Sunday 30th August 2020

The Pearl of Great Price

Matthew 13:45-46

Coming as it does between some of Jesus’ other parables, there has been a common interpretation of this parable which says that the pearl represents salvation and the buyer is a picture of the lost sinner. This sinner does all that he can to obtain salvation. He works and pays any price to get his soul saved.

But that cannot be right for we know the Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no-one may boast.’

So, the correct interpretation of the parable is this.

The merchant is Jesus, the pearl is the church and the great price is Jesus death on the cross of Calvary. It is God who was willing to pay any price to save lost people from certain death in hell.

As we pointed out to the children earlier, the Bible often uses symbols drawn from nature to teach us important lessons and today I want to think about this pearl of great price and the lessons we can learn from it.

  1. The Pearl is the Product of Suffering

A pearl is formed when an oyster gets a grain of sand, or a similar foreign body, trapped in its soft flesh within its shell.

A bit like when we get something in our eye, this piece of sand irritates the tender oyster and it responds by coating the grain of sand with layer upon layer of a substance called nacre (neigh-cur), which is basically saliva and calcium. It is this same substance that coats the inside of the oyster’s shell and is called ‘mother of pearl.’

So, the pearl comes about as a result of pain.

The church was also born out of pain and suffering, Jesus’ pain, and He died for sinners – us!

Because of His great love for us, God gave us salvation as a free gift. But just because it was free doesn’t mean that it was cheap! Jesus gave His all to save His church.

  1. The Pearl is formed from Something Worthless.

A pearl starts with a worthless object, a piece of dirt, a grain of sand, a bone fragment from a dead fish, and so on.

The church of Jesus Christ is also formed from something without value, former hell-bound sinners, saved by grace!

We too were worthless, on the road to damnation, before Jesus called us back from the brink.

  1. The Pearl is a Composite

At least three materials are used in the formation of the pearl, the original irritant, saliva and calcium. Pearls come in all shapes, sizes and colours, but they are all still pearls.

The church too is composed of all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. Often we seem to have only one thing in common, but that is the most important thing, we have all been saved by the blood of the Lord, Jesus, Christ.

John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.’

But do you believe in Jesus?

You know it is easy to drift into a life of religious observance, going to church and sitting on the edge of things, without making a personal commitment.

Have you put your trust in the Lord who died that you might live?

  1. The Pearl Grows Gradually

Once the piece of grit has lodged itself in the oyster, the pearl develops very slowly. It can take anything from 5 to 20 years and the longer the pearl stays in the shell, the larger it becomes.

God has been gradually building, or growing, His church in the world. It has been growing for over 2,000 years but only as the Holy Spirit has convicted and saved sinners.

And this has been the pattern from the beginning.

Acts 2:47,  ‘And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.’

Sometimes we may go along and despite our faithful service and preaching of the gospel it seems as if no-one is being added to the church here, among us.

But we must always remember that the Lord is still building His church and when the time is right, the growth will come. It is God’s work, and He always continues with it.

  1. The Pearl is a Hidden Work

The pearl grows hidden inside the oyster, under the water, where no-one can see it happening.

And in similar manner, no-one can see the growth of God’s church.

We can see the visible, local church, but we cannot see the invisible. The visible church is the expression of Christianity that we see around us, the gatherings and practices in various church buildings on a Sunday.

The invisible church is the true church which only God can see, born-again believers, past, present and future.

Because not everyone who attends church or performs religious deeds is saved, so the visible church includes people who are not believers. The invisible church is comprised of the redeemed and sealed by God.

The truth is that none of us can tell about the heart of another. We can only tell about ourselves. That is why the Bible tells us to ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.’ Philippians 2:12.

We need to think seriously about this. Just because we come to church and have always come to church doesn’t necessarily mean we are saved. Attending church doesn’t make us a member of the body of Christ – the Church.

So what does?

Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

  1. The Pearl is a Valuable Object

Pearls can be worth a fortune.

Up until quite recently the largest pearl was the Lao-Tzu Pearl which weighs 6.4kg and is worth £26.6m. A couple of years ago a pearl was recovered from storage where it had lain for years and years. It weighs 27kg, is the size of a baby, and is worth £70m.

A pearl will only be found in 1 out of 10,000 oysters and this makes some strings of pearls literally worth millions!

And the Church is worth a fortune to God.

After all, He paid the ultimate price, the death of His Son, to save us from hell.

But the church isn’t just of great worth to God the church is also of great value to the world even though the world doesn’t know it. The church stands as a restraining force against the tide of evil that will one day sweep over the entire world.

And never forget that the church is the place where our children, the next generations, learn about the things of God.

It is here they learn to worship Him, to honour Him, to praise Him and to live for Him.

Therefore the church is worth any price that we might have to pay to keep her active and keep her strong. It is worth our praying, our giving, our serving, our sacrificing. The church is worth all that we can give to her.

  1. The Pearl is Indivisible.

The pearl is the only gem, known to man, that cannot be cut. Other gems, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires are cut and made into smaller, more valuable stones, but the pearl cannot be divided. If a pearl is cut it destroys all it’s worth.

The visible church, today, may be divided in the eyes of men with all the different factions and sects and groupings. But the true church of Jesus will always stand together.

Repeatedly in the New Testament we are told to live in harmony, to be united, to love one another.

Philippians 1:27, ‘You must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ……..standing together with one spirit and one purpose fighting together for the faith.’

Please take heed, when any church is divided it loses its value in the world. There is a great need for us to be of one mind and one accord.

How we behave reflects on Jesus.

Do we want our actions to cause the world to think badly of Him?

  1. The Pearl Reflects Light

One of the outstanding qualities of a pearl is its ability to reflect light. The lustre of a pearl, or its lack thereof, can dramatically affect its value.

The church is to reflect the light of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So our ability to reflect Christ’s light either increases or decreases our value in His service.

  1. The Pearl is a thing of Immense Beauty

Pearls have been used for centuries to adorn the wealthy and powerful. They are considered to be of great beauty and wearing them enhanced the beauty of the wearer.

The church too is a beautiful thing. Here we are a collection of sinners, saved by the grace of God and headed to a city called heaven.

Right now our true beauty may not be so obvious, but one day in heaven we will have a new body and it will be perfect, without ache or pain or blemish.

We will cast off the burdens and cares of this world and bathe in the glory of God’s light.

Just a few other thoughts as we close.

  1. The Pearl is Round

It has no beginning and no end and this reminds us of the eternal nature of the church.

  • There is only One Pearl in an oyster

And there is only one true church.

  1. The Pearl is White

Which speaks of purity and we are to live pure lives, not following the world.

So when Jesus compared the church to a ‘Pearl of Great Price’ he knew what He was talking about.

After all that He has done for it, through it, in it and to it, it is easy to see the high place that the church holds in our Lord’s heart.

So, I think there are a couple of questions we should be asking ourselves and I’m going to leave you to reflect on them in the week ahead.

Are you a member of the true church? Are you saved?

If you are saved, are you doing everything in your power to make sure our church is the beautiful thing God designed it to be?

The reality is that the church will never be better than her members! So, are we all we should be?

Are we all we could be?

Is there room for First Donaghadee Presbyterian Church to become more like a pearl of great price?

May the Lord bless us all.