Mark 9:49
For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.
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(49) Every one shall be salted with fire.—The verse presents considerable difficulties, both as regards the reading and the interpretation. Many of the best MSS. omit the latter clause; one of the best omits the first. It is as if transcribers felt that either clause was more intelligible by itself than the two taken together. Accepting both clauses as, on the whole, sufficiently authenticated, we have to deal with their meaning. (1) The most generally received interpretation of the first clause is that which eliminates from the process of salting the idea of purifying, or preserving from corruption, and sees in it only the symbol of perpetuation. So taken, the words become an emphatic assertion of the endlessness of future punishment—as in Keble’s lines:

“Salted with fire, they seem to show

How spirits lost in endless woe

May undecaying live.”

Against this, however, it may be urged (a) that it arbitrarily limits the “every one” of the sentence to those who are finally condemned and are cast into Gehenna; (b) that it is scarcely conceivable that the same word, “salted,” should be used in such contrasted senses in the same verse; (c) that the uniform symbolism of “salt,” as representing the spiritual element that purifies and preserves from taint (see Matthew 5:13; Luke 14:34; Colossians 4:6; Leviticus 2:13), is against this application of it. We have to ask whether “fire” appears with a like symbolism and with an application as universal as that of this verse. And the answer is found partly in “the baptism with the Holy Ghost and with fire,” of which the Baptist spoke (Matthew 3:11); the “fire already kindled” of our Lord’s teaching (Luke 12:49); the “fire” which “shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” of 1Corinthians 3:13; the “fire that tries men’s faith” of 1Peter 1:7. In these passages there can be no shadow of doubt that “fire” represents the righteousness of God manifested as punishing and chastising—the discipline, in other words, of suffering. Of that discipline, our Lord says “every one” shall be a partaker. He shall thus be “salted with fire,” for the tendency of that fire, the aim of the sufferings which it represents, is to purify and cleanse. Even when manifested in its most awful forms, it is still true that they who “walk righteously and speak uprightly” may dwell with “everlasting burnings”—i.e., with the perfect and consuming holiness of God (Isaiah 33:14). (2) The second clause is obviously far simpler. The “sacrifice” throws us back upon the ritual of Leviticus 2:13, which prescribed that salt should be added, as the natural symbol of incorruption, to every sacrifice. Here our Lord speaks of the spiritual sacrifice which each man offers of his body, soul, and spirit (Romans 12:1), and declares that “salt,” the purifying grace of the Eternal Spirit, is needed that it may be acceptable. Punishment, the pain which we feel when brought into contact with the infinite Righteousness represented by fire, may do its work in part; but it requires something more for completeness. The sacrifice must be “salted with salt,” as well as with “fire.” To use another figure, there must be the baptism of the Holy Ghost, as well as that of fire (Matthew 3:11).



Mark ix. 49

Our Lord has just been uttering some of the most solemn words that ever came from His gracious lips. He has been enjoining the severest self-suppression, extending even to mutilation and excision of the eye, the hand, or the foot, that might cause us to stumble. He has been giving that sharp lesson on the ground of plain common sense and enlightened self-regard. It is better, obviously, to live maimed than to die whole. The man who elects to keep a mortified limb, and thereby to lose life, is a suicide and a fool. It is a solemn thought that a similar mad choice is possible in the moral and spiritual region.

To these stern injunctions, accompanied by the awful sanctions of that consideration, our Lord appends the words of my text. They are obscure and have often been misunderstood. This is not the place to enter on a discussion of the various explanations that have been proposed of them. A word or two is all that is needful to put us in possession of the point of view from which I wish to lay them on your hearts at this time.

I take the ‘every one’ of my text to mean not mankind generally, but every individual of the class whom our Lord is addressing-that is to say, His disciples. He is laying down the law for all Christians. I take the paradox which brings together ‘salting’ and ‘fire,’ to refer, not to salt as a means of communicating savour to food, but as a means of preserving from putrefaction. And I take the ‘fire’ here to refer, not to the same process which is hinted at in the awful preceding words, ‘the fire in not quenched,’ but to be set in opposition to that fire, and to mean something entirely different. There is a fire that destroys, and there is a fire that preserves; and the alternative for every man is to choose between the destructive and the conserving influences. Christian disciples have to submit to be ‘salted with fire,’ lest a worse thing befall them,

I. And so the first point that I would ask you to notice here is-that fiery cleansing to which every Christian must yield.

Now I have already referred to the relation between the words of my text and those immediately preceding, as being in some sense one of opposition and contrast. I think we are put on the right track for understanding the solemn words of this text if we remember the great saying of John the Baptist, where, in precisely similar fashion, there are set side by side the two conceptions of the chaff being cast into the unquenchable fire {the same expression as in our text}, and ‘He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.’

The salting fire, then, which cleanses and preserves, and to which every Christian soul must submit itself, to be purged thereby, is, as I take it, primarily and fundamentally the fire of that Divine Spirit which Christ Himself told us that He had come to cast upon the earth, and yearned, in a passion of desire, to see kindled. The very frequent use of the emblem in this same signification throughout Scripture, I suppose I need not recall to you. It seems to me that the only worthy interpretation of the words before us, which goes down into their depths and harmonises with the whole of the rest of the teaching of Scripture, is that which recognises these words of my text as no unwelcome threat, as no bitter necessity, but as a joyful promise bringing to men, laden and burdened with their sins, the good news that it is possible for them to be purged from them entirely by the fiery ministration of that Divine Spirit. Just as we take a piece of foul clay and put it into the furnace, and can see, as it gets red-hot, the stains melt away, as a cloud does in the blue, from its surface, so if we will plunge ourselves into the influences of that divine power which Christ has come to communicate to the world, our sin and all our impurities will melt from off us, and we shall be clean. No amount of scrubbing with soap and water will do it. The stain is a great deal too deep for that, and a mightier solvent than any that we can apply, if unaided and unsupplied from above, is needed to make us clean. ‘Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean,’ especially when the would-be bringer is himself the unclean thing? Surely not one. Unless there be a power ab extra, unparticipant of man’s evils, and yet capable of mingling with the evil man’s inmost nature, and dealing with it, then I believe that universal experience and our individual experience tell us that there is no hope that we shall ever get rid of our transgressions.

