Friday, June 29, 2007

One Pearl of Great Price

Recently we performed a study on a parable of our Lord concerning the kingdom of heaven which is found in Matthew 13: 45-46:

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
The interpretation I presented was that the Righteousness of Christ is the One Pearl of Great Price, the believing Jew is the merchant man and that perceived deeds of righteousness are the goodly pearls.

A perplexing component of the parable's interpretation is the last phrase 'and bought it'. There is no Scripture to justify a belief that sinners can bring anything to the Lord in exchange for their salvation. In the words of the old and dear hymn, 'Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling'. Any attempted explanation of that phrase must keep that in mind.

The perplexity was shared by others and I tried to clarify the meaning of the phrase in a recent e-mail some of the contents which I share below:

The parable is clearly in commercial terms. However, I am not sure that we can relate (I certainly can't) all the details of a commercial transaction to the truth our Lord is teaching when he is using a parabolic form of teaching. I think, for example, this is true in at least one other great Bible truth that is commercial in nature, the kinsman redeemer. I can clearly see that Christ is our great Kinsman Redeemer from the civil law in the OT but I can't relate all the particulars of that law to the work of Christ for sinners. For example, whom does our Lord pay with his purchase price of His shed blood? Who fits the role of our next of kin?

Now to the parable...The righteousness of God is such that one cannot retain their own and have His. So, if one has perceived deeds of righteousness he must be willing to part with them in order to have God's righteousness. In commercial terms the perceived deeds of righteousness must be 'sold' in order to have the means to 'purchase' God's righteousness. In that sense an exchange is made by the sinner. This the unrighteous Jew would not do. They wanted to retain their own deeds of righteousness (see Romans 9:31-32) thus they could never have the Righteousness of God.

The merchantman buys in faith. They believe there is such worth in the article that they purchase that one day it would enrich them greatly. So, the Righteousness of that One Pearl of Great Price is obtained by faith. There is certainly faith in the finished work of Christ that is exercised at conversion. There is also faith the saint exercises in the promises of God concerning blessings of an unexperienced future that will greatly enrich them then. That is why we read of the 'hope of righteousness by faith' in Galatians 5:5.

Once the merchantman buys the one pearl of great price he ceases from seeking out other pearls. He is satisfied and looks no more. So, the believer (and certainly the believing Jew) ceases from their own works (Hebrews 4:10), boasts of the Lord's Righteousness (Romans 3:27) and no longer looks to the law for righteousness (Romans 10:4).
While the interpretation and the explanation of the phrase you may not see the same as me isn't it wonderful to know the Righteousness of God (Christ Himself) by faith and to have His Righteousness put to my account! This grand truth puts the saved sinner in good standing when they meet (as they must) Him who is ready to judge the quick and the dead at His appearing.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Solitude or Society?

Recently a friend was conflicted over the apparent need for the saints to spend time alone with the Lord and the clear instructions for the Lord's people to care and minister to one another. I responded to my friend as follows and I wanted to share it with whomever might read this entry:

[Friend], our Lord is our example (not to try to follow in order to be saved but to follow in His steps after we are saved). First, He knew the value and set the pattern for being alone with His Father. We see Him rising a great while before day to pray. We see Him with His disciples yet He goes apart from them to pray at times. He knew the value of spending time alone with His Heavenly Father. Second, He is said to be 'holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners' in Hebrews 7:26. Yet, we see him often moving among needy sinners and meeting their physical and spiritual needs. What we don't see him doing is embracing the world and becoming one of them. He did not know the life of a hermit. He constantly went about doing good.

Our call is to be separate from the world. Separation begins in the heart. Being set apart for Him and His use will manifest itself in outward separation from some things, systems and people. Separation takes different forms. For example, there are certain places that we don't visit because it would bring reproach to our Lord. Another example, is there are certain religious systems that we can't be a part of because of their denial of fundamental truths of the Scripture. Does that mean we will not befriend any who are participants in these things? No. But, it does mean we won't condone the practices and where opportunity presents itself we can let them know why. I think our separation is what is meant in Hebrews where we are told 'Let us therefore go unto Him outside the camp'.

I hope this helps.

As to visits to the elderly and those in distress I think private judgment is the rule. We can certainly be an encouragement to one another and a wisely timed and Spirit led visit can be of great help to a suffering saint. Pray about each matter and leave it to the Lord to direct our steps.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

2007 Bible Conference Thoughts

This year the theme of the Grace Missionary Baptist Church Bible Conference was 'The Gospel of the Son of God'. The conference was another blessing. Attendance was off a little with some of our regulars unable to attend. However, the harmony among the saints that came contributed to its good results we hope. Certainly the theme was glorious. Our times are rife with gospel diluters and deniers. It was most helpful to hear the old, old story told in its clarity and purity. The preachers all did great work.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Absent from the Body A Present from the Lord

Raising our boys has been a wonderful experience for us. Occasionally their misunderstanding or lack of comprehension of truths we have presented them have resulted in their expressing them or reacting to them in ways that really have embellished the truth rather than diminished it.

We are members (and I am pastor) of a small church and among our small number we face the hard reality of death from time to time. The boys are brought close to this and hear their momma and daddy talk about death in Bible terms for those who know the Lord. They attend funerals and hear comforting verses presented from the pulpit. One of those is II Corinthians 5:8 which reads in part:

'...absent from the body...present with the Lord'.

Our oldest son Edwin Dale heard this truth and knew that it was good thing. He also knew that receiving a gift was good thing. His little mind put things together in a way that resulted in this 'translation' of the original:

'...absent from the body...a present from the Lord'.

What a gift it is and will be when death comes the believer's way. 'Present with the Lord' is exactly what He bequeaths to His own. He greatly desires that and said so in His High Priestly prayer of John 17. Let us rejoice in His unspeakable gift (Christ Jesus himself) and His outpouring of gifts to His own even in death.