In Matthew 13:45-46 Jesus said, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (NKJV). Before I explain the meaning of this precious parable, I feel compelled to explain the false interpretation that has been given by many in Christendom. In their view the MERCHANT is “the sinner” who is seeking salvation; the PEARL is “the Savior”; and in order to “acquire the salvation the Savior offers” the sinner must “give up all he/she has”; in other words, the sinner must EARN SALVATION BY GOOD WORKS AND SELF-DENIAL. This couldn’t be further from the truth, for we read in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that NOT OF YOURSELVES; it is the gift of God, NOT OF WORKS, lest anyone should boast.” Now let’s examine the parable and its true meaning by going over each key phrase:

“A merchant seeking beautiful pearls”: The MERCHANT is none other than the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to this earth to save sinners. In Luke 19:10 Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come TO SEEK and TO SAVE that which was lost.” In love for you and me (for we are all lost sinners…Romans 3:23) Jesus left the heights of glory and came to this rebellious planet “to seek and to save” us.

“Who, when he had found ONE PEARL of great price”: The ONE PEARL speaks of “the church” which would become His eternal bride. We shall see this clearly as we consider the next phrase.

“Went and sold all that he had and bought it”: In order for the Lord Jesus to save sinners and to purchase His bride He had to “give all that He had.” This speaks, dear friend, of the Savior’s DEATH on the cross, for we read in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and GAVE HIMSELF FOR IT.” The Lord Jesus had to suffer untold pain and agony on the cross and then die to pay the price our sins deserved. The prophet Isaiah speaks of this in Isaiah 53:5-6, 10: “But He was wounded for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all…Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin.” God judged His Son for our sins so the Lord Jesus could make us His Bride! Just as a pearl is formed inside of an oyster through intense irritation, so the church is being formed by Christ’s suffering on Calvary. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1st Peter 3:18). Through those sufferings and His death He has PURCHASED believing sinners, as we see in Acts 20:28, “…the church of God which HE PURCHASED WITH HIS OWN BLOOD.”

We could end on that note, but some may be thinking, “How could the Lord Jesus look upon lost sinners as a “beautiful pearl of great price?” That is a good question for we (sinners) are anything but “beautiful” in God’s sight before we are redeemed. This thought is conveyed quite forcefully in the words of a famous hymn: “Alas! and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die? Would He devote that sacred head FOR SUCH A WORM AS I” (composed by Isaac Watts). The answer then must NOT be that the Lord Jesus saw us as “beautiful sinners,” but He saw us as the “beautiful bride” that WE WOULD BECOME AFTER HE REDEEMED US! Again, we noted that a beautiful pearl is formed through an act of irritation; it is NOT beautiful until the oyster goes through the process of suffering. And so it is with the church, the bride of Christ. We were NOT BEAUTIFUL BEFORE CHRIST SUFFERED FOR US, but AFTER He “suffered for our sins, the just for the unjust.” This will be fully realized when we finally get to heaven, for we read in Ephesians 5:27, “That He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”  (422.5)  (DO)