Sermon: The New Humanity
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-16
In this week’s lessons, we see in the Beatitudes the standard of morality that Jesus sets forth for all who claim to belong to him.
Theme: The Blessing of Persecution
The last beatitude, number eight, says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.” This beatitude is stated briefly in verse 10, but then verses 11 and 12 elaborate on it, changing the pronouns from the third person to the second person (from “those who are persecuted” to “you who are persecuted”). This refocuses everything, becoming now not a general principle about persecution but something that is brought to bear upon the disciples themselves and, of course, upon us as well.
It’s made personal in another way, too, because the earlier phrase, “persecuted because of righteousness,” now becomes “persecuted because of me.” In other words, what Jesus is talking about here is persecution that comes to Christians not because they’re obnoxious, meddling in other people’s business, or because they are arrogant in the way they present the gospel. Rather, what Jesus is saying is that when you are persecuted for being like him, you are blessed with the favor of God.
If you live like Jesus Christ lived, you’ll be treated as Jesus Christ was treated. Why? Because it’s a sinful world. When Jesus came into the world with his righteousness, it was a reproach upon the world. And people hated him for it, so much so that they eventually had him killed. The more you’re like Jesus Christ, the more you’ll be disliked, persecuted, and ostracized by those who hate Jesus. When someone strives to be like Christ, it puts that one in the company of those who were persecuted before them. Those are the great spiritual people of the past. Jesus says that it is those who are persecuted for his sake who have a reward in heaven. God notices what his people endure because of their testimony for Christ.
We don’t have much persecution for the sake of Christ today—at least not in the Western world—but people know it elsewhere in the world. Certainly, the early Christians knew it. Peter understood it very well because he refers to this beatitude twice in his first epistle, which deals with persecution. He says in 3:14, “If you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” Then, in the next chapter, he tells his readers, “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed.” Persecution is a common experience for Christians, but it shows they belong to Jesus Christ and should rejoice in it.
Now we come to the very end. Jesus uses two images—salt and light—to talk about what these people who are blessed will be like. So much has been written about them, it’s hard to say anything new. They’re to be like salt for three reasons: it flavors food, it preserves some foods from decaying, and it makes a person thirsty (in a spiritual sense, making someone else thirsty for the gospel). All of those things are to be true of Christ’s disciples. We’re also to be like light. We’re to be like a city set on a hill, which everyone can see, or a lamp that is put on a stand to give light to the household.
Salt is of value to the world; Christians should be of value to the world. Light is something that is noticed or stands out, and Christians, if they’re living like Jesus Christ, should be noticed and stand out as well. That’s what it is to be the new humanity. How is this possible? Let me answer with one of my favorite illustrations. Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of my predecessors here at Tenth Presbyterian Church years ago, used to explain it using the sun and the moon. The sun is here by day, and it gives its light. But when the sun goes down, the moon comes out. That’s somewhat the way it was with Jesus Christ and the church he left behind.
When Jesus Christ was here, he was the sun. He shone forth in all of God’s glory, and people understood that. The result was the crucifixion. In John 8 and 9 he had declared of himself, “I am the light of the world.” But he had also told his disciples in Matthew 5 that they are the light of the world. We are to shine in the world, but we don’t shine like the sun, but as the moon. We don’t have any power of illumination in ourselves. The moon shines only because it reflects the sun’s light. Sometimes it’s a full moon; sometimes the church is in the full moon of revival. Other times it’s only a sliver of light, as the darkness of the world tries to stamp out the church’s witness. But if there’s any shining at all, it’s because it’s reflecting the light of the sun. We’re to reflect the light of Jesus Christ in a dark, dark world, and we’re to do it as brightly as we can.
Study Questions:

What is significant about what is said in vv. 11-12, with what is said in v. 10?
What two images does Jesus use to describe Christians, and what does he mean by each one?

Application: How are you to be salt and light to those around you? What specific things will you do?
Key Point: We’re to reflect the light of Jesus Christ in a dark, dark world, and we’re to do it as brightly as we can.

Study Questions
Tagged under
More Resources from James Montgomery Boice

Subscribe to the Think & Act Biblically Devotional

Alliance of Confessional Evangelicals

About the Alliance

The Alliance is a coalition of believers who hold to the historic creeds and confessions of the Reformed faith and proclaim biblical doctrine in order to foster a Reformed awakening in today’s Church.

Canadian Donors

Canadian Committee of The Bible Study Hour
PO Box 24087, RPO Josephine
North Bay, ON, P1B 0C7