Sermon Notes: Matthew 5:13-16

Matthew 5:13-16

Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “The glory of the gospel is that when the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1976), p. 28.

Jesus, the true and faithful Israel, has come and completed everything God promised. Now Jesus has sent his church to the nations from her local setting to see that all nations of the earth might have access to the gospel so that they can turn to Jesus and be saved. 

The church’s identity and how that works out is a vital part of our work. 

We speak often, as a church on mission, of strategy and tactics to see the nations discipled, and this is entirely appropriate. 

Jesus, in our text today, speaks to our identity rather than strategies and tactics with the metaphors of salt and light. 

So, what is it to be salt and light?  

READ IT: Matthew 5:13-16

As salt, we are to be holy. 5:13

The usual way I’ve heard Jesus’ words explained is that Jesus intends us to season life and preserve life. This is good, and it is definitely an application. Maybe you’ve heard these before. Maybe you’ve heard other things, and I’d like to hear what you’ve heard.

I’ve always been a little unsatisfied with seasoning and preservation as primary explanations of Jesus’ teaching.

Seasoning and preservation can be applications, but there is too much use of salt in the Old Testament in sacrifice and restraint from sin in the Old Testament for Jesus to mean simply flavor and preservation. 

The regular use of salt with food led to its use in rituals as well, such as in sealing a covenant. In the Old Testament a “covenant of salt” is a perpetual covenant (Num. 18:19; 2 Chr. 13:5); thus, “the salt of the covenant with your God” was added to all sacrifices (Lev. 2:13; cf. Ezek. 43:24; Ezra 6:9–10) and to the incense of the tabernacle (Exod. 30:35). Salt flats are characterized as the extreme of unproductive land (Deut. 29:23 [MT 24]; Ps. 107:34 [KJV “barrenness”]; Jer. 17:6; Zeph. 2:9), and salt was sometimes spread on conquered land to prevent agriculture and thus resettlement (Judg. 9:45); but this practice may also have led to a ritual use of salt denoting separation from the past so the area formerly occupied by a city could be put to a new purpose, even resettlement. Such a connotation may underlie 2 Kgs. 2:20–21 as well as the custom of rubbing newborn infants with salt (Ezek. 16:4), still practiced in some places. Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 904.

These references make me think a little differently about Jesus’ primary meaning being along the lines of holiness and sanctification. 

  1. Salt is associated with sacrifices that are holy, so like salt, we are to be holy. 5:13
    1. As salt, we are to be holy.
      1. As salt, we are to strive to be holy.
        1. VITAL NOTE: We must believe our holiness is rooted in Jesus’ holiness in our place.
          1. Only Jesus is perfect, and therefore, our perfection is rooted in Jesus’ perfection, and his holiness is appropriated by faith alone.
          2. Once we are truly rooted in Jesus’ holiness in our place, we can strive to be holy just as God sees us in Christ.
            1. This is the only way to strive for holiness without becoming arrogant
      2. As salt, we are to be holy sacrifices that are alive so that we can keep on being a sacrifice for Jesus as our true worship.
        1. Romans 12:1
        2. Our holiness is not to be a flash-in-the-pan sprint that wears out.
        3. Our holiness is to be the continual bent of our ongoing lives.
  2. Salt refers to sanctification – being set apart. Salt is associated with keeping old things contrary to the kingdom suppressed so that they won’t grow and produce deadly fruit.
    1. We are to ensure that what used to separate us from God does not come to life and kill us. 5:13 (Romans 8:12-13)
      1. Romans 8:12-13 (ESV) 12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
    2. As salt in God’s kingdom, we must make sure we are actively killing sin and rebellion against God.
  3. Salt can be rendered useless by being diluted, so we have to guard against allowing ourselves to become of no use in the kingdom of God. 5:13
    1. Luke 9:62 (CSB) 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
    2. Sometimes, salt would be added to plaster to increase its strength or to other mixtures for strengthening road construction. In those cases, the salt would be rendered useless.
    3. Jesus’ warning about losing our saltiness is clear. We should be careful to not let the purity of walking in holiness and sanctification be diluted with anything that will cause our lives to be unusable.
    4. We are to avoid anything that will render our holiness mute.
      1. Let me be clear: This is in no way indicative of a person losing their salvation.
      2. It is a stark warning that we will know trees by their fruit.
        1. Those who are salt, will remain salty and guard against anything that would kill their identity as the salt of God.
        2. Allowing ourselves to lose our saltiness is evidence we were never Christians in the first place.

