Matthew 5:13-16

Salt and Light: The Twofold Influence of Believers on the World
Matthew 5:13-16
Salt and Light. These two metaphors are used to summarize the twofold influence that the subjects of the kingdom can have in this world. They are also a summary of the effect of the beatitudes (vv.1-12).
  1. Salt speaks of the preserving influence of a holy or righteous life. Up until the 20th century and before the invention of refrigeration, salt was used as a preservative. It was useful in preserving the quality of stored food. In a similar way, the life and testimony (Col. 4:6) of believers in this world, ordering their lives consistent with God’s holy nature, is a moral preserver in the world (2 Thess. 2:7). Read more…
  2. Light speaks of the incessant outflow of grace. While salt has its effect by staying true to what is inward, light has its effect by shining outward to provide illumination. The character of God revealed in Christ is to be reflected to the world around. This is done primarily through good works.
Light acting in two ways.

Light is shown in scripture to acts in two ways. Negatively, the light exposes man’s true condition (John 1:9; 3:20-21). This is what is meant in John 1:9, that He (the Son), "coming into the world, lightens" or illuminates "every man". His life of perfect righteousness and grace here is this world exposed the evil hearts of men. This is pictured in John 8, where Jesus declared "I am the light of the world", after He exposed the true moral state of the Jewish leaders who brought to Him the woman taken in adultery. But the light acts in another way too. Positively, the light gives us the knowledge of God’s character revealed in the Person of the Son (John 1:5; 2 Cor. 4:6). This is pictured in John 9, where Jesus again declared "I am the light of the world", and proceeded to open a man's physical and spiritual eyesight. It is a type of spiritual illumination through new birth. Unless a man is born again (John 3:5), he cannot see the kingdom of God. In that sense, the Divine life in Christ was "the light of men" (John 1:5). 

Our light will have this same dual effect on this world. Read more…

Ye are the Salt of the Earth: Inward Righteousness (v.13)

 13 “Ye” are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have become insipid, wherewith shall it be salted? It is no longer fit for anything but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot by men. v.13 Salt speaks of the preserving influence of a righteous life on this world. Salt is the only thing that cannot be salted, because it is the preservative principle itself. It is not just a substance… it is a quality! But if the quality of “saltiness” is gone, it cannot be replaced. Salt with no saltiness is nothing but gravel; therefore, it is only fit to be “cast out and to be trodden under foot by men”. There is a danger that the salt could lose its savor. It is not a question of whether a saint can lose his or her salvation, but that they might lose their righteous moral testimony. If this occurs, a Christian could become the subject of men’s ridicule. In Mark 9:50 we are told, “have salt in yourselves”. We must be determined to please the Lord no matter what the cost. Christ was the perfect example; “Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein” (2 Kings 2:20). He was filled with that inward, dogged determination to do the will of God, whatever the cost.

Ye are the Light of the World: Outward Grace (vv.14-16)

14 “Ye” are the light of the world: a city situated on the top of a mountain cannot be hid. v.14 Light speaks of the incessant outflow of grace. When our priorities are straight (like a brightly lit city placed high above), this light is something that cannot be hid. Grace in our walk and ways is the unconscious fruit of the new nature.
15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under the bushel, but upon the lamp-stand, and it shines for all who are in the house. v.15 There is a need to order our lives to allow the light to shine. If we put our light under the bushel – obscuring it by other pursuits, such as our education, business, pleasure, etc. – we are hindering its shining. (Compare)
16 Let your light thus shine before men, so that they may see your upright works, and glorify your Father who is in the heavens. v.16 The exhortation is to let your light so shine”. It is not something we have to try to do positively. Rather, we must clear away the obstacles and it will happen automatically. “Good works” are things that must accompany the Christian testimony. The out-shining of light will illuminate the world for what it is (Eph. 5:13)… a dark, cold, bitter place. It will lead souls to see the goodness of God (Rom. 2:4) and to turn in repentance to Him, “glorifying your Father who is in heaven”.
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