The Sermon on the Mount
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

11 – Light of the World

Matthew 5:14-16:

You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

We come now to the second domestic metaphor that Christ used to describe the Christian and his influence in the world.  You remember the first effect that we saw is a negative one:  “You are the salt of the earth,” implying that the world is spiritually dead, it is rotting, and it needs the Christian to retard the corruption process.

I will give you a text that I did not give you last time as a review of what we covered.  Turn to Isaiah 1:2-6.  Isaiah is complaining about the way the Church (Israel) has conformed to the world.  Instead of being “the salt of the earth,” it allowed the world to corrupt it.  We read:

Hear, O heavens!  Listen, O earth!  For the Lord has spoken:  “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.  The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”  Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption!  They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.  Why should you be beaten anymore?  Why do you persist in rebellion?  Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted.  [Then, in verse 6, this is the condition in the world, this is the condition Israel fell into:] From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness — only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil.

This is the condition of the world:  it is rotting spiritually.  Christ is saying that we are the salt of the earth.

But now I want to turn to Matthew 5:14-16.  Because if all we do as Christians is to retard the corruption process, if that is all we do, we have failed miserably.  Christ has also a positive obligation that we have to the world.  It is found in these verses:

You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

This is a tremendous passage.  What is Christ teaching here?  Let’s look at it step by step.  Just as the word “salt” implies that the world is rotting, the word “light” implies that the world is groping in darkness.  This has become more apparent in the last 100 or so years because the world has made tremendous strides in science, in technology, in mechanical things, but, in spite of this, the world spiritually has not made one improvement.  Look at the situation in the world.  There is exploitation, there is greed, there is fighting, there is distrust.  So we have not improved because all these inventions cannot solve our problem.  There was a time that they thought that the more we educate the world the more we will solve our problems.  And today we are trying to solve the moral problem in this country, the drug problem, through education.  But, without Christ, we are groping in darkness.

Please turn to 2 Timothy 3:1-7.  This is a clear picture of what the world is like today.  This is something that Paul prophesies, but it is reality.

But mark this:  There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.  They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.

In this context, Christ is saying, “You Christians, you are the light of the world.”  The only hope of the world arriving at truth is that you and you alone are to bring light to the world.

Now the question is, what did Jesus mean by “you are the light of the world”? How can we be a light to the world?  Let’s go step by step.  The first thing I want you to notice is the important fact of the grammar.  Because the grammar in the English is not clear, we have, to some degree, missed the point.  I want to show you something in verse 14 that you might not see too clearly in your English Bible.

The statement in verse 14 is “You are the light of the world.”  The word “You” is in the plural form in the original.  And the word “light” is in the singular.  We are many, but we are one light.  And this has implications in terms of our interpretation.  This means that we are not many lights.  We have a song that we teach our children called “This Little Light of Mine.”  When you discover what that light is, it is not little and God doesn’t have many little lights.  He has many Christians but one light.  Who is that one light?  It is Christ.  The Christian himself is not the light.  It is Christ in you that makes you the light to the world.

Turn to Isaiah 60:1-3, where we have the first mention of a prophetic text which talks about the coming of Christ as the light:

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.  Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

This is a prophecy concerning the first coming of Christ.  Do you know that not only was the Roman Empire groping in darkness but so was Israel.  They had missed the point.  And when Christ came He came to be the light of the world.

Now going to the New Testament, I want to give you several texts.  We’ll start with the Gospel of Luke.  Luke 1:76-79.  This is the angel appearing to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist.  And listen to what the angel says about the child that was to be born:

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.

Christ came to bring peace to the world that is groping in darkness.  This is referring to John the Baptist, who would point to Christ.  Then turning to Chapter 2:25-32 of Luke:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout.  He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.  When the parents [Joseph and Mary] brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:  “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Jesus came to be the light of the world — of the Gentiles and of the Jews.  But the best passages that deal with this are in John.  Go to the Gospel of John.  John 1:4-12 brings out very clearly who that light is, speaking about Christ.  But I want you to notice specifically what John is saying here because we need to know what aspect of Christ is the light:

In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.  There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God....

