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The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value

by Robert Garrett

We come now to number six in this series of seven parables that Jesus gave us on the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew chapter 13, the pearl of great price or the pearl of great value.

Unlike the first two parables, our Lord did not explain this one to us. As we try to understand this, I suggest we keep in mind two very important things. First, Jesus said this was a mystery. That is, here is a new truth concerning the kingdom of heaven that was not revealed to the Old Testament prophets.  Second, interpret Scripture with Scripture.  In other words, does the rest of the New Testament support or contradict our interpretation?

Do you remember the Bible definition of a Bible mystery that we have emphasized in previous lessons? Its definition is given us right here in Matthew 13.  I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world. That is in verse 35.  Also, Ephesians 3:4-5 speaks of the mystery of Christ which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed to God’s holy apostles and prophets.  And in Colossians 1:26 we read of the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations but is now disclosed to the saints.

Therefore, a Bible mystery is the revelation of a new truth. It is not the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy.   The Old Testament prophets foretold the sufferings of the Christ. They foretold the glories that would follow. What they did not prophecy was what would take place between these two events. They did not foretell the present period of time, this present evil age which has lasted almost 2000 years which period would separate between the sufferings and the glories.   These mysteries, such as these seven parables and other mysteries in the New Testament, are describing things that are to take place in the period between the sufferings of Christ—that is his first coming—and the glories of Christ which would be at his second coming.

With that in mind, let us look at parable number six in verses 45 and 46. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

The pearl represents the Church and the seeker of the pearl is the Lord Jesus. Last week we looked at the parable of the hidden treasure and we said that the treasure represented the nation of Israel and the temporary hardness of heart they were experiencing and that the Lord Jesus Christ is the man who sold everything he had in order to buy the field. The Lord Jesus who was the finder of the treasure is also the seeker of the pearl, but the treasure and the pearl are not identical. That the two things are different is implied by the difference in the figures used.  In both cases the price he paid was the same, but that does not prove their identity.  The lost sheep of the house of Israel were his treasure and in finding them he found what the had lost.  For they were his, the sheep of his pasture and the flock of his hand over which he was to exercise the shepherd rule to which he was ordained in God’s covenant with David. This is in Ezekiel 34 verses 23 and 24 where God says, “I will place over them,  that is Israel, one shepherd, my servant David. And he will tend them. He will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God and my servant will be prince among them, I the Lord have spoken.”

But a wider mission than this had brought him from heaven to earth. Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They, too, will hear my voice and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” That is John chapter 10 verse 16.

The far away Gentiles were to be brought near through the gospel and joining them together with the believing sheep of Israel he would create one flock, with all national distinctions gone and he, the shepherd of them all.  So we have the formation of the Church.

Away with the idea that the seeker of the pearl represents the lost sinner who is searching for truth or salvation or the true Church.  Scripture itself has no patience for that. The Church belongs only to Christ. It is his body. It is the Church of God which he bought with his own blood, Acts 20:28.  Again, salvation and eternal life are not for sale.
Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. You cannot buy a gift. For it is by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not from yourselves. It is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast.

But the buyer of the pearl has much to boast. He sold everything he had to buy the pearl.  He sold all that he had.   2 Corinthians 8:9 says: Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor.  Again in Philippians 2:6-8: Jesus being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man. He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.

And, again, the Scripture says that Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of water through the Word to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Now Paul declares of the Church that it is the Church of God which he bought with his own blood. Now why did Jesus use the figure of a pearl? Why not a diamond or a ruby? Those are precious stones which size of size are more valuable than a pearl. Elsewhere Scripture compares a good wife to rubies as in Proverbs 31:10.  Why didn’t Jesus use that figure here?  Was he ignorant of the relative value of those things? Certainly not. He knew full well what he was saying.

Now a pearl is not dug out of the ground like a diamond or a ruby. No, pearls are made by animals, specially a shellfish called an oyster.  It is how they are made that makes the pearl to be a fitting picture of the Church. As one writer said, “A pearl is said to be the result of an injury done to the animal that produces it.” Its material is nakir as it is called or mother of pearl which lines the interior of the shell and which is renewed by it as often as injured or worn away.

A particle of sand getting between the animal and the shell the irritation causes a deposit of nakir upon it which goes on being deposited layer after layer till a pearl is formed. The pearl is thus, as we may say, an answer to an injury. And it is the offending object that becomes through the work of the injured one a precious and beauteous gem. It is clothed with a comeliness put upon it as the objects of divine grace are with the beauty and glory of him we crucified.

Therefore the Scripture testifies in Galatians 3:27: For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

When a person comes to the Lord Jesus in simple obedient faith and is baptized, the Scripture says that person is joined to Christ and he is clothed with Christ as the grain of sand becomes clothed with the oyster.  When you look at the oyster, you cannot see the grain of sand.  You see only the oyster. In other words, if you are clothed with Christ and God looks at you, he does not see you in your sinful self, but he sees his beloved Son in all his glory and all his purity.

