Robert H. Bunting
Lafayette, New Jersey
Jesus describes the characteristics needed in flr(l r to be blessed of God. These are the "beatitudes" of the sermon on the mountain (Matt. 5:3-12). Certainly men fulfilling these obligations will have a peace beyond all understanding. However, the disciple is not blessed for himself alone. He has an obligation of doing good works and thus glorifying his Father in heaven. (v. 16) This responsibility of good works is a responsibility toward others. Jesus said, "Ye are the salt of the earth: . . . Ye are the light of the world." The disciple is to be salt that preserves and light that illuminates. This is the disciples' business.
The Need of Salt
This world is in need of preservation. This statement of Christ's in verses 13 and 14 of Matthew chapter 5 implies corruption and darkness in the world. Peter speaks of saved men as having escaped "the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 2:20). We live in the midst of a "crooked and perverse generation" (Phil. 2:14). The Expositor's Greek Testament remarks, "Salt arrests or prevents the process of putrefaction in food." The world needs to be saved from the putrefaction of sin. Rottenness is all about us and the only cure is the Christian living and preaching God's gospel.
The Work of Salt
Disciples, being salt, are to save this world from its own corruption. Too often Christians minimize the power of their lives. Living as God directs, and preaching the word of Christ to friends, neighbors, and relatives have a great effect on the world about us. God's people are to have no fellowship with darkness, but are to reprove it (Eph. 5:11). The things done by those in darkness are done in "secret" (Eph. 5:11). By reproving sin the Christian is able to cause sin to be "made manifest by the light" (Eph. 5:13,14). The more feeble the light, and the more powerless the salt, the more bold will be the sinner. Men corrupt in mind commit sin in secret because there are those ready to cast the light of truth upon their ungodly deeds. However, as Christians begin to look favorably upon sin, the bolder the sinner becomes. Divorce, dancing, and the wearing of immodest apparel, as well as other sins, have become acceptable. These sins are not condemned in the denominational pulpit; and all too often they go uncondemned by God's people. Today sin is openly practiced because it is condemned less and less. As salt, the disciple has this responsibility of preserving all he can from the corruptness of the world. The Christian must demand unconditional surrender to Christ from the followers of Satan.
Paul warned the child of God, "Be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:2). If this distinctiveness is lost, the corruption of the world cannot be overcome. Hence, Jesus warns of salt losing its savor.
The Characteristics of Salt
Saltiness is the characteristic of salt. What good is salt without this characteristic. On losing saltiness, Albert Barnes said:
"The salt used in this country is a chemical compound–chloride of sodium–and if the saltiness were lost, or if it were to lose its savior, there would be nothing left. It enters into the very nature of the substance. In eastern countries, however, the salt was impure, or mingled with vegetable or earthly substances, so that it might lose the whole of its saltiness, and a considerable quantity of earthly matter remain. This is good for nothing, except that it was used to place in paths, or walks as we use gravel." (Commentary on Matthew)
What good is a Christian if he is no longer distinctive? To become fashioned as the world is to be salt without savor. There is no power to preserve, but the salt is "good for nothing."
There are three ways in which a Christian is distinct. (1) He is distinct in the authority he accepts. The Christian recognizes the need of respect for divine authority. He will not act without Jesus authorizing the action (Matt. 28:18). God's child has full intention of "abiding in the doctrine of Christ" (2 John 9), and if the action is not authorized by Christ's doctrine it is left undone. (2) The child of God is distinct in the extent of his obedience. The Master said men were to do "all things" He commanded (Matt. 28:20). This is only natural since He has all authority. The faithful child knows nothing about "non-essential" commands. He obeys all His Lord teaches. (3) God's children are different in that they live lives of godliness and purity. They are godly in their respect for the sacred, and pure in keeping themselves from worldliness (1 John 2:15-17; Tit. 2:11-12).
The tragedy is salt CAN lose its savor. It can become "good for nothing." What a disappointing thing for salt to be without saltiness. How sad it is for Christians to drift without a regard for the authority of Christ. To see God's people only partly obeying His word is a disappointing sight. What a sad thing it is for disciples to live, dress, and talk like the world with no saltiness about them. There is no distinctiveness in their life. There are no good works for men to see, and God is not glorified. Let us maintain the distinctiveness God demands. That is the business of Christ's followers.