For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? [Mark 9:49-50 ESV]
From where does our responsibility, our obligation to obedience to Him, come? If my argument is correct, then our obedience and responsible actions are founded and directed by His eternal moral character, by His righteousness and by the image of God in us. Consequently, anything which tempts us to fall, to sin, must be excised.
Jesus does not simply hide the symptoms of sin under His blood. His admonition to cut off a hand, a foot, or pluck out an eye is hyperbole. What He requires is even more desperate. We must change. The “old man” or the “old self” (see Romans 6:6; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:9) with its unrighteous, worldly ways must die. None of the old may be carried into the new life.
God shows us sin, our unrighteousness through Himself and His moral character. It is our responsibility to recognize our sin, admit and turn away from that sin and strive to emulate His moral character. He demands nothing less than perfection.
Here is a mystery. Like the blood poured out on the covering of the alter, known as the mercy seat, which hides the sin of the people from God’s eyes, so Christ’s blood covers with righteousness those who are His. This process is called sanctification.
Sanctification happens immediately for eternity, upon death for eternity, and throughout eternity. What God begins in those who are His at salvation is completed at death. God always finished what He begins.
So, what does it mean to be salted with fire?
If the salt Jesus is speaking about is righteousness, God’s moral character, then the infusion of righteousness onto and into a person will have one of two outcomes. For those who are owned by God His sprinkling of righteousness will produce more righteousness. For those who are not His, exposure to righteousness will drive them away from God. Those who respond with obedience to the call of God will be drawn toward Him in confession and repentance. Those repelled by God’s righteousness will produce anger toward Him and those who are His. Their anger will show itself in ways ranging from ambivalence to violence.
Yet, Jesus is not speaking to those who hate Him but those who love Him. He has already shown the reaction of the unrighteous toward those declared righteous. It is the natural action of righteousness to act rightly under every circumstance. Yet, sprinkled within the sanctified citizen of the kingdom of heaven is the world and the flesh, both under attack by our adversary, the devil. We are torn, driven by the Spirit to love those who persecute while compelled by sin to react with unrighteousness toward them.
We are tested and our true master will wield control. Either we are slaves to sin or children of God, citizens of the kingdom of unrighteousness or of heaven. “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” [John 8:34-36 ESV]. God’s testing does one of two things. Either His testing removes the impurities leaving pure salt, which has great value, or it removes the salt leaving the impurity, leaving only that which is worthless.
I will say this over and over. Obedience carries no merit. Obedience is a natural action for those being trained and fit for eternity with God. We must fight against the philosophy and thinking which suggests God owes us anything. He owes us nothing and has given us everything of eternal value. Those who believe God owes them something for their obedience want a temporal reward, something they can use and spend on themselves. Love is unconditional. Demonstrated by God toward us love is a giving of self for an other.
God takes the time to remove the impurities from those who are His. Let us think He is removing the impurities, He will remove them, He has removed them. God has made us righteous based upon the sacrifice of His Son. He is making us righteous. He will make us righteous.