Salt. Salt is mentioned many times in scripture, and it has typical significance. We find that salt speaks of inward, unchanging holiness that has a gracious outflow and results in preservation. Up until the 20th century and before the invention of refrigeration, salt was used not only for seasoning (Job 6:6) but as a preservative. It was useful in preserving the quality of stored food, and is was a very valuable commodity in the world. The entire economy of opulent Sodom and Gomorrah was based on the production of salt, which is abundant in the Dead Sea.1 When sowed in the ground, salt makes ground infertile (Judges 9:45; Jer. 17:6). So we see that salt can be used for good (preserving and seasoning) and for judgment, as in the case of Lot’s wife.
Salt in the Offerings. In Leviticus 2 we find that every meal offering was to be seasoned with salt, and it was called “the salt of the covenant of thy God”. There we find it was to be included in all the offerings (Lev. 2:13). In the offerings salt seems to be connected with the maintenance of the holiness of God. It characterized the Lord Jesus here below, and should also characterize our offerings of worship! There are two references to a “covenant of salt”, first when God promised the kingdom to David (2 Chron. 13:5) and second when He promised the heave-offerings to the priests (Num. 18:19). Both are unchanging agreements.2 This supports the idea that salt has to do with what is unchanging or immutable.
The Salt of the Earth. Just as salt was used to preserve food physically from corruption, so believers are to have a preserving effect on this world. “Ye are the salt of the earth: but 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.” (Matt. 5:13). Salt has a strong savor to it that makes it useful. If salt were to loose its saltiness, it would be nothing but soft gravel. Likewise, a Christian who is not walking in practical holiness is “good for nothing”.
Salt in Yourselves. This thought is expanded in Mark to cover a wider audience. “For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt” (Mark 9:49). The first part of the verse covers all men, but perhaps it is specifically a warning to unbelievers. To be salted with fire is to come under the judgment of a holy God. Unbelievers will face this when they meet God in their sins. But believers too have been salted with fire, only it took place at the cross where Jesus bore the fire for us, and through His death has given us a position of holiness in the sight of God! But the second part of the verse would be more for believers; “every sacrifice shall be salted with salt”. In all we do for God in the way of service, as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), we are to be characterized by inward consistency with God’s holy nature; “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Rom. 12:1). The Lord concludes in v.50 by saying, “Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another” (Mark 9:50). The salt is inward, but what flows out to others is grace, resulting in peace with one another.
Salt in a New Cruise. We have in an instance of salt in 2 Kings 2:19-22 that bears this out. There was a curse on Jericho, it therefore it was no wonder the water was bad and ground barren. Elisha could have said “It serves you right!”, but he didn’t. Instead he brings in something new. The “new cruise” speaks of Christ, the Second Man. The first man was barren of fruit for God; he could not be looked to for any blessing. The salt speaks of inward holy energy, of devotion to God, “truth in the inward parts” (Psa. 51:6) that characterized the Lord Jesus in this world. The salt cast into the waters speaks of where the holy devotedness of Christ led Him: to the death of the cross. The results of this was that the waters were healed! The effect was grace. This was the first thing Elisha did after Elijah was gone up in the whirlwind, and it characterized his whole ministry: grace that flows from inward devotion to God, and without compromising holiness (James 3:18). We too are called to be vessels like that new cruise. We have a new life, and we can bring blessing to others if we maintain inward consistency with the character of God.
Salt in Our Speech. As we have seen, salt is primarily an inward thing; i.e. something that we need to have in ourselves. But salt does have a place in our communications. Paul brings in the typical meaning of salt in Colossians; “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Col. 4:6). There are two things that should “always” characterize our words. First, they should always be “with grace”, which implies a desire for the blessing of others, as well as a gentle spirit (Luke 4:22). Second, our words should be “seasoned with salt”. That is, the holiness which should be in us in abundance (Mark 9:50) ought to also guard what we say, but in moderation. Perhaps you could say, ‘Grace is the main fare, salt is the seasoning’. God can give us the wisdom to know how much salt to have in our speech! It is possible to have too little salt, and also possible to have too much.
- The “Dead Sea” in the land of Palestine is known for an extremely high salt concentration of eight times normal ocean water.
- Address by Bill Prost, Salt, Denver 2022