Christ’s Vision for the Church (6)
“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5.13, 14, 16
There is nothing better, therefore, than to receive the seasoning, by which alone our tastelessness is corrected. But, at the same time, let those whose business is to salt it beware lest they encourage the world in their own folly, and still more, that they do not infect it with a depraved and vicious taste.
- John Calvin, comment on Matthew 5.13
Four metaphors, and three more
As the temple, nation, and servants of the Lord Jesus, church members are weapons of righteousness in His hands, equipped, sent, and active in seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and in bringing the beauty, goodness, and truth of the Lord to their Personal Mission Fields and the world.
This is how the Lord sees the Church He is building. He is the Architect of this project, and if we wish to build successfully, we must pay close attention to what Jesus has in mind.
From these four metaphors it should be clear that Jesus is building His Church as an agent of change, an epicenter of transformation to reflect the good purposes and character of the Lord in a world of unbelief and sin. As Calvin observes earlier in his comment on our text, it is the Lord’s intention to salt the entire earth, and it is the business of the Church to be about that great work and holy calling.
But let’s not miss the three additional metaphors Jesus used to suggest how churches bring about the kinds of spiritual, moral, and cultural changes that turn their world rightside-up for Jesus. The Church as temple, nation, servant, and weapon of righteousness changes its world by serving as light, salt, and leaven.
We do not serve as agents of change by wielding the sword of battle or stuffing the ballot boxes of our favorite politicians, at least, not in the first instance. To change the world we take up the two-edged Sword of the Spirit, wielding it joyously and effectively in every area of our lives to bring the life of Jesus more fully to life in all we do and say (cf. Ps. 149; Jn. 6.63).
Let’s take a look at these additional three metaphors for transformation, and consider their implications for our ministries.
Light of the world
As light, church members are sent into the dark world of their Personal Mission Fieldsto emit a constant glow of glory, which they gain from the Lord in their times of prayer and study in the Spirit (2 Cor. 3.12-18).
As believers sanctify Christ as Lord in their hearts, they become filled with hope, a hope expressed in righteousness and characterized by peace and joy. Such hope makes them eager and ready for every good work (1 Pet. 3.15; 2 Tim. 3.15-17), by which they radiate the light of Jesus into their world. Such a steady, warm, glow of divine light – in all our words and deeds – cannot help but attract those we serve to the very Source of such light, even Him Who is the Light of the World (cf. Mic. 4.1-8).
Is this what’s happening in your life? In the lives of the people you serve? If not, seek the Lord to help you in seeing your life and calling, and that of your church, as a Jesus light source in your community.
Salt of the earth
As salt, church members resist everything that tends to corruption and decay, preserving all that is wholesome and good against all that threatens to undermine or destroy it. They also, as living sacrifices to the Lord (Rom. 12.1, 2), “salt” the presence of God’s gracious covenant into a lost and confused world. And, by their everyday lives and conversations, they create a thirst for the Lord and His promises on the part of those who know them.
Thus church members bear witness to Jesus with praise and thanksgiving, and they speak out against the lies and half-truths of an age that rejects the truth of God. They refuse to participate in the works of darkness that corrupt the hearts of men. They maintain a constant self-watch against any sin settling into their own souls, and they exhort and admonish one another against any sinful or corrupting practices. And they live to the fullest all the precious and very great promises of God, which they realize increasingly through our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1.4; 2 Cor. 1.20).
We will not fulfill our calling as weapons of righteousness, nor be seen to be a holy temple unto the Lord, unless we are continuously vigilant against and being cleansed of all corruption and decay in our souls and our churches.
Leaven of grace and truth
As leaven, church members do not hold back in seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, simply because they are few in number or small in significance. They recognize that every step of faith, every deed of love, every word of truth done or spoken in faith has the potential to touch a needy soul with the reality and love of Jesus Christ.
They also know that vast multitudes of angels stand ready to assist them, that the Holy Spirit of God dwells in them, and that nothing they might undertake in Jesus’ Name will be impossible for them. So they work gradually, steadily, step by step, bit by bit, and little by little, making Kingdom progress in often infinitesimal ways, as they faithfully follow Him Who has called them to be agents of change.
The first believers understood this high and holy calling. They turned their world upside-down by living for and proclaiming Christ and His righteousness (Acts 17.1-9). We are not their true spiritual heirs unless this is our aspiration as well.
Our churches will shine with the light of Jesus, work for the preservation and advance of righteousness, and channel the grace of Jesus throughout our communities only if pastors and leaders cast such a vision for them.
No church should be content until its members are fully equipped and deployed for righteousness’ sake, living as light, salt, and leaven to turn their communities and world rightside-up for Jesus Christ.
“The saying ‘Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works’ is incomplete. He immediately adds the reason why this should be done: ‘that they may give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’ This means that even though one is seen by others in doing good works, in one’s conscience one ought to have the simple intention of glorifying God. It is only for the sake of God’s glory that we should allow our good works to become known.”
- Augustine (354-430 AD), Sermon 54.3
Shepherding God’s Flock
Jesus described the work He did in preparing His disciples for ministry as shepherding.He outlined the requirements of such disciple-making in John 10. The apostles readily embraced that idea to describe their own work. Jesus made disciples by shepherding. The apostles built His churches by shepherding. Is this the model you are following in your church? Order a copy of our workbook, Shepherding God’s Flock, and learn how you can equip your people for service like Jesus did (click here). When you order, we’ll send you a free copy of Bricks and Rungs: Poems on Calling.
Please prayerfully consider sharing with The Fellowship of Ailbe through your giving. You can contribute to The Fellowship by clicking the Contribute button at the website or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452.
T. M. Moore
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Church fathers are from The Ancient Christian Commentary Series (InterVarsity Press).