Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 4, 1959

If The Salt Have Lost Its Savor

Richard E. Donley, White Plains, New York

"Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men." (Matt. 5:13.)

Salt is a preservative, and a condiment that makes food palatable. The law of Moses required that every sacrifice be salted. (Leviticus 2:13.) A sacrifice without salt was unacceptable to God. There is an analogy between the need for salt in a sacrificial offering and the necessity for the true church in the world. The church is God's people. All righteous people are members of the church. It is the presence of the righteous in the human race that makes the whole society tolerable to God. This much we can surely learn from the Old Testament.

Jehovah expressed his purpose to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but he promised to withhold destruction if even ten righteous people were found there. They were not found, and those cities were destroyed. Before the destruction, all of the righteous were called out. The land of Canaan was promised to the seed of Abraham. That promise required the destruction of the people then living there. The promise had to be delayed until the iniquity of the Amorite was full. (Genesis 15:16.) In the time of Noah, the percentage of righteous people dropped below the minimum requirement. The righteous (Noah and his family) were called out, and the rest was destroyed.

At the end of the world, the righteous will be called away from the earth, and the wicked will be destroyed. (I Thess. 4:15-16; II Thess. 1:6-8.) It seems to me that the determining factor will be the proportion of righteousness (salt) in the human society. When it drops below God's minimum requirement, we should expect the righteous to be called away and the rest destroyed. Salt preserves meat, and made it acceptable to God for his sacrifice. The church should have the same effect on humanity, as long as the church has the quality that our Lord called "salt." If that quality is lost, all is lost. When salt has lost its savor it is no longer good for anything.

Salt is a chemical compound that is not effected by age. It is salt, whether for a day or an age. It loses its savor only by dilution with chemical elements that are foreign to its nature. The church, too, is an ageless entity. It was founded on the proven Rock, and is propagated from generation to generation by the incorruptible word. One thing, and only one, can cause the church to lose the quality of "salt." That one thing is dilution with a foreign element. There are just two spiritual kingdoms: the world, and the church. If the world gets into the church to the extent that the church loses its distinctive character, then the salt will have lost is savor.

From what I read in the papers, in the bulletins, and in letters that I receive, I am led to believe that the church of today is getting pretty badly diluted by the world. There can be no doubt that many churches of Christ are getting into the entertainment and amusement business in a big way. This is of the world, for it is without scriptural authority. The salt is losing its savor. The church is losing its peculiar characteristic of righteousness.

The church of Christ has experienced a wonderful growth in numbers within the last few years. I am afraid that too many of those new members have been attracted by compromise with the world. People have been induced to associate with the church by every motive imaginable, except fear of hell, and hope of heaven. The emphasis is placed on what the church is doing, and what wonderful people are members of it. A number of celebrities are members of the church, and some of them are being used as bait to attract worldly minded people. When a TV star who encourages dancing and social drinking is used as an attraction, there is of course no preaching against such things. When luxurious buildings are erected to attract the world, it is not expected that there will be much preaching against worldliness.

As the proportion of spiritual people becomes smaller, and the carnal minded becomes larger, the church loses that quality which makes it "salt." If present trends continue, it is inevitable that the time will come when the salt has lost its savor and is good for nothing. When that time comes the only thing that can keep the preserving influence of righteousness in human society is for the followers of Jesus to come out of that which has become worthless.

The breaking of fellowship between brethren is a grievous thing, but it is possible for retention of fellowship to be even worse. It was bad that Lot had to leave Sodom, but it would have been worse for him to stay. Noah would have accomplished no good by refusing to separate himself from a sinful race. If the church ceases to be true to the word of God, if it becomes an apostate church, then those who want to go to heaven must leave.

If the proportion of worldly people in the church becomes large enough to break down all restraint, then apostasy becomes certain. A new denomination will have come into being. We may be closer to that time than most of us have thought. For a long time I have supposed that it would happen some time, but I did not think until recently that it would occur within my lifetime. Now, I am not so sure. The mystery of iniquity does indeed work, and it may have worked more than we realize.

The worldly mind of the church in our day is manifesting itself by the trend toward centralization of power. A new sign in the city of Lubbock illustrates how far some have gone. That sign says, "Children's Home of Lubbock Churches of Christ." All subterfuge has been laid aside. The elders at Broadway now announces to the world that they are the overseers of a cooperative work of the Lubbock churches of Christ. If such an operation is scriptural, then it is equally so for the Broadway elders to oversee every thing that is done by the Lubbock churches; and no ground is left to deny their right to set up a central government for the world-wide church.

In his warning against the man of sin, the apostle Paul, wrote, "There is one who restraineth until he be taken out of the way." Paul did not say who was doing the restraining then, but I think I know what restrains the church of our day from setting up a central government. There are too many men of influence who have preached for years against denominationalism. These men are not ready for the fruit of present practices; but too many of them have admitted the principles that lead to complete centralization. The example has been set: the gate has been opened. What is the next logical step? I hope it is not what I think. The church is full of members who do not know the difference between the Bible and the World Almanac. When a new crop of preachers arises who are on the same level with the membership in general, some one is bound to suggest that a central government is needed for the church universal. It can be cited that the respected brethren before them have already accepted centralization in principle. How long will it be before the fruit matures? It may be later than you think.

No one who loves the truth wants to see division in the church, nor does he want to see the churches of Christ formed into a denomination. What can be done now? probably not very much that will effect the ultimate outcome. Each one can keep preaching the word; and when the salt has lost its savor he can separate himself from it and continue serving the Lord.