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A Pearl of Great Price

Posted by: Administrator on November 16, 2002 3:22:07 PM (7700 Reads)

- There were two classes of people who heard our Lord said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."

- Those who did not wait for the explanation and interpreted it to mean the literal structure or edifice, and concluded it was impossible for our Lord to do.

- These were the people who mocked Him as He was nailed on the cross.

- Those who waited for the explanation, actually a demonstration, when our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross and on the third day He rose again from the dead.

- To which class do we belong?

 

A PEARL OF GREAT PRICE

 

The following parable of our Lord contains a beautiful and encouraging lesson for everyone looking forward to the Kingdom of God.

 

Matt. 13:45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it."

 

Though it is one of the better-known parables, the Pearl of Great Price also happens to be misunderstood frequently. Herbert Lockyer in All the Parables of the Bible seems to have unlocked the correct interpretation.

 

The common explanation is that the merchant represents a Christian, and the pearl of great price is the Kingdom of God to which he gives his all so he can be a part of it. Another interpretation is that the pearl is Christ, and a Christian gives his all to Him. As meaningful as these interpretations may be, another is far more meaningful, and the evidence given in the narrative favors it.

 

In this parable the merchant is seriously and deliberately searching the world to secure the best and costliest gems. It is the very business of his life. He travels widely with zeal and a lofty purpose because he can do so and appreciate the best when he sees it.

 

The common interpretation shows the sinner, the merchant, diligently searching the world and sacrificing all to find the Kingdom of God or Christ. This cannot be true! On several counts it is totally out of alignment with Scripture as well as experience. This approach puts the seeker totally in control of his destiny.

 

Three scriptures disprove that we are the merchant seeking to "buy" the Kingdom of God, Christ or eternal life.

 

Romans 3:11 "There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God."

Luke 19:9-10 "And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

John 6:44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day."

 

It is Christ who seeks the sinner! The Shepherd seeks the sheep, not vice versa. Furthermore, if the pearl is either Christ, the Kingdom of God or eternal life, it contradicts other scriptures regarding God’s grace. Notice:

 

II Corinthians 9:15, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"

 

Romans 6:23 adds, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

 

Finally, in Luke 7:41-42 Jesus says in the Parable of the Two Debtors:

 

"There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?"

 

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price shows the merchant willing to buy a pearl at high cost. Can we possibly buy the Kingdom of God or eternal life or forgiveness if we have nothing with which to buy? If we think we have something with which we might barter with God, or if we think we have something to sell in order to buy from Him, then grace ceases to be grace! The Bible consistently reveals we have no righteousness, skills or intellect that is of any value in purchasing anything from God. Isaiah 64:6 confirms this: "But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags." Peter’s denunciation of Simon Magus plainly shows that men cannot buy the things of God. "But Peter said to him, ‘Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!" (Acts 8:20).

 

We are not the active agent in choosing Christ. John 15:16 specifically refers to Christ’s apostles, but the principle extends to us: "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you (some before the foundation of this current earth age, some were chosen in the first earth age, or the world that was) that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you." Jesus clearly states in Luke 19:10, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

 

By this time it ought to be clear that Jesus Christ is the merchant, the price paid was His life, and the church (the individual Christian in a very narrow sense) is the pearl. The church is one pearl, one body, composed of those He has sought out through the ages to be a habitation for God by His Spirit and who will be His bride at His return. This beautiful and meaningful little parable shows some of the extent of His labor of love for us.

 

 

The Merchant

 

The individual parts of this parable are also interesting when examined more closely.

 

The word "merchant" has had an interesting evolution. It originally meant a passenger on a ship, but gradually became applied to the wholesale dealer as distinguished from a retailer. This is how John uses it in Revelation 18:3, 11, 15, 23. The merchant made trips far and wide to buy specific merchandise in which he had expertise. The context of the parable gives no indication he was pursuing anything but pearls. He knew the real worth of pearls, and in this case, He assessed the value and was very willing to pay the price.

 

This is another strong indication that the merchant is not a human seeking Christ, the church, eternal life or the Kingdom of God because before conversion we had only a vague notion of what to seek for. Before God sought us out, we were commandment-breaking sinners. I John 2:4 says, "He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.’"

 

Jesus knew merchants well. Nazareth, where He grew up, was very close to a major trade route linking Babylon, to the northeast of Palestine, to Egypt, to the southwest. Caravans bound in either direction had to pass by His door.

 

Even the use of "seeking" (Matthew 13:45) helps to identify the merchant as Christ because it means "to depart from one place and arrive at another." Jesus did this Himself to pay the price of the pearl. He departed from heaven and arrived on earth to complete His mission.

 

The "merchant" paid with a price:

 

1 Cor. 6:19 "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20For ye are bought with a price…"

 

1 Pet. 1:18 "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold… 19But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:"

 

From this perspective, this parable presents a beautiful picture of the purchase of the church. Paul writes, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:28). Psalm 45:11 adds a tender touch to this, "So the King will greatly desire your beauty."

 

It ought to inspire and encourage us to know that He never seeks us as a legalistic, grudging response to duty. He does not merely stumble across us, but He seeks us out. He desires us and pursues us as a man courts a woman to be his bride and wife. His is a whole-hearted and loving response to our Father’s purpose and our eternal well-being.

