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Matthew 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how * can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. (NASB: Lockman)
Greek: Humeis este (2PPAI) to halas tes ges; ean de to halas moranthe, (3SAPS) en tini alisethesetai? (3SFPI) eis ouden ischuei (3SPAI) eti ei me blethen (APPNSN) exo katapateisthai (PPN) hupo twn anthropon.
Amplified: You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste (its strength, its quality), how can its saltness be restored? It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
NLT: "You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Philips: "You are the earth's salt. But if the salt should become tasteless, what can make it salt again? It is completely useless and can only be thrown out of doors and stamped under foot. (New Testament in Modern English)
Wuest: As for you, you are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its pungency, by what means can its saltness be restored? For not even one thing is it of use any longer, except, having been thrown out, to be trampled under foot by men. (Wuest: Expanded Translation: Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: 'Ye are the salt of the land, but if the salt may lose savour, in what shall it be salted? for nothing is it good henceforth, except to be cast without, and to be trodden down by men.
YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH (Leviticus 2:13; Colossians 4:6)
Don't miss a the key principle in Jesus' metaphors of salt and light. Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven impact society because they are different (not weird or bizarre but distinct) from the Kingdom of this World. When salt and light try to accommodate to and/or be conformed by the Kingdom of this World, they lose their distinctiveness and their potential to impact the decay and the darkness of the this world which is passing away. In the Revelation John records the triumphant cry when
Until then God has left believers in the Kingdom of Darkness and Decay to dispel the darkness and retard decay, as peacemakers giving out the word of reconciliation (2Cor 5:14-21), a word which in some will birth new life and to others will cause them to hate and persecute you (John 3:19-21, Mt 5:10, 11, 12-see notes Mt 5:10; 11; 12, Lk 6:22). Persecution for the sake of Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven therefore becomes a sign that one truly belongs to the glorious coming Kingdom of our Lord (cp Ro 8:16, 17, 18-notes Ro 8:16; 17; 18). Beloved, don't let this world squeeze you into it's mold (Ro 12:2-note)
Charles Simeon writes…
Stuart Weber introduces this section with the following comment…
Dave Guzik summarizes Mt 5:13-16 writing that…
You [emphatic: you alone] are the salt of the earth. "You", not governmental institutions, not educational institutions, not organizations, but "you" and "you alone" are the salt of the earth.
Note that in this section Jesus shifts from "those" ("blessed are those… ") to the second person "you". He shifts from character to influence of this character.
The point is that those who live out the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12) in the power of the Spirit, not might be, but actually are "the salt of the earth". How do we know that is what He means? "Are" is in the indicative mood which is the mood of reality. In other words, they really are the specific salt factor in this world. Furthermore, the present tense expresses a constant condition and indicates that saltiness is to continually be the lifestyle of every citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven every day of their life on earth.
Think of the implications - you have a great purpose in God's plan and you have it all the time in every place you go! It does not matter whether you are rich or poor, highly educated or not, tall or short, etc, etc. You are an invaluable pawn in God's great chess match! What an incredible privilege citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven have been granted by their King, Jesus Christ! This is privilege we should not only cherish but one that should also create in us a sense of divine accountability. We are stewards of salt so to speak and one day we will give an account for how salty we were (cf 2Cor 5:10). The King does not give us an option at this point but calls us to a central responsibility to be salt to the world about us. How are you doing? Are you really living like a Christian? Are you using your money like a Christian? Are you talking like a Christian? Are you conducting your family like a Christian? Are you using your leisure time like a Christian? Does the language change when you are around? Does the attitude of the workplace improve because you work without complaining, you show up on time, you treat everyone with kindness, you refuse to enter into gossip?
In Jesus' prayer (the real "Lord's Prayer") to His Father, He explains why believers are not just automatically jettisoned up to heaven when they are saved. We have a distinct purpose as He relates in His prayer…
There it is, Jesus' disciples are sent into the world to be "the salt" in the world (note how often "world" is repeated in this passage).
The renowned Baptist pastor, George Truett once said…
Jesus' declaration of the state of believers leaves no room for a middle ground.
Vine - halas - a late form of hals (found in some mss. in Mark 9:49 ), is used (a) literally in Matthew 5:13 (2nd part); Mark 9:50 (1st part, twice); Luke 14:34 (twice); (b) metaphorically, of "believers," Matthew 5:13 (1st part); of their "character and condition," Mark 9:50 (2nd part); of "wisdom" exhibited in their speech, Colossians 4:6. Being possessed of purifying, perpetuating and antiseptic qualities, "salt" became emblematic of fidelity and friendship among eastern nations. To eat of a person's "salt" and so to share his hospitality is still regarded thus among the Arabs. So in Scripture, it is an emblem of the covenant between God and His people, Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5; so again when the Lord says "Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace one with another" (Mark 9:50 ). In the Lord's teaching it is also symbolic of that spiritual health and vigor essential to Christian virtue and counteractive of the corruption that is in the world, e.g., Matthew 5:13 , see (b) above. Food is seasoned with "salt" (see B); every meal offering was to contain it, and it was to be offered with all offerings presented by Israelites, as emblematic of the holiness of Christ, and as betokening the reconciliation provided for man by God on the ground of the death of Christ, Leviticus 2:13 . To refuse God's provision in Christ and the efficacy of His expiatory sacrifice is to expose oneself to the doom of being "salted with fire," Mark 9:49 .While "salt" is used to fertilize soil, excess of it on the ground produces sterility (e.g., Deuteronomy 29:23; Judges 9:45; Jeremiah 17:6; Zephaniah 2:9 ). (Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words - Salt, Saltness)
Salt was one of the earliest of all preservatives and was a valued commodity in the ancient world. Without any source of refrigeration, salt became the means of preserving meat from decaying, as the ancients rubbed down meat and fish to preserve it for regular use. Seafarers just a century ago would salt down their fish and meat to preserve them for the long transatlantic journeys. Salt was so important as a corruption preventative in the ancient world that wars were fought over it, and entire economies were based on it. In short, salt could literally make the difference between life and death in a time when fresh food was unavailable.
