Royal Family Resemblance: Salt & Light (Mt 5:13-16 Sermon Text)

King’s Kids

Update: See Bible Study Slideshow on this passage (Mt 5:13-16) here.

I recently preached this sermon on April 28, 2019 as a guest speaker at another church’s Youth Sunday. The theme of the service was “I am a King’s Kid.”

They recorded the service but I forgot to record myself (not even the audio). Hopefully, they will be able to share their footage with me soon, so I can then share it with you.

Until then, please find the sermon outline, sermon text, Mt 5:13-16 Greek Text (my translation (AT) is included in the text with italics), and bibliography below.

Sermon Outline


Introduction: Family Resemblance

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (Ps 19:14, NASB).

Good afternoon. I thank God – our Heavenly Father – for this opportunity to speak before you today. Thank you, [their Pastor and First Lady] for having me. And, thank you all for taking some of your time to listen to a little guy talk about Jesus.

I bring you greetings from Alpha Baptist Church in Willingboro, NJ, which is led by Pastor Danny Scotton Sr. – who is also my earthly father.

If my father stood next to me, you would likely notice that we look very similar. As the expression goes, I’m a chip off the old block. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. We have a distinctive family resemblance.

If my mother stood next to me, you wouldn’t need to know who she was to determine that she was my mother. Why? Because we look alike. I can’t hide it; it’s obvious. We have a distinctive family resemblance.

My father has six brothers; all of them are short and stocky. I have a lot of male cousins; almost all of them are short and stocky. I have four aunts on my Dad’s side and a ton of other relatives; almost all of them are also pretty short. If you come to a Scotton family get-together, and you are over 5’ 8”, you’re going to look like a giant. We have a distinctive family resemblance.

Has anyone ever said to you, “Wow, you look just like your mother!” Or, “you have your grandmother’s eyes”? Or, you are your parent’s “spitting image”? If so, you also must have a distinctive family resemblance.

My brothers and sisters, if we claim to be King’s kids, if we claim to be children of God, children not born of “natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (Jn 1:13, NIV)” – we must have a family resemblance.

A King’s Kid must have a distinctive, royal family resemblance. Our character should distinctively resemble that of our Heavenly Father. We can’t hide it; it should be obvious.

We Are Family (in Christ)

Obviously, I call you brothers and sisters because all who put their active trust in Christ become children of God (cf. Jn 1:12). Because all who are led by the Holy Spirit have been adopted as daughters and sons into God’s family (Rom 8:14-16). So, even though we are not blood relatives, we are related through the sacrificial blood of our Resurrected Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Jesus redefines family. The gospel can be so divisive that it divides families (Mt 10:34-39). And Jesus says, that His true mothers and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice (Lk 8:21). As King’s Kids, we should aim to be holy – as our Heavenly Father is holy (cf. Mt 5:48).[1] Our holiness should be our distinctive family resemblance.

What Does It Mean to Be Holy?

But what does it mean to be holy? When I was growing up in the church, I didn’t really understand what it meant to be holy.

I understood that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and was resurrected on the third day (cf. 1 Cor 15:1-8). I understood that I had to confess with my mouth and believe in my heart that Jesus is Lord (Rom 10:9). But I didn’t truly understand what it meant to be a holy child of God.

Does anyone know someone who has a peanut allergy? Some people are so allergic to peanuts, that they can’t even eat food that was made in a pot that was previously used to make a dish with peanuts. Some people are so allergic they can’t have food that was made in a facility in which peanut products are made. It’s so serious that companies that produce food products are required by law to clearly state on their labels, “This product contains peanuts.”[2]

A few years ago, I used to work at a gym. After members were finished with their workouts, many would stop by the Front Desk for a blended protein shake. And, one of the most popular add-ins was peanut butter. We had several blender cups but at least one of the cups had to be labelled and set apart for peanut-free shakes – because some of our members were allergic to peanuts.

If someone blended a peanut butter shake in the peanut-free cup, the cup was essentially tainted. Even if we washed it thoroughly, trace amounts of peanut butter residue could potentially result in an allergic reaction – and a lawsuit.

The purpose of the peanut-free blender cup was to bless members with nut-free, healthy, refreshing shakes. But, if it lost its peanut-freeness, how could it be made peanut-free again? It’s not useful for its intended purpose.

