The Pearl of Price


The Pearl of Price

March 13th, 1966 @ 7:30 PM

Matthew 13:45f

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.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Matthew 13:45-46

3-13-66    7:30 p.m.




On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Pearl of Price.  In your Bible, here in this great auditorium and listening on the radio, turn to the thirteenth chapter of the First Gospel, the thirteenth chapter of Matthew [Matthew 13].  We shall begin reading at verse 44 and read through verse 52.  Matthew, the thirteenth chapter, beginning at verse 44 and reading through verse 52.  And all of us sharing our Bibles together and reading it out loud, as it was written to be read aloud; Matthew 13:44-52.  Now, reading together:


Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.

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.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:

Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.

So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,

And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things?  They say unto Him, Yea, Lord.

Then said He unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.

[Matthew 13:44-52]


And the passage, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls”: beautiful, exquisite pearls, “Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” [Matthew 13:45-46].

The Roman political and literary figure Pliny describes two pearls of Cleopatra, each one of which, he says, was worth more than four hundred thousand dollars.  And remembering that the money in that day would buy ten or fifteen times as much as money would be able to buy today, we have some idea of the meaning of our Lord when He speaks of this merchant man who found one pearl of superlative value and sold all that he had in order that he might buy it.  The Mishna, which is a part of the Old Jewish Talmud, describes just such a man who took all his fortune and sold it in order that he might buy one exquisite and beautiful pearl.  Today with simulated jewels and synthetic stones, these things are hardly impressionable upon us.  But in that day when any jewel was a rare sight, something that only the rich and the kingly could ever possess, the pertinency of the story has double value.  “The kingdom of heaven like unto a merchant man seeking beautiful pearls: Who when he had found one pearl of great price, the pearl of price, he went, sold all that he had, and bought it” [Matthew 13:45-46].

Now the message tonight is going to take a little different kind of a turn, for I am going to read along side of that parable of our Lord a saying of our Lord from the Sermon on the Mount in the seventh chapter of this Gospel of Matthew.  “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend thee” [Matthew 7:6].  Now I want to illustrate the thought that lies back of the sermon then deliver, in God’s goodness, the message itself.

A pearl of great price [Matthew 13:46]: valued, loved, coveted, wanted, desired, appreciated, a precious jewel, a pearl of great price.  Now the comparison: but to others, it is as though these things that are dear to us and precious to us, to others they are as though you had cast your pearls before swine [Matthew 7:6].  They are not valued, not appreciated, not loved, not dear.  They are as though you had cast them before swine who trample them.  They look––little seed pearls, maybe look like grain, like corn, like wheat––and the hogs, thinking that they are something for the stomach, for the belly, for the body, and finding them to be pearls, trample them and in their anger and hunger turn and rend those who cast them before them.  So the thought in the message is to us a pearl of great price, something loved, appreciated, desired, for which we’re thankful to God, but to somebody else like pearls before swine, trampled upon, not appreciated, not loved, not one of precious endearment.

Could I try to––the feeling of it, not an actual illustration of what I’m going to say, but the feeling of it, could I illustrate it like this?  I have in my ministry, and especially in the earlier days of my ministry, lived among the people and become intimately acquainted with the families of the little churches I pastored.  And this would be a thing that I would see so often.  I’d be seated with a dear mother and she would bring me a little locket or a little precious chest.  And on the inside of the chest would be a lock of hair, a little curl.  And she would bring to me maybe a pair of baby shoes, worthless, altogether worthless.  What is a lock of hair, and what are two worn out baby shoes?  But to what somebody else would be so worthless, put it in the junk heap, put it in the incinerator, put it in the ash can, a lock of hair, worn out baby shoes, yet to that mother, oh, how rich, and how full, and how precious, and how fraught with every fragrant memory; a lock of hair, a pair of baby shoes.

Or an old fashioned picture; I could not tell you the number of times I have sat down in a little family circle and they bring out the family album.  I’ve looked through ten thousand times ten thousand family albums.  “This is Uncle Jim, and this is Aunt Mary, and this is Cousin Lam,” and on and on and on.  And there would be in the family album an old-fashioned picture, and to me it would be just piece of cardboard and somebody that I had never known.  But to him, “This is my mother,” he might say, and with tears as he thought of her, “This is my dear old mother”; an old-fashioned picture, to anyone else worthless, but to him how exceedingly dear.  Or an old ring, maybe worn for years and years; worn out maybe, worn through, worn thin; to somebody else, the gold in it might not be on the market fifteen, twenty, thirty cents.  But to us, to you, oh, it represents the love of your heart and a life of devoted sharing. That’s what I mean; the pearl of price, so precious to us, so worthless to somebody else.

