Sermon: Putting the Beatitudes to Use Matthew 5:13-16

Truth Taught-  We are called to influence society by being salt and light.

Introduction

The Beatitudes of Jesus have shown us the essential character of a Christian.  We are to be all those things our Lord told us about.  There is a tension with each of these character traits. The tension is found in the fact that these The Beatitudes are very odd to the world around us but normal in the Christian life.  They make no sense to the lost.  Why would anyone choose to be poor in spirit and a mourner on purpose?  It is in their supposed strangeness that Beatitudes find much of their potency.  

Matthew 5:3–10 (ESV) 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Now our Lord moves forward in His sermon to encourage us in using these character traits for the glory of God and good of others.  We are to be those who influence the world around us.  Our Lord wants us to take these truths He has presented and use them to be an influence with others.

Jesus is asking us to do the very thing He did.  He is the Beatitudes perfected in holiness.  He is the prime example that we are to imitate.  As He went into the towns and cities putting these character traits to work so we too must follow Him in this calling.  We are to be the salt and light in a decaying and dark world. 

In the Beatitudes, He says, “Here’s the character I expect you to have, and if you have this kind of character, then you’re a child of My kingdom. And if you have this character, and you are a child of My kingdom, here’s your job: sweep through the world as salt and light, and make a difference.”

As odd as these truths sound to the world the results are even more strange.  Jesus is telling a handful of first-century fishermen that they are the salt of the earth and light of the world.  They went out in the power of the Holy Spirit living out these truths and preaching the Gospel and the world was impacted.

It is sinful to think we are not going to have that much influence or to think what can I do to influence the world?  Look at the impact these twelve disciples had on the world.  By living out these character traits and sharing the Gospel of Christ Christianity has become a worldwide religion.  Their witness has become a global influence.  So, my question to you is this: If their influence has been felt throughout the world can ours not be felt in our communities and homes?  Are we living out the beatitudes for the cause of Christ?

In our passage Jesus uses two metaphors to describe the influence we are to have within our world.  Salt and light are indispensible everyday things.  Our Lord ‘s two metaphors are very much parallel sayings with the two points He makes.  If salt is to be used as a preservative it must retain its saltiness and if light is going to penetrate darkness it must be allowed to shine. 

The supreme matter in the kingdom is character. Character is the issue. The character described in the Beatitudes makes it possible for us to affect the world.

Prayer

Matthew 5:13–16 (ESV) 

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. 

1.  You are the Salt of the Earth

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. 

Jesus introduces His first metaphor by saying, You are the salt of the earth.  We are the salt.  Whether we are obedient or not to the command to influence society doesn’t change the fact that we are the salt.  We are the only people who can penetrate society with the truth and love of Christ.

In the days of Jesus salt was used as a preservative.  Jesus is not speaking of salt here being used to make food taste better but to preserve it. Meat would be rubbed with course salt to cure it.  Cured meat would keep a long time.  So, the salt spoken of here is acting as an influence, it changes the meat it comes into contact with and stops decay and preserves it.  

The salt our Lord speaks of here is unrefined salt.  It’s salt mixed with impurities.  So, for example if it were to be left out in the rain the salt would dissolve leaving only the sand and small pieces of gravel behind.

So with this context in mind lets reread verse 13…

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. 

The world around us is decaying and rotting.  We are the salt that can hinder it’s decay so long as we retain our saltiness.  We realize that we cannot save anyone, that’s for God and Him alone.  However, we can have an influence on others and on our world if we are acting as salt. We can stop the decay.  

When we live out the Beatitudes we can also have a godly influence in the world and evil is restrained.  God desires us to restrain evil in our world.  To be a restraining influence in society we must be God’s representatives for good.  God has set us in place to influence our world for Christ’s sake.  

2 Corinthians 5:17–21 (ESV) 

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 

All Christians are called to engage in the ministry of reconciliation.  

To go back to Jesus’ salt of the earth metaphor, we hinder society’s decay as we penetrate the world with Christ’s influence.  We do that with the message of reconciliation (the Gospel) and we do in connection to good works.

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.

How do we act as salt in the world?  We reach out to them with care and good works then we reach out to them with the good news of Jesus Christ.  In this way our salt remains salty.