Brethren, for a man by his own unaided effort, however powerful, continuous, and wisely directed it may be, to cleanse himself utterly from his iniquity, is as hopeless as it would be for him to sit down with a hammer and a chisel and try by mechanical means to get all the iron out of a piece of ironstone. The union is chemical, not mechanical. And so hammers and chisels will only get a very little of the metal out. The one solvent is fire. Put the obstinate crude ore into your furnace, and get the temperature up, and the molten metal will run clear. There should be mountains of scoriae, the dross and relics of our abandoned sins, around us all.

If we desire to be delivered, let us go into the fire. It will burn up all our evil, and it will burn up nothing else. Keep close to Christ. Lay your hearts open to the hallowing influences of the motives and the examples that lie in the story of His life and death. Seek for the fiery touch of that transforming Spirit, and be sure that you quench Him not, nor grieve Him. And then your weakness will be reinvigorated by celestial powers, and the live coal upon your lips will burn up all your iniquity.

But, subordinately to this deepest meaning, as I take it, of the great symbol of our text, let me remind you of another possible application of it, which follows from the preceding. God’s Spirit cleanses men mainly by raising their spirits to a higher temperature. For coldness is akin to sin, and heavenly warmth is akin to righteousness. Enthusiasm always ennobles, delivers men, even on the lower reaches of life and conduct from many a meanness and many a sin. And when it becomes a warmth of spirit kindled by the reception of the fire of God, then it becomes the solvent which breaks the connection between me and my evil. It is the cold Christian who makes no progress in conquering his sin. The one who is filled with the love of God, and has the ardent convictions and the burning enthusiasm which that love ought to produce in our hearts, is the man who will conquer and eject his evils.

Nor must we forget that there is still another possible application of the words. For whilst, on the one hand, the Divine Spirit’s method of delivering us is very largely that of imparting to us the warmth of ardent, devout emotion; on the other hand, a part of this method is the passing of us through the fiery trials and outward disciplines of life. ‘Every one shall be salted with fire’ in that sense. And we have learned, dear brethren, but little of the loving kindness of the Lord if we are not able to say, ‘I have grown more in likeness to Jesus Christ by rightly accepted sorrows than by anything besides.’ Be not afraid of calamities; be not stumbled by disaster. Take the fiery trial which is sent to you as being intended to bring about, at the last, the discovery ‘unto praise and honour and glory’ of your faith, that is ‘much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire.’ ‘Every one shall be salted with fire,’ the Christian law of life is, Submit to the fiery cleansing. Alas! alas! for the many thousands of professing Christians who are wrapping themselves in such thick folds of non-conducting material that that fiery energy can only play on the surface of their lives, instead of searching them to the depths. Do you see to it, dear brethren, that you lay open your whole natures, down to the very inmost roots, to the penetrating, searching, cleansing power of that Spirit. And let us all go and say to Him, ‘Search me, O God! and try me, and see if there be any wicked way in me.’

II. Notice the painfulness of this fiery cleansing.

The same ideas substantially are conveyed in my text as are expressed, in different imagery, by the solemn words that precede it. The ‘salting with fire’ comes substantially to the same thing as the amputation of the hand and foot, and the plucking out of the eye, that cause to stumble. The metaphor expresses a painful process. It is no pleasant thing to submit the bleeding stump to the actual cautery, and to press it, all sensitive, upon the hot plate that will stop the flow of blood. But such pain of shrinking nerves is to be borne, and to be courted, if we are wise, rather than to carry the hand or the eye that led astray unmutilated into total destruction. Surely that is common sense.

The process is painful because we are weak. The highest ideal of Christian progress would be realised if one of the metaphors with which our Lord expresses it were adequate to cover the whole ground, and we grew as the wheat grows, ‘first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.’ But the tranquillity of vegetable growth, and the peaceful progress which it symbolises, are not all that you and I have to expect. Emblems of a very different kind have to be associated with that of the quiet serenity of the growing corn, in order to describe all that a Christian man has to experience in the work of becoming like his Master. It is a fight as well as a growth; it is a building requiring our continuity of effort, as well as a growth. There is something to be got rid of as well as much to be appropriated. We do not only need to become better, we need to become less bad. Squatters have camped on the land, and cling to it and hold it vi et armis; and these have to be ejected before peaceful settlement is possible.

One might go on multiplying metaphors ad libitum, in order to bring out the one thought that it needs huge courage to bear being sanctified, or, if you do not like the theological word, to bear being made better. It is no holiday task, and unless we are willing to have a great deal that is against the grain done to us, and in us, and by us, we shall never achieve it. We have to accept the pain. Desires have to be thwarted, and that is not pleasant. Self has to be suppressed, and that is not delightsome. A growing conviction of the depth of one’s own evil has to be cherished, and that is not a grateful thought for any of us. Pains external, which are felt by reason of disciplinary sorrows, are not worthy to be named in the same day as those more recondite and inward agonies. But, brother, they are all ‘light’ as compared with the exceeding weight of ‘glory,’ coming from conformity to the example of our Master, which they prepare for us.

And so I bring you Christ’s message: He will have no man to enlist in His army under false pretences. He will not deceive any of us by telling us that it is all easy work and plain sailing. Salting by fire can never be other than to the worse self an agony, just because it is to the better self a rapture. And so let us make up our minds that no man is taken to heaven in his sleep, and that the road is a rough one, judging from the point of view of flesh and sense; but though rough, narrow, often studded with sharp edges, like the plough coulters that they used to lay in the path in the old rude ordeals, it still leads straight to the goal, and bleeding feet are little to pay for a seat at Christ’s right hand.

