Sermon Notes: “Let your Light Shine in the City: Christian (Public) witness in Culture” (Matthew 5:13-16)

Sermon Notes

Sermon Title: “Let your Light Shine in the City: Christian (Public) witness in Culture”

Date: Sunday, October 14, 2018

Text:  Matthew 5:13-16

Speaker: Pastor Joseph

Matthew 5:13-16

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[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Introduction: In this passage, Jesus introduces the metaphors of salt and light to explain two important matters about the call to discipleship and the benefits Christ’s followers bring to society and the world:

(1) Followers of Christ must influence the world with their good deeds and lead the world forward toward goodness and righteousness (not doing good is not an option for the Christian), and
(2) Followers of Jesus are children of light whose moral and social-ethical responsibility is to eradicate wickedness and evil in the world and to shine in the darkness.

***People in your community must see the transformative power of the Gospel in your life before they can experience it themselves.

What area/s of your life or in your community has God called you to bring light into and dispel the dark?

“God has set other restraining influences in the community. He has himself established certain institutions in his common grace, which curb man’s selfish tendencies and prevent society from slipping into anarchy. Chief among these are the state (with its authority to frame and enforce laws) and the home (including marriage and family life). These extents a wholesome influence in the community. Nevertheless, God intends the most powerful of all restraints within sinful society to be his own redeemed, regenerate, and righteous people” (Stott, Sermon on the Mount, p. 59). The followers of Jesus Christ are called “to be a moral disinfectant in a world where moral standards are low, constantly changing, or non-existent” (ibid).

Nonetheless, in Matthew 5:13-16 (see Mark 9:50; ck. Lk 14:34-35), Jesus makes three basic claims about the function of the disciple in the world: (1) they are the salt of the earth, (2) they are the light of the world, and (3) they are to produce good deeds. The basic function of salt is to prevent decay, a negative aspect; while the function of light is to illumine the darkness, a general positive function. The fundamental element of a disciple to do the deeds of obedience.  In these verses, Jesus expects his followers to engage their culture and participate in its affairs; second, these verses counter the common attitude in the Christian culture that we followers of Jesus should live independently from or in isolation from our society. The followers of Jesus cannot look at the world from a distance; proximity is required for cultural engagement, social transformation, spiritual renewal and revival, and more importantly for the work of Christian evangelism and hospitality.

  1. Some References to “salt” in the Bible
  • In the Hebrew Scripture, salt is associated with purity (Ex. 30:35; 2 Kings 2:19-23); hence, it is a purified agent. It is also associated with covenant faithfulness (Lev. 2:13; Number 18:9; 2 Chronicle 13:5; Ezra 4:14); salt is an element to be added to sacrifices to God (Lev. 2:13); it is also a seasoning for food (Job 6:6). In rabbinic literature, salt is associated with wisdom. A person who loses his saltiness will become a fool. The warning from Jesus is not for his followers to lose their saltiness in the world, that is to lose their identity as his disciples and Christians. To lose one’s identity in the world is to give one’s allegiance to another Lord besides Jesus. It is also to become worldly, and not godly.
  • Later on, salt was used as a preservative. Mark 9:50, 50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves and be at peace with each other.”
  • Luke 14:34, Salt Without Taste Is Worthless: “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?”
  • Colossians 4:5-6, your speech must be salty, that is full of wisdom and Christ’s grace: Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Statements about Salt (v. 13)

  • “The world cannot endure without salt” (France, the Gospel of Matthew, p. 173)
  • “The two most significant uses of salt in the ancient world were for flavoring and for the preservation of food, and either or both of those uses would provide an appropriate sense here: the disciples are to provide flavor to the world they live in (perhaps with the thought of salt as wisdom, as in Col. 4:6 and in some rabbinic sayings), and/or they are to help to prevent its corruption” (France, p. 174)
  • “The source of saltiness is a powerful indictment of disciples who have lost their distinctiveness and so no longer have anything to contribute to society” (France, p. 175)
  • The sphere of influence is the earth or the world
  • “The Master is conveying a warning: salt salty or it will be thrown out; light must shine” (Morris, Gospel of Matthew, 104)
  • “Jesus is thinking of the function of salt as a preservative, as the enemy of decay, and as giving taste of food. What is good in society his followers keep wholesome. What is corrupt they oppose; they penetrate society for good and act as a kind of moral antiseptic…Their influence is not to be confined to a narrow circle” (Morris, Gospel of Matthew, 104)

The power of salt is that it preservers something from corrupting.

