Consider these Scriptures:
Matthew 5:13: 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."
Mark 9:49, 50: For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."
Luke 14:34: Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
Colossians 4:5, 6: "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."
Salt. We are supposed to be salt, be salted, be seasoned with salt. We are supposed to be "high sodium." Why? What does this all mean? Let's look at the New Testament passages that have to do with salt.
The Colossians passage is fairly simple and self-explanatory, so we won't spend our time there. We'll start with Mark chapter nine. There is reason to believe that Mark may have been the first of the four gospels written. Mark shows Jesus in action and it climaxes at the end with a hated Roman centurion making the ultimate pronouncement, "Truly this man was the son of God."
Mark nine begins with Jesus' transfiguration (1-29), has Jesus' death foretold (30, 31), then the disciples arguing over who shall be first (32-37). In verses 38-40 Jesus warns against the reflexive condemnation of those outside your group, and finally, 41-50 deal with the danger of judgment, the urgency of whole-hearted action. At last, the chapter concludes with the salt warning. Jesus calls on His hearers to have salt in themselves, to be at peace with each other.
If you look at the whole chapter, you see what? Jesus is at the center of it. The transfiguration and discussion of Jesus death in that part of the chapter would have been a shocking thing. His disciples had an entirely different view of Jesus--and their--future. Jesus' view included a serious testing of their faith; their view included no such thing. Jesus would glide into Jerusalem and initiate the kingdom, scatter the Romans, and give them all cabinet positions!
In the latter portion, the warning is about sending wrong messages, and the necessity of whole-hearted commitment. It is in precisely this context--at the climax of the chapter--that Jesus utters the fateful statements about salt.
Mark 9:49, 50: here they are again:
For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.
Everyone will be salted with fire. There is no escape; every person will face this. Jesus goes on to describe salt. It has a particular quality--one that is necessary for it to be effectual and significant as salt. It must have this quality or it is useless. It must have saltiness.
Jesus tells His disciples that they must have salt in themselves. There is an essential quality that we also, as Jesus' followers, must have. We must have salt in ourselves. what is this then that we must have?
Immediately before this, Jesus is trying to upgrade His disciples from superficial behavior to personally addressing sin issues. Look how He does this. Offending even a child, that is, turning even one heart away from Jesus through our actions (like forbidding the man casting out demons in Jesus' name in verse 38) is heinous. It is better to be killed than to inhibit the progress of an innocent.
Were something even as essential as your hand to give offense, it should be cut off and thrown from you, if that's what it takes to be in the kingdom. Why? Because the result of failure to remove the hand would be eternal in consequence. We can get into a lot of trouble with our hands. We can buy things, sign things, touch things, grasp things, wield weapons, or use power tools which we do not know how to use safely.
The same illustration is offered with the foot (verse 45). If the foot causes you to sin, then how much better to cut it off, and, see again, cast it from you. You don't store it somewhere for curiosity's sake, you throw it away from yourself, you remove it as far as possible from yourself. Our feet can get us into a lot of trouble. Which is to say, we can employ them to take us where we ought not go. Feet, like hands and eyes, are God-given, but we easily misuse them.
This is not enough, though. Jesus gives a third illustration. If the eye becomes an avenue for misused capabilities, it would be better to pluck it out and cast it from you, than to end your course with both eyes, having sold out your saltiness.
Because of Jesus' illustration we should here mention something of this business about being cast into hell where the fire is not quenched. First of all, we already know from the rest of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, that there is no literal place under the ground that burns forever and ever where Satan is the gleeful manager with a sharpened pitchfork. There is nothing even remotely like this in the Bible. We also know that in the time of Jesus there was a rift along the southwest side of the city called the valley of Hinnom. It is also called Gehenna. The refuse gate, one of the eight city gates in the time of Christ, is also there. This was the town dump. Garbage was tipped over the edge and burned. Smoke was continually ascending in greater or lesser measure from that space, located as far as possible from the north end of the city where the temple stood on the highest point, and where also smoke ascended. If you've ever been to a dump, you know that it is a place of malodorous odors, buzzing insects, scavenging birds, decaying food, and crawling things large and small.
Jesus' practice was to illustrate most frequently with that which His hearers could see, and He did not skip a beat here. He used this picture which everyone would easily understand. There was no garbage delivery service; all were familiar with the perennial stink and the burning. what went into the dump was thrown out, good for nothing, destroyed. It made an ideal picture of the eternally lasting consequences of rebellious decisions enacted now.
Everything is tested, said Jesus. Part is completely and finally destroyed, part is completely and finally redeemed; there is no in between. Nothing that goes into that fire is preserved. Everything that lands there has lost its preservative, in the sodium realm, it has lost its saltiness.