III. Lastly, notice the preservative result of this painful cleansing.

Our Lord brings together, in our text, as is often His wont, two apparently contradictory ideas, in order, by the paradox, to fix our attention the more vividly upon His words. Fire destroys; salt preserves. They are opposites. But yet the opposites may be united in one mighty reality, a fire which preserves and does not destroy. The deepest truth is that the cleansing fire which the Christ will give us preserves us, because it destroys that which is destroying us. If you kill the germs of putrefaction in a hit of dead flesh, you preserve the flesh; and if you bring to bear upon a man the power which will kill the thing that is killing him, its destructive influence is the condition of its conserving one.

And so it is, in regard to that great spiritual influence which Jesus Christ is ready to give to every one of us. It slays that which is slaying us, for our sins destroy in us the true life of a man, and make us but parables of walking death. When the three Hebrews were cast into the fiery furnace in Babylon, the flames burned nothing but their bonds, and they walked at liberty in the fire. And so it will be with us. We shall be preserved by that which slays the sins that would otherwise slay us.

Let me lay on your hearts before I close the solemn alternative to which I have already referred, and which is suggested by the connection of my text with the preceding words. There is a fire that destroys and is not quenched. Christ’s previous words are much too metaphorical for us to build dogmatic definitions upon. But Jesus Christ did not exaggerate. If here and now sin has so destructive an effect upon a man, O, who will venture to say that he knows the limits of its murderous power in that future life, when retribution shall begin with new energy and under new conditions? Brethren, whilst I dare not enlarge, I still less dare to suppress; and I ask you to remember that not I, or any man, but Jesus Christ Himself, has put before each of us this alternative-either the fire unquenchable, which destroys a man, or the merciful fire, which slays his sins and saves him alive.

Social reformers, philanthropists, you that have tried and failed to overcome your evil, and who feel the loathly thing so intertwisted with your being that to pluck it from your heart is to tear away the very heart’s walls themselves, here is a hope for you. Closely as our evil is twisted in with the fibres of our character, there is a hand that can untwine the coils, and cast away the sin, and preserve the soul. And although we sometimes feel as if our sinfulness and our sin were so incorporated with ourselves that it made oneself, with a man’s head and a serpent’s tail, let us take the joyful assurance that if we trust ourselves to Christ, and open our hearts to His power, we can shake off the venomous beast into the fire and live a fuller life, because the fire has consumed that which would otherwise have consumed us.

Mark 9:49-50. For every one shall be salted with fire — These words seem to refer to the preceding, respecting the punishment of those who will not cut off the offending members, which render them obnoxious to future punishment: and so the import of them must be, that all such shall be “seasoned with fire itself, so as to become inconsumable, and shall endure for ever to be tormented, and therefore may be said to be salted with fire, in allusion to that property of salt which is to preserve things from corruption.” — Whitby. This interpretation supposes the word πας, every one, to signify the same as if the expression had been πας γαρ αυτων, for every one of them, namely, whose fire is not quenched; shall be salted with, or in the fire; that is, preserved from corruption, in and by it. So Mark 12:44, παντες γαρ, for all, that is, all they, as our translators render it, all those rich men, there spoken of. So Luke 16:16, The kingdom of God is preached, και πας, and every one, (namely, who believes,) presseth into it. And Luke 21:32, This generation shall not pass away, εως αν παντα γενηται, till all things be done, that is, παντα ταυτα, all these things, there mentioned. The reader may see many other instances in Grotius. The sense, therefore, of the clause is, Every one, who does not comply with the preceding advice, and consequently is cast into hell, shall be, as it were, salted with fire, preserved, not consumed, thereby. And every sacrifice — That is, every person who offers himself unto God in repentance, faith, and new obedience, as a living sacrifice; shall be salted with salt — Even with the salt of divine grace, which purifies the soul, (though frequently with pain,) and preserves it from corruption. It is evident that there is an allusion here to that part of the law of Moses which required every meat-offering, or sacrifice, to be seasoned with salt. See Leviticus 2:13. Salt is good — Highly beneficial to the world in many respects: But if the salt — Which should season other things; have lost its own saltness; Αναλον γενηται, become insipid; wherewith will ye season it? — By what means will ye restore its saltness, or seasoning quality, to it? Thus, if you, whom I have termed the salt of the earth, (Matthew 5:13; where see the note,) and have appointed to be the chief instruments in seasoning the rest of mankind with truth and grace, with wisdom and piety, should lose your own grace, and your faith in, and relish for, the truths of my gospel, or should cease to be properly influenced thereby, wherewith can you be seasoned? Beware, therefore, of apostatizing from the truth, and of falling from grace: see that you retain your savour, and the seasoning virtue wherewith I have endued you, and, as a proof of it, have peace one with another.

More largely this obscure text might be paraphrased thus: As every burnt- offering was salted with salt, in order to its being cast into the fire of the altar, so every one who will not part with his hand or eye, shall fall a sacrifice to divine justice, and be cast into hell-fire, which will not consume, but preserve him from a cessation of being. And on the other hand, every one who, denying himself, and taking up his cross, offers up himself as a living sacrifice to God, shall be seasoned with grace, which, like salt, will make him savoury, and preserve him from destruction for ever. As salt is good for preserving meats, and making them savoury, so it is good that ye be seasoned with grace, for the purifying your hearts and lives, and for spreading the savour of my knowledge, both in your own souls, and wherever ye go. But as salt, if it loses its saltness, is fit for nothing, so ye, if ye lose your faith and love, are fit for nothing but to be utterly destroyed. See therefore that grace abide in you, and that ye no more contend, Who shall be greatest?

