Salt and Light

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Salt and Light

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Matthew 5:13-16


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Sunday, February 23, 2020 am                                       



The Sermon On the Mount (6)


We have devoted the past few lessons to examining the “beatitudes”.   Jesus began this sermon with attitudes that ought to be present in our lives – attitudes toward God and mankind.   After this introduction, Jesus then emphasizes the importance of being a godly example. He gives us the analogy of salt and light.   Last year, our emphasis was being “Lights in a dark world”. We devoted much of the year to emphasizing the importance of being a proper example. More than once we appealed to the text we are going to consider today.

In this lesson, we will take a look at the details of this text and remind ourselves of the importance of being a proper example.   Example is so important.   We must never forget that there is always someone watching and being influenced by the decisions that we make.   That is why it is so important to remind ourselves that we are examples at all times and in every decision we make.

Jesus, in this sermon wanted His listeners to understand that how they lived was important – God takes note and so do others.   Furthermore, Jesus wanted it known that God cares how we conduct ourselves before Him and others.   There will be an accounting based upon it.   So it is important to emphasize just how serious it is that we be a proper example. We must not forget that we may be the ONLY “Bible” this careless world will read. What are they seeing in us? Recorded on this occasion, Jesus gives 2 illustrations of being a good example – salt and light.   Let us notice what He said and make some application.

  1.   You are the salt of the earth
    1. You are the salt of the earth –   how is salt an influencing agent?   What are some of the qualities of salt to consider? Briefly we just mention these.
      1. Salt is distinctive – We recognize when something has been salted. It is not the food itself, but something added to make it better.
      2. Salt preserves – it was a natural preservative back then that extended the life of food.
  • Salt flavors – that is the emphasis Jesus is making in this text.   We know the importance of salt as a seasoning.
  1. Salt blends in – but its presence is still known.   You add salt to you recipe and it “disappears” into it.   But you KNOW it is there.
  2. Salt creates thirst – another quality of salt. When something is salty, we need water thereafter.
  3. EACH of these qualities can apply to our positive example.  We need to be distinctive (more in a moment) and “flavor” our environment.   We need to be spiritual preservatives offering salvation to the world. And we need to create a thirst for God and His word.   ALL of these things (and others) can be applied to our example.   How is the world going to change for the better (according to God’s will) and how will souls be saved, if we do not take the time to be the salt of the earth?
  1. But if the salt loses its savor, how shall it be seasoned? We need to remain effective.
    Salt losing its savor is losing its power by diluting or corrupting it.   It is becoming like the world (or returning to the world) so that we have no spiritual influence on the worldly.
    How often are we warned to not love the world or the things of the world (1 John 2:15-17)?
    Jesus warned in Matthew 13:22 about cares of this world chocking out the word and thus we become unfruitful.
  2. It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men – God expects us to remain useful. This expression is a warning to us.   I think of Jesus in John 15:1-2 – every branch that does not bear fruit is taken away. Vs. 6 further warns he is withered and cast into the fire and burned.
  3. Observations:
    1. Is it possible to have too much salt? Salt is not poured, it is shaken. A little bit goes a long way. In fact, too much salt can ruin a meal. Is there something to be said about overdoing our influence?
      Continually in scripture we are challenged to be mild (meek) and have a pleasant disposition with others.   Ephesians 4:1-2 – walk worthy with all lowliness and gentleness…
      Philippians 4:5 notes that we are to let gentleness be known to all men.
      our goal is to win as many as possible and that is begins with a godly disposition.
      An example is found in Colossians 4:6 – let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
    2. This is a call to be different.   That was the point Jesus was making in this sermon.   You are godly and that makes you different.   Just like salt, we are to be distinctive and flavorful.
      We blend in to the world (without becoming like it – cf. John 17:14-16) as best we can, but still our presence is known.   And they ought to know we are there!   1 Peter 2:11-12 – honorable conduct that will cause some to glorify God.
    3.   You are the light of the world –
  4. You are the light of the world – how is light an influencing agent?
    Like salt, light has many qualities that are associated with our influence –

    1. Light illuminates – it reveals what is around us and that can help us know which direction to go.
    2. That illumination also exposes darkness – when light is shone in places of evil or filth, it exposes those caught up in such.   That is why we have addressed the darkness of this world and how it hates the light (cf. John 3:18-21)
  • It can give security – we feel safer when we are in the light (because we can see what is going on)
  1. It can provide warmth – think of the warmth of the sun or a fire.
  2. It can sustain life – we need light to be healthy and survive.
  3. Again, each of these qualities can be related to how we are an example to others.   In summary, people need to see the light of God, Jesus and His word shining in us.
  1. What is the light we are reflecting?   It is Christ Himself – recall how He called Himself the light of the world (John 8:12, 9:5, 1;4-5 – in the very introduction, etc.).
    2 Corinthians 4:3-4 speaks of those to whom the gospel is hidden because the god of this age has blinded them, “lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…should shine on them.
    It is obvious that we are to reflect His light to the world.
    2 Peter 1:19 speaks of the prophetic word being heeded as a light that shines in a dark place.
    2 Timothy 1:10, again Christ is brought to life through the light of the gospel.
  2. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden – cities were typically built on hills or hillsides.   This provide them protection among other things.   And if there were lights burning in the city, it could be seen for great distances. Jesus notes that is hard to hide a city that in set on a hill.
    Jesus is implying this is how our light ought to be shining – bright, high and visible. The whole point of emphasis is we need to learn God’s word (e.g. the teachings of Jesus) and live it OPENLY!
  3. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand and it gives light to all who are in the house.
    Jesus here mentions the opposite – DON’T hide your light.   It is not INTENDED to be hidden but openly revealed.   How else will come to know the truth.   God could have chosen many spectacular ways to reveal His will to us, but He chose to do it through the teachings of His followers.   We are living examples reflecting His light in us at all times.
    Also note it is intended for ALL who are in the house!   Not a select few (though different circumstances might warrant different types and amounts of light).
    Do others see your light or are you hiding it?   Consider how it is possible to live a godly life (all the “I don’t do this” and “I do this” things) and still hide your light.   Jesus IS emphasizing that others need to see His light shining in us. Are we willing to confess Him (Matthew 10:32-33)?
  4. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven – the goal of our light is to win others to God through Jesus.
    Notice Jesus said to let it SO shine (“in such a way” – NASB) – brightly, and with purpose.
    The goal – that God be glorified.   We do WHATEVER we can to influence others.   This goes back to honorable conduct that leaves the adversary without real reasons – he is put to shame (1 Peter 3:16, 2:11-12 – abstain from fleshly lusts with honorable conducts that in the end they glorify God…)
    Paul always conducted himself with the hope that he might win others – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Are we striving to become all things to all men so that we might win others to Christ? We cannot do that without the light of Christ shining in us?
  5. Observations:
    1) Is it possible to have too much light?   Can we blind others with it?   Both the salt and light illustrations indicate pleasant and moderate amount with others. We can become abusive and overbearing with God’s word.   We must never forget that we are called upon to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16).
    Of course, as noted, even the smallest amount of light is an irritant to those who prefer darkness.
    2) This is a call to be different.   We are lights in a dark world.   Again, both illustrations here show that we are recognized as different. That is a crucial point to apply as Christians – 1 Peter 4:3-5 – they think it strange…; 2 Corinthians 6:17 – we are to come out from among them and be separate.


Thus Jesus in this sermon, having emphasized our proper attitude, now appeals to our willingness to be examples at all times and in all places. After a few more introductory statements, the rest of this sermon is filled with illustrations of how we are to be godly examples.     So what kind of example are you?


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