My brothers and sisters, similarly, biblical holiness is basically about being set apart – set apart for God’s distinctive purpose. But if we lack that which is supposed to set us apart from everyone else, we are not useful for God’s intended purpose. We live in a nutty world, but we can’t act like nuts.[3]

We have to be distinct. We have to be set apart. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses two familiar metaphors to make this point: salt and light.[4]


Salt of the Earth

In our Scripture text (Mt 5:13-16), Jesus begins by saying, You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt is made tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is no longer useful for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under peoples’ feet (Mt 5:13, AT).[5]

In the Beatitudes, Jesus has just talked about some of the traits and behaviors that characterize those who are disciples in the Kingdom of Heaven – the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt 5:3-12).[6]

These character traits and behaviors include being meek (Mt 5:5), merciful (Mt 5:7), and pure in heart (Mt 5:8), being a peacemaker (Mt 5:9) who hungers and thirsts for righteousness (Mt 5:6), and being poor in spirit (Mt 5:3) – that is, those who wholly trust in God to deliver them[7] as their King.[8]

These are the kinds of character traits and behaviors that distinguishes[9] followers of Christ from the rest of the people on earth;[10] it’s what sets us apart.[11] It’s what makes us salty.[12]

Modern Saltiness

Nowadays, when we think of someone being salty, we think of someone who is mad or upset because they have been embarrassed.[13]

For example, if someone is talking a lot of trash on the basketball court, but then someone crosses them up and dunks on them, they would be “salty.” If someone is trying to show off their new heels but then they slip and falls in front of a room full of people, they would be “salty.”

One time, I was trying to be cool and do a front flip off a high dive. But I ended up rotating a little too far, and I belly-flopped from like 20 feet in the air. I hit the water so hard, it knocked the wind out of me.

Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you? It is not a pleasant feeling. You try to inhale, but, for whatever reason, your body just won’t suck in any air <imitate hard breathing sounds>.

It only lasts for a minute or two, but the problem was, at the time, I was about ten feet underwater. It took every ounce of strength I had just to swim to the surface and not drown. And, because I had jumped in the middle of the pool, I had to swim all the way to the side to get out of the water.

When I climbed out, my stomach was beat red. Everybody was asking me, “Are you OK, are you OK?” And, of course, I try to play it cool: Yea, I’m good. I’m good. But, truth be told, I was feeling pretty salty.

1st Century Saltiness

In today’s slang, being salty has a certain meaning. But Jesus means something different when He says to His disciples (cf. Mt 5:1-2) emphatically: You are the salt of the earth (Mt 5:13a, AT).

Back in the day, salt had many different uses.[14] Salt was important because of its purity[15] (cf. Exod. 30:35; 2 Kings 2:19–22)[16] and its cleansing and purifying properties.[17] It also was used in Jewish sacrifices[18] (cf. Lev. 2:13; Ezra 6:9; Ezek. 43:24).[19]

In addition, salt could metaphorically refer to wisdom (cf. Mk 9:50; Col 4:6).[20] A more literal translation of the word translated as “made tasteless,” is “become foolish” [21] (cf. foolish virgins in Mt 25:2-3, 8).[22]

There is likely a double meaning.[23] For even in English, when we talk about someone who has bad taste, we are referring to someone who is unwise. Also, sometimes we say that certain jokes or offensive comments were made in poor taste.

For example, if someone approaches a woman on the street and asks her how far along she is in her pregnancy, and she angrily replies, “I’m not pregnant,” one has made a comment in poor taste. On the other hand, someone who has good taste acts and chooses wisely. I pray that my wife has good taste in husbands.

Furthermore, back in the day, salt was used as a preservative.[24] In the first century, they did not have refrigerators. Salt would be rubbed in in order to “keep meat wholesome and prevent decay.”[25]

Have you ever smelled meat that has gone bad? You ever forget about some meat that you put in the back of the fridge? Sometimes the refrigerator starts to smell and you have take things out and sniff them to see what’s causing the odor.

When you find it <sniffling noise>, it’s not too pleasant. But though the moral standards of the world – which are constantly changing[26] – decay like rotting meat,[27] King’s Kids can help society from going bad.[28]

And, of course salt was used to give food flavor[29] (cf. Job 6:6, Col 4:6).[30] This is what Christians are meant to be in the world.[31]

Anybody ever taste some food that was really bland? You ever sneak some Lawry’s seasoning salt in your bag? Man, I put Lawry’s on almost everything – because it gives food flavor.  But what would be the point of adding salt to food if the salt added no flavor? It wouldn’t be good for anything – except to maybe raise our blood pressure. We might as well throw it out.

All in all, the most significant uses of salt in the ancient world were preservation and flavoring.[32] Similarly, we are to preserve society and give it a Christian flavor.[33] King’s Kids must be salty.

Salt Without Saltiness Has No Usefulness

Because, if the salt is made tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is no longer useful for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under peoples’ feet (Mt 5:13b, AT).