  1. Some References to “light” in the Bible

In the ancient world of the Bible or even in the Biblical text, light was connected to divine movement, knowledge, wisdom, truth, revelation, and love.

  • Genesis 1:3, God is identified as the very source of light that shines in the darkness.
  • His presence is symbolized with a bright shining light (Is. 60:1-3).
  • The Word of God is identified as light (Ps. 119:105) that provides guidance, and it is a pathway to life and human enlightenment leading toward exaltation of God in Christ Jesus (Ps. 112:4; 1 John 1:7).
  • Daniel 12:3,And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above;[a] and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Light is connected to the Gentile mission. The term has to do with God’s mission to the Gentiles. In one sense, the notion of light has to do with Christian evangelistic mission in the world.

  • Isaiah 49:6, “He says:
    “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
    to raise up the tribes of Jacob
    and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
    I will make you as a light for the nations,
    that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
  • Isaiah 51:4, “Give attention to me, my people,
    and give ear to me, my nation;
    for a law will go out from me,
    and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples.”
  • Isaiah 60:3, “And nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your rising”
  • Isaiah 42:6, the servant of Yahweh is called the “light of the nations,” “I am the Lord; I have called youin righteousness;
    I will take you by the hand and keep you;
    I will give you as a covenant for the people,
    a light for the nations”
  • Isaiah 9:1-2, “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

2The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.

  • Matthew 4:14-16, “So that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”

New Testament Texts on the concept of Light

  1. “Light” is presented as an honorific title for Jesus” that describes one of his glorious attributes. As the idea relates to Jesus’ messianic work in the world, it refers to his ultimate goal to eradicate darkness and to snatch people from spiritual darkness to the light of the Gospel.
  • John 8:12, 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.”
  • John 1:4-5, 9, “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.”

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

  • John 9:5, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
  1. Jesus’ relationship to the world is interpreted as the world’s indispensable “Lamp/Light” by virtue that he has created it and continues to sustain it.
  • John 12:35, “So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.”

In this verse, Jesus defines his messianic role as the very presence of light in the midst of his people and his disciples to be more specific. The task is to walk in the light and to stay away from darkness. The person who walks in the darkness loses his way, that is he is spiritually lost and blind to the way of God in Christ.

Christ disciples are demonstrators, pointers, and reflectors of Jesus Christ the Light of the World

  • Ephesians 5:8, “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” Paul reminds the Christians at Ephesus that their former life was in the dark; as of now, they are children of light, they must shine in the world.
  • Philippians 2:15, 15 “that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,” similarly, in this text, he reinsures the Christians at Philippi that they are equally children of God and children of light who live in a perverted, corrupt world, and their responsibility to shine in it.
  • “The task of the disciples is to bring light to the whole world. Jesus goes on to point out that, being who and what they are, giving light is inevitable” (Morris, Gospel of Matthew, 105)
  • “the very purpose of being a follower of Jesus is to give light. Giving light is not an option, so to speak, which the disciple may or may not choose. It is part of being a disciple, just as much part of disciple as giving light is of a lighted lamp. Jesus has chosen his own so that they may give light. It is the nature of light to shine, and when people have received the light of the gospel they will shine in a dark world…It is of the very nature of light it brings illumination” (Morris, Gospel of Matthew, 105).
  • The light of the disciple is a “borrowed light,” from Jesus himself, the true light of the world.
  • In other words, a professed disciple of Christ who does not live according to the ethical values and lifestyle of the Kingdom (Matthew 5:3-12) is compared to a tasteless salt and invisible light. He is a worthless and useless follower. He is not worthy to be called a disciple of Christ. He disqualifies himself from identifying with Christ.

