The hidden Treasure and the costly pearl
THE fact that the series of parables in Matt. xiii. consists of seven in number is sufficiently obvious to arrest the attention of a very ordinary reader of the chapter. But it is further to be noted that Mark is commissioned to record an additional parable (that of the secret growth of the seed, Mark iv. 26-29), spoken, (it should seem) on the same occasion but omitted by Matthew, while on the other hand, Mark does not give more than two out of the seven in the first evangelist, but adds that "with many such parables spake he the word unto them as they were able to hear it" (Mark v. 33). This consideration justifies the thought, if indeed justification of such a thought be in any wise necessary, that the seven parables before us were selected by the Holy Ghost, and so arranged for some specific purpose.
Without illustrating by examples the remarkable prevalence of the number "seven" throughout the Holy Scriptures, it may be helpful to refer to a well-known series in the Old Testament and another in the New.
Under the law, the Israelites were commanded to observe seven feasts in the first seven months of the sacred year (Lev. xxiii.). Each of these was typical of succeeding events in the national history. The feast of the passover has a reference to the sacrifice of Christ as 1 Cor. v. 'conclusively proves. This was immediately followed by that of unleavened bread, typifying the holy state which is the sure result of the shed blood of God's Lamb, true to faith now and universally in a future day. The sheaf of firstfruits undoubtedly points to the resurrection of Christ on the third day; even as the feast of wave loaves, baken with leaven, shadowed forth the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was outpoured from on high and the church was formed. This feast was in Sivan or the third month, and the fifth feast was not arranged till the seventh month. After this considerable interval the feast of trumpets came at the new moon, with its prophetic reference to that still future and effective summons God shall make to His ancient people. This was quickly succeeded by the day of atonement, in which they were to afflict their souls. It will be duly fulfilled when Israel is restored and shares the results of Christ's death for them. Then shall ensue the millennial joy of which the final feast, that of tabernacles, was the appointed type.
This rapid sketch will suffice to show that the series of feasts of Jehovah was meant to outline a complete cycle of events in the history of God's people, part of which even now awaits fulfilment.
Somewhat analogous are the addresses to the seven churches of Asia (Rev. ii., iii.), They present successive phases in the history of the professing church from the decline of heart at Ephesus, through stages of indifference to and abandonment of the truth, on to the lifeless profession at Laodicea. These epistles therefore span the period from the apostolic days until the removal of the true and the destruction of the false church.
By these instances the way is prepared to see in the seven parables of Matt. xiii. a representation of the rise, progress, and end of the kingdom. But while this is true, it must be remembered that the Lord delineates the kingdom in that peculiar form which it assumes in consequence of the rejection of Himself the King and during the time of His absence. And this fact is very clearly and definitely conveyed in the former chapters of the Gospel. There it is very carefully shown that Jesus of Nazareth was undoubtedly Israel's Messiah, perfectly fulfilling what God had spoken beforehand by the mouth of His holy prophets. It is likewise shown with equal distinctness that, though He was undoubtedly the Saviour Who was to come, and though He wrought many mighty works in proof of the same, the nation refused to own their King; so that the kingdom could not then be manifested in the glory of which the prophets had spoken. The implacable spirit of rejection was displayed by the Pharisees in a most unmistakable way when they ascribed the miraculous power He exhibited to a Satanic origin (Matt. ix. 34; xii. 24). No manner of sin or blasphemy could exceed this. It struck not only at the Son of man but against the Holy Ghost by Whom He was ever energized. It could not be passed over (Matt. xii. 31). Accordingly in the succeeding chapter we find that the Lord commenced to teach by means of parables the new form that the kingdom would assume in consequence of this irreconcilable opposition of the Jews.
The parables of Matt. xiii. are divisible into two groups, into one of which the first four fall as having been spoken to the multitudes, in contradistinction to the last three which were spoken privately to the disciples in the house. In the former group the manward aspects of the kingdom are pourtrayed: and in the latter those divine characteristics discernible alone to faith.
In the introductory parable of the sower and the soils, the Lord shows that all depended on the manner of the reception of the word of the kingdom. The sons of the kingdom would be not the natural seed of Abraham, but those who heard the word and understood it (ver. 23). In the other three parables of this group (the wheat and the tares, the mustard tree becoming a great tree, and the leavened meal) the Master unfolds the strange fact that, so far from evil being rooted out of the kingdom by the exercise of inflexible righteousness, it will spring up side by side with good, and eventually so permeate the kingdom as to impart its character to the whole.