Unsalty salt is an oxymoron – a ridiculous[34] contradiction. It’s like talking about water that doesn’t have wetness,[35] or fire that doesn’t have heat. But if salt somehow loses that which makes it salty, it’s no longer useful. Salt without saltiness has no usefulness.[36]

Now, chemically speaking, salt or sodium chloride, cannot lose its saltiness.[37] But, in Jesus’s day, they couldn’t just go to the grocery store and pick up a can of pure Morton’s salt. They didn’t have any refineries,[38] and the salt near the Dead Sea was mixed with other minerals. Therefore, over time, it was possible that the actual salt could have been washed out, leaving behind a “useless residue.”[39]

Nonetheless, the overall point is, we are supposed to be distinct from the world – not identical with the world.[40] If we think and behave like everyone else, if we lose our salty Christlike character, we are of no use.[41]

Just as salt without saltiness is useless, someone who claims to be a Christian – but is not truly committed to Christ – is useless.[42]

Light of the World

Similarly, Jesus says to His disciples emphatically,[43] You are the light[44] of the world (Mt 5:14a, AT).

Light can serve as a warning.[45] If you are driving and you hit the brakes, your brake lights serve to warn drivers behind you that you are slowing down. Over the years, I’ve had many cars break down on me (at least four or five ); all of them were teenagers. And when one pulls over to the side of the road to call for help, it’s important to put on your warning lights.

And of course, when drivers are about to change lanes or turn, they’re supposed to use their turning signal. Don’t you hate when you’re driving near someone and they merge or turn without any warning? Light can serve as a warning.

However, light also attracts.[46] You ever notice how moths are drawn to lights? In the same way, the light of Christ in us should draw and attract others to Christ.[47]

Also, light guides.[48] If you go camping, it’s important to bring a flashlight so you can see where you are going. If you try to move around in the dark, it’s easy to stumble and fall – because one can’t see.[49] Nothing is visible.

Visibility: Hide it Under a Bushel? No!

And, perhaps most important of all, light is visible.[50] Jesus continues: a city set on a hill cannot be hidden (Mt 5:14b, AT). Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a (measuring) bowl – but rather on a lampstand – and so it shines light for all who are in the house (Mt 5:15, AT).[51] Light that is not visible is not useful.

Back in the first century, the many lights from a city on a hill would be visible for miles around.[52] In the same way, the many Christian lights of King’s Kids should be visible for miles around.[53]

Back in the day, people would light a lamp and put it on a lampstand. Most homes only had one room,[54] so one lamp would be sufficient to light the entire house.[55]

Bushels or measuring bowls were used to measure grain;[56] they were about 2 gallons. These bowls would be used to cover the fire of lamps, which would then extinguish the flame.[57]

So, if one wanted to be able to see, what sense would it make to cover the lamp with a bowl and essentially put out the light?[58] What sense does it make to turn on a flashlight, and then cover the light with one’s hand? Light that is not visible is not useful.

In the same way, what sense does it make to conceal the truth of the Gospel? What sense does it make to hide the light of Christ.[59] The purpose of a lamp is to give light; the purpose of being a disciple of Christ is to give light.[60]

We can’t be secret agents for the Kingdom of God. We have to be public agents of moral preservation and spiritual redemption.[61]

Let [His Light Through You] Shine

Jesus concludes this section by saying: In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and may glorify your Father who is in Heaven (Mt 5:16, AT).

Of course, the light that His disciples have is not their own; it is a reflection of the light of Jesus[62] (cf. Php 2:15; Eph 5:8)[63] – who is the light of the world (Jn 8:12, 9:5).[64]

In general, the light of our good works includes everything we do in obedience to the Lord.[65] However, in the Old Testament (especially in Isaiah), the prophesied Servant of the LORD was to be the One who would be a light to all nations, illuminating the truth of the Good News of salvation through the kingly reign of God (cf. Is. 42:6; 49:6; Lk. 2:32; Acts 26:23; 13:47).[66]

In Matthew 4, Jesus quotes Isaiah saying, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Mt 4:16 cf. Is 9:2).[67] Christ’s hopeful message of the Good News of the coming Kingdom of God was symbolized as light.[68]

In addition, God’s people were prophesied to be a light to the Gentiles (Is 60:1-3).[69] As followers of Christ, who fulfills the prophecies about the Suffering Servant of the LORD (Cf. Is 52:13-53:12), we too should spread the Good News of salvation through Christ – to bring light to all the ends of the earth.[70] Evangelism is part of our good works.[71]

Moreover, good works also include deeds of righteousness,[72] love and compassion to others.[73] When we do such good works, it demonstrates our faithfulness to God, it makes the Good News of Christ more believable, and it causes others to glorify our Father who is in Heaven[74] (cf. 1 Pet 2:11-12;[75] Matt. 9:8; 15:31; John 15:8;[76] Tit 2:8; 2 Cor 4:6).[77]