Metaphors for visibility: hilltop town, light

  • the mission of Jesus’ disciples is to point the world that Jesus is the Light of the world. The world desperately needs to withdraw itself from darkness.
  • Jesus conceives that the world lives in darkness, and his disciples live in the light. The disciples of Jesus Christ are the true enlightened ones, although Immanuel Kant claims the enlightenment for the western world

Parables about the lamp

·         Mark 4:21-23, A Lamp Under a Basket: “21 And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

  • Luke 8:16, 16 “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. 18 Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”
  • Matthew 6:22-23, disciples of Christ have the inward light of Christ: “22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
  • 119:105, the Word of God is construed as a lamp that provides divine revelation and instructions to those in darkness. Christians are called to improve and enlighten society with their works and light.

The Function of Christians as Salt and Light in Society

  • “Christians must permeate society as agents of redemption” (Blomberg, Matthew, 102). By appealing to the metaphors of salt and light, “Jesus thus calls his disciples to arrest corruption and prevent moral decay in their world” (ibid).
  • “Both metaphors of salt and light raise important questions about Christian involvement in society regarding all forms of separatism or withdrawal. We are not called to control secular power structures; neither are we promised that we can Christianize the legislation and values of the world. But we must remain active preservative agents, indeed irritants, in calling the world to heed God’s standards. We dare not form isolated Christian enclaves to which the world pays not attention” (Blomberg, Matthew, 103).
  • “Christian saltiness is Christian character as depicted in the beatitudes, committed Christian discipleship exemplified in both deed and word. For effectiveness the Christian must retain his Christlikeness, as salt must retain its saltness. If Christian become assimilated to non-Christians and contaminated by the impurities of the world, they lose their influence. The influence of Christians in and on society depend on their being distinct, not identical” (Stott, Sermon on the Mount, p. 60).
  • “The glory of the gospel is that when the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first” (Martin Lloyd Jones, Qtd in Stott, Sermon on the Mount, p. 60)
  • Followers of Jesus Christ must remind the world of God’s rule that includes both judgement and change. They ought to announce the judgment of God to the world and call sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. They have to proclaim the transformative power of the Gospel to change man’s heart and to transform society to the glory of God.
  • The responsibility of the church is to assume a leadership role in culture to provide guidance into mourning over their sins and leading them in the act of collective repentance toward salvation in Christ Jesus, the Light of the World.

The call of the church to produce good deeds and good works/ The imperative call to produce good works in the world

  • “A Major way the church transforms society is by being a model, a pioneer, of what it means to live in love, justice, inclusiveness, servanthood, forgiveness—and confessing its own need for forgiveness…The church as community also helps to correct the autonomous individualism that fragments our society…To resist and transform these powerful forces of fragmentation, we need pioneering community. So long as churches as merely associations of autonomous individuals and not pioneering communities, we will be weak puffs of air against the winds of fragmentations. To become such communities, churches need shared practices that transform social experiences, that form and transform people morally, that provide a meaningful sense of membership and that support critical teaching of the difference between obedience to the subtle powers and authorities of our society and obedience to the rule of God” (Kingdom Ethics, p. 476).
  • The good deeds Jesus expects of his disciples to produce spring forth off of a Christ-like character, which Jesus also promotes in Matthew 7:17-20, and 12:33-37.
  • Matthew 7:17-20, “17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
  • Matthew 12:33-37, A Tree Is Known by Its Fruit: 33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
  • We must remember that the reality of “the truth of Christ does not rise or fall on the claims of his professed followers, but on Jesus himself. The faith of nominal Christians may appeal to non-Christians who can use it to justify their own unbelief, but such Christians will have no part in God’s kingdom” (Keener, Gospel of Matthew, 108)
  • “While Jesus is opposed to our doing good works publicly for our own honor (6:1, “to be seen” by people), he exhorts us to do those good works publicly for God’s honor (5:16; cf. 6:9). This distinction exhorts us to guard the motives of our hearts and consider the effects our public activities and pronouncements have on the spread of the gospel and the honoring of God among all groups of people” (Morris, Gospel of Matthew, 110).
  • Jesus wants his disciples to be people of good works so people in the world can give attention to God.