The Greek writer Plutarch said that meat is a dead body and part of a dead body, and will, if left to itself, go bad, but salt preserves it and keeps it fresh, and is therefore like a new soul inserted into a dead body. Dead meat left to itself went bad, but, pickled in salt, it retained its freshness. The salt seemed to put a kind of life into it. The point is that salt preserves corruption.
Salt was used as a figure of speech in the ancient world of sparkling conversation, speech dotted with witty or clever remarks. In Colossians 4:6 (note), salt indicates speech which gives a flavor to the discourse and recommends it to the pallet as well as speech which preserves from corruption and renders wholesome
The Greeks called salt "charitas" (grace) because it gave flavor to things. Our speech must not be corrupt (Ep 4;29-note) and salt (God's grace) holds back corruption. A thoughtless word of criticism, a questionable remark, an angry word—any of these could tear down in a minute whatever Christian testimony others have tried to build up. No believer ought ever to say, “Now take this with a grain of salt!” Instead we need to put the salt into our speech!
When we wish to stress a person's solid worth and usefulness we often say "That person is the salt of the earth." Salt was a valuable commodity in the dry Middle East and was used to barter. Our English word “salary” comes from the Latin salarius (“salt”). A person lacking integrity might have mixed white sand with the salt and then had more for trade. But salt mixed with sand lost some of its salty quality and became useless. Christians are to be the "salt of the earth".
Salt acts secretly. We know that it combats decay, though we cannot see it perform its task. Its influence is very real nonetheless.
Spurgeon - Our Savior was speaking of the influence of his disciples upon the fellows, and he first of all mentioned that secret but powerful influence which he describes under the figure of salt: “Ye are the salt of the earth.” No sooner is a man born unto God than he begins to fellow-men with an influence which is rather felt than seen. The very existence of a believer operates upon unbelievers. He is like a handful of salt cast upon flesh; he has a savor in himself, and this penetrate those who are in contact with him. The unobserved almost unconscious influence of a holy life is most effectual to serving of society and the prevention of moral putrefaction. May there be salt in every one of us, for “salt is good.” Have salt in yourselves, and then you will become a blessing to all around you.
J Vernon McGee has a pithy ("peppery") note on Christians as salt writing that "God’s people in any age and under any condition are both salt and light in the world. The Scots translate “savour” by the more expressive word tang. I like their word much better. “If the salt has lost its tang.” The problem today is that most church members have not only lost their tang as salt, but as pepper they have lost their pep also. We have very few salt and pepper Christians in our day. Now salt doesn’t keep fermentation and that type of thing from taking place, but it will arrest it. You and I ought to be the salt in the earth and have an influence for good in the world. (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
Barclay explains that "In the ancient world salt was highly valued. The Greeks called salt divine (theion). (Matthew 5 Commentary - Daily Study Bible online)
The domestic and medicinal value of salt both as condiment and preservative was as universal in the ancient world as it is today. Pliny declared that "salt has something of the nature of fire", and he quotes a current saying, "To the whole body nothing is better than sun and salt"
Lasting alliances or covenants were made by eating bread and salt, or salt alone (Aristotle). (Ed: See Trumbull's book = Covenant of Salt)
Cato, Virgil, and Pliny all refer to the ability of salt to improve the productivity of the soil.
Dwight Pentecost gives an excellent summary of some of the Biblical uses of salt…
Someone has said that there are some 14,000 industrial uses for salt! And frankly, this is where we must sound a note of caution… interpretation of metaphors can be "tricky" especially if the expositor has a vivid imagination. Unfortunately, such interpretations may not be what God really intended by using a given metaphor like "salt". For example, some say salt was white and then reason that this whiteness pictures purity (and even compare it with purity of heart in Mt 5:8). Now while there may be some element of truth in such an interpretation, that is probably not the primary message Jesus intended to convey to His audience. Let's think for a moment about the context. Jesus is speaking in a time when there were no ice makers or refrigerators. There was need for a simple method of preservation of foodstuffs from decay and corruption and this was the primary function of salt. In fact the only way to preserve meat in the hot climate of Palestine was to salt it or soak it in a salt solution. This practice is still common in many remote areas of the world. It follows that the primary interpretation of the meaning of the metaphor of salt is that it speaks of a preservative agent which impedes corruption, decomposition and decay. The world, in contrast to what many "enlightened" members teach, is not evolving but devolving. The world is not going toward order but disorder. It is slowly decomposing and rotting away.