To the Glory of Our Heavenly Father – the King

We are not to fit in; we are to stand out. But we don’t stand out to bring glory to ourselves; we stand out to bring glory to our Heavenly Father – as more and more people submit their lives to the King.[78] We become distinct, holy, set apart children of our Heavenly Father, by submitting our lives to His kingship.[79]

Now referring to God as “King” and “Father” is an awesome combination of metaphors. This is this is the first time God is called “Father” in the Gospel of Matthew.[80] God was only sometimes called “Father” in the Old Testament and by the Jews. But Jesus transformed the way we think of our Father who art in Heaven[81] (cf. Mt 6:9).

Our King is exalted above us, and yet He is close to us.[82] We are royal children of our Father, who are to bring glory to our King.

Right Motives

Now, in the very next chapter, Jesus says, “be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Mt 6:1).

At first glance, this may seem contradictory.[83] Wait a minute: are we supposed to let others see our righteous good works or not?

However, what’s most important is our motive.[84] There, Christ is referring to people who like to put on a big show when it comes to their giving (Mt 6:1-4), praying (Mt 6:9-15), and fasting (Mt 6:16-18) – in order to be seen by others. Such actors want their works to be visible so they can bring recognition and glory to themselves; we should want our works to be visible so that we can bring recognition and glory to God.[85]

With all that we do, are we bringing glory to God (cf. Col 3:17)? With all of our accomplishments in this world, are we bringing glory to God? When we brag at work, or in school, or in church, or on Social Media, are we bringing glory to God? Or are we bringing glory to self?

Self vs. Savior

One of the biggest lies our society tells us is that our lives are primarily about us. That my life is all about me – about what I want to do.

Society tells us to follow our dreams. Society tells us to pursue our passions. Society tells us that, no matter what anyone else has to say, we should do what makes us happy.

However, my brothers and sisters, if we are King’s Kids, we do not live for self, we live for our Savior. Our primary aim is not to do what makes us happy; it’s to do what makes us holy.

As it’s been said, if we claim that God is the King of our life, we have to let God have His crown.1

I understand that sometimes we call each other kings and queens. But we are not even the queens and kings of our own lives. We are servants and children of the King of all life.

In the World Not Of the World

In both examples of salt and light, it is clear that are to be in the world but not of the world.[86] We cannot conform to our culture (Rom 12:1-2).[87] We have to be distinct. We have to be set apart. We have to be holy.

In doing so, we will be the salt of the earth that prevents moral decay and adds Christian flavor. And we’ll be the light of the world that dispels darkness[88] and attracts others to the light of Christ.

Salt and light have functions that go hand in hand: we have to stop the spread of evil and promote the spread of truth[89] – the truth of the Gospel.

Holiness Leads to Persecution

In the last Beatitude, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:10, NIV). Then He says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt 5:11-12, NIV).

Have you ever put salt in a wound?[90] Doesn’t feel too good. Has anyone turned on bright light after you’ve been in a dark room for a while? Doesn’t feel too good. Has anyone ever told you that something you really like to do is wrong? Doesn’t feel too good.

People love it when people tell them want to hear (cf. 2 Tim 4:3). When we speak out against something people shouldn’t be doing, that’s when we ruffle feathers.[91]

My brothers and sisters, don’t be surprised if people are offended by your saltiness or your shine.[92] Jesus said, if they hated Him, they will hate His followers, too (Jn 15:18-19).


Royal Privileges, Royal Responsibilities

Now did anybody else ever hate it when your parents used to tell you to do something you didn’t want to do?

I might be in the middle of a major, extremely important, once-in-a-lifetime moment – in my video game – and my mother would call me and tell me to do something. I’m like, “I’m in the middle of something; can’t I do it when I’m finished?”

And she’s like, “Danny I’ve already told you twice to do these dishes. They not clean themselves.” And I’m like, “Mom, I’ll be done in a few minutes.”

And she’s like, “well it’ll only take you a few minutes to finish these dishes. I’ve already told you five times.” And I’m like, “Mom you didn’t tell me five times.” — “Danny, don’t you talk back to me. I’ve told you ten times to clean these dishes. So, do these dishes right now. And, after that, you can turn the game off for the rest of the week. How about that?”

I used to think my parents were so mean. Why did they require me to do things? Why didn’t they just let me play around all day? Why didn’t they let me do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it?

But now that I think about it, they put food on the table, they put clothes on my back, they gave me a place to sleep at night, they got me to where I needed to go, and every once in a while, they even let me enjoy myself.

I think I was focusing too much on the privileges of being their son, and focusing too little on the responsibilities of being their son.

