that many of them, but they change the whole world, even as a little yeast changes the whole mass of dough.
This applies also to the individual heart and shows us how Jesus works in people's lives. The dough is the heart and soul. The leaven is the gospel. As the gospel is presented to a person, we often do not see its effects. We do not see how it works, and it may appear to us that it does not work at all. But it moves silently within a person's heart and leads them on a spiritual journey.
Salt works the same way. We do not see how the salt works to season the meat, but it does. So the gospel is the salt, the leaven, that reaches the heart (AC 2:37), and when it comes into our heart, it gives a pleasing and zestful flavor to our lives.
In MT5:13, Jesus said, "Ye are the salt of the earth." Now he was at that time speaking to his first disciples, and they needed his words for he would soon sent them out to the world, to suffer and die in his cause. The world would treat them with contempt, would persecute them and kill them. Jesus prepares them for ridicule and suffering by giving them the secret knowledge that they are in reality a blessing to the world, and the more they suffer in bringing Jesus to the world, the more of a blessing they are to the world.
And Jesus is speaking to us, to his disciples today. We are to be a blessing to the world. We are to be the salt of the earth. How? By living Jesus before the world.
Perhaps when Jesus said those words, those first disciples looked around at themselves and thought, "We are few, and none of us has much wealth and power. What can we do in the whole world?" Nothing, if they work by their own power, but Christians do not work by their own power; they work by the power of the Holy Spirit. Nothing if they work in the way the world works. But we are told that they are to work as salt, that is as seasoning. One handful of salt can season a lot of food; and a handful of consecrated dedicated disciples, scattered far and wide, can spread a lot of gospel and season the whole world so that it is pleasing to God.
IICR 2:14 "But thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place." Paul here gives thanks to God who through Jesus leads us to victory and who through us spreads the knowledge of God everywhere. Knowledge of God is obtained only through Jesus, only through the gospel. The figure of speech here speaks of the gospel as a fragrance or a "savour." It is a fragrance that we carry with us and spread around. It is the fragrance of a life given entirely and completely to God.
NM 18:19 speaks of an everlasting covenant as a covenant of salt--because as your probably know, salt not only seasons, it preserves. Even so, the gospel is an everlasting covenant of Salt. In the OT salt was required in all the sacrifices (LV 2:13), as a shadow of God's everlasting covenant. Now that the final sacrifice has been made by Jesus on the cross, he is the everlasting covenant of salt, and he is in us so that we are part of that covenant, and because he is in us, we are the salt of the earth.
Good Salt. If we are salt, we should be good salt. That is to say, our lives are seasoned with Christ and with the grace and love of God. Cl 4:6 "Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man." And not only our speech, but our thoughts and affections, and actions should all be seasoned with gentleness and kindness and love.
This figure of salt shows us what we are to be to others. We are not only to be good but do good. We must have an influence on others, not to serve our interest, but that we may transform them into that salt and light that is pleasing to God.
The figure of salt shows us what great blessings we are to the world. Gods salty people are not clumped together in a great lump of ignorance and wickedness, like a vast heap of unsavoury rotting meat; but Jesus sends us forth to season the world with the knowledge of Jesus, and so to render it acceptable to God.
The figure of salt shows further that we must expect to be in the world and mingled with the world. As salt is not laid up in a pile, so the first disciples could not expect to continue together in the upper room in Jerusalem. They had to be scattered as salt upon meat; they had to be scattered abroad to be living signs of the gospel. Even so we are scattered forth upon the world that wherever we are, we may communicate the savior (as the Levites were dispersed in Israel). The old saying is that it is bad luck to spill salt. That may be true of actual salt, it is not true of God's people. We are to be spilled out across the world for the gospels sake.
Bad Salt. If we are not good salt, good disciples, we are as salt that has lost its savor. If we, who should season others have lost our seasoning power, if we have not spiritual life, If the Holy Spirit no longer fills and flavors our lives, then we are in a truly desperate position. V13 should give us pause:
"If the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men."
The indication is that people in this condition cannot be saved. Jesus asks, "Wherewith shall it be salted?" Salt is the remedy for unseasoned meat, but there is no remedy for unseasoned salt. When we come to Jesus, the Holy Spirit is in us and gives meaning and power to our lives, but if we go back on Jesus, if we allow the devil to defeat us, we become salt that is hard and tasteless and unusable.
V13 "It is thenceforth good for nothing." If you have ever dealt with old salt that has been setting up in a saltshaker for so long that it has turned to stone, you know what Jesus is talking about. It cannot be used. What about that person that once made a profession of Jesus and never did anything, never allowed the Holy Spirit to use even a piece of his or her life. That person ought to read these verses and be scared half to death.
That person is doomed to ruin and rejection, to be cast out, and "trodden under foot of men." Who will do the casting out? It seems that Jesus is saying that he will. On the day of Judgement, he will cast out those whose lives are hard useless salt, and he will exalt those who use their lives in his service, who actually live Christ every day.