Please notice that Jesus came to bring life to the world because the life we have is condemned.  It belongs to the grave.  And that life, that eternal life that Jesus came to bring, is the light of men.  Now one more text from John:  Chapter 8:12.  This is Jesus now speaking:

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

This is simply explaining what the light is.  You are the light of the world but the question is, “How are we Christians to be the light of the world?”  And I want to take this step by step.

First, for Christians to be the light of the world, Christ must dwell in us.  How does He dwell in us?  Do we have to pay money, do we have to go on a pilgrimage?  I am trying to see if you remember what Paul taught us in Ephesians 3:17a:

...So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

How does Christ dwell in the believer?  By faith.  “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.”  And when He dwells in us, we become the ones through whom Christ is transmitted to the world.

I want to give you two verses.  One is Colossians 1:27, where he speaks of:

...Christ in you, the hope of glory.

And if you look at the context, what Paul is saying here is that we are the glory of God before the whole world — the Gentile world.  Here’s the entire verse:

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

The word “Gentile” has two meanings in the New Testament.  It can mean the non-Jew or it can mean unbelievers.  In this context, it is unbelievers.  The world needs to see Christ.  How do they see Him?  “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  You remember in Revelation 18, the fourth angel gives power to the church.  Revelation 18:1:

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven.  He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.

It will lighten the earth with the glory of God.  That is our privilege.  I want to give you one more text that gives this idea that you and I are only the candlestick; we are not the light.  But when light is put into us, we become the light of the world.  Turn to 2 Corinthians 4:5-6:

For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

That is our privilege.  Our privilege is to explain to the world the good news about Christ.  Then in verse 7:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

God will give you opportunity to explain to the world about His Son, Jesus Christ.  The world desperately needs to know that there is a Savior.  I was trying to give this gospel to our kids at the college where I was teaching.  And in one class, one of the students came up to me and said, “Why haven’t we heard this before?  That Christ is our Savior?”  Apparently they had not understood that Christ had totally redeemed them in His doing and dying.  And I was glad to give that.

Now comes the big question, “How are we to shine?” We have Christ dwelling in us.  He is inside.  We are earthen vessels.  How are we to shine?  Let’s go back to Matthew 5 and see what Jesus says:

You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Having made the statement in verse 14, “You are the light of the world,” He then goes on to say, “A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”  Why not?  Because all the houses in that city have light.  And, of course, everybody can see those lights from a distance.  When you travel in a plane or car and you are going over the wilderness and suddenly in the distance you see a bunch of lights, you know there is a city there.  This is not so apparent here, but in Africa, our mission station, thanks to the generosity of you Americans, most of our mission stations have power from 6:00 in the evening until 10:00 at night through a generator, a diesel engine.  And the Africans have kerosene lanterns; you can’t see too far off.  But when you are traveling and see on the hill — most of our missions stations are on a hill — you see all those lights; then you know that this is an SDA campus.  Turn to verse 15:

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

Jesus is saying that God hasn’t given you Christ to dwell in you so that you may hide Him!  He is taking this metaphor and He is saying that the whole world needs to know that you are a Christian.  Whether at work or in school, there must be something about you that tells them you are different, that you are a Christian.  Of all people, Christians must be the happiest people in the world.  If you go about with a long face, they will not see the joy.  The only way you can be happy is to know that Light is your life.  He is the life of men and you have a hope.  Now we must go to verse 16:

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Christ doesn’t want just to dwell in us.  He wants more than just to dwell in us.  Turn to 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 and let us look at the new covenant desire of God:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?  Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?  [He is talking here of compromising.] What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?  What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?  What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God has said:  “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

What does the word “temple” or “sanctuary” mean?  We have bird sanctuaries, what does that mean?  That is where they dwell.  And God and Christ are dwelling in us.