What happened when God left the world to itself after the fall of Adam? Several centuries passed until we come to Genesis 6…
Even the "salty effect" of Noah was not enough to preserve the world and impede the moral decay and spiritual rot, Peter recording that as a result God…
Even with another chance man fell into total debauchery leading to the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah which God again condemned
So history proves the point that our world continually tends toward decay not divinity. Enter the citizens of the Kingdom of heaven who are the decay retardants and preservatives of a disintegrating world. Thus even as salt arrests decay in meat or fish, the influence of Christian character can halt the downward spiral of the world and help to stem the natural degeneration that occurs in the world’s rebellion against God. Christians have a moral influence on the world around them, affecting every part of society. If you are not having a moral influence on those around you then something is gravely amiss in regarding your morality, for as Alan Redpath once said…
Sinclair Ferguson explains the preservative effect of salt noting that…
Christians make plenty of negative comments and vent tons of frustration over the putrefaction of our society. But our culture is simply doing what comes natural, rotting because it has no preservative. As hard as it is to admit, we should quit leveling the blame of decadence on pagans and start asking why the Church is not more effectively preventing decay (especially of our ethical and moral values) from accelerating and exerting an ever increasing negative influence in our society. A Christian should be in the world and yet not of the world. How can this be? Consider the fish who, though he lives in the salty sea, does not taste salty.
As John Stott points out, “And when society does go bad, we Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves? One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad. It cannot do anything else. The real question to ask is: where is the salt?” (Stott, John: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount: 1978, Intervarsity Press)
The impact of salty Christians has effected entire countries. Consider impact of the First Great Awakening (revival) on England at a time when the rest of Europe was embroiled in political upheavals. Even secular writers acknowledge that it was because of the impact of salty Christians like John Wesley and George Whitefield that England was spared the effects of the horribly bloody revolution that swept through France (see French Revolution) in the late 1700's. Salty believers really do prevent from corruption and decay!
Phil Newton tells an encouraging story about the "after taste" left by "salty" missionaries relating that "Pastor Paul Ndungu from Kenya, told us of a missionary couple that served for fifteen years among a particular people group in Kenya without seeing any outward response. He said they labored faithfully, serving the people, teaching the gospel, and doing all they could to set Christ before these people. But none responded until a couple of days after their departure. The missionary family’s maid, two gardeners, and milkman converged upon the empty house, related how they now missed these Christians. All wept about this sense of loss, and reflected upon what they saw in them and what they had taught them. One by one they called upon the Lord, coming to faith in Christ. The church among that people group was born without a missionary but not without the salt and light influence of that Christian family that lived among these people for fifteen years, faithfully living unto the Lord. What they did not accomplish with their missiological approach they accomplished by being Christians in a decaying world. (Matthew 5:13: Problem of Tasteless Christianity)
Barclay writes that "The individual Christian must be the conscience of his fellows; and the church the conscience of the nation. The Christian must be such that in his presence no doubtful language will be used, no questionable stories told, no dishonorable action suggested. He must be like a cleansing antiseptic in the circle in which he moves. (Matthew 5 Commentary - Daily Study Bible online)
Hughes - This matter of being a preservative has a positive and a negative side. On the negative side, the presence of a salty Christian will retard decay simply because his or her life is a reproach to the sin of those they are around. We all know there are certain people in whose presence a filthy story is naturally told, and there are others before whom no one would think of telling such a story. The salty Christian is not self-righteous or condemning, but his or her life makes ungodly conversation seem shabby and inappropriate. I believe such Christians exert an incalculable influence on society! Their mere presence reduces crime, restrains ethical corruption, promotes honesty, quickens the conscience, and elevates the general moral atmosphere. The presence of such people in the military, in business, in education, in a fraternity or sorority will amazingly elevate the level of living. And their absence will allow unbelievable depths of depravity. Believers, salty believers, are the world's preservative. The question we must ask ourselves is, what happens when we get to know people without Christ? Does it make a difference in their lives? Are we salt? (Hughes, R. K. Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom. Crossway Books)
John MacArthur offers two excellent illustrations of the leavening effect of salty "salt"…
John A. Huffman, Jr describing the body of Christ said…
Salt sitting in a salt shaker will never exert its preservative effect until it is shaken into the decaying world. As A T Pierson said…
Jesus calls His loyal subjects to be pungent people who penetrate every level of society. Are you sitting or shaking? Be careful not to lose your saltiness.
It's amazing what a pinch of salt can do to bring out the flavor of food. A big bowl of popcorn is absolutely bland without salt. Christianity is to life what salt is to unsalted popcorn!. Christianity gives flavor and seasoning to life. But too much salt can be distasteful.
Even a little salt will make itself known as history as proven. One of those shining examples was a man named William Wilberforce, a small, even somewhat distorted man who took up a career in politics eventually gaining election to the House of Commons in England. He subsequently became a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven in 1784, at age 25 proved his saltiness by taking an active stand against the slave trade despite repeated defeats in parliament. William Wilberforce died on 29th July, 1833. One month later, Parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act that gave all slaves in the British Empire their freedom. He was a little salt that made his present felt. It has been documented that 0.04 ounces of table salt dissolved in 530 quarts of water can be tasted!