The fulfilment of this prophecy, after the Lord went away, may be gathered from the inspired history of apostolic times, and may be observed in the condition of things surrounding us at the present moment. An absolutely pure Christian association is unknown. Evil men and evil principles creep in unawares, so that the Lord's servants are unable to distinguish between the wheat and the tares, and both are growing together until harvest. The poor and despised assembly of God left its first estate and became a prominent worldly power in the earth, thus affording a shelter for the very emissaries of evil that in its early stage were its sworn foes. And not only does this debased state of Christendom arise from an unholy alliance with worldly power, but evil originates from within, going on to leaven the whole lump. So the apostle warned the Ephesian elders, both of the grievous wolves that should enter in, not sparing the flock and also of men that should arise from themselves, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them (Acts xx. 29, 30). Deterioration would originate from interior as well as exterior causes.
This then would be the outward aspect of the kingdom as existing upon the earth, subsequent to the Lord's departure and prior to His return when His angels will gather out of His kingdom " all things that do offend and them which do iniquity" (Matt. xiii. 41). Herein it afforded a direct contrast to the prophetic descriptions of the Old Testament. They describe a state of righteousness and peace when the Lord Jesus sits upon the throne of David. Then evil will be subdued; and "truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven" (Ps. lxxxv. 11). But until then, as these parables show, evil is seen in closest association with good, even in that which hears the Lord's name.
However, in the succeeding parables spoken to the disciples only, that aspect of the kingdom is given which can be apprehended by faith alone. The natural eye would never discern the truth foreshadowed in the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price. What appears among men as an indiscriminate and heterogeneous mass is here shown to contain what is valuable and beautiful. At these two parables it is proposed to look more closely (D. V.), on a future occasion. In the last picture the final separation is presented as it affects the good rather than the evil.
THE HIDDEN TREASURE AND THE
It has already been intimated that, in the two parables or similitudes given in Matt. xiii. 44-46, the intrinsic worth and spiritual beauty to be found in the kingdom of heaven are shown as existing, in spite of the intermixture of evil which is apparent to the cursory glance. The wheat mingled with darnel, the wide spreading, umbrageous tree, the meal permeated with leaven were discernible to all, and must plainly set forth the general outward appearance. But the hidden treasure and the rare and costly pearl imply qualities that could only be appreciated by the finder. And so in the great mass of Christian profession, the eyes of the world are able to very readily detect the iniquity that shelters itself under the guise of religion; but only the Eye of omniscient grace is able to mark the internal worth and the indestructible unity existing beneath such an unpromising exterior.
The former of the two parables likens the kingdom of heaven to "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 " (Matt. xiii. 44).
The two prominent features in this parable are, first, the treasure hidden in the field; and second, the purchase of the field for the sake of the treasure.
In the first place then, what is signified by the figure of the bidden treasure? Some have hastily assumed from Prov. ii. 4 ("if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God") that the treasure is Christ; and that the parable has a figurative reference to the manner in which the blessings of the gospel are acquired. Without doubt, in Proverbs, the point is to inculcate a spirit of earnestness in pursuit of wisdom. As in seeking for silver and treasure, the energies are by that very fact stimulated, so it should be in the spiritual analogue. But in Matt. xiii. we have a similar figure used for a different purpose. Here it is not the diligence of the searcher, so much as the value of the treasure sought that is most prominent. Besides it is not the king but the kingdom that is likened to treasure hidden in a field.
If the general trend of the series of parables be borne in mind, the meaning of the figure before us appears on the surface. In the enunciation to the crowds of the similitudes of the outward form of the kingdom in mystery, the Lord used figures that spoke of good being largely alloyed with evil. Subsequently, to his own disciples, He gave the interpretation of the wheat and the tares which in general intention resembled the leavened meal and the wide-branched mustard tree. The Lord then likens the kingdom to hidden treasure, using a similitude that suggested a pure, unmixed character and not an amalgam as before. In point of fact, the terms in which this parable is expressed forbid us to think of anything but a view of the kingdom of heaven contrasted with those that precede. In the latter, elements (such as the tares, the leaven, the birds) are introduced which tend to diminish the value it possessed in its incipient stage: but here there is nothing of the kind, its value is given without a single mark of qualification.
The first consideration of this truth leads to the reflection that God's ways of sovereign grace must be marvellous indeed when He finds, in spite of man's irreparable sinfulness and his invariable abuse of everything entrusted to him, that which from His own point of view He represents by treasure. For whatever may be the slowness of man's heart to believe all that is written, the truth abides, here and in not a few other scriptures, that God in and by means of Christ has found His good pleasure in men.
