An appointed day is coming when Jesus will bring an end to this present world in judgment. Until that day, believers preserve this world from its ultimate decay into sin. There is a peculiar character of Christians and their presence in the world that stays what is passing away. As the author of the well-known hymn “Abide with Me” writes, “Change and decay in all around I see.” When we live as true Christians, pursuing the good works that glorify our heavenly Father, we accomplish the preservation of the world. Take Christians out of this world, and everything would quickly fall into irreparable ruin.
Likewise, Israel was designated as God’s light to the nations, a light that offered hope of the Savior to come. Isaiah 49:6 states, “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Along with preserving and flavoring the world, Christians also give this world the only true Light.
Jesus said of Himself that He is the “light of the world” (John 8:12). As the Lord is our light and salvation, we as His followers are the ones through whom His light shines in this world to make Jesus known. This is the reason that Christians are designated as light in the world who are to walk as children of light (Eph. 5:8). Christians have a distinctive witness as Christ’s light. It is God who has commanded that light shine out of darkness, and our purpose is to give “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
Deep within the Christian’s heart is a burden that people would know the forgiveness of sins and peace with God that Jesus brings through His life, death, and resurrection. Yes, Christians influence the world in many different ways, including political involvement, providing help to the poor, and other ways that demonstrate compassion for the needy. But the primary way that believers are light in this world is through making known the good news of the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. This hope drives the Christian in this life and provides a witness to the world of the only true light shining in darkness. Through this witness, eternal life is given to all who believe.
The overall picture in Jesus’ use of salt and light is clear: Christians preserve and flavor the world with their presence in how they live by doing good works, and they give great light to those in darkness through their witness of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus fulfills this calling and enables the new covenant church to accomplish this vocation when believers are sincerely behaving as salt and light in this world.
Christian, this is your identity in this world: you are Jesus’ salt and light. A Christian who is not salty or who hides his light under a bowl is a contradiction in terms. Christians preserve the world and offer a message of hope, not with false displays of external piety but with a sincere love for those who need salvation. When Christians demonstrate the precious identity that they have been given in Jesus Christ, a great difference is made in this world, one that results in the glorifying of our Father who is in heaven and the salvation of people from their sins.