9:41-50 It is repeatedly said of the wicked, Their worm dieth not, as well as, The fire is never quenched. Doubtless, remorse of conscience and keen self-reflection are this never-dying worm. Surely it is beyond compare better to undergo all possible pain, hardship, and self-denial here, and to be happy for ever hereafter, than to enjoy all kinds of worldly pleasure for a season, and to be miserable for ever. Like the sacrifices, we must be salted with salt; our corrupt affections must be subdued and mortified by the Holy Spirit. Those that have the salt of grace, must show they have a living principle of grace in their hearts, which works out corrupt dispositions in the soul that would offend God, or our own consciences.Every one shall be salted with fire - Perhaps no passage in the New Testament has given more perplexity to commentators than this, and it may be impossible now to fix its precise meaning. The common idea affixed to it has been, that as salt preserves from putrefaction, so fire, applied to the wicked in hell, will have the property of preserving them in existence, or they will "be" preserved amid the sprinkling of fire, to be continually in their sufferings a sacrifice to the justice of God; but this meaning is not quite satisfactory. Another opinion has been, that as salt was sprinkled on the victim preparatory to its being devoted to God (see Leviticus 2:13), so would "the apostles," by trials, calamities, etc., represented here by "fire," be prepared as a sacrifice and offering to God. Probably the passage has no reference at all to future punishment; and the difficulty of interpreting it has arisen from supposing it to be connected with the 48th verse, or given as a "reason" for what is said in "that" verse, rather than considering it as designed to illustrate the "general design" of the passage. The main scope of the passage was not to discourse of future punishment; that is brought in incidentally. The chief object of the passage was -

1. To teach the apostles that "other men," not "with them," might be true Christians, Mark 9:38-39.

2. That they ought to be disposed to look favorably upon the slightest evidence that they "might be true believers," Mark 9:41.

3. That they ought to avoid giving "offence" to such feeble and obscure Christians, Mark 9:42.

4. That "everything" calculated to give offence, or to dishonor religion, should be removed, Mark 9:43. And,

5. That everything which would endanger their salvation should be sacrificed; that they should "deny" themselves in every way in order to obtain eternal life. In this way they would be "preserved" to eternal life.

The word "fire," here, therefore denotes self-denials, sacrifices, trials, in keeping ourselves from the gratification of the flesh. As if he 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. Doing this, you will be acceptable offerings and be saved; without this, you will be "unfit" for his eternal service and will be lost."

49. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt—A difficult verse, on which much has been written—some of it to little purpose. "Every one" probably means "Every follower of mine"; and the "fire" with which he "must be salted" probably means "a fiery trial" to season him. (Compare Mal 3:2, &c.). The reference to salting the sacrifice is of course to that maxim of the Levitical law, that every acceptable sacrifice must be sprinkled with salt, to express symbolically its soundness, sweetness, wholesomeness, acceptability. But as it had to be roasted first, we have here the further idea of a salting with fire. In this case, "every sacrifice," in the next clause, will mean, "Every one who would be found an acceptable offering to God"; and thus the whole verse may perhaps be paraphrased as follows: "Every disciple of Mine shall have a fiery trial to undergo, and everyone who would be found an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and well-pleasing to God, must have such a salting, like the Levitical sacrifices." Another, but, as it seems to us, farfetched as well as harsh, interpretation—suggested first, we believe, by Michaelis, and adopted by Alexander—takes the "every sacrifice which must be salted with fire" to mean those who are "cast into hell," and the preservative effect of this salting to refer to the preservation of the lost not only in but by means of the fire of hell. Their reason for this is that the other interpretation changes the meaning of the "fire," and the characters too, from the lost to the saved, in these verses. But as our Lord confessedly ends His discourse with the case of His own true disciples, the transition to them in Mr 9:48 is perfectly natural; whereas to apply the preservative salt of the sacrifice to the preserving quality of hell-fire, is equally contrary to the symbolical sense of salt and the Scripture representations of future torment. Our Lord has still in His eye the unseemly jarrings which had arisen among the Twelve, the peril to themselves of allowing any indulgence to such passions, and the severe self-sacrifice which salvation would cost them. The phrase of this text is so difficult, and the sense of it so necessary to be understood, that it hath deservedly exercised the parts of many interpreters, and given them a latitude to abound in interpretations. Those who would rightly understand it,

1. Must have a retrospection to the six verses immediately preceding, where our Lord had persuaded to the mortification of our most beloved and profitable or pleasant lust, under the notion of cutting off the right hand or foot offending, and plucking out the right eye, under the penalty of going into a fire that shall never be quenched: as also to the law, Leviticus 2:13, which runs thus: And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.

2. They must next consider the nature of salt and fire. It is of the nature of salt, by drying up the over much moisture in meats, to preserve them from putrefaction; and to cause smart to living flesh. And of fire, to separate things not of the same kind in compounded bodies, and also to cause pain and smart.

3. They must know, that every one in the former part of the verse is the same with every sacrifice in the latter part; for every man and woman living will, or shall, be a sacrifice to God. Godly men are not only priests, 1 Peter 2:5,9 Re 1:6 5:10, but sacrifices, Romans 12:1.

Wicked men, though indeed they be no priests, (voluntarily giving up themselves unto God), yet they shall be sacrifices, like the sacrifice in Bozrah, Isaiah 34:6, or in the north country by the river Euphrates, Jeremiah 46:10: see also Ezekiel 39:17 Zephaniah 1:7. The saints are both priests and sacrifices. These things premised, the difficulty of the text is not great. Our Lord had been in the former verses persuading the mortification of men’s dearest lusts, under the notions of cutting off the right hand or foot, and plucking out the right eye; and pressing this exhortation, from the eligibility of it, rather than (keeping them) to be thrust into hell, where the worm never dies, and where the fire never goeth out. Now saith he in this verse, For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. God hath a fire, and a salt, which every man must endure. He hath a purging fire, to take away men’s dross and tin. Some he baptizeth with the Holy Ghost, and with fire, Matthew 3:11 Luke 3:16. And he hath a consuming, tormenting fire, a fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries, Hebrews 10:27. It is true, the Lord’s sacred fire of his Holy Spirit will, like fire and salt, cause smart while it purgeth out our lusts, like the cutting off of a right hand or foot; but judge you whether it be not better to endure that smart than to endure hell fire, for every one must endure one of these. Yea, and every one must be salted with fire. The saints shall be seasoned with influences of grace, Ephesians 4:29 Colossians 4:6; and they shall by the Holy Spirit of God be preserved by faith through the power of God to salvation, till their purity of heart and holiness of life shall issue in an incorruptibility of being and blessed state, 1 Corinthians 15:52-54. They shall be salted in or with fire, that is, preserved in or by the holy fire of God’s Holy Spirit; (nor is salting with fire so hard a metaphor as being baptized with fire seems to be, nothing being so contrary to fire as water is); others, viz. wicked and ungodly men, who will not endure this fire, nor be salted with this salt, shall yet be salted with another fire, and with another salt, which is the fire that never goes out mentioned Mark 9:44,46,48, which will cause them a much greater pain and smart, and in which, being separated from all their comforts and satisfactions, they shall be salted, that is (as to their beings) preserved, that they may be the objects of the eternal wrath and justice of God; for every one must go through one or the other fire, every soul must be seasoned with the one or other salt. Now judge you then whether it be not more advisable for you to be seasoned with this salt, though you indeed shall endure some smart in your acts of mortification and self-denial, than to endure hell fire, where you will be salted too, as well as burned; that is, not tormented only, but preserved in torments, so as you shall never consume, but be ever dying; for with one or other of these fires every person, every man or woman breathing, must be salted and seasoned, as of old every sacrifice was to be with salt.

