|Readers Question / Comment - In what way were the false teachers 'bought' by Christ?|
Dear Brother Gordon:
Thank you so much for the reply. I’d suspected that the explanation rests with Matt. 13:38, 44. The only thing that I wonder is this: if the context is viewed, Matt. 13:38 is in the context of Matt. 13:36-43, not Matt. 13:44 (which has a different context). Could you please explain your reasoning (though I do very much agree with it)? Also (if I might ask this), do you know of any others who hold this view (that Matt. 13:44, or even maybe the whole of Matt. 13:38-46, is about Christ purchasing the entire world)? It’s just that I agree with it (I’ve held such a view of Matt. 13:38, 44, etc, for a rather long time), and was wondering (1) how many others hold this view or have work on it, and (2) how these parables fit Dispensationally in the context of Matt. 13? Sorry if this is rather confusing or repetitive; I’m just trying to process and work through this topic and the great aids you’ve given me here. The one thing, though, that I must say (and I suspect you agree with) is that one small piece of text (2 Pet. 2:1) isn’t enough to turn over hundreds of others (all of which address either salvation by faith alone or eternal security); a solution to 2 Pet. 2:1 exists--I’m just searching for it, and, with your help, I think I’ve made at least a small breakthrough.
- beloved in Christ, your brother Nathan.
the thought that the 'field' is the world in the parable of the treasure in the field is very common. There is a totally different interpretation of the parable where it is the sinner that finds the treasure (Christ) and gives up all he has to buy the field... but this interpretation does no justice to the text (as Gaebelein will go into below). Most commentators, especially those who can distinguish between God's plan for the church and the fulfillment of His promises to the nation of Israel, make a distinction between the treasure parable and the pearl parable, with the treasure being the redeemed of Israel and the pearl (from the sea) being a picture of the gentile believers. Anyway, here are a few references and quotes from some commentators:
J. Vernon McGee:
"The "treasure" is Israel. The "field" is the world. The "man" is the Son of man who gave Himself to redeem the nation Israel. This is not a sinner buying the gospel because the gospel is not hidden in a field. Israel, however, is actually buried in the world today."
Believers Bible Commentary (William MacDonald:
"We would suggest that the man is the Lord Jesus Himself. (He was the man in the parable of the wheat and tares, v. 37.) The treasure represents a godly remnant of believing Jews such as existed during Jesus' earthly ministry and will exist again after the church is raptured (see Psa_135:4 where Israel is called God's peculiar treasure). They are hidden in the field in that they are dispersed throughout the world and in a real sense unknown to any but God. Jesus is pictured as discovering this treasure, then going to the cross andgiving all that He had in order to buy the world (2Co_5:19; 1Jo_2:2) where the treasure was hidden. Redeemed Israel will be brought out of hiding when her Deliverer comes out of Zion and sets up the long-awaited Messianic Kingdom."
From of old, Israel was recognized as God’s special treasure (Exod. 19:5). The Lord Himself is represented by the man who found and hid this treasure. At Calvary He sold all that He had and bought the field, which is the world (v. 38). At present the treasure remains hidden. When Israel turns to the Lord, they will be manifested as Jehovah’s peculiar treasure (Mai. 3:17 RV), and through them blessing will come to all the Gentile nations.Annotated Bible Commentary (A.C Gaebelein) I'll quote his whole comments on it in case you are interested but will highlight a few bits that are relevant to what you were asking...
"After our Lord dismissed the crowds, He went into the house and here, in answer to the request of the disciples, He expounded the second parable. It was given to them, as it is given to us, to know the mysteries of the kingdom. We have looked at this divine interpretation before, and so we can at once proceed with the three parables which follow and which our Lord speaks to His disciples in the house. Two of these, the parable of the treasure hid in the field and the parable of the one pearl of great price, belong together. After these the Lord concludes His teaching of the mysteries with the parable of the dragnet.
“The kingdom of the heavens is like a treasure hid in the field, which a man having found has hid, and for the joy of it goes and sells all whatever he has, and buys that field. Again the kingdom of the heavens is like a merchantman seeking beautiful pearls; and having found one pearl of great value, he went and sold all whatever he had and bought it” (Mat_13:44-46). That these two parables are closely connected is seen by their similarity. In both a man is mentioned, and he sells in each all he has to obtain what he esteems precious. In the first, he finds a treasure in the field and hides it there, while he buys the field to possess the treasure. In the second, he sells all to obtain one pearl of great value. There is, of course, a difference likewise. The treasure is in the field; it is deposited there. The field is bought, and with it the treasure. The one pearl comes out of the sea; its value is greater than the treasure in the field, of which it is not said that it has a great value. Again, a treasure may be increased or decreased, there may be taken away from it or added to it; the one pearl, however, is complete, its value and beauty are fixed.