I had to do dishes and other chores, I had to do my school work, I had to go to church. But, by doing these things, I did not somehow earn all the things they provided for me. I did not earn my way into the family; I did these things because I was their son. I did these things in response; they were my response-abilities.2

My brothers and sisters, when it comes to our Heavenly Father, I think sometimes we may focus too much on the privileges of being a King’s Kid and not the responsibilities of being a King’s Kid.

We thank God that he saved us, we thank God that he sacrificed His Son for us, we thank God that He will never leave us nor forsake us. We thank God for these royal privileges, but we also have royal responsibilities.

And by doing these things, we don’t somehow earn what God provides for us. We don’t earn our way into God’s family; we do these things because we are daughters and sons of God. We do these things in response; they are response-abilities.

God is both Father and King. Christ is both Savior and Lord. As King’s Kids we have both royal privileges and royal responsibilities.

God didn’t save us just to save us. He saved us to make us holy – to set us apart for His purpose: to be the salt that preserves the moral standards of society and adds Christian flavor, and to be the light that shines the truth of the Gospel in a dark world – through our good works of evangelism, righteousness, and love. Not for our glory, but to bring glory to God’s Name – to make God look good.

Let’s Make God Look Good

When I used to go shopping with my mother as a kid, I had to remember at least two things. (1) We were going to be at the store for a while. Many times, my brother and I would get two books, and we would finish one by the time we had to leave.

(2) As my mother would say, “Don’t you embarrass me.” Because if I started acting a fool, it would reflect poorly on my mother. I would make her look bad.

My brothers and sisters, in the same way, let’s not make our Heavenly Father look bad; let’s make Him look good. Let’s bring glory to His Name.

Salt that is not salty is not useful; light that is not visible is not useful.[93] Christians without Christ-likeness are not useful. Children of God without godliness are not useful.

So, let’s be both salt and light in this dark, decaying world that needs some Christian flavor. If we are to be holy, King’s Kids – with royal privileges and royal responsibilities – let’s make sure we have His royal family resemblance.

Greek Text (UBS5)

13 Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ ἅλας τῆς γῆς· ἐὰν δὲ τὸ ἅλας μωρανθῇ, ἐν τίνι ἁλισθήσεται; εἰς οὐδὲν ἰσχύει ἔτι εἰ μὴ βληθὲν ἔξω καταπατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων. 14 Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου. οὐ δύναται πόλις κρυβῆναι ἐπάνω ὄρους κειμένη 15 οὐδὲ καίουσιν λύχνον καὶ τιθέασιν αὐτὸν ὑπὸ τὸν μόδιον ἀλλʼ ἐπὶ τὴν λυχνίαν, καὶ λάμπει πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ. 16 οὕτως λαμψάτω τὸ φῶς ὑμῶν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὅπως ἴδωσιν ὑμῶν τὰ καλὰ ἔργα καὶ δοξάσωσιν τὸν πατέρα ὑμῶν τὸν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.3


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Turner, David L. Matthew. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.

Wright, Christopher J. H. The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission. Biblical Theology for Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.

[1] Mt 5:48 uses the term translated “perfect” (τέλειος | teleios). “Teleios is wider than moral perfection: it indicates ‘completeness’, ‘wholeness’ (cf. Paul’s use of it for the spiritually ‘mature’ in 1 Cor. 2:6; 14:20; Phil. 3:15), a life totally integrated to the will of God, and thus reflecting his character… the repeated formula of Leviticus 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:26 (‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’), is echoed in Jesus’ words. The conformity to the character of God, to which Israel was called in their role as God’s special people (see especially Lev. 20:26), is now affirmed as the goal of the disciples of Jesus.” R. T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 1, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 134. “The six antitheses [of the Sermon on the Mount]…, all function to extend the force of Old Testament law in order to transform the nature of the traditional imperatives out of the sphere of legal disputation. [Mt 5:48] summarizes the goal of the transformation: ‘You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.’” Brevard S. Childs, Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments: Theological Reflection on the Christian Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2011), 692.


[3] I first used this illustration in a Sunday School lesson on the Ten Commandments: and later in a Facebook Post

[4] “In order to define the nature of their influence, Jesus resorted to two domestic metaphors. Every home, however poor, used and still uses both salt and light.”  John R. W. Stott and John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 58.

[5] Author’s translation (AT)

[6] “In the final four beatitudes (with the fourth expanded; 5:11–12), blessings are conferred on those who live in a way that signals their alignment with the values characterizing God’s reign.” Jeannine Brown in Gary M. Burge and Andrew E. Hill, eds., The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012), 965–966.