 

It is no accident that we are part of His church. He sold all to possess us! AND HID US FROM THE PRINCE OF THIS WORLD BY COVERING US WITH HIS VERY OWN BLOOD, Will we ever fathom what it cost Him to redeem us? Paul says in Philippians 2:6-7, "[Jesus], being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men." He adds in II Corinthians 8:9, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich."(or because He gave His ALL, He emptied Himself of His eternal Glory and came to this field in the form of a man, and sought to redeem us “The Pearl of Great Price” by purchasing the field with His own blood and we are hid in His saving Blood) We should also understand, lest we get the wrong impression that the pearl’s value resides not in its own intrinsic worth, but in the immensity of the cost paid for it.

 

One final thought: Ordinarily, a merchant would buy a gem of this nature with the idea of selling it and making money on another’s desire to adorn himself with its beauty. In this case, however, the merchant’s intent is different: "That He might present to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27). Jesus Christ purchased us so He can eternally possess us.

 

 

The Pearl

 

Our English word pearl is derived from Sanskrit, meaning "pure." The biblical concept of holiness carries the idea of purity with it.

 

The pearl is an interesting study. Unlike other gems, pearls are produced by a living organism, an oyster, as the result of an injury. It usually begins forming around a grain of sand or an egg of some parasite that invaded the oyster. The oyster protects itself by layering the irritant with nacre—mother-of-pearl—until, out of pain and suffering, it forms an object of great beauty. The offending particle actually becomes a gem of great worth!

 

So it is with us spiritually. We are an irritant, a botch, a scab on God’s creation because of our nature and our sins. But because He loves us, we are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, and gradually we can become a thing of beauty, clothed with the righteousness of Him who bought us.

 

We can make a number of other comparisons between pearls and other objects used as teaching vehicles in the Bible, such as the mustard seed. Both begin as something quite small but achieve different results. The mustard seed grows into the largest of herbs, but the pearl remains small. What is the lesson? Size does not determine value.

 

We can make a second comparison with ourselves. The pearl is first embedded in a mass of live but corruptible flesh, then separated and cleansed from its surroundings so that it can appear in its purity and beauty. So it is with the church. It is surrounded by, deeply embedded in, this corruptible world, and must be separated from the world before it can make a proper witness. As long as the pearl (church) remains in the oyster (world), it is of no value.

 

The production of the pearl is a gradual, even tedious, process. Slowly, the oyster adds layer after thin layer of nacre until the pearl is transformed. So it is with the church. For nineteen-and-a-half centuries, it has been in the making. If we add all who will be in the first resurrection from the time before Christ, then God has been working and adding to its lustrous value for almost six thousand years! All of this has occurred, and the world has hardly noticed, if at all, that this awesome process was progressing right under its nose.

 

In essence, the formation of the pearl is happening in secret. Colossians 3:3 says that our "life is hidden with Christ in God." Jesus tells His disciples: "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:19). The world does not know where God’s truth is transforming people into beings of glorious beauty. They are now just as we were before God revealed Himself to us. They are blind to the beauty of holiness. In fact, they are not merely blind, but as this verse shows, hostile to it.

 

Drawing the comparisons further, we know the oyster is at home in the depths of the ocean, a scavenger living off the garbage that sinks to the bottom of the sea. Revelation 13:1 shows the beast rising out of a sea: "Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name."

 

The Bible often uses a sea to represent multitudes of people, sometimes multitudes of enemies. Revelation 17:15 says, "And he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.’" Isaiah 59:19 reads, "the enemy comes in like a flood." God must take the pearl, the church, from among the ungodly just as the oyster must be lifted from the muck and mire of the sea bottom.

 

Psalm 18:4-6, 15-16 expresses this analogy beautifully:

 

"The pangs of death encompassed me, and the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears. . . . Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were uncovered at Your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of Your nostrils. He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters."

 

So the church, an object of beauty to God, is presently hidden from the world because they do not really know true value when they see it. But it will not be that way for long.

 

 

The Main Lesson

 

Ephesians 2:4-10 summarizes the main lesson of the Pearl of Great Price.

 

"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."

 

The world may not honor us now. They may not consider us worthy of anything. But when He displays His church, He will reveal us for what we are: a glorious and wonderful creative act of the great God, arrayed in the radiating splendor, the sun-like brilliance, of His righteousness.

 

An attempt to refute:

 

Some people may attempt to refute this God's great revelation of the parable of the pearl by saying, "Does not Jesus Christ enjoin His listeners to 'Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:'?"

 

Of course God does not contradict Himself. It is in the "timing" of the intended message that perhaps many people cannot reconcile the seemingly contradictory verses. Take the case of Paul. Was he not called on his way to Damascus without him seeking Christ/truth? It was thereafter that "Ask, seek, and knock" began to operate in the life of Paul. "Ask for wisdom" in James 1:5, "seek" God's righteousness in Matt. 6:33, and "knock" at our Lord where He is the door to open the pasture (John 10:9). Were not Simon Peter and his brother Andrew called by our Lord while casting their nets for they were fishermen (Matt. 4:18-20)? Were not James and John mending their net who were also fishermen when called by our Lord (Matt. 4:21-22)?

 

END