Ferguson - 'Seasoning' society is not a matter of being Scrooge-like personalities whose presence brings a pall of depression and whose entrance marks the exit of joy. On the contrary, the presence of God's people should 'increase the flavour' of life in many different ways. After all, we come to our friends, neighbours, co-workers, or fellow students as those who have been – and still are – in the presence of Jesus Christ, who has given us abundant life (John 10:10). Everything about us should express the attractiveness as well as the holiness of our Lord. (Ferguson, Sinclair: Sermon on the Mount :Banner of Truth)
Barclay reasons that "Food, without salt, can be revoltingly insipid. The Christian, then, must be the man who brings flavour into life. The Christianity which acts like a shadow of gloom and a wet blanket is no true Christianity. The Christian is the man who, by his courage, his hope, his cheerfulness and his kindness brings a new flavour into life. (Matthew 5 Commentary - Daily Study Bible online)
What's the effect of Christians who fail to express the fullness of joy found in an abundant life? We never know who is observing our life! Oliver Wendell Holmes once said…
Paul picks up the theme of saints as salt in society writing to the Corinthian saints (who lived in a metropolis that desperately need their "salt")…
Paul's point is that we are to live the Christ life (for example characterized by the be attitudes). Not everyone will respond favorably to our life as we have seen in (Mt 5:10-12).
SALT STIMULATES THIRST
As we have often heard, you can lead a horse to water and yet not make him drink. However add a little salt to his hay and you will "encourage" him to drink. Is your witness making unbelievers thirsty?
At a missionary meeting some young people were discussing the text, "Ye are the salt of the earth." One suggestion after another was made as to the meaning of salt in this verse. "Salt imparts a desirable flavor," said one. "Salt preserves from decay," another suggested. Then at last a Chinese Christian girl spoke out and shared an experience none of the others had shared. She said, "Salt creates thirst." There was a sudden hush in the room. Everyone was thinking, "Have I ever made anyone thirsty for the Lord Jesus Christ?"
Here are a couple of resources (each a 20-30 page booklet) you might want to read to give you some thoughts on how to be salty salt..
Paul explains that citizen's of the Kingdom of heaven need to have salty speech exhorting believers to…
That Paul intended our speech to have a preservative effect we note the parallel passage in Ephesians…
Ferguson adds a very important qualification regarding salty speech noting that…
Oswald Chambers comments that…
Phil Newton issues a poignant challenge by way of a modern day prophet Dr Gresham Machen writing tha "Gresham Machen, in the last century, exhorts us, “Let us stop soothing ourselves with columns of statistics and face the spiritual facts; let us recall this paper currency and get back to a standard of gold” [God Transcendent a collection of 20 of his sermons with the final four sermons preached in the last four Sunday's of Dr Machen's life! "The Bible and the Cross" was preached 5 days before he died Jan 1, 1937!]. Though written half a century ago, Machen spoke like a prophet to our present day that values the showy, glitzy statistics of how many nickels and noses we have in our churches, but gives precious little attention to holiness in character and walk. Have we forgotten that it was a Rome that claimed grand statistics as a “Christian empire” that fell to the barbarians? While the show and numbers meant so much to the church in that day, the saltiness in society was lost so that the barbarians easily conquered them. Professing Christians failed to live like Christians, and their whole society crumbled. “You are the salt of the earth” is a truth to cherish, a reality to live in day after day, and a necessity for a civil, peaceable society.
William Barclay on Salt - When Jesus said this, he provided men with an expression which has become the greatest compliment that can be paid to any man. When we wish to stress someone's solid worth and usefulness, we say of him, "People like that are the salt of the earth."
In the ancient world salt was highly valued. The Greeks called salt divine (theion, Greek #2303). In a phrase, which in Latin is a kind of jingle, the Romans said, "There is nothing more useful than sun and salt." (Nil utilius sole et sale.) In the time of Jesus salt was connected in people's minds with three special qualities.
(i) Salt was connected with purity. No doubt its glistening whiteness made the connection easy. The Romans said that salt was the purest of all things, because it came from the purest of all things, the sun and the sea. Salt was indeed the most primitive of all offerings to the gods, and to the end of the day the Jewish sacrifices were offered with salt. So then, if the Christian is to be the salt of the earth he must be an example of purity.
One of the characteristics of the world in which we live is the lowering of standards. Standards of honesty, standards of diligence in work, standards of conscientiousness, moral standards, all tend to be lowered. The Christian must be the person who holds aloft the standard of absolute purity in speech, in conduct, and even in thought. A certain writer dedicated a book to J. Y. Simpson "who makes the best seem easily credible." No Christian can depart from the standards of strict honesty. No Christian can think lightly of the lowering of moral standards in a world where the streets of every great city provide their deliberate enticements to sin. No Christian can allow himself the tarnished and suggestive jests which are so often part of social conversation. The Christian cannot withdraw from the world, but he must, as James said, keep himself "unstained from the world" (James 1:27).
(ii) In the ancient world salt was the commonest of all preservatives. It was used to keep things from going bad, and to hold putrefaction at bay. Plutarch has a strange way of putting that. He says that meat is a dead body and part of a dead body, and will, if left to itself, go bad; but salt preserves it and keeps it fresh, and is therefore like a new soul inserted into a dead body.
So then salt preserves from corruption. If the Christian is to be the salt of the earth, he must have a certain antiseptic influence on life.
We all know that there are certain people in whose company it is easy to be good; and that also there are certain people in whose company it is easy for standards to be relaxed. There are certain people in whose presence a soiled story would be readily told, and there are other people to whom no one would dream of telling such a tale. The Christian must be the cleansing antiseptic in any society in which he happens to be; he must be the person who by his presence defeats corruption and makes it easier for others to be good.