For every one shall be salted with fire,.... That is every one of those that transgress the law of God, offend any that, believe in Christ, retain their sins, and sinful companions; every one of them that are cast into hell, where the worm of conscience is always gnawing, and the fire of divine wrath is always burning, with that fire every one of them shall be salted: that fire shall be to them, what salt is to flesh; as that keeps flesh from putrefaction and corruption, so the fire of hell, as it will burn, torture, and distress rebellious sinners, it will preserve them in their beings; they shall not be consumed by it, but continued in it: so that these words are a reason of the former, showing and proving, that the soul in torment shall never die, or lose any of its powers and faculties; and particularly, not its gnawing, torturing conscience; and that the fire of hell is inextinguishable; for though sinners will be inexpressibly tormented in it, they will not be consumed by it; but the smoke of their torments shall ascend for ever and ever; and that they will be so far from being annihilated by the fire of hell, that they shall be preserved in their beings in it, as flesh is preserved by salt:

and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt; referring to Leviticus 2:13. "With all thine offerings thou shall offer salt"; not only the meat offerings, but the burnt offerings, and all others, were to be offered with salt (n); of which, the Jews say the following things (o):

"It is an affirmative precept to salt all the sacrifices, before they go up to the altar, as it is said, Leviticus 2:13. With all thine offerings thou shall offer salt; and there is nothing brought to the altar without salt, except the wine of drink offerings, and blood, and wood; and this thing is a tradition, and there is no Scripture to support it; and the commandment is to salt the flesh very well, as one salts flesh for roasting, who turns the part, and salts it; though if he salts the whole, with even one grain of salt, it is right; he that offers without any salt at all, is to be beaten; as it is said, "thou shall not suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking": and though he is to be beaten, the offering is right, and acceptable, except the meat offering.--The salt, with which they salt all the sacrifices, is from the congregation, as the wood; and a private person does not bring salt, or wood, for his offering, from his own house: and in three places (p) they put on salt, in the chamber of salt, and upon the ascent of the altar, and upon the top of the altar: in the chamber of salt they salt the skins of the holy things; and upon the ascent of the altar they salt the parts (of the sacrifice); and upon the top of the altar they salt the handful, and the frankincense and the meat offerings, that are burnt, and the burnt offerings of fowls.''

Something of this kind also obtained among the Heathens, who thought their sacrifices were not rightly offered, nor acceptable to God, unless salt was used with them (q). Now our Lord in this has either respect to the same persons, as before; and signifies hereby, that the wicked in hell shall be victims to divine justice, and sacrifices to his wrath and vengeance; and that as the sacrifices under the law were salted with salt, these shall be salted with the fire of hell, and shall never be utterly destroyed; but shall ever remain the objects of God's sore displeasure; and fiery indignation: or he may have respect to a different sort of persons, even to the saints and people of God, who are an holy, living, and acceptable sacrifice to him; and in the prophecy referred to in the context, Isaiah 66:20, they are said to be brought for "an offering to the Lord--as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord": and so as the sacrifices of the Jews were salted with salt, and became acceptable to God; such who are seasoned with the grace of God, are preserved from the corruptions of the world, are acceptable in the sight of God, and are kept safe to his kingdom and glory.

(n) Piske Toseph. Ceritot, c. 1. art. 3.((o) Maimon. Hilch. Issure Mizbeach, c. 5. sect. 11, 12, 13. Vid. ib. in Misn. Menachot, c. 3. sect. 2.((p) T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 21. 2. & Baal Hatturim in Lev ii. 13. (q) Servius in Virgil. Aeneid. l. 2. p. 568, 569. & in l. 12. p. 1751. Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 4. c. 17.

{11} For every one shall be {n} salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.

(11) We must be seasoned and sprinkled by God, so that we may be both acceptable sacrifices unto him, and also so that in our being knit together we may season one another.

(n) That is, will be consecrated to God, being seasoned with the incorruptible word.

