Rev. Kuiper is pastor of Immanuel Protestant Reformed Church in Lacombe, Alberta, Canada.

Salt. Sodium Chloride. A combination of two elements which separately are explosive and poisonous, but as a compound are taken harmlessly into the body every day. Salt is found in many parts of the world in massive deposits and in a pure state. In Palestine, however, it is often mixed with impurities such as alkali and gypsum; this salt has lost its saltiness or savor. For many centuries salt has been used both as a preservative and as a spice which renders food tasty and palatable.

The most important mention of salt in Scripture is found in Matthew 5:13, where Jesus tells His disciples and every believer, “Ye are the salt of the earth.” Many interpreters of these words speak of the church as being the salt of the world, and they insist that Christians are the salt of the world in the preserving sense. The presence of Christians among the human race improves the world and restrains the world from revealing its awful corruption. Thus the world does not become thoroughly wicked, and God’s anger is turned aside; indeed, God is pleased to some extent with that world. And members of the church are urged to become more and more the salt of the world, by participating in social actions, rubbing salt in the wounds of mankind, and making the whole world acceptable to God.

This interpretation fails for three reasons. 1) Nowhere in Scripture is salt referred to as a preservative, but always as a substance that makes food tasty and pleasing. 2) Jesus does not say, “Ye are the salt of the world” (a spiritual ethical concept), but “Ye are the salt of the earth” (that is, the planet, the earthly creation). 3) It ought to be obvious that salt cannot preserve that which is already stinking and corrupt, which the world of unbelief surely is.

Christian, you are the salt of the earth! Our understanding is opened when we read Leviticus 2:13and Numbers 18:19, where we learn that every meat offering unto God is to be made with salt, and that this salted offering is called a “covenant of salt.” In other words, salt has covenant significance in both the Old and New Testaments. God’s covenant embraces the entire earthly creation which He made and loves, which came under the curse for man’s sake, and which is redeemed in Christ and the salvation of the elect. We are to think of the earth, hanging in space, as an offering to God. This earth-offering is made tasty to God by the presence of redeemed saints scattered throughout the nations. They are salt on the offering. What an exalted position! Let men say of the church what they will; God says, “Ye are the salt of the earth!”

The ceremonies of the law ceased at the coming of Christ, so that the use of them is abolished among Christians. But here we have an example of the fact that the truth and substance of them remain with us in Jesus Christ in whom they have their completion (Belgic Confession, Art. 25). Of poor, lowly, persecuted, and reviled people, God forms a people unto Himself who give to the entire earthly creation a pleasing flavor unto the Most High. May the salt not lose its savor in us or in our generations.