Implications of these verses: 5:13-16 for Christian engagement in contemporary society

  • Discipleship means mission, and this mission is on behalf of and for God to the world.
  • To be a disciple of Jesus means you have to live missionally, and this mission-centered living and lifestyle must produce fruit of goodness and salvation.
  • “The church is missional. The church, in its very being and in everything it does, is missional: it is caught up in God’s mission. This theology has been cleverly captured in this expression: because God has a mission, there is a church” (Scott, Sermon on the Mount, p. 60).
  • As salt can preserve a rotten fish or meat, Christianity is the hope to save a rotten and decayed world. Christianity means preservation unto salvation.
  • Christianity is to the world what salt is to food. Christianity is the salt that makes people thirst for God and redemption. As salt causes people to thirst for water, followers of Christ should compel people to thirst for living water.
  • Like salt as a preservative agent that provides taste and savor, followers of Christ are called to promote, fight, and preserve biblical values and moral principles in society if they’re going to have any enduring influence in their culture. The salt must add flavor or taste to the food in the same way too much salt is not good for the food and human health. No one likes to want his food overwhelming salted. In the same way, Christians have to exercise wisdom, caution, and discernment in certain cultural and political issues they want to involve in or undertake in society. It is not necessary for a Christian to speak on every single cultural, social, ethical, moral or political issue in culture. We must exercise both wisdom and discernment. We must engage our culture ethically, responsibly, Christianly with our Christ-inspired moral compass. We must not vacillate between our ideas or positions such as abortion, same sex marriage, unjust immigration policies, poverty, unjust prison laws, sexual assault, rape, and violence against women, justice issues, race issues. We must stand firm and unshakable on our Christian convictions pertaining to godliness, righteousness, caring for the poor and orphan,
  1. “Salt: the church as pioneering model for humanity community. Jesus was calling his disciples to a morally rigorous way of life, clearly distinct from that of the corrupt world. The church must be repentant community ever on its knees in acknowledgment of ways in which it has conformed to the world rather than to Christ. That is always the first step if we are to function as salt in society.”
  2. “Light: the church as caring community for the human family. The vocation of the church as a community wherein the salvation, presence, peace and justice of the Lord of light are experienced and into which all human beings are invited. The church is called to a role of service to the world, bearing witness to the love of God and caring for all persons, but especially society’s broken, needy and outcast.”
  3. “As light of the world and pastor to society, the church is also called to offer direct aid to those outside the congregations…. Churches are also leading the way in establishing relationships with those formerly dependent on welfare and mentoring them toward self-sufficiency.”
  4. “We place social and political action and advocacy within the framework of the church’s role as caring pastor to society—and within the framework of the teachings of Jesus which ground this vision. At our best, Christians vote, lobby, campaign, meet with political leaders and become such leaders themselves as a natural outflow of our pastoral concern for the social good under the sovereignty of the God who loves all persons. We are alerted to brokenness, need and injustice through ministry with people or awareness of their needs, and care for such persons then moves us, in part, towards politics” (Stassen & David P. Gushee, Kingdom Ethics, 473-479).

Reflecting Questions

  • –how many people you have turned away from Christ because of the inconsistencies in your life?
  • How many people have you pushed away from Christ because of your lifestyle and attitude?
  • Do people have an excuse not to become a Christian because of you?
  • Or have the compelled to embrace Christianity because your life is seen as a testimony of God’s grace and transformative power of the Gospel?
  • If your lifestyle is not worthy of Christ and the Gospel, Jesus warned you like a tasteless salt and invisible light, you will be thrown out and trampled (5:13).


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