What the Bible says about
Light of the World
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Our Savior Jesus Christ tells us in Matthew 5:13-14 that we are the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world"—we who are also the weak and the foolish of this world (I Corinthians 1:27). Mentally, when we hear such praises from God, some of us look both ways and behind, and say, "He must be talking about someone else." We struggle to overcome, and we feel we are always "a day late and a dollar short." Though we wish with all our heart that we were more like God, His image in us seems all the more elusive.
But Jesus did not lie in saying these things. As salt gives food a rich, pleasant taste, we are those who are to give a good flavor to the lives of those we encounter. There should be something in our conduct that shows the fruit of the life to which God has called us.
He goes on to say that, if we are not "radiating with flavor"—reflecting the teachings of God in our lives—what use are we, especially to God Himself? Salt without flavor has no use, and it can even be detrimental to the things it comes in contact with. Maybe its best use is to be put on icy roads, to be ground under the tires of vehicles and then washed away.
In Christ's other metaphor, light illuminates what was once dark; it reveals things that were hidden. Though we may be poor, considered old and over the hill, uneducated and obscure, when we live our lives as He instructs, we are a brilliant beacon to this tired and confused world. Our lives can shine a spotlight on the solutions to many common problems experienced by our friends and neighbors.
Jesus points out that we should not hide our light under a basket (verse 15), but live it in the open for all to see. We can set a proper example of the abundant way to live. We should give everyone we meet the light of our loving concern, the light of our honesty, the light of joy and peace, the light of godly family relations, the light of good work habits, and all the other rays of light contained in God's way.
In doing this, we will initially bring attention upon ourselves, and this may at times become uncomfortable. Righteousness has an uncanny tendency to bring out the worst in carnal human beings. Ultimately, however, we will glorify God the Father and His Son by it, promoting the cause of the Kingdom of God.
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Abstaining From Evil
A common interpretation of the Parable of the Hidden Treasure holds that the treasure is the church, hidden by God in the world. That interpretation contains a significant difficulty, though: Jesus nowhere teaches that the church of God should be hidden. Rather, in the Sermon on the Mount, He tells His disciples that they “are the light of the world.” He says, “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). He follows this with a second illustration, teaching that the purpose of a lamp is to give illumination, and that a hidden lamp is useless. His conclusion is, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Considering the spectacular founding of the church in Acts 2, it is hard to imagine that the extraordinary events of that day would not have spread like wildfire among untold numbers of people. In Acts 17:6, the people in Thessalonica, some 1,000 miles from Jerusalem, say that the apostles had “turned the world upside down.” News of God's power through His servants had spread far and wide; the church was not hidden. As Paul told Festus and Agrippa, “This thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).
Paul writes in Colossians 1:23 that the gospel had been “preached to every creature under heaven.” While he employs a measure of hyperbole, the fact remains that Jesus did not hide the church once He founded it. The church in Colossae suffered persecution because its members kept the Sabbath and holy days joyfully, which their ascetic neighbors looked down upon.
Wherever Christ's followers emulate Him, they will not be hidden. He told the disciples they would be hated by all for His name's sake (Matthew 10:22; 24:9), showing that the world would be aware of His followers. He also warned them, “The time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service” (John 16:2), speaking of a time when church members are the focus of attention. On a positive note, He also said that their love for each other would cause all people to know that they were His disciples (John 13:35). Finally, if the church is the agent of preaching the gospel in all the world (Matthew 24:14), then it will not be hidden at the end either.
Jesus did not intend the true church to be a large institution, wielding temporal power, so it is not always visible in profane history books. Certainly, the church is not visible to every last person. Yet, wherever God's true people live, they will make a visible witness of God's way of life to their neighbors because the Spirit of our Father generates that witness. But if the assembly of called-out ones is hidden rather than shining as light, it is because it looks too much like the world. Such a state would bring no joy to Jesus Christ.
