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.

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