Author: Ron Graham
Salt and Light
This page continues to study Matthew chapter 5 and the Sermon on the Mount.
1 Properties of Salt and Light
Matthew 5:13-16 Salt and light have properties that make them very apt symbols of the Christian
- Salt is a cleanser and promotes healing. Bathing a cut or sore in salt water helps kill infection. Salt, as a mild abrasive, can be used as a cleanser. The Christian’s influence in the world cleanses and heals.
- Salt is a preservative. It will prevent meat and fish from going bad, and other foods can be preserved in brine. The Christian’s influence helps preserve the things which are good, and keep out the rotten influences.
- Salt is an enhancer. It enhances the flavour of food, and the temperature of freezing or boiling water. The Christian’s influence enhances the world and brings joy to life.
- Light cheers and brightens. Without the Christian’s hope shining all around, this world would be a desolate and gloomy place indeed.
- Light guides one in the dark. The world is in darkness. Everywhere there is ignorance and deceit spread by the devil. But the Christian’s wisdom is a guiding light to the world that it may see the path to God.
- Light reveals danger, and warns of it. There are many kinds of lights and beacons that warn us of hazards. The Christian’s fear of God is a warning light to the world which is going to be judged by God.
2 The Law of Moses and the Gospel
Matthew 5:17-19 Some teach that Jesus interpreted the law of Moses to the Jews, and did not himself preach the gospel. It is true that Jesus told the people who heard his preaching that they should keep the law until it be fulfilled. However, his purpose was not to be a teacher and preacher of the law.
Matthew 4:23 introduces the sermon on the Mount by saying that Jesus was "proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom". Other scriptures make it clear that Jesus preached the gospel as opposed to the law. "The law and the prophets were until John; since then the gospel of the kingdom is being preached" (Luke 16:16).
The Hebrew writer says that "God, after he spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets has in these last days spoken to us in His Son... How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? ...After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard" (Hebrews 1:1-2; 2:3-4).
The disciples were to teach everything Jesus had said to them (John 14:26; Matthew 28:18-20). When Jesus died on the cross, he fulfilled the law. He "nailed it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14).
The Law was in force while Jesus was preaching the gospel. What Jesus taught was better than the law of Moses, however nothing he taught violated that law. People then could believe and practise all that Jesus taught in the sermon on the mount, without offending the law of Moses which, for the time being, they were to keep.
On the other hand, people today can believe and practise all that Jesus taught in the sermon on the mount, without keeping or being bound to the law of Moses. Moses permitted many things that Jesus taught people to leave behind in order to excel in righteousness.
3 Where Does the Glory Go?
Suppose someone sees your good works, and that someone is moved to glorify God because of what they see you do. In this case, God rewards you with a heavenly reward. In this case, it would be a pity to hide your good works. However, suppose someone else sees your good works, and gives the glory to you instead of God.
In that case, your reward is praise from men, not a heavenly reward. In that case you are better to keep your good works a secret. The issue is not whether your works are seen or not, but where the glory will go, and for whom you are seeking the glory —yourself or God. (Matthew 5:16; 6:1)
4 Deep Thought
1. What properties have salt and light, that Jesus likens his disciples to them?
2. Some people say that the Sermon on the Mount is merely an exposition of the Law of Moses. All Jesus was doing was showing people how God had always intended them to keep the law. Is this true? In the sermon on the mount, was Jesus expounding the law of Moses, or his own teachings?