God wants to walk in us so that the world can see.  Jesus said, “Let your Light shine.”  How do we let Christ Who dwells inside of us shine?  Remember, Christ is the Light of the world, so first we must look at Christ and see how He shone when He came to this world.  And then we will know how He shines through us.

Look at John 14:8.  One of the disciples comes to Jesus and says “show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Philip said, “We want to see God.”  Look at the reply that Jesus gave to him (verse 9):

Jesus answered:  “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

In other words, he who has seen the Christian must also see Christ.  Just like the one who saw Christ, saw the Father.  Why?  Look at verse 10:

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?  The words I say to you are not just my own.  Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

In Matthew 11:20, we are told that those works were mighty works, miracles, not ordinary works:

Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.

Now verse 11 of John 14:

Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.

Let me explain to you where the problem is.  Humanly speaking, did Jesus look any different from the other Jews?  Was He anything special outwardly?  No.  Was there a kind of halo around Him?  No.

In Wichita I stayed with a doctor and he asked me to go with him on his rounds.  It was a very big hospital in Wichita, about twice the size of St. Mary’s.  And he was visiting only the accident patients.  There were about 26 of them.  Young kids mostly.  He said 80 percent of these are alcohol-related accidents.

He told me that I was going to see a young boy that had a halo.  And I didn’t know what he meant.  The boy did have a halo screwed right into his head.  I felt sorry for him and I said to myself, “That’s not the kind of halo I want.”  Did Christ have a halo around His head like some pictures or paintings of Him that we have?  No.  He looked outwardly like others but there was something about His works that were different.

Do you remember what happened in John 9 when Jesus made clay and healed the blind man?  Do you remember what the argument was?  Look at verse 16:

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”  But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?”  So they were divided.

Now going back to John 14:11 listen to what Jesus said:

Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.

In other words, there is something about my works that proves that I am not an ordinary man, that I have God dwelling in me.  What were those works?  Turn to John 15:24.  What was so special about the works of Christ?

If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin.  But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.

What was the greatest evidence that Jesus gave that He was the Messiah?  It was His works.  His works were supernatural and He gave evidence that there was somebody supernatural living in Him.  There was no excuse, He said.  They have seen the works so they have no excuse.  So also when the Apostles preached Christ.  When you look at your New Testament you will discover that with great signs and wonders they preached Christ.

Likewise, in the last days, with great signs and wonders God is going to manifest Himself to us.  So that even the scientists will have to admit that there is no explanation.  It has to be supernatural.  Having given evidence about Himself, listen to what Jesus said in John 14:12:

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

Why should we do greater works?  Because God had only one body to live in Christ.  But now, God has many bodies to reveal Himself.  That is why the “you” is plural.  You are many, but you are one light.  Let me put it another way.  The first four books of the New Testament are called what?  The gospels.  What exactly are the gospels?  The gospels are primarily a historical account of God being revealed in one man:  God’s many facets in the flesh of one man.

The next book is the Book of Acts.  It is also a historical account, but is the revelation of God not in one man, but in many men and women — the body of Christ.  The trouble is that revelation was short-lived.  There was a falling away that came and the Church no longer became the light of the world.  It grew in numbers, yes, but it began to compromise with the world, paganism, etc.

Please notice in John 14:12 why we will do greater works:

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

“Because I go to my Father.”  What does Christ going to the Father have to do with much works?  Look at Chapter 16:7:

But I tell you the truth:  It is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

Christ, because He took humanity, cannot dwell in us literally.  He dwells in us by the Holy Spirit.  Please turn to Romans 8:9.  I want you to notice something.  Talking to the believers, Paul says [Romans 8:9-10]:

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.  [Notice it is called the Spirit of God.] And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ [So the Spirit of God is synonymous with the Spirit of Christ.], he does not belong to Christ.  But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive [That life is the light of Christ Who is the light of the world.] because of righteousness.

