Last time we looked at some of the cultural and biblical meanings of salt that may have informed Jesus’ words, “You are the salt of the earth.” But I think the key reason that we’re called “salt” is this: Salt is a preservative.
I believe that we, as believers, are here to prevent corruption. As I mentioned last time, salt acts as a preservative when you rub it into meat. In the same way, believers are an antiseptic in the world. If you don’t think so, watch in the Bible what happens to the world after the church is removed. Watch all the demons of hell released. Evil goes wild.
We are a preservative. As we live in the world as holy and Christlike people, we keep the world from going completely corrupt. And once we leave, it only takes seven years for the world to go to the pits of hell.
Our presence in the world should hold back crime. Our presence should change certain kinds of conversation. It ought to change the atmosphere in rooms we enter. It ought to condemn apostasy and affect the way men think.
On top of that, our presence also preserves the world from the wrath of God. Recall the story in Genesis 18 when God was at the decision-making point regarding Sodom and Gomorrah:
Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it?
“Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”
So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.”
And Abraham replied, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but dust and ashes. Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, will You destroy the whole city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.”
He spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose forty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it on account of the forty.”
Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak; suppose thirty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
And he said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.”
Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.” (Genesis 18:23-32)
Just 10 righteous people could have spared that entire population. Believers in the world preserve the world from the wrath of God. And on the day when God does judge the world in wrath, He’ll pull all of His believers out first.
Listen — if we’re going to slow the corruption of the world like salt, we can’t live the way the world lives. We’ve got to be in the world, rubbed into society like salt rubbed into meat, and yet we’ve got to be different.
Isn’t it amazing how God uses something as humble and basic as us to exert this kind of influence?
When He made man in the Garden, He didn’t use gold, or silver or iron; He used dirt. And when He called David to deliver Israel from the Philistines, David didn’t use a great, flashing sword; he used some little pebbles. And when God came into the world, He didn’t enter a family of wealth and nobility; He came to a peasant girl and was born in a stable.
God wants to take you and me, sinners saved by grace, and make us salt, using us to hold back judgment on the world and slow the corruption.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 1979, titled “You Are the Salt of the Earth.”
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