The Christian’s call to influence presupposes something. It assumes that the world is in need of influence. In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus takes for granted that the world is in need of salt and light. As G. Campbell Morgan wrote in his commentary on Matthew,
Jesus, looking out over the multitudes of His day, saw the corruption, the disintegration of life at every point … its spoilation [sic]; and, because of His love of the multitudes, He knew that the thing they needed most was salt in order that the corruption should be arrested. He saw them also wrapped in gloom, sitting in darkness, groping amid mists and fogs. He knew that they needed, above everything else, the irradiation of the pathway, the illumination of all things; that they needed light.
Morgan is right. The presupposition here is that we live in a decayed and decaying, dark and darkening world. That is the biblical view of the world we live in.
But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:13)
It’s a pipe dream to think that the world is getting better. It can’t get better because it isn’t good to start with. It’s bad, and it’s getting worse.
A student told me once about a professor at a local college who was telling his class this: The reason marriage is fading out as a human institution is because man is evolving to a higher level, and marriage is something that man only needs at the lower level. Marriage is dropping off like a vestigial tail.
Listen, anybody standing around in the world today saying, “We’re still evolving up,” is blind as a bat!
Now, I agree that we’re learning a lot. We have an amazing amount of new developments in science, technology, medicine and other areas happening all the time. But you know what? It has no beneficial effect upon the corruption of society. None at all.
The world of Jesus’ time had the same darkness and decay. All we’ve done in modern times is increase the volume on our darkness and invent new ways to express it.
Back in the 19th century, not too long ago, philosophers and poets were profoundly optimistic about the future of society. They believed that mankind was getting better and better, and that eventually we would ascend into a utopia. Soon there would be no more war, no more disease, no more suffering.
Not many people believe that stuff anymore. The world is rotten and polluted, and we know it. And what’s so amazing is that the world is just as rotten and polluted with technology as it is without it. Information has done nothing to reverse the decay.
This is the way it has been since Genesis 3 and the fall. Man is infected with the germ of sin. There is no antidote apart from God, and man will not have God because he loves his darkness rather than light. He loves his decadence and does not want purity, and so the germ affects the whole body of humanity. Man is depraved from his birth, as David acknowledges:
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5)
So, the decay and darkness of the world is the presupposition, and nothing can be more evident than that against the backdrop of the knowledge we have today.
Despair and pessimism reign in our day, because mankind hasn’t been able to slow its descent. In fact, we have the sickening feeling that we’re just speeding it up with technology.
The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
This is Jesus’ view. This is the view of any thinking person. Any evolutionist would have to be blind to reality to think human society is on the ascent. It isn’t true. Our Lord is saying that since we have a decaying, corrupted society shrouded in darkness, this society needs salt to delay the corruption and light to brighten the darkness. He is also saying that God has a plan to make that happen.
We’ll begin to examine that plan next time.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 1979, titled “You Are the Salt of the Earth.”
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