As we turn to the interpretation of these parables, we are obliged to follow the same course which we followed with the preceding parables. We have to set aside the commonly accepted view. We have to show once more that the almost universal exposition and application of the parables by evangelical Christendom is wrong, unscriptural and conflicting with other parts of God’s Word. We shall have to use the sharp knife again, to lay bare the errors of the teachings taken from the treasure in the field and the one pearl. Only in this way can we get at the root of the matter, and see the true meaning and understand the mysteries of the kingdom.
Perhaps the Best way to mention the erroneous interpretation is to quote the father of Protestantism, Martin Luther. His comment on these two parables is about the best expression of the accepted theories, what our Lord meant with the treasure and the pearl. Luther said:
“The parable of the treasure means, that we vainly seek the kingdom of God by our works and exertion, or the works of the law. For we are not born of the blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man. The Jews had the field, but did not see the treasure in it. But the Gentiles bought the field with the treasure; that is the law with Christ The hidden treasure is the Gospel, which gives us grace and righteousness without our merit. Therefore when one finds it, it causes joy; that is a good, cheerful conscience, which cannot be secured by any good works.
“The parable of the pearl is almost of the same import as the preceding one, except that the former speaks of the finding and this of the seeking. Therefore he speaks here of a growing faith, and signifies therewith that the pearl was not unknown, but that it had been heard of, as being of great price. Here the merchantman is intent only, that he may possess the one pearl. For this is also the nature of the Christian life, that he who has begun it imagines he has nothing, but he reaches out for it, and constantly presses onward, that he may obtain it.” (Luther’s Explanatory Notes on the Gospels. p.82.)
This mode of interpretation has been strictly followed by commentators. H.A.W. Meyer, a leading expositor of the New Testament, declares “the kingdom, the most valuable possession, must be taken hold of by a joyful sacrifice of all earthly things.” Another one says: “The treasure and the pearl are pictures of the great value of the kingdom of the heavens. To possess them one has to sacrifice all his other goods” (Prof. Holtzmann). P. Lange, so well known, declares: “True Christianity is like an unexpected discovery, even in the ancient church. It is the best possession we can find, a gilt of free grace. Every sinner must find and discover Christianity for himself. In order to secure possession, even of what we found with no merit of our own, we must be willing to sacrifice all; for salvation, though entirely of free grace, requires the fullest self-surrender.” But enough of this. It is the general way of interpreting these two parables by making the man who sells all to obtain the treasure and the merchantman, the unsaved sinner. The Gospel, salvation, the grace of God, or as some term it “religion,” is, according to this, represented in the treasure and the one pearl of great value. That such a theory is unreconcilably clashing with the very heart of the gospel is but little considered.
Gospel sermons, so-called, are preached, in which the sinner is exhorted to give up, to sell all, in order to become a Christian, to surrender the world and himself and then to find the pearl of great value. But is this the Gospel? We answer, No! The sinner has no sacrifice to bring. All his trying to surrender himself or giving Up the world can never secure for him eternal life or the grace of God. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” was spoken by a self-righteous Pharisee, the young ruler, and the Lord answers him, who came to him with the law and as under the law, accordingly, and tells him to sell all he has and give it to the poor and follow him. But this is not the gospel, but the law, which says, “Do and live.” To preach the Gospel to sinners and tell them to do, to give up and to receive, is fundamentally wrong. The Gospel of grace does not ask of the sinner to sell all he has to receive the grace of God and eternal life, but the Gospel of grace offers to every sinner eternal life as God’s gift, a free gift, in Christ Jesus. The Word of God, it is true, speaks of buying; but what kind of buying is it? “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Is. 4:1, 2). It is buying without money and without price.
The giving up, the surrender, follows when a person is saved and has received the grace of God, but never before. We see that to teach, the man who finds the treasure is the sinner, and the sinner is to sell all to obtain the possession of Christ, or the merchantman is the sinner who obtains a pearl, eternal life, by giving up all, is wrong teaching. (How strange that even the simple Gospel is so little known, and there is more and more the preaching of a Gospel, which is another. A nauseating mixture of law and grace.) The Lord never meant in these parables to describe the seeking and the finding of the sinner.
The difficulty which is so apparent in the first of these two parables is but little dealt with by preachers who make the Gospel out of it. According to this wrong application the sinner would have to buy the field to obtain the treasure, the Gospel. What is the field? One of the above mentioned commentators makes of it “the external, worldly ecclesiasticism.” This is simply a human opinion. We know what the field is. We need not to ask Dr. Luther, Lange, or any other man, what means the field. The Lord has given us the key. “The field is the world.” This is the meaning of the word field in the first two parables. Who would say that the word “field” means anything different in the fifth parable? The field is the world.If the sinner is meant by the man who buys the field, it would mean that the sinner has to buy the world. There is no sense whatever in giving these two parables such an application.
Again, in the two first parables a person is spoken of -- the sower, the man who sowed the good seed. This Man in the first two parables is the Lord Himself. In the two parables before us the man and the merchantman stand for the same person, and this person is identical with the man in the first and second parables; in other words, the man who bought the field and the treasure in it, and the merchantman, who sold all to obtain one pearl of great value, is the Lord Himself. It is not the unsaved seeking and finding salvation, but it is the Saviour seeking the sinner, purchasing the field, buying the treasure in it, giving up all to possess one pearl of great value.