[7] Poor in spirit suggests the OT theme of the ‘poor’ or ‘meek’, the oppressed people of God who, nonetheless, trust in him for deliverance. This and the next verse echo Is. 61:1–2, while v 5 draws on Ps. 37:11, another passage which contrasts the ‘meek’ with the ‘wicked’.”  Richard T. France, “Matthew,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 910. For more on the “poor,” see a previous post on Is 61:1:

[8] “The key phrase, which opens and concludes the series, is theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This refers to the people who acknowledge God as their King and who may, therefore, confidently look forward to the fulfilment of his purpose in their lives.” France, 910.

[9] “The disciples are not to be worldly people, indistinguishable from the people among whom they live.” Morris, 105.

[10] “…’the earth,’ which here refers to human life in general.” R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), 173. “You is emphatic and restrictive: Jesus is not talking about people in general but specifically about his followers…We should take salt as a metaphor and the earth as referring to people.” Leon Morris, The Gospel according to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 104. “The use of “you” (ὑμεῖς) ties this closely with the previous (vv. 11–12) as directed particularly to the disciples.” Grant R. Osborne, Matthew, vol. 1, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 175.

[11] “The beatitudes are followed by a declaration of the distinctive identity and mission of Jesus’s followers.” Brown, 966. “…it is important that disciples should both be different and be seen to be different.” France NICOT, 173.

[12] “Christian saltiness is Christian character as depicted in the beatitudes, committed Christian discipleship exemplified in both deed and word.”  John R. W. Stott and John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 60.


[14] Stott, 58; Michael Wilkins in Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 35.Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI;  Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), 172. Some scholars list up to 11 different possibilities; Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 102; Osborne, 175. “…a sign of barren wasteland (Judg. 9:45; Job 39:6; Ps. 107:34; Jer. 17:6; Zeph. 2:9), a sign of loyalty (Num. 18:19; Ezra 4:14; 2 Chron. 13:5), and used in fertilizer (Luke 14:34–35) and in cleaning newborn infants (Ezek. 16:4).” David L. Turner, Matthew, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 154. Therefore, some scholars say that we should not try to focus on any single one meaning (e.g., Osborne, 175; Nolland, 212; Wilkins, 35). Cf. “In this context, however, taste may well be in view, as often in contemporary literature (b. Ber. 34a, bar.; Plut. Isis 5, Mor. 352F; Table-Talk 4.4.3, Mor. 669B); this might be the most obvious function to the Galileans who would constitute Jesus’ primary audience.” Keener, 173.

[15] Michael Green, The Message of Matthew: The Kingdom of Heaven, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 91. Osborne, 175; Craig A. Evans, The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: Matthew–Luke, ed. Craig A. Evans and Craig A. Bubeck, First Edition (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2003), 109.

[16] Turner, 154.

[17] “Apart from the obvious role of salt in flavouring and preserving, in the ancient world it was seen as a purifying or cleansing agent.” John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005), 212.

[18] Green, 91; Nolland, 212.

[19] Turner, 154 cf. Osborne, 175.

[20] France, 174 cf. Mishnah (m. Soṭah 9.15) and Pliny the Elder in his Natural history (31.73-92). Turner, 154; Osborne, 175; or peacemaking (Mt 5:9; Mk 9:50) Evans, 109.

[21] France, 175; Nolland, 212. “μωραίνω G3701 (mōrainō), to make foolish, pass. be/become foolish, become tasteless…” Moisés Silva, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), NIDNTTE, 357. “…(the Greek word can also mean “become foolish,” so it may include a play on words).” Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Mt 5:13.

[22] Osborne, 175.

[23] “We use “taste” to speak of an aesthetic rather than an intellectual quality, but “tasteless” perhaps goes some way towards catching what may have been a more obvious double-entendre in Hebrew and Aramaic, where the verb tāpēl can mean both to be tasteless and to be foolish.” France, 175. Cf. “A possible explanation for this is the use of the Semitic root tpl both in relation to stupid behaviour and insipid taste in food, but textual variants mean that the former meaning for this Semitic root is not certain.” Nolland, 213 cf. Keener IVP, Mt 5:13.

[24] Green, 91. It’s most basic function; Blomberg, 102. Morris, 104; Osborne, 175.

[25] Stott, 58, 65.

[26] Stott, 59.

[27] Stott, 59.

[28] Blomberg, 102.

[29] Green, 91; Osborne, 175; Keener, 172. Cf. Job 6:6 Stott, 58

[30] David L. Turner, Matthew, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 154.

[31] Green, 91.

[32] France, 174.

[33] Green, 92; Morris, 104.

[34] Nolland, 213.

[35] France, 174.

[36] “If they are insipid they are useless to their Lord,” Green, 91. Cf. Turner, 155; Keener, 173.