Mark 9:49. Without any parallel; but the very fact of its enigmatical peculiarity[128] tells in favour of its originality (in opposition to de Wette, Weiss, and many others). See on the passage, Schott, Opusc. II. p. 5 ff., and Dissert. 1819; Grohmann in the bibl. Stud. Sächs. Geistl. 1844, p. 91 ff.; Bähr in the Stud. u. Krit. 1849, p. 673; Lindemann in the Mecklenb. Zeitschr. 1864, p. 299 ff. In order to its correct interpretation the following points must be kept closely in view: (1) The logical connection (γάρ) is argumentative, and that in such a way that γάρ is related to the πῦρ in Mark 9:48 (because to this the πυρί must correspond), not to the entire thought, Mark 9:43 ff. (2) Πᾶς cannot be every disciple (Lindemann), nor yet can it be every one in general, but it must, in accordance with the context, be limited to those who are designated in the 48th verse by αὐτῶν (comp. Luke 6:40), because afterwards with πᾶσα θυσία another class is distinguished from that meant by πᾶς, and something opposed to what is predicated of the latter is affirmed of it. (3) Πυρί and ἁλί are contrasts; like the latter, so also the former can only be explained instrumentally (not therefore: for the fire, as Baumgarten-Crusius and Linder in the Stud. u. Krit. 1854, p. 515, will have it), and the former can, according to the context, apply to nothing else than to the fire of hell, not to the fire of trial (1 Corinthians 3:13), as Theophylact and others (including Köstlin, p. 326 f.) would take it, nor yet to the sanctifying fire of the divine word (Lindemann). (4) Καί may not be taken as: just as (ὡς, καθώς), to which, following the majority, Lindemann also ultimately comes, but which καί never expresses; but rather: and, joining on to those who are meant by πᾶς and its predicate others with another predicate. (5) The two futures must be taken in a purely temporal sense; and in accordance with the context (Mark 9:43-48) can only be referred to the time of the Messianic decision at the establishment of the kingdom. Hence, also, (6) it is beyond doubt that πᾶσα θυσία cannot apply to actual sacrifices, but must denote men, who in an allegorical sense may be called sacrifices. (7) The meaning of ἁλισθήσεται may not be apprehended as deviating from the meaning (presupposed by Jesus as well known) which the application of salt in sacrifices had (see Leviticus 2:13, where meat-offerings are spoken of; comp. in respect of the animal offerings, Ezekiel 43:24; Joseph. Antt. iii. 9. 1; and see in general, Lund. Jüd. Heiligth., ed. Wolf, p. 648; Ewald, Alterth. p. 37; Bähr, Symbol. d. Mos. Cult. II. p. 324; and Stud. u. Krit. l.c. p. 675 ff.; Knobel on Lev. p. 369 f.) It was, namely, salt of the covenant (מלח ברית) of God (comp. also Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5), i.e. it represented symbolically the covenant with Jehovah as regarded its imperishableness,—represented that the sacrifice was offered in accordance therewith, and for the renewing thereof. Comp. Pressel in Herzog’s Encykl. XIII. p. 343 f.

Consequently we must translate and explain: “With warrant I speak of their fire (Mark 9:48); for every one of those who come into Gehenna will be salted therein with fire, i.e. none of them will escape the doom of having represented in him by means of fire that which is done in sacrifices by means of salt, namely, the imperishable validity of the divine covenant, and (to add now the argumentum e contrario for my assertion concerning the fire, Mark 9:48) every sacrifice, i.e. every pious man unseduced, who, as such, resembles a (pure) sacrifice (comp. Romans 12:1), shall be salted with salt, i.e. he shall at his entrance into the Messianic kingdom (comp. ΕἸΣΕΛΘΕῖΝ ΕἸς Τ. ΖΩΉΝ, Mark 9:43-47), by reception of higher wisdom (comp. Mark 9:50; Colossians 4:6; and as to the subject-matter, 1 Corinthians 13:9-12), represent in himself that validity of the divine covenant, as in the case of an actual sacrifice this is effected by its becoming salted.” Accordingly, it is in brief: for in every one of them the ever-during validity of the divine covenant shall be represented by means of fire, and in every pious person resembling a sacrifice this shall be accomplished by the communication of higher wisdom. It is to be observed, further: (1) that the figure of the salt of the covenant refers, in the case of those condemned to Gehenna, to the threatening aspect of the divine covenant, in the case of the pious, to its aspect of promise; (2) that Jesus does not accidentally set forth the pious as a sacrifice, but is induced to do so by the fact He has just been speaking of ethical self-sacrifice by cutting off the hand, the foot, etc. And the conception of sacrifice, under which He regards the pious, suggests to Him as a designation of its destined counterpart the sacrificial expression ἁλίζεσθαι. (3) Analogous to the twofold distinction of ἁλίζεσθαι in the passage before us, although different in the figurative conception, is the βαπτίζειν πυρί and πνεύματι ἁγίῳ, Matthew 3:11.

