First published in "A Witness and A Testimony" magazine, Jan-Feb 1955, Vol. 33-1.
"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in the
field; which a man found, and hid; and in his joy he goeth and
selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the
kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a merchant seeking
goodly pearls: and having found one pearl of great price, he
went and sold all that he had, and bought it." Matthew 13:44-46.
The multitude has gone or has been left (vs. 36). The Lord is alone
with His disciples. He is interpreting to them what He has said to
the multitude. Then He adds three more "mysteries of the kingdom of
heaven". Two of these are undoubtedly twins, they belong to each
Various interpretations have been given and usually they have been
interpreted as being two entirely different things. It is not easy
to be dogmatically final about this especially if a new
interpretation is suggested. But there are some things about which we are surely agreed. These
(1) The "Man" in both cases is the same "Man" as sowed good seed,
firstly in the form of the Word of God, and then in the form of
genuine Christians, over against "darnel". The seeker here in these
two parables is not an unbeliever nor a believer.
However much we sing, and shall go on singing
"I've found the Pearl of greatest
My heart doth sing for joy;
And sing I must, a Christ I have:
Oh, what a Christ have I" -
all that is true excepting its
association with the parable.
(2) The "field" and the "sea", where the treasure and the pearl are
respectively, correspond to the earlier field of the Sower, and the
sea of the drag-net. It is one thing - the world. Jesus purchased
the world at the cost of all that He had. It is His by right of
redemption, although that right is repudiated, and therein is the
ground of judgment, as He has shown elsewhere.
(3) Neither Jesus, the kingdom of heaven, nor Salvation are up for
sale to the highest bidder. Who has the fabulous wealth required?
Who has a sufficient "all" to procure this? The idea of our buying
the treasure or pearl would rule out entirely the whole nature and
truth of grace.
Whatever we might 'count as refuse that we might gain Christ' is an
after thing when we have already found and come to possess Him, and
only speaks of how little everything is in comparison. Paul would
never weigh the "things which were gain" as a price
for Christ, but only as
"refuse" in comparison. Those things just went, they were not sold
We are brought to common ground in our interpretation when we alight
upon one idea, it is that of preciousness, and preciousness to the
If Christ is that Divine Seeker then there is that which is of
superlative value to Him. In the light of the Holy Spirit's later
fuller revelation of the "mysteries of the kingdom" have we any
guidance as to what these precious things are? I think we have. As
to the treasure, is not this the answer, "Christ loved the Church
and gave himself up for it" (Eph. 5:25): referring back to verse 2
where the reference is to the Church - "as Christ... loved you, and
gave himself up for us (or you), an offering and a sacrifice to
God". "The church of God which he purchased with his own blood"
(Acts 20:28). This is the only realm where purchasing comes in. All
the teaching concerning the Church and its superlative value to the
Lord finds its place here.
Our point, at the moment, is just this: if the Church is of such
transcendent and inestimable value to Christ, ought it not to have
such a place with us?
love were shed
abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit would it not be a corrective
to criticism, division, suspicion, and exclusiveness? Would it not
be a directive as to how to approach the rumours, reports, and
suggestions which could otherwise be so disaffecting? Would it not
cut an immense amount of ground from under the Devil's feet in his
campaign to frustrate the great purpose of God as bound up with the
Church? Would it not be the ground on which the Holy Spirit would
repeat His mighty work throughout the world, as at the beginning?
"Christ loved the church". So ought we to love.
But what of the pearl of great price?
In what we are going to say we want to repeat that we would not be
dogmatic that this is the
interpretation of the parable, but there is little doubt that there
is truth in what we say.
It is difficult to make two separate
objects of the Treasure and the Pearl, just as it is difficult to
allow of two all-inclusive prices being paid. If "all that he had"
has gone for one thing, then it cannot go for another. Surely these
are two aspects of the same thing? It is true that the Church
inclusively, and without exception is the object of the uttermost
love and giving, but it is also clear that the Church's uttermost
love for the Lord is included in His desire and longing. As it turns
out we find the Church divided in this respect, and the last New
Testament picture of churches is one of a dividedness of love. The
messages to the seven churches are surely - while judicial; - an
appeal from Him who is "girded about the breasts
with a golden
girdle" for "first love". The division is
between being Christ's and being utterly
Christ's. The final symbolic picture of the Church is "the new
Jerusalem", and her gates are of pearl
Does not all this point to a particular preciousness to the Lord of
that fruit of His sufferings born in believers and proved by their
willingness to suffer with and for Him? The pearl is the symbol of
suffering, suffering unto agony, and agony producing beauty and
Said Paul, "I fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of
Christ, for his body's sake,
which is the church". Is not this something infinitely precious to
Christ? Would He not give all for a Church that so
We leave it there. Whether it is what He meant by the second
parable, we will not contend, but we are sure that this is something
supported by very much in the Word of God.