Now turn to John 6, where I will show you something that points to Christ and to us, also.  This chapter is dealing with Christ as the Bread of life.  There were many metaphors used for Christ.  He is the Light of the world, but He is also the Bread of life.  It is talking here about the believers doing what with the bread?  Eating it.  It is in this context, for example, in verse 54:

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

If you have eternal life, then you are the light of the world because that Life was the light of men.  Now look at verse 57:

Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.

In other words, a Christian must live by the formula of “Not I, but Christ.”  Let me put it in the words of Paul.  Galatians 2:20:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  [That is what it means to be the light of the world.] The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

There are two things here.  Christ dwells in me by faith.  He lives in me by faith.  It is all by faith.  John 15:4,5,8; you are familiar with these verses but this is what Jesus is wanting from us:

Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  [Just like Christ and the Father were abiding in each other, Christ is now telling the believers.] No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  ...This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

This is exactly what Christ said in Matthew 5:16:

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

What did Jesus mean by the good works?  Doesn’t the unbeliever also do good works?  There are two differences in the good works that the Christian must do.  How do I know that?  Because whatever we do, the world must recognize that the source of the good works is not me, but the Father.  Let them see your good works and glorify God.  Do you remember what Nicodemus said to Jesus when he came to Him at night?  Turn to John 3:1-2:

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council.  He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God.  [“You have convinced me that you are from God.”  What convinced him?] For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

This is what the world can see.  In other words, if the world sees you doing what they themselves are doing, they see no difference; they won’t glorify God.  Does the world see the poor?  The United Nations are doing (for the poor) much more than we are doing.  What does the United Nations depend on for feeding the poor?  It depends on budgets; it needs money.  Just like United States aid depends on money.  If we (Adventists) are feeding the world only by budget, are we any different?  When we feed the world the world with five loaves and two fishes then they will say, “How do you do it?”

There are two things that the world must see.  Number one, when we talk of supernatural acts, we normally think in terms of “acts.” I would like to point out that, in the Bible, it is not only the act that must be supernatural, but the motivation.  Can God produce a people who are doing good acts out of agape love with no self in it?  The world must see this.  Turn to Acts 2:42-44:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.

They lived in love and they performed miracles.  Listen to what Paul says in Romans 15:18-19 about himself (Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles):

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done — by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.  So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.

How did he preach?  By signs and wonders.  Let me put it this way, the signs and wonders are only outward evidence that a supernatural power is controlling you.  But we must preach the gospel accompanied by this.  At Pentecost all the apostles spoke in tongues.  Not in gibberish but in the language of the people from the various areas.  But what did the tongues do?  It got the people’s attention.  They saw something that was a mystery they could not explain.  Once they got together, Peter stood up and he gave them Christ, preached Christ.  We don’t need to depend on human resources.  When this Church has received power, God will use us mightily to draw the people.  But we must have a clear knowledge and preach Christ.  Read the sermon that Peter preached.  You will notice that he preached Christ our Righteousness.

How will this affect the world?  Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.”  How will this affect, when Christ is revealed through the Church?  In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:16, we get only half the picture.  It is true that when the world sees Christ in you and me, many will be drawn to Christ and thousands will be baptized.  But the world will be divided.  Will everyone accept Christ?  No.  There will be two groups in the world.  One will say, “You have convinced us that you have the truth” and they will join the Church.  But there will be another group.  When Christ lives in you — when He does the works in you — He does something to the world.  Go to John 7:7.  When Christ lived in this world what did His works reveal?

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.

When you compare the works of Christ with the works of men, what do the works of men look like?  At their very best, what do they look like?  Filthy rags.  And that is very painful to the world, so they turn against Christ.  Turn to John 3:19-21:

This is the verdict:  Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light [If you reveal Christ, there will be some who hate you.], and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.

Jesus is saying here that people who do not want to give up sin do not like to live close to Christ.  Why?  Because Christ is the Light and when the Light comes there is nothing that is hidden.  If our hearts have been cleansed and we come close to Christ, we are not afraid because we, in our hearts, want to be like Him.

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