Of the many diverging explanations, which in the light of what has just been stated are opposed to the context, or to the language of the passage, or to both, we may note historically the following:—(1) Euthymius Zigabenus: Πᾶς ΠΙΣΤῸς ΠΥΡῚ Τῆς ΠΡῸς ΘΕῸΝ ΠΊΣΤΕΩς, Ἢ Τῆς ΠΡῸς ΤῸΝ ΠΛΗΣΊΟΝ ἈΓΆΠΗς ἉΛΙΣΘΉΣΕΤΑΙ, ἬΓΟΥΝ ΤῊΝ ΣΗΠΕΔΌΝΑ (corruption) Τῆς ΚΑΚΊΑς ἈΠΟΒΑΛΕῖΠᾶΣΑ ΘΥΣΊΑ ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙΚῊ, ΕἼΤΕ ΔΙʼ ΕὐΧῆς, ΕἼΤΕ ΔΙʼ ἘΛΕΗΜΟΣΎΝΗς, ΕἼΤΕ ΤΡΌΠΟΝ ἝΤΕΡΟΝ ΓΙΝΟΜΈΝΗ, Τῷ ἍΛΑΤΙ Τῆς ΠΊΣΤΕΩς Ἢ Τῆς ἈΓΆΠΗς ἉΛΙΣΘΉΣΕΤΑΙ, ΕἼΤΟΥΝ ἉΛΙΣΘῆΝΑΙ ὈΦΕΊΛΕΙ (2) Luther: “In the O. T. every sacrifice was salted, and of every sacrifice something was burnt up with fire. This Christ here indicates and explains it spiritually, namely, that through the gospel, as through a fire and salt, the old man becomes crucified, seared, and well salted; for our body is the true sacrifice, Romans 12.” He is followed by Spanheim, Calovius, L. Cappel, and others: a similar view is given by Beza, and in substance again by Lindemann.[129] (3) Grotius: “Omnino aliqua desumtio homini debetur, aut per modum saliturae (extirpation of the desires), aut per modum incendii (in hell); haec impiorum est, illa piorum;” the godless are likened to the whole burnt-offerings, the pious to the mincha. He is followed by Hammond, comp. Clericus and Schleusner. (4) Lightfoot: “Nam unusquisque eorum ipso igne salietur, ita ut inconsumtibilis fiat et in aeternum duret torquendus, prout sal tuetur a corruptione: … at is, qui vero Deo victima, condietur sale gratiae ad incorruptionem gloriae.” Wolf and Michaelis follow this view; comp. also Jablonsky, Opusc. II. p. 458 ff. (5) Rosenmüller (comp. Storr, Opusc. II. p. 210 ff.): “Quivis enim horum hominum perpetuo igni cruciabitur; … sed quivis homo Deo consecratus sale verae sapientiae praeparari debet ad aeternam felicitatem.” (6) Kuinoel (taking πῦρ, with Flacius and others, as a figurative designation of sufferings): “Quilibet sectatorum meorum calamitatibus (these are held to be the pains that arise by suppression of the desires) veluti saliri, praeparari debet, quo consequatur salutem, sicuti omnes oblationes sale condiri, praeparari debent, quo sint oblationes Deo acceptae.” (7) Schott: “Quivis illorum hominum (qui supplicio Geennae sunt obnoxii) nunc demum hoc igne sale (quod ipsis in vita terrestri versantibus defuit) imbuetur, i.e. nunc demum poenis vitae futurae discet resipiscere. Alio sensu illi salientur, quam victimae Deo sacrae, de quibus loco illo scriptum legitur: victima quaevis sale est conspergenda. His enim similes sunt homines in hac vita terrestri animis suis sapientiae divinae sale imbuendis prospicientes.” (8) According to Fritzsche, γάρ assigns the reason of the exhortation to suffer rather the loss of members of their body than to let themselves be seduced, and the meaning is (in the main as according to Kuinoel, comp. Vatablus): “Quippe omnes (in general) aerumnis ad vitae aeternae felicitatem praeparabuntur, sicut omnes victimae e Mosis decreto sale sunt ad immolationem praeparandae.” So in substance also Bleek. (9) Olshausen: “On account of the general sinfulness of the race every one must be salted with fire, whether by entering voluntarily upon self-denial and earnest cleansing from sins, or by being carried involuntarily to the place of punishment; and therefore [in order to be the symbolical type of this spiritual transaction] every sacrifice is (as is written) to be salted with salt.”[130] Similarly Lange. (10) According to de Wette, πυρὶ ἁλίζεσθαι is nearly (?) tantamount to “the receiving by purification the holy seasoning and consecration (of purity and wisdom),” and καί is comparative. (11) Grohmann takes the first clause in substance as does Olshausen, and the second thus: “as every sacrifice shall be made savoury with salt, so also shall every one, who desires to offer himself as a sacrifice to God, be salted,—that is, shall from without, by sufferings, privations, and the like, be stirred up, quickened, and pervaded by a higher, fresh spiritual power.” (12) Bähr: “As according to the law there must in no sacrifice be wanting the symbol of the covenant of sanctification that consecrates it the salt; so also must every one be purified and refined in and with the sacrifice of self-surrender; … this refining process, far from being of a destructive nature, is rather the very thing which preserves and maintains unto true and eternal life.” (13) According to Ewald, the meaning is that every one who yields to seductive impulses, because he allows the salt—wherewith from the beginning God has seasoned man’s spirit—to become insipid, must first be salted again by the fire of hell, in order that this sacrifice may not remain without the salt which, according to Leviticus 2:13, belongs to every sacrifice; no other salt (no other purification) is left save the fire of hell itself, when the salt in man has become savourless. (14) By Hilgenfeld the fire, is alleged to be even that of internal desire, through which (this is held to mean: by overcoming the desire!) one is said to be salted, i.e. led to Christian wisdom; thereby one is to offer a sacrifice of which the salt is Christian discernment.

This great diversity of interpretation is a proof of the obscurity of the utterance, which probably was spoken by Jesus in an explanatory connection which has not been preserved.

The second clause of the verse has been held by Gersdorf, p. 376 f., on linguistic grounds that are wholly untenable, to be spurious; and, as it is wanting also in B L Δ א, min. and some vss. (on account of the twice occurring ἁλισθήσ by transcriber’s error), it is declared also by Schulz to be a gloss.

[128] Baur judges very harshly on the subject (Markusev. p. 79), holding that Mark in this independent conclusion, ver. 49 f., gives only a new proof how little he could accomplish from his own resources, inasmuch as the thought only externally annexed is obscure, awkward, and without unity of conception. By Hilgenfeld the discourse is alleged to be a mitigation of the harsh saying as to cutting off the hand and the foot, and so to confirm the later position of Mark after Matthew. According to Weiss, vv. 49, 50 are “an artificial elaboration” of Matthew 5:13. But how specifically different are the two utterances! And what would there have been to elaborate in the plain saying of Matthew 5:13? and to elaborate in such a way? According to Weizsäcker, ver. 49 f. is only added here “on account of the assonance as respects the figure.” This would amount to mere mechanical work. Holtzmann, however, justly maintains the independent conception of the (primitive-) Mark.

[129] “As every sacrifice is salted by salt, i.e. by the word of God is made a holy offering, so also every disciple is to be salted by fire [of the divine word].”

[130] According to Olshausen, we are to find here an authentic explanation as to the significance of the sacrifices, and of the ritual of their salting.

Mark 9:49-50. Salting inevitable and indispensable. These verses appear only in Mk. as part of this discourse. The logion in Mark 9:50 corresponds to Matthew 5:13, Luke 14:34-35.

