The Pearl of Price
June 27th, 1976 @ 7:30 PM
THE PEARL OF PRICE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-27-76 7:30 p.m.
We welcome you who are sharing this service on the great radio station of the Southwest, KRLD. And we welcome you who are listening to the service on KCBI, our own God-given, God-blessed radio station, the first on your FM band. And the thousands of you who have thus far shared in this hour sense the spirit of celebration in the bicentennial, the two hundredth birthday of our nation.
This is the pastor of the church bringing the message entitled The Pearl of Price. And whether you listen on radio, or in the great throng in this sanctuary this evening, would you turn to Matthew chapter 13? Matthew chapter 13, we are going to read the forty-fourth verse first; the forty-fourth verse [Matthew 13:44].
The thirteenth chapter of Matthew contains the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. And one of the mysteries is “the treasure hid in a field” [Matthew 13:44]. And this refers to the people chosen of God to Israel, buried in the nations of the earth; but God knows His own and the treasure hid in a field refers to Israel. Now let’s read it out loud together, Matthew 13:44, 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.”
“The Lord is coming again as a thief in the night.” Several times in the Bible is that description avowed of the coming, the second return of our Savior. He is coming as a thief in the night [1 Thessalonians 5:2]. He is coming to steal away His jewels, and one of His jewels is the treasure hid in a field [Matthew 13:44]. That is Israel.
Now read with me in a moment, verses 45 and 46 [Matthew 13:45-46]. Not only does our Lord have a treasure in the earth [Matthew 13:44], that at His coming He is to steal away as a thief in the night [1 Thessalonians 5:2], with sandaled footstep, with quiet, clandestine, furtive appearing, without announcement, without harbinger, any moment, any day, any hour the Lord can come [Luke 12:40]. There are no prophecies to be fulfilled between now and the first appearing of our Lord to take away His own [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. And the first are these He describes as “a treasure hid in a field,” His people Israel, buried in the nations of the world [Matthew 13:44].
Now the next is we. God has another treasure, “a pearl of great price,” for whom He gave His life. And this is a mystery of the kingdom of heaven, reading verses 45 and 46, now together, Matthew 13:45-46, reading it out loud together:
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.
And that is we. We are the “pearl of price” for which the Lord gave His life.
Any time the imagery is used with this to refer to Christ, it is a mistaken exposition, because we don’t buy the love of God, nor do we buy our salvation, nor do we purchase His grace. God’s salvation is a free gift [Ephesians 2:8]. This mystery of the kingdom refers to our Lord, who gave all that He had that He might purchase us. We are the pearl of price [Matthew 13:46]. We are the great possession for whom He gave His all [Ephesians 5:25].
Now this is a beautiful, beautiful mystery. And even the words are beautiful. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls” [Matthew 13:45]. The Greek word is kalos, “beautiful, beautiful.” And the word for “pearl” is margarites. You know, many of these Greek words are used for the names of our people. The Greek word for “pearl” is margarite. The Greek word for “peace” is eirēnē. The Greek word for “farmer” is George. The Greek word for “good” is agatha, like Agatha Christie. The Greek word for “gift” is dōron. The Greek word for “God” is theos. So if you put them together, theodōron, Theodore, the name of a man. Turn it around, put the word for “gift” first, and the word for “God” last, Dōrothea, Dorothy, Dorothy, “a gift of God.” These are beautiful words out of the Bible.
And this is “a merchant man who seeks kalos margarites, beautiful pearls: who, when he had found one of great price, polu,” translated here “great,” polu, “many, much,” polu timē, “preciousness,” “price of immeasurable worth and desire” [Matthew 13:46]. The word timē is used so beautifully in the Bible. It’s the word that describes what Mary of Martha did for the Lord Jesus, when she anointed Him at the supper in Bethany, with the ointment, the spikenard of great timē, preciousness, price [Mark 14:3-4]. Simon Peter writes, “Unto you who believe, He is timē, he is precious” [1 Peter 2:7]; so this, “Who, when he had found one pearl of polu timē, of tremendous preciousness, of marvelous price” [Matthew 13:46].
