What type of character embodies a child of God? We began this study discovering how Jesus uses a series of eight statements to describe their characteristics in the first portion of his sermon. The person will be humble, will display godly grief over sin, will submit to God, and will have a hunger and thirst for righteousness that can only be filled by God alone. The child of God will also bear the fruit of these foundational traits: mercy, purity of heart, reconciliation, and bearing up under persecution due to their identification with Jesus. Now, we turn our attention towards how the child of God should live out their faith.
“”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.”” Matthew 5:13
During the time of Jesus, salt was a valuable commodity and used as currency. The English word, salary, originated from the practice of Roman soldiers receiving salt as payment for their services. One of the properties of salt is the ability to retain heat. In ancient Israel, a layer of salt served as the foundation for cooking with tiles placed on top. Over time, the salt quit retaining heat and had to be thrown out and replaced. Jesus was possibly referring to this situation in this verse. Another possible reference for his statement occurred during the early days of the Church. Jews, as well as some Christians, had an unusual practice. Some churches required apostates returning to the faith to lie down at the door of the church. As the people entered, they trampled on the person symbolizing salt which has lost its flavor. This ritual allowed them to be received back into the fold.
Salt is also used as a preservative. We read the story of Lot and his family from Genesis 19. God commanded that they flee Sodom and not look back as the city was being destroyed for their wickedness. However as they fled, Lot’s wife looked back. Her disobedience epitomizes our longing for sin. Lot’s wife, becoming a pillar of salt, serves as a visual reminder not to preserve a love for sin. We also read this week that God gave a covenant of salt to His people and required that grain offerings be seasoned with salt. When the offering was burnt, the salt, being a mineral, remained showing that the Lord preserves and keeps His covenant.
In addition, Ms. Wilkin posed this question on the video; “How can I prevent infection and decay by influence?” Salt helps prevent infection by working as an antiseptic to purify and heal. Poison and toxins can be drawn out of the body by the application of salt. In ancient times, newborns were rubbed with salt to kill bacteria and purify them. Our words and deeds as children of God should counterbalance things of this world that cause decay and infection in the spirits of those we encounter. We have the answer to their need for healing.
Lastly, salt is useful as a flavoring but balance is necessary. We should question whether we are over seasoning or under seasoning in our spheres of influence. Paul exhorts in his letter to the church at Colosse to “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6). Our conversations should be seasoned with the salt of Christ. We should question how we convey Jesus to others even in our speech. The texture of salt ranges from coarse to fine. Do we want to be known as someone with a salty tongue? Or as someone who loves to gossip? On the video, Ms. Wilkin asked a series of questions concerning the believers influence: “Does my life make others thirsty for God or am I too bland? What as a Christian do I make palatable? Do I make others wonder if there is more to life?” If we’re to be salt of the earth people, we should be people who retain warmth, who preserve a love for God’s commands and who prevent the things that cause decay and infection by our influence.
“”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.”” Matthew 5:14-16
One lone candle in a dark place will illuminate outward spreading light far from the original source. Light bearers are to radiate the glory of God so others will know Him. They cast light on what is hidden in darkness. The light of Christ reveals the true colors of a person as it shines on areas of sin. Light can also prompt growth and if we give Him access into the dark, hidden places of our lives, we can become brighter torches for Him. Our good works become visible to others as we shine. In this verse, the Greek word for good is a word that means “that a thing is not only good but that it is also captivating and beautiful and attractive.” The light of Christ that shines out of our pores should be so captivating and attractive to others that they can’t help but praise our Father in heaven.
“”Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”” Matthew 5:17-20
Ms. Wilkin states on the video that Jesus answered the unspoken conclusion of his listeners. He didn’t come to get rid of the Law but to set them straight. Ms. Wilkin stated that Jesus’ message was a call to a deeper obedience and a deeper interpretation of the Law. She shared that in the Old Testament, prophets said “Thus says the Lord.” But when Jesus in the New Testament says, “ I say to you,” he speaks as God with authority.
The scribes and Pharisees were highly regarded religious men. They were ultra faithful to follow what they believed made them righteous. But Jesus was calling for a different kind of obedience. He asked for an obedience of the heart. A person’s internal motivation mattered. The problem was that people had begun to pursue a righteousness based on observance of the Law and not on God Himself. They were obeying the letter but not the spirit of the Law. According to Ms. Wilkin, we need an obedience composed of right motive and right action. This past week, we asked ourselves some tough questions about how we are guilty of relaxing the commands of God.
We also learned this week that the Law established decency in society, provided rules for life, and revealed sin.The Old Covenant Law was instituted to help the people know sin and to be conscious of it. Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia that “the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:24,25). The Old Law could never make a person holy nor justify their sins or make them righteous because the Law was designed to lead people to know Jesus. The Law could have been abolished but the Law was a standing promise and God honors and keeps His promises. Therefore, the Law can’t be removed or altered simply because we fail to keep it.
Jesus has fulfilled all of the obligations to the Law, so we are no longer under Law but under grace through faith in him. The Law, consequently, becomes the avenue for us to righteousness. We obey not to earn God’s favor but as a loving response to the grace we have received. Now, the Law is no longer necessary because the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. We live free but with that freedom from the Law comes the responsibility to understand how we’re to live.
Start Week 4 this week beginning on page 47. Don’t forget to plan a little extra time for your first lesson so that you will be able to complete the reading assignment of the entire Sermon on the Mount.
If you’re interested in viewing the video that accompanies the study, the video can be purchased for download by clicking here. I’m unable to offer the video online due to copyright laws.
If you’d like to start from the beginning, you can find ordering information here and the introductory lesson by clicking here.
Reference: jewishencyclopedia.com;The New Bible Study Series Matthew Volume One William Barclay p. 140; The Complete Word Study New Testament/Lexical Aids to the New Testament Spiros Zodhiates p. 144; Salt A World History Mark Kurlansky p. 62,63;The New International Version Study Bible