David C. Grabbe
God's Kingdom in the Parables (Part Three)
If we indeed allow God's light (John 8:12) to be placed within the lamp, us, and then do nothing with it, it is like hiding it in a secret place. This is true in our everyday experiences and within the church. This hiding of God's light is another form of spiritual myopia, and perhaps surprisingly, it concerns our relationships with and how we view others. If we become shortsighted in our relations with other people—seeing only what we want to see and not all that we should see—we can become judgmental and critical or patronizing and denigrating to others. In effect, we become the standard, the barometer, that only we know and by which we judge all others.
A common problem with the church today is this lack of light and focus on truly godly issues rather than trivial ones. Seeing only one's personal point of view has caused a general blindness within the church, spawning many of the current issues and problems. Too many members can focus only on their ideas and viewpoints, lacking the insight to see beyond the comfort of their own secret places. Even when the points such people espouse are true, their demeanor toward their brethren is often hostile and their efforts to overcome are lackluster or not based on godly principles.
We can also see elements of spiritual myopia in the independent mindset that many within the church embrace today. Looking exclusively inward, some see themselves as the only viable holders and/or purveyors of God's truth. Though they may attend with a larger group, they see themselves as independent thinkers or needing only themselves and God. Some have taken this independent spirit to the extreme of forsaking others in service and church attendance (Hebrews 10:25). They can even become quite comfortable in their own shortsighted way, wanting little or no interaction with any others who might not see things exactly as they do.
One interesting facet of Luke 11:33-36 is that Jesus alludes to the fact that not everything is distinctly black or white. Verse 35 implies that there are varying degrees of light: "Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness." All light we see is not at the same level of brightness, so some may see part of the truth but not its fullness. It can also suggest that each person may be "in the dark" on any given matter at any point in their relationship with God and others, while being "in the light" on other matters. Similarly, this can illustrate our relative levels of conversion as well.
Since we know that the true light comes only from God, any variance in intensity must come from how we see or not see something. While verse 34 treats the extremes of how we view things, whether optimistically or pessimistically, many of God's people are somewhere in the middle, like the Laodiceans "neither cold nor hot" (Revelation 3:15). Christ's wish is that we are one or the other!
Of course, the most obvious lesson of these verses is that we should desire Christ's light as our light, seeing and doing things as He would. When we fail in this, Satan's influence and dark ways can become our ways over time. We can totally lose the proper vision and allow his deceptions to blind us. We are all part way down this path; we all have our spiritual blind spots, seeing life and the church through unfocused eyes. Unfortunately, too many of us are not using the aids that would remedy our myopia and put us back on track.
This verse tells us that these two are the two olive trees and the two lampstands "standing before the God of the earth." Why are they described as "the two lampstands"? Timing is vital to understanding this. Revelation 10 and 11 are internally chronological. At this time, the seven thunders have ceased, and the Two Witnesses have been raised up. They are the sole effort God has going as far as witnessing, preaching, and proclaiming His way on the earth.
What does a lamp do? It gives light (Matthew 5:14-16). What are the Two Witnesses doing at this time? Revelation 11:4 says that they are the two lampstands that stand before the God of the whole earth. What are they doing? They are lighting the whole house, as it says in Matthew 5. What is the house? Who comprises the house of God? The church! The two olive trees put their oil in the reservoir, and it feeds the whole church - to do what? To make light! At this time, though, the church is hidden in a Place of Safety, and not even Satan can get to them, as far as we know. We know that certainly no men can get to them.
So, we could say that the church's light is at that time under a basket. Who is left to be light to the world? The Two Witnesses! They are, at this point, the two lampstands. All the eyes of the world will be drawn toward these two prophets. They are the only ones that will be doing good works at that time; they are the only ones that will be publicly glorifying God in heaven.
That is why they are called the two lampstands. They are the only ones remaining to shine spiritually during Jacob's trouble and the Day of the Lord. They will be, in effect, raising Cain all over the world. The whole world hates them, and they will rejoice when these two are dead - because they cannot stand the fact that these two shine so brightly for God.
At this point, the seven churches are out of the picture, so the lampstands cannot represent churches. They picture these two bright lights for God. Not only will they be supplying the church with oil, but they will also be shining brightly as witnesses to the world as a result of the good works that they do.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part Five)
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