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What does it mean to be seasoned with salt (Mark 9:49)?

seasoned with salt

In Mark 9:49, Jesus says, “Everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt” (NKJV). Instead of seasoned with salt, the ESV and NIV use the phrase salted with fire. Regardless of the translation, the idea is that believers will be purified by the “fire” of suffering, emphasizing the costliness of discipleship (see Mark 9:43–48). Just as salt was used to prepare a sacrifice, so self-denial prepares a follower of Jesus to be a willing sacrifice to God.

In ancient times, salt was used during religious sacrifices. For example, in Leviticus 2:13, the Israelites were instructed to season their grain offerings with salt: “You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt” (ESV). This Old Testament practice represents the idea of salt as an agent of both purification and preservation.

Jesus, in Mark 9:49, alludes to the Old Testament practice of sacrifices being “seasoned with salt” (NKJV). His point is that His followers are “sacrifices” to God (see Romans 12:1). The idea of being “seasoned with salt” means two things: 1) believers will be purified and 2) believers will be preserved.

Those who follow Christ are willing to give up anything that would hinder their relationship to the Lord, even if it means they must lose a hand (Mark 9:43), a foot (verse 45), or an eye (verse 47). One commentator explains it this way: “The word ‘fire,’ here . . . denotes self-denials, sacrifices, trials, in keeping ourselves from the gratification of the flesh. As if [Jesus] had said, ‘Look at the sacrifice on the altar. It is an offering to God, about to be presented to him. It is sprinkled with “salt, emblematic of purity, of preservation and of fitting it, therefore, for a sacrifice.” So “you” are devoted to God. You are sacrifices, victims, offerings to him in his service. To make you “acceptable” offerings, every thing must be done to “preserve” you from sin and to “purify” you. Self-denials, subduing the lusts, enduring trials, removing offences, are the proper “preservatives” in the service of God’” (Barnes, A., Notes on the Bible, 1834).

The “seasoning” with “salt” can also be something that God does in the lives of believers, as He allows His people to experience different kinds of suffering. God’s purpose for allowing suffering in our lives is not to destroy us, but to shape us into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ: “To this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21, ESV).

Elsewhere, Peter says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (ESV). Although Peter does not use the phrase seasoned with salt, his words recognize the necessity of suffering to purify believers and show them to be true disciples of Christ.

Genuine disciples accept the cost of discipleship and the radical commitment required to follow Christ. They are, in a sense, sacrifices to God being prepared for the altar. Jesus’ words remind believers to make every effort to abstain from sin and pursue righteousness. To ensure that sin does not become our master again, God allows us to be “seasoned with salt.”

In His allusion to the Old Testament sacrifices being “seasoned with salt,” Jesus calls us to discipleship. Just as salt purifies and preserves food, God purifies believers of sin and preserves them from destruction. The apostle Paul explains how we can present ourselves as living sacrifices to God: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2, ESV).

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What does it mean to be seasoned with salt (Mark 9:49)?
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This page last updated: June 5, 2024