V14 says, "Ye are the light of the world." Perhaps the Apostle Paul has this verse in mind in EP 5:8: "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light." When we were unsaved we were darkness; now we are light. We are light because we have Christ in us. In JH 8:12, Jesus says, "I am the light of the world:he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." The light we have then, is not our own, it is the light of Jesus in us, and we show that we have the light of Jesus in us, we show that we are saved, by walking and living as children of light.
At the very beginning of time, the world was without form and void and dark, and God said, "Let there be light." Thus every morning, when the sun dispels the darkness, we should be reminded that God is the creator of the world and everything therein.
And the human soul was in exactly that same condition, ruined, lost in sin, dark, until the light of the gospel broke upon that soul and caused it to shine with new life in
This figure of light shows us some things about living for Jesus:
Human Signs. As "the lights of the world," we have people looking at us. "A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid." The followers of Jesus, especially those who are zealous in his service, are noticeable. They are like beacons. They are for "signs" (IS 8:18). We wonder if God still gives signs and miracles to the world as he did in Bible times. Of course he does. Gods people are God's signs to the world.
And people will notice you. Some will admire you, some will commend you, some will rejoice in your witness and study your witness to be like you. But others will envy you and hate you and criticize you, and ridicule you, and pick at every little thing about you. You, of course, will not like that, but that is the way it is going to be because you are God's sign to the world. Paul says in ICR 4:9 "We are made a spectacle to the world." We are a show, an exhibit, a display, for Jesus; therefore we should be careful of our lives. We should avoid even the appearance of wrong, because people look at us to see Jesus.
That may seem like a burden to you, but it is also your glory. Think upon those first disciples of Jesus. They were just ordinary folks until he called them into his service, and then they ceased to be ordinary. They grew in stature. They were magnified in power. And yes, the same can be true of you. There are no ordinary followers of Jesus. You are warriors for the light, captains and kings in the cause of truth.
Givers of Light. Now another thing these verses show us about living for Jesus is that as the lights of the world, we should give light to others (V15):
God sets us up. Perhaps we should think of ourselves as streetlights, destined to light up the streets of the world. Jesus having lighted these streetlights, they shall not be put under a bushel, nor hid in a corner. Perhaps this was a special message to the first disciples, saying to them that they will not always be confined to the villages of Galilee, but they shall be sent into all the world.
The book of RV describes churches as golden candlesticks or candlelabras. The candles of individual Christians are placed in these golden candleabras so that our lights may mingle together and become strong--and this strong light for Jesus makes a church "like a city on a hill, it cannot be hid." Thus, the church that stands strong in the spirit "gives light to all that are in the house." It is a light to the whole community. It draws to it the people of God. Those who do not come do not receive the light, but they have only themselves to blame. The light is there, and they see it, but they despise it and refuse to partake of it.
V16 says that we should let our lights shine. The prophets of the OT were the shining lights of God in the land of Canaan, but the apostles were to let their light shine over the whole earth, Jesus commanded that they "go into all the world to preach the gospel."
Today we are the apostles and disciples of Jesus, and God requires that we communicate the knowledge we have of Jesus to others. We are not to hide our light "under a bushel," we are to freely share it. (The talent must not be buried in a napkin, but traded with.) Jesus is not our private property. What we have received of Christ we are to give to others. However, it is the nature of the gospel that the more we give it away, the more we have.
We give away the gospel by the good examples of our lives. We should be "burning and shining lights" (JH 5:35); we should give evidence through our lives, that we are indeed the followers of Jesus and possessors of the Holy Spirit (JM 3:13) (JB 29:11).
Our light should shine--by doing such good works as people may see and approve of them. We should do works before the eyes of our community that will cause our community, our neighbors to think well of us and thus to think well of Jesus. Yes, we should do good works for show. Of course we should. But we do not do good works to show others what wonderful people we are. We do good works to show people what a wonderful savior Jesus is.
Jesus makes this very clear at the end of V16 "that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." This is the first question of the SC What is the chief end of man? A. "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever." What we do is done for the glory of God (IPT 4:11). We want not only glorify God ourselves, but we want to encourage others to glorify him. The sight of our good works will do this, by furnishing them: With a reason to praise God. We do not think of this very often, but our spiritual life is a cause for prayers of thanksgiving. Others should say, "Thanks be to God for the life that you are living." Can they say that? That is a question we ought to ask. Can someone give thanks to God for the life that I am living?
Our good works, our good lives, also furnish people with evidence for the truth of our belief. I am sure you have heard that question: If you were put on trial for your Christianity, would there be enough evidence to convict you? There ought to be. People should see in our lives that which would convict them of the truth of our faith.
Those about us must not only hear our good words, but see our good works, that they may be convinced that Jesus is more than a name, and that we are not only people who profess his name, but we are a people who abide in his name (PH 4:8). This then is our call. We are the leaven, the salt, and the light of the world. We are Christ to the world. Be salt then, and light and leaven. Be Christ. Amen.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
Copyright 2000 York Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Last modified, 01/11/02