Jesus goes on to tell us that if your salt loses its saltiness about all its good for is to be thrown out into the street as gravel to walk on.  Again using first century unrefined salt that is mixed with sand and other impurities once the salt is gone and the only thing left is sand its thrown out and trampled upon.  

The Gospel of Luke records Jesus’ words this way…

Luke 14:34–35 (ESV) 

34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 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.” 

What does Jesus mean by He who has ears to hear, let him hear?  He gives us a warning and tells us we must be very careful that our salt, our good works, our Christian influence impacts those around us.

Jesus tells us we are the salt of the earth.  We are the only preservative of society.  There are no others.  God has saved us and given us the ministry of influencing society with Christian living and the Gospel message.  

2.  You are the Light of the World

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.

Here, in Jesus’ second metaphor, He tells us basically the same thing, namely, we are the light of the world.  Whether we act like light or not does not change the fact that we are the light.

As Christ’s ambassadors, we have the same basic ministry Jesus had while He was on earth.  He has called us to imitate Him.  He has called us to shine the light of Christ into the darkness and influence the world through our good works and the Good News. What did Jesus call Himself?  

John 8:12 (ESV) 

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 

We do not have any light within ourselves.  We don’t naturally glow in any way.  In fact, we are darkness and in darkness without Christ.  He is the light of the world.  Our calling is to take His light into this dark world as a Christian influence for good to shine His truth into this dark place.  

John 1:4–5 (ESV) 

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

1 John 1:5 (ESV) 

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 

He tells us to shine brightly and not hide our light just like if you’re in a dark room you don’t put the light under something but on a stand so that the light can penetrate the entire room.  

Here again, we shine Christ’s light on the world by sharing the message of reconciliation as we engage in good works.  

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.

Our good works done in the name of Christ will impact our world. 

Psalm 27:1 (ESV) 

   The Lordis my light and my salvation; 

whom shall I fear? 

       The Lordis the stronghold of my life; 

of whom shall I be afraid? 

 So the fact is, if you want to know what light is in the Bible, it’s just a comprehensive term referring to all of God’s revelation: the revelation of Himself, of His Word, and of His Son. That’s light. And so we are to proclaim the message of light in a dark world, as well as to be salt in a decaying one.

The Apostle Paul gives us a wonderful picture of what God is doing here.

2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV) 

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

In creation when God declared, Let there be light, He has also said, as it were, let there be light within us through Christ.  The light that shines within us is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in Jesus Christ.  When we behold Christ as Savior and Lord His light is shown within us and we are no longer in darkness.  Our role becomes light bearers to this dark world.  

3.  Effects of Being Salt and Light

            A. Evil will be restrained in the world- 

There will always be evil in this fallen world but did you know that as we are salt and light evil in many ways is restrained?  As we seek to be influence as salt and light the world will not be as evil as it could be. God uses our witness in society to restrain evil.  

There are simple ways. Often times when I’m out and about and people know that I’m a Pastor and I seek to live out my faith they don’t use their normal language of cursing and blasphemy.  Just me being there has restrained some evil.  You may have experienced this in your family?   

Even if the people you are in contact with never come to Christ you have still been an influence for good in their life and evil has been restrained to some degree.

Christians have taken some very active stands and have achieved many things that have influenced our world for good…

Here are some things that Christians have done in the past.

There have been certain prison reforms,  medical care, perverted liquor trade, abolition of slavery, child labor laws, establishing orphanages and other things.  All these have been very good things that being salt and light have accomplished.   

            B. Believers will be persecuted-

Jesus has already warned us that when we are living the Christian life we will be persecuted.  He makes this promise on the basis of the nature of Christianity and the nature of the sinfulness of man. He is knows that there is such a tension between the message and way of life of Christians on the one hand, and the mindset and way of life of the world on the other, that conflict is inevitable.

This conviction is rooted in the nature of fallen man and the nature of the new creation in Christ. As believers we are a new creation with a new worldview and a new attitude toward God.  Fallen man hates God, hates righteousness and has an entirely different worldview than we do.  When we live with different goals etc we are by default and without words telling them their life is entirely wrong.

We will be persecuted.

            C. The lost will be saved-

We would adamantly oppose the false gospel of good works, saying that we do certain things and based on those things then God saves us.  Salvation is by grace through faith alone.

Ephesians 2:8–10 (ESV) 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

Our good works are necessary after we are saved.  They will have an influence on others to consider the truths of Christianity and God uses our efforts in the salvation of others.  