49. every one shall be salted with fire] Salt and fire have properties in common. Salt, like a subtle flame, penetrates all that is corruptible, and separates that which is decaying and foul, whilst it fixes and quickens that which is sound. Fire destroys that which is perishable, and thereby establishes the imperishable in its purest perfection, and leads to new and more beautiful forms of being. Thus both effect a kind of transformation. Now “every one,” our Lord saith, “shall be salted with fire;” either (1) by his voluntary entering upon a course of self-denial and renunciation of his sins, and so submitting to the purifying fire of self-transformation; or (2) by his being involuntarily salted with the fire of condemning judgment (Hebrews 10:27; Hebrews 12:29), as the victims on the altar were salted with salt (Leviticus 2:13; Ezekiel 43:24). See Lange.

Mark 9:49. Πᾶς, every, all) Every [all] is here put without the noun being added. Some have supplied ἄρτος, bread; others, ἄνθρωπος, man. They seem to have felt, that it is hardly in accordance with usage, that πᾶς, all or every, should be put thus absolutely in the masculine. For where it seems to be put absolutely, the determining of the subject is left to be sought [gathered] from the predicate. Matthew 13:19, πάντος ἀκούοντος τὸν λόγον, when any (hearer) heareth the word, etc.; Luke 6:40, κατηρτισμένος δὲ πᾶς, κ.τ.λ., every (disciple) if he shall be perfected, shall be as his teacher; [Luke] Luke 16:16, πᾶς εἰς αὐτὴν βιάζεται, every one, who employs violence, by the employment of violence enters into the kingdom of heaven: John 2:10, Every man (who hath a marriage-feast, and sets forth wine) sets forth first the good wine. Phrases of this kind are to be met everywhere. So in this passage, Every one, who shall be salted at all, shall surely be salted with fire. But we will explain the idea of the passage a little more fully. It stands in position midway between the words concerning the fire which is not quenched, and the words concerning salt and its goodness. There are therefore three degrees: to be salted with salt; to be salted with fire; to be cast into the fire that never shall be quenched. The first degree is the most desirable: the third is the most bitter of the three: the second is intermediate, corresponding with the third in the mention of the fire (which in this passage is more often spoken of by Homonymy, i.e., the calling of things that differ in nature by the same name by analogy [Append.], as in Matthew 3:10-12), whilst it has a closer correspondence with the first in the mention of the salting. Salting, which is a process most natural and suitable, is effected by means of salt: this salt implies the Divine discipline, gently training us to the denial of self, and to the cultivation of peace and harmony with others. They who are thus salted become thereby a sacrifice pleasing to God, the type of which [spiritual sacrifice] existed in the Levitical sacrifices; Leviticus 2:13. They who shrink from and evade the salting by salt, are salted by fire (for even salt has in it the power of burning, Deuteronomy 29:23; and again, in turn, that there is in natural fire the power also of salting, is shown even by flesh that is roasted; and in Plutarch, fire is said to be τῶν ἡδυσμάτων ἄριστον καὶ ἥδιστον, the best and sweetest of modes of sweetening or seasoning); i.e. according to what approaches most closely in analogy, they are salted by a Divine discipline of a severer kind, lest through the stumblingblock, occasioned by the hand, the foot, or the eye waxing stronger, they should go on to the fire that cannot be quenched. Therefore the connection and the idea of the passage stand thus: Without a moment’s delay, and casting aside all self-indulgence, meet and counteract the stumbling-block occasioned by the hand, the foot, or the eye; for otherwise it will thrust you on into hell, and hell’s eternal fire. For every one, who is about to be salted in any way, and who is by that salting to be snatched from the eternal fire, shall be salted, if not by salt, the milder remedy, but by fire, the more severe cure, yet still in this life [shall be so salted, not in the life to come]: and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt, which is a most lenient and excellent kind of salting. Therefore submit to [admit within you] and have this salt, so that, every stumbling-block [occasion of offence] having been laid aside, peace may flourish among you. You are certainly about [you are sure] to have to experience the salt and the fire: see that ye require to undergo [defungamini, perform] as lenient a salting as possible.—ἁλισθήσεται, shall be salted) The future: by which there is intimated the commandment as to the sacrifices of the Old Test, [which was couched in the future, Leviticus 2:13], as also their typical bearing in reference to the sacrifices of the New Test.—καὶ πᾶσα θυσία ἁλὶ ἁλισθήσεται) This is extant in Leviticus 2:13, καὶ πᾶν δῶρον θυσίας ὑμῶν ἁλὶ ἁλισθήσεται. Hence the sentiment in the former clause of the verse is inferred, πᾶς γὰρ πυρὶ ἁλισθ., which is more universal, inasmuch as the being salted with salt is now in fine added as if in the way of exception [qualification] to θυσίας, with the limitation standing in apposition [i.e. shall be salted with salt, in apposition to and qualifying the more universal, shall be salted with fire].

Verse 49. - For every one shall be salted with fire; and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. According to the most approved authorities, the second clause of this verse should be omitted, although it is evident that our Lord had in his mind the words in Leviticus it. 13, "Every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt." Every one shall be salted with fire. "Every one." The statement is general in its application. There is no limitation. The good and the evil alike shall be "salted with fire." There is an apparent incongruity here. But it must be remembered that both the salt and the fire are here used in a metaphorical sense; and there is a fire which is penal, and there is a fire which purifies. In the case of the wicked the fire is penal; and the salting with fire in their case can only mean the anguish of a tormented conscience, which must be commensurate with its existence in the same moral condition. But there is a fire which purifies. St. Peter, addressing the Christians of the Dispersion (1 Peter 4:12), bids them not to think it strange concerning the "fiery trial" which was among them. This was their "salting with fire." Those persecutions which they suffered were their discipline of affliction, through which God was purifying and preserving them. This discipline is necessary for all Christians. They must arm themselves with the same mind, even though they may not live in a time of outward persecution. He who parts with the hand, or the foot, or the eye; that is, he who surrenders what is dear to him - he who parts with what, if he was only to confer with flesh and blood, he would rather keep, for the sake of Christ, is going through the discipline of self-sacrifice, which is often painful and severe, but nevertheless purifying. He is salted with fire; but he is pro-served by the power of God through faith unto salvation. Mark 9:49
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