Salt and Light: What Y’All Are, When You Are in Christ (Matthew 5:13–16)
This little light of mine, I’m goin’ let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
If you have been around church for any length of time, you’ve probably heard this children’s song. It takes it wording from this week’s passage, Matthew 5:13–16, where Jesus tells his disciples that they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
In truth, this is an important passage for understanding who we are. But if we take our cues from this children’s song alone, we might think that Jesus calls us as individuals to be salt packets or lone candlesticks. Yet, the language is clearly addressed to the community of disciples who are following Christ together. And therefore the application is not for individuals, but for the whole community of Christ.
In this week’s sermon I looked at what it means for the church to be Salt and Light. And what we discovered is how Jesus intends his community of faith to be permanent citizens of his kingdom who display covenant faithfulness to his Father in heaven. Such an identity stands in continuity with the Old Testament and against the world around us.
You can listen to the sermon online, Discussion questions are below, as are a list of additional resources.
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.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 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.
- Where do we find our identity? What kinds of activities, communities, or stories form our self-understanding? Why does that matter?
- How does understanding the Bible’s story help form our identity? What are some key passages that help shape our identity? (Hint: Genesis 1:26–28; Exodus 19:4–6; Ephesians 1:3–14; 2:1–10; etc.)
- What is the story of the Bible (hint: kingdom and covenant)? How do the images of Salt and Light fit into the biblical storyline?
- Read Leviticus 2:13; Numbers 18:19; Ezra 4:14; Mark 9:49–50. What does the Bible say about salt?
- Read Isaiah 9:1–2 and Isaiah 49:5–8. What do these verses say about light?
- How should we understand Jesus’s words’ about Salt and Light? How does knowing the Old Testament background inform our understanding? How does this background help us understand Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount?
- Hows does a church lose its saltiness (cf. Rev 2:5)? What are the most common ways we hide our light? How can we grow in our evangelistic witness?
- What are good works that our church is currently involved with? What are other good works we should pursue? Or could pursue?
- Why should we think about good works as a product of the community of faith (i.e., the church) and not just something individuals do? Is there any good work God would have you initiate at our church?
- What other observations or questions come to mind in reading Jesus words?
Articles on Kingdom, Covenant, and the Story of the Bible
- Kingdom and Covenant: The Main Entrance to the Cathedral of Scripture
- On Typology: Ten Axioms from God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants
- The Covenantal Cast of the Biblical Canon
- George Eldon Ladd on “The Kingdom and the Church”
Articles on Matthew 5:1–16
- Don Garlington, “‘The Salt of the Earth’ in Covenantal Perspective,” JETS 54.4 (Dec 2011): 715–48.
- The Blessed Christ: How Jesus Exemplifies All His Beatitudes
- The Old Testament Background of the Beatitudes
- The Center of the Sermon on the Mount: Twelve Truths About Our Father in Heaven
Books on the Sermon on the Mount
- Sermon on the Mount: Kingdom Life in a Fallen World by Sinclair Ferguson
- Sermon on the Mount: The Character of a Disciple by Daniel Doriani
- Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church by Charles Quarles
Soli Deo Gloria, ds