From Glory to Glory
The Motivating Power of Christian Character—Matt. 5: 13-16
Salt and light are the symbols employed to illustrate the two outstanding characteristics of the saint’s testimony. These are definitely linked to the seven virtues of verses three to nine. Salt is connected to the first four, and light to the last three. Righteousness and grace thus unite in a life to give a competent witness for God in the world. Salt, or the inward principle of righteousness, is a counteracting influence on the corruption of the world. Similarly, light, or the open confession of Christ by word and life, is the influence that scatters the moral and spiritual darkness of the world.
SALT, therefore, is the symbol of that inward principle of righteousness built into the believer’s character which becomes a rebuke to sin wherever his lot is cast. It does not cure corruption, but becomes a hindrance to its spread. The presence of the Church on earth prevents the climax of the mystery of lawlessness in the manifestation of the Man of Sin. Once the Church has been taken out of the way, the world immediately will ripen for judgment (1 Thess. 2).
Our Lord said, “For everyone shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt … Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another” (Mark 9: 49-50). This is, undoubtedly, a reference to the meat offering that is brought before us in Leviticus chapter two, and should be compared with Horn. 12:1. Salt symbolizes the power of truth in the soul. The fire symbolizes that which tests every man’s work as to what sort it is (1 Cor. 3:13). Those eyes which are as a flame of fire reach into the motivating power of our lives, revealing the dross that is to be burned up. This may be done in the fiery trials of life. God wants no meat offering apart from salt. It must be holy and acceptable to Him. He not only wants lives that will be a power for Him in the midst of corruption, but lives whose witness will be palatable to men because of the salt of truth in the inward parts. There is nothing that the world detests more than hypocrisy in the children of God.
Three times, our Lord warns about the salt losing its savour (Matt. 5:13. Mark 9:50. Luke 14:34). In the first, it is related to our testimony before the world; in the second, it refers to our fellowship one with another as Christians; and, in the third, it points to the danger of a lack of self-discipline in our hearts. Savourless Christians are those in whom the Spirit’s work is hindered by the activities of the flesh. The Christian graces that are to distinguish the children of God in the world, and which are to reflect the character of the Saviour, are missing. Lives that are not seasoned with salt are unpalatable to God and to man. The Apostle Paul described the yielded life as a sweet savour of Christ unto God, unto the Church. and unto the world around him (2 Cor. 2:15-16).
If salt speaks of that which is inward, light speaks of that which is outward. The light itself is Christ openly confessed before men. His life is still the light of men as it is reflected by the lives of His people. In 2 Cor 4, the light is the glad tidings of the glory of the Christ Who is the image of God. God has put this treasure in earthen vessels, but like Gideon’s pitchers, these vessels must be broken before the light can shine in all its brilliancy. What a value God puts upon broken things in our Bible (Psa. 51:17)! In 2 Cor. 4, the vessel is broken by persecution, but the results are blessed. Paul writes, “We which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest (or shine out) in our mortal flesh” (V. 11).
LIGHT, the second characteristic of the believer’s testimony, is linked to the last three virtues of verses seven and nine. In these we see reflected the active life of our Lord Jesus in the sphere of suffering devotion in the household of faith. His mission was one of mercy to a suffering world; His vision of the face of God was never blurred by sin, and His benediction of peace to the brethren was ever upon His blessed lips. His life on earth is to be prolonged in the lives of His people. Ours is a mission of mercy to a suffering world. We must, at all costs, keep the vision of the face of God. Our message is the gospel of peace to a strife-torn world and our attitude in the Church always must be a spirit of peace.
Our Lord Jesus gives solemn warning that this light may be dimmed by three enemies of the soul, symbolized for us thus: “under a bushel” (V. 15), the sin of worldliness; “under a bed” (Luke 8:16), the sin of slothfulness; and, “in a secret place” (Luke 11:33), the sin of cowardliness. The first is illustrated by Demas (2 Tim. 4:10). The love of the world and the love of the Father cannot exist together in a believer’s heart. The second is illustrated by David (2 Sam. 11:12). When he should have been fighting the Lord’s battles he was lying upon his bed and evil resulted. Diligence becomes all who serve the Best of Masters. Our Lord demands and deserves the very best we can give. “Not slothful in business (the Lord’s business); fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” is part of the savour of our living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1 and 11). The third is illustrated by Peter when his courage failed him (Matt. 26:69-75). Does this not teach that the very thing in which we are strongest may become the object of the devil’s attack? “Watch and pray” is our Lord’s watchword for us all.
“Sweet thought we have a Friend above,
Our weary faltering steps to guide,
Who follows with the eye of love
The little flock for which He died.”
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When walking with fellow-Christians, while this is good, one is walking with frailty; when walking alone with God, should this become a necessity, one is walking with omnipotence.