Saturday, February 25, 2023

2023.02.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Matthew 5:13–16

Read Matthew 5:13–16

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Jesus call His disciples (Matthew 5:13)? Of what are they the salt? What can this salt lose? What question does He ask? What is the implied answer? What is it now good for? What will happen to it? What else does Jesus call them (Matthew 5:14a)? What is it that cannot be hidden if set where (verse  14b)? Where do they not put a lit lamp (Matthew 5:15)? Where do they put it instead? To whom does it give light? What does Jesus command them to do (Matthew 5:16)? What will men see, if they who are the light are consistently what they are? Whom will men glorify? Where is this Father? 

What dangers accompany the blessing of persecution? Matthew 5:13–16 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that persecution presents us with the dangers of compromising or hiding our identity in Christ. 

The blessed are poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3); they mourn (Matthew 5:4); they are meek (Matthew 5:5); they hunger and thirst (Matthew 5:6); the are merciful (Matthew 5:7); they are pure in heart (Matthew 5:8); they are peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). All of these are things that they are. Even the “mourning” characteristic is as much a state as an action; and, “peacemaker” describes someone whose ordinary characteristic is the elimination of disturbance (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:11).  

So, Jesus’s description of the blessed person overwhelmingly focuses on essence, not actions—on what he is more than what he does (though what he is produces what he does). This continues to be the emphasis, when He comes to explaining and applying the law in Matthew 5:17-48. The great problem with sinning is that it has its roots in being a sinner.

What is the crowning characteristic, however? Not so much being persecuted—although that is the occasion of the blessing in Matthew 5:12. The characteristic of the blessed disciple is his identity with the master. “On account of me” translates the last two words in the original of 12. So it is the identity of the man that is the great issue through the whole chapter. 

And that helps us to see that it is the issue in our four verses. Jesus doesn’t tell them to do salty things or bright things so much as He tells them that they are salt and light and warns them against losing what they are. Jesus is warning against to dangers that persecution presents: either losing what we are or hiding what we are.

Christian, do not lose what you are! (Matthew 5:13). Are you afraid of being seen as too odd, too fanatical? This often happens not just in the world, but in the church when someone is reforming back to Scripture. They stick out. They are not like everything else. But they may be persecuted for being different. So they are tempted to lose that flavor. But this is self-defeating! The implication here is that if we decide we’d rather lose our saltiness than be trampled by men, we will become as those who, before God are worthy only of being trampled!

Christian, do not hide what you are! (Matthew 5:14-16). The second illustration of the nature of a disciple is “light.” Here, we can see even more clearly that this is his identity with Christ, Who called Himself “the light of the world” whose followers “have the light of life” (cf. John 8:12). We know that we can’t entirely dissociate unbelievers without leaving the world (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:10). God has put us on a hill (Matthew 5:14) and on a stand (Matthew 5:15) on purpose. This passage isn’t saying to go to a hill or onto a stand. (That would be exactly opposite Matthew 6:1–18!)

Rather the issue is: what do we do when we are “in the presence of men”? Do we cease to shine at that point, in order not to be mocked, persecuted, or spoken ill of? Or do we continue to shine? “Keep shining, when you’re in the presence of men” (Matthew 5:16)! The light didn’t come from you; it’s not yours to put out. And it isn’t shame but glory. Will you cover up the Father’s glory? Christ’s glory? No! You mustn’t! Men may persecute you, but even then their punishment will bring glory to the Father (cf. 1 Peter 2:12). And He may even glorify Himself by saving them!

Be what you are, dear Christian. Do not let persecution tempt you to blend in when you are before men or even give it up altogether. It is what your Father sees that matters most!

In what situations are you tempted to “tone down” your Christianity or reformed-ness? In dependence upon the Spirit, how will you bring this passage to bear upon your heart and mind in preparation to obey it?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for giving Your Son, our Lord Jesus to be the Light of the world. And thank You for so identifying us with Him and uniting us to Him that we, too, may have in Him the high honor of being made to be salt and being made to be light. Grant that, by Your Spirit, we would neither give it up or shrink away from it, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH534 “Fill Thou My Life”

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