Thursday, February 2, 2017

Matthew 5:13-20 Being Salt & Light

KEY TEXT: Matthew 5:13-16 "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.  You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

KEY THOT: Jesus describes his disciples (church) as the salt of the earth and light of the world. There has been many differing interpretations of Jesus' use of the salt to refer to the church. Some creative interpretations include salt as preservative, salt as fertilizer, salt as healing agent, salt as disinfectant, and even salt as thirst-creator. But the safest way to resolve this is to look at the context: Jesus spoke of the salt primarily in terms of its function of adding taste to the food: "lost its taste" (ESV), "loses its saltiness" (NIV), "loses its flavor" (NET, NKJV), "becomes tasteless" (NASB), "lost its flavor" (NLT), etc. The consensus here is that of salt as seasoning. So, the church is to becoming the world's seasoning agent. The implication is that life without Christ is flat and tasteless. The church's function is to add flavour to life in the world. 

Just as it takes only a small quantity of salt to change the flavor of the food, so it doesn't take many Christians to influence the environment wherever God has placed us--be it the home, workplace, school, camp or campus. But how can we remain salty? By keeping the Beautiful Attitudes of the 8 Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-10): humility, penitence, meekness, ethical, merciful, pure, peaceable, and rejoicing in persecution. Only when we adopt such attitudes can we salt the world.

Another aspect of the church as salt is  in its internal witness: "Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another" (Mark 9:50). We can only be salty if there is peace (harmony) in our relationships in the church community. So, the salt metaphor for the church implies the church adopting the eight Beatitudes which is manifested in our relationships of peace among members of the church. Salt can lose its saltiness if it's contaminated by broken relationships. We need to keep the bond of peace in the unity of the Spirit. Otherwise, we lose our witness as salt in the world and become useless as God's agent to change to the world.

The church as light implies that the world is in moral darkness. Only the church carries the "Light of the World" (John 8:12). So, when the church shines, it is not shining its own light but Christ's light that dwells in its midst. Jesus explains the light in terms of good works: "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). While we are not saved by good works, we are saved for good works. And we have to do our good works before the world in darkness. Good works are not restricted to community service, but include our evangelistic ministry of seeking and saving the lost: "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him" (Acts 10:38).

In summary, we may say that salt refers to our being (character) while light refers to our doing (conduct). We need both to make an impact in society--our character marked by the eight Beautiful Attitudes of the Beatitudes and conduct marked by God's good works of saving the lost in darkness. We do this by sharing the Gospel, healing the sick and casting out demons from those who are living in darkness.

Alpha is a ministry that allows the world to experience the salt and light within the Christian community. Non-believers are invited into the "city on a hill" (v. 14) to taste the salt and to experience the light as Christians come together in harmony to serve them. It is a body-witness that allows pre-believers to "come and taste" the salt and "come and see" the light.

Father, help us become salt and light in the world, that You might be glorified. Amen.

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