Study 5 THE PEARL OF GREAT VALUE
TEN OF OUR LORD’S PARABLES
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: Matthew 13:45-46
The seven parables of Matthew 13 are designed to show the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, i.e. the secrets of heaven’s rule over the earth while the King Himself is rejected. Read Matthew 13:45-46. Who is the “merchant”, and what is the “pearl of great value”, for which he sold “everything he had”?
1. The popular interpretation is as follows:-
- (1) The Pearl of great value is the Lord Jesus Christ and His salvation.
- (2) The Man who sells all his possessions to obtain the Pearl of great value is the sinner seeking and finding salvation.
But beautiful as this interpretation is, surely it is not the correct one, because it is contrary to the whole plan of redemption:-
- (1) To suggest that the Merchant represents the sinner is to suggest that the sinner seeks salvation. This is not the teaching of scripture. It is always the Lord who takes the initiative and who seeks men (Genesis 3:9; Luke 19:10), and compare John 6:44.
- (2) To say that the Pearl of great value is Christ and the salvation that is in Him, is to suggest that salvation is something that can be purchased. But we do not gain salvation by anything that we can pay, or offer, or do (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5).
It is true, of course, that Christ is a Pearl of very great value, but this is not the teaching of the parable.
2. What is the true interpretation of this parable?
- (1) The “Merchant” is Christ.
- (2) The ”Peal of great value” is the Church, the Bride of Christ.
- (3) The price paid for the Pearl was His own life. Look up Acts 20:28; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesians 1:14; 5:25; 1 Peter 1:18-19.
3. Notice how beautifully the Pearl represents the Church which Christ loved, and for which He gave Himself.
- (1) The Pearl represents the Church in its character. The pearl is a unique gem, in that jewels such as the diamond, emerald, topaz, are all inorganic compounds – that is, no life is involved in their formation. But in the case of the pearl, life is involved. It is composed simply of carbonate of lime, and in its chemical analysis it is exactly like that of common chalk. The remarkable thing is that every now and then some life principle within the chalk stimulates the chalk and produces a pearl. Now all this is very suggestive. The Pearl is like the Church in that it is a living organism. It is not a dead thing like a diamond or an emerald; the Church is not a lifeless organisation constructed by men, but a living organism, and every member of it shares the true life of the Church, composed of born-again men and women - those who have received new life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and through their union with Him (John 15:5; 1 John 5:11-12).
- (2) The Pearl represents the Church in the great cost of its purchase. How is the pearl formed? Scientists say that it is the result of suffering on the part of the little creature inside the oyster or clam. An irritation is set up inside the shell which is caused by the admission of a tiny grain of sand. This makes the oyster bleed, and the life-supporting fluid is drawn out. Thus the creature literally gives its life for the formation of the pearl. What a wonderful picture it is of the way the Church is formed - so perfectly described in Isaiah 53 verses 5 and 10. At Calvary the Lord Jesus shed His blood to purchase the Pearl of great value. His Church, and the grain of sand that caused His suffering, was nothing less than our sin. Look up Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24.
- (3) The Pearl represents the Church in the process of its polishing. When the pearl is first discovered it appears to be of very little value, but when it is polished an amazing transformation takes place! It is only after it passes through the skilful hands of a polisher that it reaches its full value. Here is the explanation of the suffering, the trials, and the testings that God’s people have to endure. They are all part of the Lord’s loving polishing process! Look up Ephesians 5:25-27, and compare Hebrews 12:11. It is a wonderful thing to be polished by Him, held in His safe hands!
- (4) The Pearl represents the Church in the message it carries. Today a pearl is used simply as a piece of jewellery, but in ancient days it was used as an emblem of healing, comfort and joy. In fact it was looked upon as a kind of charm to drive away sorrow and gloom. We do not believe in lucky charms, but we do believe that the Church, our Lord’s Pearl of great value, has a healing ministry in the world. There are plenty of people who despise the Church, forgetting that it is largely due to the presence of the Church in the world that we have hospitals, homes for the elderly, and ten thousand other helpful and comforting agencies. Have you thought what our land would be like without the Church, and its ministry and its message?
- (5) The Pearl represents the Church in its value to its owner. A pearl is worn to enhance the beauty of its wearer. It is impossible to explain it, or even to understand it - but through all eternity the Church will magnify the Lord Jesus Christ and will be to Him a jewel of matchless glory and splendour!
Very soon now He will come and take the Church to Himself (John 14:1-3; Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), and ultimately He will display her to a wondering world (Ephesians 2:7)! Read Revelation 21:9-27.