The governor of Bithynia was Pliny. And in one of the writings of Pliny he refers to two pearls that were owned by Cleopatra. And he says each one of those pearls was worth more than four hundred thousand dollars. That is an estimate in a day when a dollar would be ten times as much as it will now. In the Talmud there is a story of a man who found a beautiful, precious pearl, and sold everything that he had, and bought it. This is the mystery of the kingdom of heaven. We are like that beautiful pearl of price [Matthew 13:46], for which our Lord paid His life, gave everything that He had, that He might possess us [Ephesians 5:25].
You know, it is wonderful how people are even though we are fallen in our nature. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord said, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine” [Matthew 7:6]. The contrast between Matthew’s presentation of that pearl is an astonishing thing indeed. What is to others trifle, trite, junk, garbage, to others of us it is precious, timē, preciousness beyond price.
Ah, we’re all that way. Here’s a lock of hair, a lock of hair. Maybe the baby has died. Here’s a little lock of hair, treasured by a mother. Or maybe an old fashioned picture to a stranger would be junk but to us, so precious. Or, here is an old worn out baby shoe, so carefully kept.
In many homes have I seen the little shoe bronzed and placed in a place of conspicuous seeing. How unusual people are. My mother had a wedding ring. It was a wide gold band. I never saw her that she didn’t have on that ring. She never took it off. And it was worn very thin with oh, forty, fifty years, sixty years of wearing. And I said one time to her, “Mother, do you ever take it off?” She said, “No, son, I never have.”
When she died, I asked the funeral director for the ring. He couldn’t get it off. Her old gnarled hand had made it impossible. He couldn’t get it off. She was buried with the ring. Isn’t that a strange thing? I presume being worn so thin, the gold was worth a quarter, fifty cents, seventy-five cents, eighty-nine; but I would have treasured it had I been able to possess it. That’s the way people are. And that’s the way God is; a pearl of great price, for which He gave his life [Matthew 13:46; Ephesians 5:25].
Now there are some things that are made precious by the blood of our Lord. One is this Holy Book. Without Him it has no meaning, no pertinency, and no truth. Every syllable of this Holy Book was inspired by His sufferings, and bathed by His blood. This is the pearl of price [Matthew 13:46], for which He gave His life [Ephesians 5:25]. Without the atoning grace of our Lord, it has no message. There’s no life in it. There’s no gospel to be preached from it. But He made it timē, precious, of value beyond compare [Ephesians 5:25]. This is the pearl of price [Matthew 13:46].
The pearl of price is this congregation, the church of the living God [Matthew 13:46]. It is one of the most beautiful expositions to be found in the Bible, when Paul says, in the fifth chapter of Ephesians, beginning at verse 25:
Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it. . .
For we are members of His flesh, and of His bones, and of His body.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his wife; and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mustērion: but I speak concerning Christ and His church.
[Ephesians 5:25, 30-32]
What does He mean? “This is a great mustērion,” a great secret that God kept in His heart until He revealed it to His holy apostles [Ephesians 3:3-5].
What it is, is Paul is expounding upon a passage in Genesis, in the story when God put Adam into a deep sleep, and took out of his side, Bible never refers to a rib, and took out of his side and made Eve, and brought her to him [Genesis 2:21-22]. And when Adam looked upon her, he said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” [Genesis 2:23], because she was taken from his side, from near his heart.
“This is a great mustērion: but I speak concerning Christ and His church” [Ephesians 5:32]; that is, we also have been taken out of the side of our Lord. We were born in His cross, in His blood, in His sobs, in His tears. We were taken from His side [Genesis 2:21]. The church was born in the atoning grace and the love of Christ; the pearl of price, this church [Matthew 13:46].
I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of thine abode,
The church our blest Redeemer saved
With 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 Thine hand.
For her my tears shall fall;
To her my pray’rs ascend;
To her my cares and toils be giv’n
Till toils and cares shall end.
[from “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord,” Timothy Dwight]
The pearl of price [Matthew 13:46].
I think America is a pearl of price. There’s not a schoolboy, there’s not a schoolgirl but who knows that God kept America separate and apart from the conquistadors who came seeking gold and exploitation. The Lord placed those great Antilles, those islands of the Caribbean, and they shut off the coming of the Spaniard. He landed there and in South America. Not one time did Columbus ever set foot on the shores of North America.