Now may I apply it and try to illustrate it in a sense in which I’m going to try to preach it?  A pearl of price for which we give our whole lives; but to somebody else, like putting them before swine to be trampled on, nothing at all.  David Livingstone had a medicine chest.  And living in an equatorial, tropical land, ravaged with fever, with disease on every side, he lived by virtue of that medicine chest, the chemicals that he had, the medicines that he had in them that fought jungle fever, and malaria, and yellow fever, and a thousand other diseases.  And it was replenished from time to time.  That’s the only way David Livingstone lived.  As a tradesman brought in things from the outside, he would replenish that chest and so was able to exist in Africa.

Upon a day, a native stole that medicine chest.  And when David Livingstone found that it was gone he prepared to die, and did die.  That was why David Livingstone died when he did: some savage man stole his medicine, the little chest in which he carried his medicine.  To that man, I suppose he might have been enticed by the looks or the curiosity; but whatever prompted him, to that man, that medicine chest was worthless.  And he doubtless deposited, threw it away somewhere in the jungle.  But to David Livingstone it was life itself.  And when the great missionary found it gone and nowhere to find a replenishment, David Livingstone prepared to die, and did.  Now there are things that are that precious to us.  They are life to us.  They are the pearl of price to us.  To somebody else they are worthless.

Now let’s begin.  First, the Book, the Bible; to us, how dear the revelation of God, the Word of life, the explanation of how we can be saved, to us the pearl of price.  To so many others, worthless, cast it before them like pearls before swine.  So much of the modern intellectual world is like that.  So much of the academic world is like that.  So much of the pseudoscientific world is like that.  It is nothing, a collection, a myth, fable, legend.  And to so much of the unbelieving world and the rejecting world, it is nothing.  What is so precious to us is nothing to them; the Word, the Holy Book.

One of my fine, fine deacons, one of the most dedicated men I ever knew, one day I asked him, “How long have you been a Christian?”  And I was surprised.  He had not been a Christian long at all.  And I was intrigued.  And I said, “Well, how come you to be saved?”  And he replied, “I married a wonderful Christian woman, a glorious and devout Christian woman.  But I was a vile man, and a wicked man, and a worldly man.  And I hated the church, and I hated the Bible, and I hated the things of Christ.  But,” he said, “my wife never swerved in her devotion to Jesus.  Well,” he said, “one evening, one evening she was seated there in a rocking chair reading the Bible.  And I don’t know what possessed me, but,” he said, “I was so weary of it and tired of it that I went over to the chair and I seized the Book out of her hands.  And,” he said, “with all of my strength I flung it at her feet.”

And he said, “The Bible, as you know, bound as it is, thrown so violently to the floor, it opened and the leaves were disheveled.”  And he said, “My dear wife looked down at the floor at that Bible so crushed and disheveled, and then raised her eyes, and looked at me, and burst into uncontrollable tears.”  He said, “I stalked out of the room, and out of the house, and into the night.  But,” he said, “I couldn’t, I couldn’t get away.  The sight of that Book thrown in anger at her feet, and the sight of her face filled with streaming tears.”  He said, “I walked the streets and I walked the streets.”  And he said, “I felt wretched, and miserable, and lost, and condemned.”  And he said, “Finally, I turned and came back to the house, and to the room, and I fell at her feet.  And I said, ‘Dear, pray for my wicked soul.  Pray that God will have mercy upon me and save me from my vile and dark sins.’”  Then he said, “We knelt together, and there I found the Lord, and was saved.”  The pearl of price, so dear and so precious to us, and precious to you if you ever find the Lord.  If you are ever saved, if you are ever changed, precious to you, God’s blessed Book [Matthew 13:46].

The church, the church; the pearl of price to us [Matthew 13:46]—if I were to exegete this passage—to me the pearl of price is God’s church.  We don’t buy our salvation.  It’s not for purchase.  It’s without money and without price [1 Peter 1:18-19].  It’s a free gift of God [Ephesians 2:8].  Christ purchased the church with His own blood.  “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it” [Ephesians 5:25].  To us the pearl of price; to so many others it is nothing, pass it by, never pause, never stop, never attend, never worship, never love God’s people and God’s family; but to us, the pearl of price—this dear church [Matthew 13:46].