I repeat again Galatians 3:27.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Now the grain of sand that injures the oyster is neither valuable, nor beautiful. But being clothed with the essence of the oyster it becomes beautiful and valuable. So we worthless sin ugly grains of sand are made to be beautiful, valuable children of God through the sanctifying purifying work of Christ as he clothes us with himself.  But this was though the injury we did to him in nailing him to the cross and piercing his side.
The Scripture says that Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of water through the Word and to present her to himself as a radiant Church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

If we confuse Israel with the Church we confuse the purpose and destiny of each. In the pearl we have the creation of the Church which is formed during the time of Israel’s rejection and preservation. The Church is also a mystery of the kingdom. The Church, as the Church, was not prophesied.

Now the gospel itself is no mystery. It was prophesied in the Old Testament.  Salvation for the Gentiles was prophesied.  That is no mystery. But the Church, a new body made up of both Jews and Gentiles is the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.

The creation of Eve from the side of Adam at the ordination of marriage held another mystery, a beautiful and profound truth kept secret for past ages and generations. But now revealed in the relationship of Christ and his church.  We find this in Ephesians 5:31-32.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the Church.

This interpretation of the pearl of great price is harmonious with this mystery, hidden in the creation of Eve from the side of Adam.  She was formed from an injury to the side of Adam.   The Church is formed, as it were, from the injury to the side of Jesus the second Adam.  Marriage, as ordained by God is because Eve was formed from the injury to Adams’s side.

Think of the nail scarred hands of our Lord Jesus. After his resurrection when Jesus appeared to the disciples he showed them his hands and his side, but Thomas had not been there and so declared, “Unless I see the marks in his hands and put my finger where the nail marks were and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

Later Jesus came among them and said to Thomas, “Put your finger here.  See my hands. Put out your hand and put it in my side.”  That is John 20 verse 24 to 28.

Again, in Revelation chapter six verse six our Lord is seen as a Lamb looking as if it had been slain. It seems from these that even during eternity these wounds or scars will be visible to us as a constant reminder that he died in our place.

Have you ever wondered what Adam experienced and felt when he woke up after God had cut a bone out of his side?  Did he experience any pain? Whoever has experienced major surgery knows the pain that follows afterwards for several days as the wound heals. A scar remains to always remind one of the surgery.  Surely Adam experienced pain and difficulty in moving about for a few days.  Surely there was a scar on his side to constantly remind him of whence he ha come. Surely that scar was a constant reminder to Eve of when she had come.

Paul says, “This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the Church.”

The pearl of great value, then, is the Church exceeding precious to him, purchased by his blood, formed, as it were, from his very side.   However, there are some important differences between us and the grain of sand. First of all, the grain of sand has no control over its own destiny.  It cannot choose to be joined to the oyster.  But we can choose the right or the wrong.

Joshua 24:15 says: Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.

Again in Hebrews 4:7: Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.

My friend, without Christ you are lost, doomed for all eternity.  And if that alarms you—and it should alarm you—then you should inquire as did those 3000 in Acts chapter two verse 37.  If you should ask: What must I do? I give you the same answer the apostle Peter gave to them. Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And the words of the Lord Jesus in Mark 16. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.  But whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Galatians 3:27.  To all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves

with Christ.

The choice is up to you.

Secondly, the grain of sand is completely passive in accepting the covering which converts it to a pearl. But we must be active.  After our initial putting on of Christ when we were baptized into him, after hat has been accomplished we are exhorted to be continually putting him on day by day.

Ephesians 4:22-24: You were taught with regard to your former way of life to put off your old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds and to put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

You see, it is a continuing process that requires our active participation. And the child of God must off the old self and must put on the new self.

Colossians 5:10-11 we see the same thing. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature since you have put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge and the image of its creator.

We must say it again. Just as a grain of sand is not formed into a pearl in one day, but over a long period of time, so we also are being renewed as we abide in him, live in him, remain in him.

And Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be imitators of God therefore as dearly loved children.

Please take your Bible and read the rest of that chapter.

And Colossians 3:12.  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, humility, gentleness and patience.

Finally there are uncountable millions of grains of sand in the ocean, lost, ugly, unloved. Only the grain of sand that comes into intimate contact with the oyster becomes a pearl, a thing of beauty and value. Just so, only those souls who come to Jesus and remain in close fellowship with him can be saved and transformed into something fit for heaven and eternity.

-Robert Garrett lives  in Louisville, KY  and  spends  about  six months a  year in  Zimbabwe where  his family  has  been  involved  in  Missions of  over  80 years


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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33