Jesus tells His hearers that everything, everyone, will be tested. It is essential that everyone separate themselves as far as possible from sin. We must retain salt in ourselves, we must turn away from sin, but there is something positive that we must have. We must have His peace in us. We have no business arguing about who will be first in the cabinet in the kingdom. The most essential thing is our nurturing a keenness, a desperation even, to be separated from sin. This will strengthen us for our passage through the tests which are permitted to come to us.
Now, we turn to Luke. Again, looking at the whole of the chapter, here is what we see. In verses 1-6, Jesus is healing on the Sabbath. Verses 7-11 have a lesson in humility. In the next three verses He urges that His followers aid those who cannot reciprocate. Verses 15-24 are the parable of the supper to which all are invited but to which so many excuses are given; as a result, the benefits that they would have received are given to the poor. Next, in 25-33 again we have the necessity of whole-hearted commitment to Christ. Then the salt comment.
It is useful to look here at Luke's sequence. Let's focus on the section right before the salt.
In 26 and 27 Jesus warns that following God must be an absolute value; it must be primary. No familial relation can be greater than one's commitment to following God, for such would be idolatry. verses 28-30 have the illustration of the tower. A man decides to build a tower but he cannot finish it. All then make light of him because of his of his obvious ineptitude.
The next two verses illustrate with the king having 10,000 soldiers versus the king having 20,000. It is all about counting the cost. The king with only 10,000 needs to understand the unlikeliness that he will prevail, and work out an arrangement for paying tribute to the king with 20,000.
Then Jesus comes to the summary application for all of these illustrations, verses 33-35. It is this:
So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Many Bibles drop in a heading about salt right before verse 34 and 35, but as I look at the text, it seems clear it is all one piece. Whole-hearted commitment is the defining element of discipleship. It is the essential element, the saltiness, without which Christian experience falters.
The third text we look at is perhaps the first one that occurred to many of us, Matthew 5:13-16. I think we know the basics. Verses 3-12 are the beatitudes, 13-16 you are salt you are light, 17-20 reiterate the perpetuity of God's law and necessity of exceeding righteousness. Verses 21-48 follow with the "you have heard it said but I say" comparisons.
I like to think of this in light of the Mark and Luke passages; I think they add perspective. Of course in the sermon o0n the mount Jesus is outlining the kingdom. What He says is like its Constitution, it is like Moses receiving the law on Sinai and repeating it. Here we have the poor and persecuted but faithful. Jesus calls them the salt and light, the preservatives and illuminators. of what and to what? The preservers of His kingdom, which the Hebrew nation has truly botched, and the illuminators to the rest of the world. His ageless purpose will be realized at last through them--through us. we squeaky, sickly, disoriented, warped, confused, disheveled, ignorant end-time know-it-alls. He will preserve, illuminate, and at last redeem humanity. Using us.
You are the salt of the earth.
It is like this. The world needs not just to hear the gospel but to see it. Human governments, the passing fashions and fads of culture and society, are incapable of carrying and illustrating the love of Jesus. They are par of the kingdoms of this world, under a different guiding control. But his church, God holds that in this rebel world. He has His followers, His salty Jesus people, bumbling we must admit, but true.
we are talking about His church. In a very particular way, we are talking about the Bonners Ferry Seventh-day Adventist church. In this part of Heaven's vineyard, we must be that place where the kingdom is live. So we must live it. that means its grace and mercy and forgiveness and its discipline. We must be whole-heartedly for Jesus. Even when it is uncomfortable; even when it hurts; even when we might not understand all the reasons why faithfulness is necessary.
We want to realize one last thing before we conclude. Look again at Matthew, at the verses leading up to the salt part. There is something here that is not apparent to us in English. Not apparent, but absolutely illuminating.
When you look at the beatitudes, it might not immediately occur to you that all the way through, Jesus is talking about a group. Blessed are the poor in spirit, as a group; blessed are those who mourn as a group, and so on. How often we may have looked at these verses and not thought of them thus. In particular, 11 and 12.
"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account." Note: the "you" here is not singular but plural. That is, we should understand Jesus to be saying, "Blessed are you as a group when others revile you as a group and persecute you as a group and utter all kinds of evil against you as a group falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for as a group your reward is great in heaven, for so the persecuted the prophets who were before the group of you." That is, this passage is not about individuals being persecuted by the big bad church, but about followers of Jesus holding the line, keeping sin out and permitting God to bring righteousness in. They are salt because they have salt in themselves. They are faithful. They will not permit sin; they will not legitimize it. They resist all the pulling of culture, friendships, accepted practice, and they do what is right because it is right. When the crisis comes, they are shaken but unmoved. They do what is right.
Bonners Ferry church, God calls us to be right. We want to be salt. We want to have it in ourselves. We must be whole-heartedly for Jesus in all circumstances. That is what the Good Book says. May Heaven find us faithful.
Bonners Ferry ID SDA 2013-01-11