Salt & Light: Not a New Law – Eberhard Arnold

The Sermon on the Mount by Miki Goodaboom –

Editor’s note: When approaching the Sermon on the Mount, two opposing ditches need to be avoided. One is adopting the Sermon as a new Law (to attain righteousness); the other is rejecting it as an impossible Law (negated by grace and the Cross). In the following excerpt, Eberhard Arnold steers between these errors, urging us along the grace-empowered Jesus Way. In that sense, the Sermon on the Mount is Christ’s version of Paul’s “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 6). It is the life of Christ-in-me, lived by those who “abide in the Vine” (John 15). 

“For through the Law I died to the Law so that I might live for Go. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me.” (Galatians 2:19-20)  

That life, the salt and light life in Christ, was described for us by Christ himself in this Sermon as the foundation for Christian cruciform discipleship.

Excerpt from Eberhard Arnold’s Salt and Light: Living the Sermon on the Mount (Plough Publishing House).

Not a New Law

How do we respond to the Sermon on the Mount? The Sermon on the Mount is the first step on the way to discipleship. … If we fully grasp the Sermon on the Mount and believe it, then nothing can frighten us — neither our own self-recognition, nor financial threats, nor our personal weakness. 

The dedication demanded in the Sermon on the Mount is not a new law or moral teaching. Instead it is forgiveness. Its vital element is the light and warmth of the Holy Spirit. Here is Christ: the essence of salt, and the strength of the tree that bears good fruit. The Sermon on the Mount shows us the character of a community, which shines like a light for the whole world. 

The Sermon on the Mount is not a high-tension moralism, but we must grasp it as the revelation of God’s real power in human life. If we take our surrender to God seriously and allow him to enter our lives as light, as the only energy which makes new life possible, then we will be able [empowered] to live the new life. 

If we see the Sermon on the Mount as five new commandments, as the Tolstoyans do, we will fall right into a trap. For in his book My Religion, Leo Tolstoy lists the commandments of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount as five new laws: peacefulness with others, sexual purity and marital faithfulness, the refusal to swear oaths, non-resistance to evil, and love for one’s enemies. But Jesus shows us that the clarity and demands of the old laws are not weakened by his coming into the world; instead they are infinitely sharpened. Moreover, these are only five examples — there could be five hundred or five thousand — revealing the powerful effect of God’s work in Christ.

His righteousness, his justice, is better than anything scholars or theologians could offer. It is something absolutely different, and it does not depend on moral intentions and good ideas. The righteousness of the law can be fulfilled only through a new, organic way of living, through a life from God that flares up like light and sears and purifies like salt. It is like a flame that shines, like the sap that pulses through a tree. It is life!

Spoken Oct. 27, 1935, at the Rhön Bruderhof.

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