(iii) But the greatest and the most obvious quality of salt is that salt lends flavour to things. Food without salt is a sadly insipid and even a sickening thing. Christianity is to life what salt is to food. Christianity lends flavour to life.
The tragedy is that so often people have connected Christianity with precisely the opposite. They have connected Christianity with that which takes the flavour out of life. Swinburne had it:
"Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilaean; the world has grown gray from Thy breath."
Even after Constantine had made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire, there came to the throne another Emperor called Julian, who wished to put the clock back and to bring back the old gods. His complaint, as Ibsen puts it, was:
"Have you looked at these Christians closely? Hollow-eyed, pale-cheeked, flat-breasted all; they brood their lives away, unspurred by ambition: the sun shines for them, but they do not see it: the earth offers them its fulness, but they desire it not; all their desire is to renounce and to suffer that they may come to die."
As Julian saw it, Christianity took the vividness out of life.
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers." Robert Louis Stevenson once entered in his diary, as if he was recording an extraordinary phenomenon, "I have been to Church to-day, and am not depressed."
Men need to discover the lost radiance of the Christian faith. In a worried world, the Christian should be the only man who remains serene. In a depressed world, the Christian should be the only man who remains full of the joy of life. There should be a sheer sparkle about the Christian but too often he dresses like a mourner at a funeral, and talks like a specter at a feast. Wherever he is, if he is to be the salt of the earth, the Christian must be the diffuser of joy.
Jesus went on to say that, if the salt had become insipid, it was fit only to be thrown out and trodden on by men. This is difficult, because salt does no lose its flavour and its saltness. E. F. F. Bishop in his book Jesus of Palestine cites a very likely explanation given by Miss F. E. Newton. In Palestine the ordinary oven is out of doors and is built of stone on a base of tiles. In such ovens "in order to retain the heat a thick bed of salt is laid under the tiled floor. After a certain length of time the salt perishes. The tiles are taken up, the salt removed and thrown on the road outside the door of the oven … It has lost its power to heat the tiles and it is thrown out." That may well be the picture here.
But the essential point remains whatever the picture, and it is a point which the New Testament makes and remakes again and again--uselessness invites disaster. If a Christian is not fulfilling his purpose as a Christian, then he is on the way to disaster. We are meant to be the salt of the earth, and if we do not bring to life the purity, the antiseptic power, the radiance that we ought, then we invite disaster.
It remains to be noted that sometimes the early Church made a very strange use of this text. In the synagogue, among the Jews, there was a custom that, if a Jew became an apostate and then returned to the faith, before he was received back into the synagogue, he must in penitence lie across the door of the synagogue and invite people to trample upon him as they entered. In certain places the Christian Church took over that custom, and a Christian who had been ejected by discipline from the Church, was compelled, before he was received back, to lie at the door of the Church and to invite people as they entered, "Trample upon me who am the salt which has lost its savour." (William Barclay's Daily Study Bible - Matthew 5)
BUT IF THE SALT HAS BECOME TASTELESS, HOW WILL IT BE MADE SALTY AGAIN? (Mark 9:49,50; Luke 14:34,35; Hebrews 6:4-6; 2 Peter 2:20,21)
But - always pause to ponder this term of contrast.
Moraino carries the idea of ‘to play the fool’ or ‘to become foolish’ and in a sense isn't that what Christians are doing when they lose their saltiness by playing the fool for the world or ignoring Christian disciplines or giving in to lusts or disregarding warnings about sin? In the present passage moraino is used more figuratively meaning to cause something to lose its taste or purpose for which it exists.
For the disciples, the salt of the earth, to lose their saltiness was equivalent to becoming foolish. It would in effect be to lose their identity.
In secular Greek it took on various meanings in different contexts. Thus it meant insipid of insufficiently seasoned foods.
Pure salt cannot lose its savor ("saltiness"), but the salt commonly used in the ancient world was rock salt, containing various impurities (especially gypsum). As the true salt was leached away, or otherwise removed, the so-called "salt" could indeed lose its savor and become tasteless. When those who profess to be Christians cease to be different from the world, we cease to be useful as retardants of decay. Jesus emphasized that our ability to preserve the world in order that it may see Christ in us depends on our being different. It is dangerously easy for Christians to lose their salty, preserving influence in the world. Remember that many people who never read the Bible are constantly reading us! If our conduct is untrue to our calling, our words will avail very little. Gospel preaching without holy, supernatural living is futile.
Warren Wiersbe in his preface to "Be Holy", an exposition of Leviticus writes "Whatever else the professing Christian church may be known for today—great crowds, expensive buildings, big budgets, political clout—it’s not distinguished for its holiness. Bible-believing evangelical Christians make up a sizable minority in the United States, but our presence isn’t making much of an impact on society. The salt seems to have lost its saltiness, and the light is so well hidden that the marketplace is quite dark. (Wiersbe, W. W. Be Holy. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books)
Phil Newton illustrates becoming tasteless relating that he knew of "two men, one a theologian and another a pastor that was arrested in two different parts of the country for perverted, immoral behavior. That is the extreme, I grant you, yet it is not something that we can take lightly or think we are immune to in our own lives. Our propensity for sin is great; so we must constantly be anchored in the cross of Christ and His gospel. They have lost their saltiness in the world. But many more do that without ever being arrested for a crime. Complaining Christians are tasteless Christians. Those that are lazy, undisciplined, arrogant, prideful, critical, mean-spirited have lost their pungent influence upon the world about them. How about your pungency? Are you salty where God has put you? Or have you so given in to the world that you are in danger of becoming tasteless to a world that desperately needs your saltiness in Christ? (Problem of Tasteless Christianity)
Salty Salt. The story has often been told about Dr. Will H. Houghton, who pastored the Calvary Baptist Church in New York City and later served as president of Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute till his death in 1946. When Dr. Houghton became pastor of the Baptist Tabernacle in Atlanta, a man in that city hired a private detective to follow Dr. Houghton and report on his conduct. After a few weeks, the detective was able to report to the man that Dr. Houghton’s life matched his preaching. As a result, that man became a Christian.