What are some ways we can stay salty as living and holy sacrifices?

Here is a guiding thought to help us answer that question: “Holiness is not merely a feeling, state of mind, or good intention. It involves practical separation from sin and real separation unto God.” – Paul Washer

  1. Hear and obey God’s word. 
    1. This might be the most epic and understated fight of our lives.
      1. So many of the excuses are how hard it is to read the Bible and make sense of it. 
        1. I’m convinced this is a delusion from the enemy and a result of not being willing to slow down and linger over what will actually produce life. 
        2. We have to stop making excuses for not wanting to hear God’s voice. 
  2. Don’t complain about how hard it is to hear and obey, just do it to preserve holiness at all costs. 
    1. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (CSB) 24 Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. 25 Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown. 26 So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. 27 Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
  3. Show up for worship, serve in some capacity, give, and be present in each other’s lives.
    1. These four little basics will truly make all the difference in the world.  

As light, we “shine” to display transformed lives that produce good works for Jesus’ praise. 

  1. There is to be nothing hidden about our Christianity.
    1. There is no such thing as a CIA Christian.
    2. Our lives are to be public and observed by others who don’t know the source of our life and thus result in God being glorified by people who get to know God through the means of our lives as conduits for the gospel.
      1. The clear implication is that we are living out of our transformed lives so that others can see and know.
        1. “Let your light shine before others.” 5:16
          1. Other people, presumably those who don’t give glory to God, are to be shown the glories of Jesus, who is the light of the world.
        2. Let your light shine so that others can see your good works. 5:16
          1. The purpose of shining the light is to put on display our good works.
            1. This implies that the salt of holiness must produce actions that are good and worth seeing by others.
        3. Let your light shine to display your good works so people see God and come to him by faith in Jesus. 5:16
          1. The saltiness of being holy produces good works that redirect people who are alienated from God and blind to him so that they can hear, see, and respond in saving faith.
            1. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (CSB) 3 But if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
            2. Ephesians 2:10 (CSB) 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.
              1. God saves us by his grace alone to do good works that he has already prepared for us so that those pillaged by sin can see and be rescued from sin.

Here are a few ways to be “lit” or shine. These will require being “INTENTIONAL”. You will need to fight for these.

  1. Dive into the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your interactions daily.
    1. Love
    2. Joy
    3. Peace
    4. Patience
    5. Kindness
    6. Goodness – benevolent – a strong desire to do good
    7. Faithfulness
    8. Gentleness
    9. Self-control 
  2. Work to love your spouse, kids, family, and friends well. 
  3. Actively cultivate your Eden.
    1. I’m not talking about perfection.
    2. It is the active effort to keep the metaphorical weeds pulled. 
  4. Our KEY SHIFT of S (domains of society): Work with your city to solve your city’s challenges. 
    1. Embrace the suffering that comes from doing hard work knowing that there is reward in the eternal kingdom. 
  5. Faithfully do your job as excellently as you can. 
  6. In all your good work, make sure you actively tell all who see that Jesus is the object of the worship of your labor. 
    1. Do not be ashamed of Jesus and his kingdom.

Corporate Prayer: Ezekiel 36:37-38

  1. Increase our number because the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.
  2. Increase our financial resources. Put it in our hearts to be generous givers. 
  3. Increase our desire to be holy and mature. 
  4. Increase our sending from healthy homes to our cities, our state, and the nations. 

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