The Scottish Puritans composed a document containing this very subject.  Here is a short excerpt…

We affirm that good works are “consequents and effects of salvation already obtained, or antecedents, disposing and preparing the subject for the salvation to be obtained,”[1] 

So beloved our good works will in many ways ready the elect for God to save them.

            D. God will be glorified-

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.

I want to think through this verse with you for a minute.  The reason we live the Christian life, which is actually doing the things Jesus tells us in the Beatitudes is not ultimately so others will imitate our lives.  Its not so we will get credit for doing something good.  It’s not even to make something bad a little better or to curb evil.  The reason we do it and the purpose Jesus gives is so that others will give God glory.  In order for this to happen we have to let everyone know that this good thing you’re doing is because you are a Christian.  We cannot do good deeds in the shadows because Jesus tells us to let our light shine.  Others must realize that the source of our good works is God, Himself.  

There is a big difference between doing good works in front of others so you will be praised verses doing them in front of others so God will be praised.

Matthew 6:1–2 (ESV) 

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 

We should not do things in front of others to be noticed by them but so that God will receive glory.  

The effect of living out the Beatitudes is God will be greatly honored and we will be greatly blessed.  Our motives have everything to do with who receives the glory. 

What hindrances are there in being salt and light?

We might, at times, be in darkness ourselves.

Walking in the light isn’t just being good; it’s bringing our darkness to Jesus over and over, and to one another, to experience his cleansing, purifying light. Is there something you need to confess to him? Where are you harboring darkness? Where do you need to let the light in?

We might be lazy. Being an influence in an evil world takes effort and it is work to swim against the tide and to speak up or whatever is required to achieve this influence.  It doesn’t come naturally.   

We might be tempted to compromise.  There are times when it’s easier to play along or to just not get involved.  We may have the attitude that all this just isn’t worth it.  We might tend to relax some part of our conviction to better blend in with those around us. 

We might be afraid. The fear of man can have a great negative influence on us if we are not careful.  To live consistently as a Christian means we must seek to fear God rather than man.  

If you find yourself falling into any of these traps ask God to give you the conviction and stamina to live each of the character traits He requires of every Christian.  The Beatitudes are not far reaching goals but what every Christian should be doing and doing better all the time.  

Put the Beatitudes to use and watch what God does.

4.  How do we shine the light of Christ in this dark world?

            A. We are light bearing witnesses

John 1:6–9 (ESV) 

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 

The role of a witness is to answer questions truthfully and give an honest account of what they have seen and heard. As Christians, we can be light in the darkness by responding to non-believers with truth and testifying to what God has done. Remember, it is not our job to make people believe, but to share the truth boldly and lovingly.

What do you know to be true about the Lord Jesus Christ?

What has He done in your own life?

These are essential questions that you need to be able to answer. Answering these questions prepares you to testify to the truth and to be light. John bore witness to Jesus because he knew without a doubt Who Jesus was and what He would do for the world.

            B.  Remain in the Light by following Jesus and His commands  

John 8:12 (ESV) 

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 

When you follow the commands of the Lord and reject the ways of the world, others will notice. Especially when you hold fast to what is true, your light will shine. Though people may reject it, there will be some who are drawn in, curious as to why you live differently.

The challenge for us is to keep our eyes on the One we follow. The moment we take our eyes off of the Savior, we will be tempted to slip into the darkness of the world. Just as Jesus set his face like flint toward the redeeming cross, we too must set our faces like flint toward the Redeemer.

The Bible says that if we claim to be in communion with the Lord, but walk in darkness, we are not practicing the truth. My prayer is that we will take Jesus’ commands seriously and live as light in the darkness by walking in obedience.

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.

As believers following Christ we are the lampstands that bear the light of Christ.  Much like the Olympic torch is passed from athlete to athlete the light of Christ has been passed from Jesus to all His followers. Go into the world with Good Works and Good News and be salt and light and God will be glorified.

So beloved, get used to the light of Christ, walk in it, shine it brightly and one day we will live in it…

Revelation 21:22–27 (ESV) 

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. 

*Resources Used:

Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary

A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles

A Gospel of Matthew by France

Matthew by Craig Bloomberg

Matthew by Doriani

Matthew by Charles Price

Matthew by Leon Morris

Blue Letter Bible


[1]From the Commission of the General Assembly

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