Wiersbe summarizes salt and light noting that "Salt speaks of inward character that influences a decaying world; light speaks of the outward testimony of good works that points to God. Our task is to keep our lives pure that we might “salt” this earth and hold back corruption so that the Gospel can get out. Our good works must accompany our dedicated lives as we let our lights shine. (Wiersbe, W. W. Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books)
S. Lewis Johnson quipped that ""Often the only version of the Bible the world reads is that of the believer's life, and, if that is true, in the light of the weakness of the church's testimony today surely the world could use a revised version!"
Vance Havner reminds us that…
George Barna alludes to another potential source of tasteless salt noting that four out of ten people who call themselves evangelical Christians don't believe there is such a thing as absolute truth. Barna concludes "That's the heart of the problem we're struggling with. Think about the implications for evangelism, personal spiritual growth, and having a church that really is the salt and the light. It's pretty frightening."
UBS Handbook notes that the phrase "become tasteless" "is difficult to interpret. Salt that is used for food does not lose its taste or its saltness even if unused for a long period of time. This expression must therefore refer to the salt being diluted or somehow mixed with other substances so that it becomes ineffective. (Newman, B. M., & Stine, P. C. A Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew. UBS handbook series New York: United Bible Societies)
There is only one other NT use of halizo by Mark…
There is one use of halizo in the Septuagint (LXX)-
Marvin Vincent commenting on "tasteless" (Have lost his savour) (moraino - moranthe) explains that
Vance Havner has some salty words on how to be salty Christians (keeping in mind that the primary function of salt in Jesus' day was preservation and which undoubtedly was His main meaning, although it does not preclude some of these other nuances of significance - the danger with metaphors is that we take them further than God intended, so keep that in mind as you read this and any commentary on the meaning of "salty Christians")…
Albert George Butzer said "Some Christians are not only like salt that has lost its savor, but like pepper that has lost its pep."
Does God Ever Restore One's Saltiness?
Kent Hughes addresses the question "How will it be made salty again?" asking "Can a church be re-salted? The Lord brought this question up when he asked, "How can it be made salty again?" As we have said, salt cannot lose its saltiness, and therefore it cannot again be made salty. I believe Jesus is talking about salt that is so adulterated it has lost its preservative powers. In the context of His times Christ is saying that if salt has lost its savor, there is no natural hope for it. Is there any hope for us if we have become desalted? The answer is no - not in ourselves anyway. However, Jesus extends the metaphor into the supernatural, and here we must say that the answer is yes! Jesus is not saying that if a Christian loses his pungency, he cannot get it back, even by going to the source from which it came. Nothing but our own sin can keep us from being resalted. I once met a man who, in his sixties, was re-salted. He told me about how his life had become bland and insipid, and then he was confronted again with the necessity of a vital life for Jesus Christ and committed his life to him. For the next ten years of his life he was incredibly salty in the world. The effect of his life is literally known by thousands. So one can be re-salted! (Hughes, R. K. Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom. Crossway Books) (Bolding added)
In Genesis 20:1-18, Abraham illustrates one who for a time lost his savor when he went to Gerar (capital of the Philistine colony on the seacoast) and lied to the pagan king Abimelech about Sarah, telling the king she was his wife. Abraham became tasteless salt for a time -- how could he talk to the pagan King about His God of truth when he himself was living a lie? And yet even while still in Gerar, Abraham was apparently "re-salted" supernaturally as evidenced by his interceding with God for Abimelech's life (see Ge 20:7). Surely this indicates that Abraham had confessed his sin and God had restored him (cf Ps 66:18, 19). Also see the testimony of the pagan king in Ge 21:22 "God is with you in all that you do". This further supports that God had restored His erring saint to saltiness.
In Mark 9:50 Jesus tells His disciples who in context had been bickering over which one was the greatest (Mk 9:34, cf their attempt to hinder another believer Mk 9:38)…
So Jesus does leave open the possibility that although man can in no way "re-salt" savorless salt, God can just as He did in the case of Abraham's life and in the life of every believer who is willing to walk in the light as He Himself is in the light. That believer will find that the blood of Jesus God's Son will continually cleanse him from all sin. (1John 1:7) Thus cleansed and "re-salted", he can function as salt in society.
Notice also the phrase "be at peace with one another" in (Mark 9:50). In context this suggests that one of the conditions of continually having saltiness is that we are continually at peace with our brethren!