[37][37] Blomberg, 102.

[38] Stott, 60.

[39] France, 175; cf. Keener, 173; Wilkins, 36. “This is not the scientifically impossible notion of salt becoming flavorless but rather the common problem in the ancient world of salt being mixed with various impure substances and therefore becoming worthless as a preservative.” Blomberg, 102.Morris, 104; Stott, 60;

[40] Stott, 60.

[41] Stott, 60; Osborne, 175.

[42] Keener, 173.

[43] “Again we have an emphatic You as words are introduced that apply not to people at large but to those committed to Jesus.” Morris, 104.

[44] “‘Light of the world’ is found in a range of Jewish sources applied to God, Adam, distinguished rabbis, Israel, the Torah and the temple, and Jerusalem. Cicero, Cat. 4:6, considered Rome ‘a light to the whole world’.” Nolland, 213. Cf. “Jewish literature further portrays both Wisdom (e.g., Prov 6:23; Wis 6:12; 7:26, 29–30; 1QS 2.3; 11.5–6; 1QM 1.8; 4 Ezra 14:20–21; cf. Jn 1:4; 8:12) and Torah (Ps 119:105; Bar 4:2; CIJ 1:409, §554; Ps-Philo 9:8; 11:1–2; 15:6; 19:4, 6; 23:10; 33:3; 51:3; 2 Bar. 17:4; 18:1–2; 59:2; Sifre Num. 41.1.2) as light.” Keener, 174.

[45] Like a lighthouse. Green, 91

[46] Green, 91.

[47] “…they will be drawn to the kingdom truths and the relevance of these truths for their lives. The kingdom of God radiates through the lives of his children, and the light attracts the world as moths to a lamp.” Osborne, 176.

[48] Green, 91.

[49] France, 176.

[50] Green, 91; France, 175.

[51] “Is πᾶσιν neuter (“everything” in the house) or masculine (“everyone”)? At first glance the neuter seems better since a lamp is to light up the house, not just its occupants; but in light of the emphasis on “people” (ἀνθρώπων) in vv. 13, 16 and the parallel in Luke 11:33 (“so that those who come in may see the light”), it is best to see this as masculine, “everyone in the house.’” Osborne, 176.

[52] Stott, 62; Keener, 173. Possibly referring to Jerusalem here. “Jesus’s statement that it is his disciples who illumine the world for God is mildly polemical, since it implies that Israel and especially its leaders are not fulfilling this lofty role…The polemic is stronger if the city is an allusion to Jerusalem, since it would imply that’s God’s illumining presence in the world flows from Jesus’s disciples, not a place.” Turner, 155. Some scholars think this could alternatively be a reference to the local Galilean city of Hippos (Wilkins, 36). Others suggest Sepphoris or Gamala (Evans, 109).

[53] France, 176. “Bonhoeffer shows that any Israelite would immediately think of Jerusalem, but in this case the new Jerusalem constitutes Jesus’ followers; like Jerusalem they must shine out to the world…” Osborne, 176. Cf. “In the biblical tradition Jerusalem is a city with a wider significance, a significance which was expected to be eschatologically enhanced (Is. 2:2–4; Mi. 4:1–3). But it is almost certainly a mistake to find a specific link to Jerusalem here.” Nolland, 214.

[54] Keener, 173; Wilkins, 36.

[55] Wilkins, 36.

[56] France, 176; Osborne, 176.

[57] Keener IVP, Mt 5:15-16; Wilkins, 36.

[58] “…the point seems to be rather the absurdity of hiding a lamp when its whole raison d’être is to be visible.” France, 176.

[59] Stott, 62. “the lamp illustrates the revelation which comes through the preaching of the kingdom of God.” France, 176 cf. Osborne, 176.

[60] Morris, 105.

[61] Blomberg, 102-103.

[62] Green, 92; Morris 104.

[63] Stott, 61; Morris, 104.

[64] Stott, 61; Blomberg, 102. Cf. Jn 12:35, Morris, 104; Nolland, 213.

[65] Stott, 61. “John had demanded ‘fruit’ as a condition of his baptism ([Mt 3:8, 10]), and Jesus returns to this metaphor for good deeds later in the sermon ([Mt 7:16–20; cf. 12:33; 13:8, 26; 21:41]).” Turner, 156 cf. Blomberg, 103.

[66] “Since light is a common biblical symbol of truth, a Christian’s shining light must surely include his spoken testimony.” Stott, 61. France, 176. Cf. Keener, 174.

[67] France, 176; Brown, 966; Turner, 155; Nolland, 213.