As we look upon it in this light we have indeed the blessed Gospel. He, who was rich, became poor for our sakes, that by His poverty we might become rich. He, who subsisted in the form of God, emptied Himself. He came down, He gave up, He gave all and was obedient unto death, unto the death of the cross. Both parables teach the same great truth, Christ, the Saviour, who came to seek that which is lost and who has purchased the field and found in it a treasure, which is His, and obtained one pearl of great value. But the question arises, if this is the case, why two parables? If the finding man and the seeking merchantman is our Lord, why should His work in giving up and selling all be mentioned twice? Why is a treasure mentioned first and then a pearl? and why is the purchased treasure hid, while the one pearl of great value comes evidently first into the possession of the merchantman?
The Lord certainly speaks here of a twofold mystery of the kingdom of the heavens and of two different objects, which He obtained by His work of redemption. When He mentions the treasure hid in the field, which is His by purchase, He means His earthly people, Israel. The one pearl of great value, taken out of the sea; the one pearl, beautiful and complete, means the church, the one body. We have in these two parables the mystery of Israel and the mystery of the church; of both mysteries the Holy Spirit witnesses in the epistles by the Apostle of the Gentiles, to whom these mysteries were made known.
Israel is the treasure in the field. “Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine” (Exo_19:5). “For the Lord hath chosen Jacob for Himself and Israel for His peculiar treasure” (Psa_135:4). When He came from heaven He found His people in the field. He bought the whole world and with it, inclusive, the people who are His earthly treasure. “He died for that nation” is spoken of His blessed work (Joh_11:51). However, we do not read that He got possession of the treasure; it is rather the thought which we get from it, that the treasure found is hid still in the field which He bought by so great a price, for the sake of owning that treasure. And in this we have the key, why this is introduced in these parables of the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens.
Israel is the Lord’s peculiar treasure. He has purchased His earthly people. They shall be yet his peculiar treasure, displaying in the earth, in the coming age, all the excellencies of Himself. They will be justified, a separated and Spirit-filled people. In Balaam’s prophecies the Spirit of God speaks of what Israel is in God’s eyes through the redemption work of Jehovah. The Lord died for that nation, and still the results of His death are not yet manifested. Israel is hid in the field, in the world. The Lord will come again and return to the field, the world, once more. He comes to claim His inheritance. Then He will lift the treasure, then He claims His people Israel and they will rejoice in His salvation. During this age, the age of an absent Lord, Israel is kept hid in the field. This is one of the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens. It corresponds to Rom_11:25 : “For I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, of this mystery, that ye be not wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the nations be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved. According as it is written: The Deliverer shall come out of Zion ; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” Alas! Christendom is wise in their own conceits and has ignored, yes completely ignored this mystery. It declares that “God hath cast away His people and there is no hope for Israel .” Christendom forgets that Israel is the treasure in the field, purchased by the blood, the precious blood of the Son of God, and that He, who is like a man who has gone to a far country, will come again to claim the earth and lift His peculiar treasure Israel. Much more might be said on all this, but we are obliged to turn to the meaning of the one pearl of great value.
This one pearl is the Church. “He loved the Church and gave Himself for it,” thus it is written, and here in the parable He declares this precious truth Himself. The pearl is taken out of the sea. Way down on the dark bottom of the ocean is the shell, the house of an animal, and in this animal, by its work, the beautiful pearl is produced. A small grain of sand, we are told, imbeds itself between the animal and the shell and creates by its presence a wound in the side of the animal. Upon this miserable grain of sand the animal deposits a thin crust of a brilliant material. How often this is repeated no one can tell, one deposit after the other is made, till at last in the side of the animal there is found a most beautiful pearl, a pearl of great price, a pearl in which the colors of the rainbow of the heavens are wonderfully blended together. It is taken up and becomes the well nigh priceless jewel in the crown of some mighty monarch.
We see at once why our Lord used the pearl as the type of the church, which He loved and gave Himself for it. Like Eve who was taken out of the side of Adam, so His blessed side was opened and out of that side is building His church. Like the pearl, the church is one, though composed of many countless members known to Him alone. This one pearl is still forming out of His side. The one pearl is still in the dark waters of the sea. How many more members will be added to this one pearl we do not know. How long it will be yet, before the Lord takes her unto Himself into the air, to adorn Himself with that precious pearl, none can tell. The church belongs to Him, and will be with Him in the heavenlies. Of what great value must this one pearl be to Him, that He gave all for it? What glories will He receive from the possession of that pearl and what a beautiful object will be the pearl in the possession of the heavenly and eternal merchantman?
When He comes to take possession of Israel, the treasure, and of the world, His church will be with Him. And what else might be said of this precious parable! May we meditate on it, and rejoice in that love which gave up all to take us out of our ruin and loss untold, and make us the objects of His marvelous grace."
All the best,