IT IS GOOD FOR NOTHING ANYMORE, EXCEPT TO BE THROWN OUT AND TRAMPLED UNDER FOOT BY MEN
Spurgeon - A professing Christian with no grace in him,-a religious man whose very religion is dead,-what is the good of him? And he is himself in a hopeless condition. You can salt meat, but you cannot salt salt… There are people who believe that you can be children of God to-day, and children of the devil to-morrow; then again children of God the next day and children of the devil again the day after; but, believe me, it is not so. If the work of grace be really wrought of God in your soul, it will last through your whole life, and if it does not so last, that proves that it is not the work of God. God does not put His hand to this work a second time. There is no regeneration twice over, you can be born again, but you cannot be born again, and again, and again, as some teach there is no note in Scripture of that kind. Hence I do rejoice that regeneration once truly wrought of the Spirit of God, is an incorruptible seed which liveth and abideth for ever. But beware, professor, lest you should be like salt that has lost its savor, and that therefore is good for nothing.
Good (2480) (ischuo [word study] from is = strength + écho = have) means to be strong in body or in resources and so to be worth something, to have efficacy, to avail, have force and value
Nothing (3762) (oudeis from ou = not + dé = but + heis = one) is literally translated "but absolutely not one", denying absolutely and objectively the possibility that it can be used again
Without saltiness, salt is worthless. Without Christian character, Christians are worthless to the society in which God has placed them.
NET notes feel that "With this illustration Jesus warned about a disciple who ceased to follow him." (Biblical Studies Press. NET Bible)
Trampled under foot (2662) (katapateo from katá = down or used to intensify meaning + patéo = tread, trample, fig to treat contemptuously;
Here is a sad example of tasteless salt… Gandhi says in his autobiography that in his student days he was truly interested in the Bible. Deeply touched by reading the Gospels, he seriously considered becoming a convert, since Christianity seemed to offer the real solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. One Sunday he went to a nearby church. He decided to see the minister and ask for instruction in the way of salvation and enlightenment on other doctrines. But when he entered the sanctuary, the ushers refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people. Gandhi left and never came back. He reasoned that "If Christians have caste differences also, I might as well remain a Hindu." The partiality showed by those Christians had a devastating effect on India and the world. As we have studied, they failed to manifest the sweet aroma and saltiness of the fifth beatitude, demonstrating mercy (Mt 5:7-note) Mahatma Gandhi was also quoted as answering a missionary's question "What is the greatest hindrance to Christianity in India?" with the trite reply "Christians"!
In his pithy, penetrating devotional Daily Walking with God, Octavius Winslow (1808-1878) has the following thoughts on Matthew 5:13 …
F B Meyer in his book The Directory of the Devout Life has a chapter entitled…
BEING IS DOING. Our greatest work for God and man is to be. The influence of a holy life is our greatest contribution to the salvation and blessing of the world. Though you cannot preach, or teach, or engage in some sphere of Christian service, do not be greatly moved, if only you can live the life of God amongst men. Our Lord for thirty years was content to live an absolutely holy life, as the Lamb of God without blemish and without spot; and His supreme work in the world was not only to give His life as a ransom, but to live His life that He might leave us an example that we should follow in His steps.
Too many Christians seem to suppose that the main object of life is to engage in a sphere of direct service, whilst they leave their personal character to take care of itself, and to develop almost at haphazard; whereas our main thought and care should be that Christ should be formed in us, and be revealed in every look and gesture, every word and act. Out of that will come naturally, inevitably, and blessedly, our direct Christian service. The best work is that which arises out of the simplicity and beauty of our witness for truth and love.
We must, of course, guard against extremes. On the one hand, we may attempt so much service as to neglect that inner culture which is priceless in its effect on service, and our personal inconsistencies will neutralize the effect of our Christian activities. On the other hand, we may sincerely believe that we are cultivating our character, when, in fact, we are sinking into a dreamy lethargy, from which we need to be aroused by the trumpet-call of duty to a dying world. We are apt to forget that the development of the inner life is not perfect, unless it issue in such going about doing good, as was the flower and fruit of our Saviour's thirty years.
Though Persecuted. Our Lord had been describing the reception which the type of character that He had come to implant would certainly encounter. Instead of attracting men by its heavenly beauty, it would certainly repel them. Instead of commendation and welcome, it would arouse dislike and rebuff. The great world of men would not appreciate the poor in spirit, the mourner, the meek and merciful, the pure in heart or maker of peace, but would reproach, and persecute, and say all manner of evil falsely. But, notwithstanding all, He insisted that they should continue to bless the world by the silent and gracious influence of holy lives. Reviled, they must bless; persecuted, they must endure; defamed, they must entreat; threatened with death, they must still be as salt to their persecutors, and as light to their defamers.
However men receive our testimony, whatever they may say and do against us, notwithstanding the unreasonableness of their dislike, we must continue to be what our Lord would have us be, nay, we must let Him who is within us shine forth through us, so that men may be compelled to admit that the unearthly beauty of our lives is the supreme proof of the divinity and glory of our religion.
You ask what is the good of being good. Your detractors and oppressors vaunt themselves over you, take every advantage of your quiet, unresisting gentleness, and misinterpret your self-restraint. It would almost appear that they are driven to greater extremes of wickedness because of the provocation of your goodness. The soldiers of the Roman governor probably never mocked one of their ordinary victims as they did the holy, unresisting Saviour. The gentle and loving wife will sometimes extract the most malignant and bitter hatred of her husband, such as he would show to no other. But you do not know how your behaviour is beginning to thaw that iron-frozen soil, how often and deeply compunction is at work, or how nearly the hatred of your oppressor is being overcome by love. The spring warmth may seem to fall on the frozen masses of snow and ice in vain, but every hour of sunshine is sapping the reign of the ice-king, and hastening the inevitable break-up of his supremacy.