[68] France, 176. “Light is one of Scripture’s most common symbols. God is light (Ps 18:12; 104:2; 1 Tim 6:16; 1 John 1:5), Christ is light (Matt 4:16; John 1:7, 9; 8:12 [“light of the world”]; 9:5; 12:46), and God’s people are light (Eph 5:8; 1 Thess 5:5), especially in terms of drawing the world to God through their light (Isa 42:6; 49:6 [both “a light for the Gentiles”]; 51:4; Phil 2:15).” Osborne, 175-176.

[69] “The light imagery evokes God’s expectation for Israel to be a light to Gentiles.” Brown, 966. Cf. “(cf. Isa. 49:6; 51:4–5; Dan. 12:3; John 1:4–5; 3:19–21; 8:12; Acts 26:18; Rom. 2:19; Eph. 5:8; Phil. 2:15; Col. 1:12–13).” Turner, 155 cf. Keener, 174.

[70] France, 176. “Jesus obviously has in mind the bringing of illumination through the revelation of God’s will for his people.” Blomberg, 102; Cf. Mt 10:40-42 Keener, 174.

[71] “It is healthy to be reminded that believing, confessing and teaching the truth are also ‘good works’ which give evidence of our regeneration by the Holy Spirit.” Stott, 62. Cf. Osborne, 176.

[72] France, 177. “Without good works one simply is not a disciple of Jesus ([Mt 7:24–27; 13:23, 38; 10:22; 24:13]).” Turner, 156. “…good works” (= “righteousness,” 5:6, 10, 20).” Osborne, 176; Evans, 109.

[73] Stott, 62.

[74] “There is to be no parade of virtue, no attempt to win praise for oneself.” Morris, 106..

[75] France, 177. Cf. Stott, 62.

[76] Turner, 156.

[77] “Lifestyle evangelism.” Osborne, 176.

[78] “The subject of this discourse, and the aim of the discipleship which it promotes, is not so much the betterment of life on earth as the implementation of the reign of God.” France, 177..

[79] “The metaphor of father, superimposed on that of king, imparts a new depth and richness to the concept of discipleship already set out in the beatitudes of 5:3–10.” France, 177.

[80] Morris, 106.

[81] Morris, 106.

[82] “…connotes the idea that in the kingdom a new intimacy (see on 6:9) has been made possible; the transcendent heavenly Father has reached down to humankind.” Osborne, 177.

[83] France, 177; Blomberg, 102.

[84] France, 177.

[85] France, 177; Keener, 175.

[86] “It is important to assert this clearly in our day in which it is theologically fashionable to blur the distinction between the church and the world, and to refer to all mankind indiscriminately as ‘the people of God’.” Stott, 59.

[87] Stott, 63.

[88] Stott, 59. Cf. “…the kind of service each renders is different. In fact, their effects are complementary. The function of salt is largely negative: it prevents decay. The function of light is positive: it illumines the darkness.” Stott, 64. Cf. “Both in the useless salt of v. 13 (the negative side) and the “good works” of v. 16 (the positive side), the child of the kingdom is meant to be dynamically involved in this world.” Osborne, 177-178.

[89] Stott, 65.

[90] Quoting Luther “Salting has to bite. Although they criticize us as biters, we know that this is how it has to be and that Christ has commanded the salt to be sharp and continually caustic … If you want to preach the Gospel and help people, you must be sharp and rub salt into their wounds, showing the reverse side and denouncing what is not right.… The real salt is the true exposition of Scripture, which denounces the whole world and lets nothing stand but the simple faith in Christ.’” Stott, 66.

[91] “Helmut Thielicke takes up this same theme of the necessarily sharp or ‘biting’ quality of true Christian witness. To look at some Christians, he says, ‘one would think that their ambition is to be the honeypot of the world. They sweeten and sugar the bitterness of life with an all too easy conception of a loving God … But Jesus, of course, did not say, “You are the honey of the world.” He said, “You are the salt of the earth.” Salt bites, and the unadulterated message of the judgment and grace of God has always been a biting thing.’” Stott, 66.

[92] “Christianity may make its peace with the world and avoid persecution, but it is thereby rendered impotent to fulfill its divinely ordained role. It will thus ultimately be rejected even by those with whom it has sought compromise.” Blomberg, 102.

[93] “When we look at the two metaphors more closely, we see that they are deliberately phrased in order to be parallel to each other.” Stott, 59.


  1. Quote adapted from a post I saw on Instagram –>
  2. I first saw “response-ability” in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits… but I use it in a different context.
  3. Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Mt 5:13–16.
About @DannyScottonJr 168 Articles
Imperfect servant striving to be an unapologetically apologetic ambassador for Jesus the Christ. Princeton University Alum | Palmer Theological Seminary Student