God kept it apart, and sealed it away for the coming of the Pilgrim, who came not seeking gold and exploitation, but came seeking a place to build church, and house, and home, and school. And the foundations of our nation were laid in the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God and the men who pressed over the Alleghenies through the great wildernesses of the heartland of Kentucky and Tennessee, and over these vast prairies, and finally to the Pacific were men who were preaching the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. They founded the institution and the churches that bless us today. America in these days passed has been a nation who lived in the fear of the Lord and who walked in the glory of God. I do not think that God will devote to destruction a nation of churches, where people pray, where the congregations send out missionaries, where the gospel is preached. God bless and God save America.
The pearl of price is you [Matthew 13:46], it is I, for whom the Lord laid down His life, that we might be saved [Ephesians 5:25]. Did you know one of the most unusual things I ever witnessed in my life was on a railroad train in the days when people rode the train long ago? I was on the way to a Southern Baptist Convention––this is over forty years ago––I was on a train to a Southern Baptist Convention, and coming back there were a few Christian men on the train. And on the train also was a man of a vile and blasphemous mouth. Some men seemingly are just born dirty, and this fellow was one of those foul-mouthed, vile-speaking fellows. And as he talked, every other word was a curse word, using the name of our Lord in vain, Jesus Christ.
You know what happened? In the midst of one of his vile speakings, using the Lord’s name in vain, this man, something I never in the world have enough nerve to do, this man walked over to him, and put his hand softly and gently on his shoulder, and said, “Sir, excuse me, but the name you are using is that of my Lord, and He means everything to me. You see,” he said, “He saved me and He changed my life, and I owe everything to Him. And it hurts me to hear you use His name in a blasphemous way.”
I’d never seen that before nor have I since. And you can see the memory of what that man said about his Lord has stayed in my heart ever since. “You see, He has done so much for me, and He means so much to me.” Isn’t that the truth? Man, don’t you wish you had the vocabulary, the language, the perorations, the imagery, the adjectives to describe what the Lord has done for us?
At the end of the service this morning, one of the men came to me and said, “See that couple there?” and pointed to them. They joined the church last Sunday while I was away. He said, “Their home was breaking up. They were preparing to tear it asunder. And they came here and began hearing you preach.” And he said, “Listening to you preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, they gave their hearts and lives to the Lord. And now they’re happy and fellow members with us in the church.” Man, that’s great. That’s wonderful. That’s what God can do. That’s our Lord who loved us and gave Himself for us [Ephesians 5:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3].
In a moment we stand and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family, a couple, or just you, “Tonight, I give my heart in faith to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:8-13; Ephesians 2:8]. I ask Him to forgive me my sins [1 John 1:9], to write my name in His Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15]; and when He comes, to come for me too. I want to belong to the family of God. I want to be a member of the household of faith. I want to be with the people of the Lord. When you march to Zion, I want to get in step with you. And when the saints go marching in, may I be also in their number? And I’m coming. Pastor, this is my wife; we’re all here.” Or just you; as the Spirit presses the appeal to your heart, make it now. And the great throngs who have listened on this radio, if you don’t know Jesus, right where you are, He is. And He gave his life for you [1 Corinthians 15:3]. Open your heart. “Lord Jesus, find a home in me.” And here, as we stand to sing, somebody you, a family you coming on the way. God bless you, angels attend you, while we stand and while we sing.
THE PEARL OF PRICE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Treasure hid in a field – Israel (Matthew 13:44)
1. Second return of our Savior (1 Thessalonians 5:2)
B. God has another treasure, the pearl of price – we (Matthew 13:45-46)
1. We are the great possession for whom He gave His all
C. Polu time – preciousness, price of immeasurable worth and desire
1. Description used in the Bible (Mark 14:3, 1 Peter 2:7)
D. Pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6)
1. What to us is precious, to others is junkII. Things made precious by the blood of Jesus
A. Holy Scriptures
1. Every syllable bathed by His blood, inspired by His suffering
B. The church (Ephesians 5:25, 30-32)
1. A great musterion(Genesis 2:23)
D. You and I – that we might be saved
1. Foul-mouthed man on the train