That workingman who has borne the insults of his shopmates for Christ will presently have the ringleader come to beg his pardon, and with tears in his eyes ask him to pray for him. That oppressed wife will have the pleasure of leading her penitent husband to the cross. That sister will be won by her sister, who has borne contumely and reproach with unswerving gentleness. Be of good cheer, your sufferings will have their most blessed result in overcoming evil by good, as we have said. Remember, the Apostle speaks of "the kingdom and patience of Jesus," which means that patient suffering ultimately secures a blessed supremacy, a royalty, an over-mastery of hardness and unkindness by gentleness, truth, and love.
When the Forth Bridge was in making, the workmen came to a crucial point, where two of the most important iron girders refused by some inches to come together for the bolts to be driven through, a process which was absolutely essential to their union and the stability of the whole fabric. Every mechanical method to bring them together was tried with no purpose; and finally, in despair, all further efforts were abandoned for the night. It was summer weather, and the sunshine of the following morning was very hot, so much so that the great masses of metal expanded beneath the genial rays, and the results were achieved by the silent touch of the sun which had defied the utmost efforts of force. So in human life. Consistency of character, purity, gentleness, sweetness, such holy living as issues from the qualities which our Lord has enumerated, will avail when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men will bow themselves.
The Lord knew well the condition of the world. To His holy and unerring judgment it was a carcase slowly rotting to putrefaction, and sorely needing some influence to stay its corruption. There was never an epoch in the world's history fuller of dazzling genius than that in which He was born. Some of the most brilliant names of history were shining still in the midnight sky when the bright and morning star arose over Bethlehem. But the grossness of the age was unparalleled and indescribable. The allusions made to it in the Epistles are sufficiently terrible, but the whole truth is only revealed in classic literature itself, which survives to show that the earth was corrupt before God, and that every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil continually.
In our Lord's eyes, also, to advert to the other metaphor, the world lay under the power of thick darkness. In its wisdom it knew not God. Professing themselves wise, men had become fools. The god of this world had blinded the eyes of those who believed not, and they groped in the noontide as in the murky midnight. Such has been, is, and will be, the condition of men without the Gospel. The history of the human family is always repeating itself. We cannot be surprised either at the description given by missionaries of the awful condition of heathen countries, or at the outbreaks of lawlessness and crime in nations which are only nominally Christian. Our inventions, organizations, and boasted civilization, may affect the exterior of our society, but if it were not for the presence of the Church of the Lord Jesus, and the witness borne by the lives and words of her members, there would be nothing to save it from the pit of corruption, which has swallowed up every great nation that has risen to lead the race.
Men rage against "Exeter Hall," and revile what is called "the Nonconformist Conscience," as they did against the Puritans in bygone centuries, not realizing that they evince the antagonism of corruption to the salt, and of darkness to the light, and that the very existence of our society is more largely due than they suppose to the very elements they so much dislike.
Our consistent holy living will act as an antiseptic to arrest the corruption around us. It is said that the presence of a little child, with its blue-eyed simplicity and purity, has often arrested the commission of dark crimes; and as much should be said of the influence of our own daily living. A sudden silence should fall on certain kinds of conversation when we enter the room. This or the other form of worldly amusement, which has entered professedly Christian homes, should be felt out of place when we are staying there. And right through the society in which we move there should be a consciousness that there is an incongruity between our character and all that savours of impurity, falsehood, or selfishness.
We do not want to impose a sense of restraint and gloom on social gatherings when we enter. Our presence should be an incentive to the merriment of the children, the cheer of the depressed, the gladness of young and old. Flowers should burst into beauty at our steps, songs should overflow in our paths, and innocent laughter should be our accompaniment. The mountains and the hills should break forth before us into singing, and all the trees of the field should clap their hands. Instead of the thorn should come up the fir-tree, and instead of the briar the myrtle-tree. But to all that is unseemly and unworthy our presence should act as an antiseptic.
A young boy, fresh from his mother's teaching and prayers, was plunged suddenly into a large lawyer's office, where he was articled. At first he was bewildered by his strange surroundings, then the crimson mantled his cheek, and tears brimmed in his eyes. "What's the matter with you, youngster?" said a coarse voice. "Do you want to go back to your mother's apron-strings? … No," was the reply, "but we never said such things in my mother's home as you say here." The answer elicited a burst of laughter, but the head of the office said: "Gentlemen, this lad is right, and as long as he stays with us I must request that you modify your speech." And from that moment the whole tone of that office was altered. The lad's presence acted as salt.
We may easily lose our savour. Salt left in contact with a damp soil ceases to be salty, and is good for nothing but to be trodden under foot. It is neither fit for the ground nor the dunghill. Lot lost his savour. Sodom went on its way, regardless of his presence in its midst. The Seven Churches of Asia lost their savour, and, with those of Northern Africa, were trodden down by the Moslem. Nothing is so useless and worthless as an inconsistent and powerless Christian (Ezek. 15:3-5). Oh, break your heart if sin is as shameless and reckless in your presence as in your absence! What have you done to forfeit the power you should exert? Repent, and do the first works! Yea, ask the Lord Jesus to infuse into you His own strong, sweet, pure nature, before whom the demons were driven forth, and by whose presence, through His Church in the world, an arrest has been placed on many of those grosser forms of sin which disgraced the world of His time, and still hold sway in countries where His name is not known.