I love Thy kingdom, Lord,

The house of Thine abode,

The church our blessed Redeemer saved

By His own precious blood.


I love Thy church, O God!

Her walls before Thee stand,

Dear as the apple of Thine eye,

And graven on Thy hand.


For her my tears shall fall;

For her my pray’rs ascend;

To her my toil and cares be giv’n,

Till toils and cares shall end.

[“I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord,” Timothy Dwight]


This dear church; the pearl of price [Matthew 13:46], our Savior.  I spiritualize upon the parable now, I know, but I don’t do violence to the text, for our Lord loved the church, and gave Himself for it [Ephesians 5:25].  And may I spiritualize: these things that Jesus loved, we can love.  And first and foremost is our Lord Himself.  To so many others the Lord is nothing, means nothing.  But to us, oh, the fullness and the richness of the life we have come to know in Him!  I could preach for hours; I don’t know how many hours on what Jesus means to the world, to motherhood, to womanhood, to childhood, what Jesus means to the world.

In my journeyings, wherever I have found the gospel preached, there have I found the orphan’s home, and the hospital, and the school, and the spire of the church pointing God-ward and heavenward; what Jesus means to the world, what Jesus means to others.  My brother, look around you.  There are monuments to grace from one side of this great throng to the other.  Somebody seated in front of you, marvelously saved by the Lord.  Somebody seated in front of you whose life has been remade by the Lord.  I had a man this morning say to me, “Pastor, since Jesus has come into my home and my life, we are different people”; the pearl of price [Matthew 13:46].  Nor have I time to speak of what Jesus means to me; nothing to somebody else, but to me how precious and how dear [Matthew 13:46].

I one time saw a man go to another one.  The other man was speaking such disparaging remarks, taking Jesus’ name in vain and saying things that would hurt your heart about our Lord.  And this man, I saw him go to him and sweetly, kindly put his hand on the other man’s arm and say, “Dear friend, don’t say those things about my Lord.  Don’t say those things about my Lord.  He means everything to me, everything to me.”  And when I saw it, I thought, “Oh, my dear brother!  I don’t know your name and I don’t know who you are but God bless you.  That’s my heart too.”

When I hear people take His name in vain, I hurt.  When I hear speak disparagingly of His grace and of His mercy, I hurt.  And when I see people pass Him by as though His outpoured life, His tears, His sobs, His cries, His cross were as nothing, I hurt in my heart.  Oh, my brother, we have found the pearl of price!  It is Jesus.  It is Jesus [Matthew 13:46].  It is the precious and sweet life and hope that we have found in Him.


My Jesus I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;

For Thee, all the follies of sin I resign.

My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;

If ever I loved Thee, O pearl of price, I love Thee now.

[from “My Jesus I Love Thee,” William R. Featherstone]


And while we sing our song of appeal, you, if you love our Lord come and stand by me.  “Preacher, tonight I open my heart to the blessed Savior.  I invite Him to come in.  And these things that you’ve grown to love, I shall grow to love.  I will love this church.  I want to put my life here in this church,” you come.  “I will love this Book, preaching that Book.  I will feed my hungry soul on its message and the dear blessed Savior.  I open my heart to the blessed Jesus and here I come, accepting Him as Savior” [Romans 10:8-13].  Putting your life in the fellowship of His church [Hebrews 10:24-25], however God shall press the appeal to your heart, come.  In the balcony round, on the floor, down these aisles and “Here I am, preacher, I make it tonight.”  Do it.  Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.


Dr. W. A. Criswell

Matthew 13:45-46




I.          Introduction

A.  A pearl of great price, valued, loved, coveted

B.  Pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6)

C.  David Livingston’s medicine chest

D.  There are things precious to us that to somebody else are worthless


II.         Holy Scriptures

A.  To us so precious

B.  To unbelieving, rejecting world it is nothing

      1.  Modern intellectual, academic, pseudoscientific world

C.  Deacon saved after throwing Bible to the ground


III.        The church

A.  Christ purchased us with His own blood(Ephesians 5:25)

B.  Poem, “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”


IV.       The Savior

A.  What Jesus means to the world

B.  Monuments of grace throughout the congregation

C.  Jesus is the Pearl of Price

D.  Hymn, “My Jesus, I Love Thee”