But though undoubtedly the New Testament gives us this blessed revelation in its fullest application, a similar expression is used in the Old Testament concerning God's chosen nation. From Mount Sinai, the word of Jehovah came unto the children of Israel: — "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings and brought you unto myself. Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all peoples" (Exod. xix. 4, 5). On account however of the transgressions of the people under the first covenant, this purpose of God was never realised. Not that it was thereby abrogated, for it still holds good that Jehovah " hath chosen Jacob unto Himself, and Israel for His peculiar treasure" (Ps. cxxxv. 4). And in the millennial day this shall be owned by every nation, from the rising to the setting of the sun. For then Jehovah will save Israel, He will rejoice over her with joy, He will rest in His love, He will joy over her with singing (Zeph. iii. 17).
But in the present interval, while Israelis in strange lands, the Lord finds in the midst of His nominal kingdom where evil lifts its head in unrebuked defiance of good, that which His own heart esteems a special treasure. This treasure is not the favoured nation of Palestine, which, as has been shown does not come within the scope of this series of parables, but it is the N.T. saints in that ideal character which they possess in the mind and eternal purpose of God.
Now in the epistles of Paul, especially in that to the Ephesians, we have this character presented in the form of doctrine. In Matthew the time had not come to give more than a figurative reference to what the great apostle of the Gentiles was subsequently commissioned to communicate in detail. In his writings therefore, we learn that the church is destined and designed to be the vehicle for the display of divine grace and wisdom.
Thus in Ephesians, we are not only introduced to the inexpressible fulness of our blessing in Christ, but also to the inconceivable fact that by means of us His holy name will be magnified and exalted. "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace" (Eph. i. 5, 6), and again, " In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated, according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of His glory" (Eph. i. 11, 12). Here then (it is submitted with all due deference to the judgment of others) we see that character of the church in which it corresponds with the figure of " treasure " in Matt. xiii. 44. Treasure is such because of the use that may be made of it. And the saints are of value simply because God has deigned to utilize them as the media whereby to display His manifold wisdom. So the scriptures declare the purpose of God to be that "now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. iii. 10).
But this treasure is said to be "hidden in a field;" and the church, described in the Pauline epistles as a "mystery" is a secret, hitherto hidden but now made known), remarkably tallies with the figure. Compare Rom. xvi. 25, 26, Eph. iii. 4, 5, 9; Col. i. 26, ii. 2, 3. In this respect the church affords a contrast to the nation of Israel. For when the Israelites were called out of Egypt to be Jehovah's treasure (Exod. xix. 4-6), it was not said to be hid in a field. Because their deliverance from the oppressor and their introduction to Canaan was but the due accomplishment of promises made centuries previous to Abraham their forefather. But the calling and privileges of the church were never the subject of promise. From Genesis to Malachi no revelation from on high was given concerning the church of the heavenly calling. The mystery was hidden from the sons of men, hidden in God. The divine seeker alone was aware of its existence; He alone knew and appreciated its worth. Truly there is a day coming when the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matt. xiii. 43). But Christ discerns beforehand and divests Himself of all to obtain the treasure, — a treasure whose value is the product of His own grace and which apart from Him is worthless and worse.
THE HIDDEN TREASURE AND THE
THE second striking feature in the similitude of the hidden treasure is that the field was purchased for the purpose of acquiring the treasure: "the which when a man bath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he bath and buyeth that field."
In this particular, also, the analogy is in strict accordance with the doctrinal truth conveyed by inspiration to the apostolic churches, and through them to us and to all saints. For the Lord by means of His mighty work of redemption, purchased not believers only, but the world out of which they were taken. This is no matter of speculation but of revelation. Indeed the fact that in consequence of His death, the Lord bears a relation to all mankind and further to all creation, is repeated in scripture in various connections. He is Lord of all (Acts x. 36). He has received power over all flesh as well as to give eternal life to as many as the Father has given Him (John xvii. 2). He gave Himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time (1 Tim. ii. 6), as well as giving His life a ransom for many (Matt. xx. 28). He tasted death for every thing as well as for the many sons He is bringing to glory (Heb. ii. 9, 10). He reconciles not only those who were sometime alienated in their minds by wicked works, but all things whether in heaven or in earth (Col. i. 20, 21). The saints of to-day are His purchase or peculium (Eph. i. 14; 1 Peter ii. 9); but also of false teachers it is said, "who privily bring in damnable heresies, and deny the Lord who bought them " (2 Peter ii. 1).
There is therefore abundant witness that the Lord Jesus has obtained a right over the whole world including those who become heirs of salvation. So in the days of old it was under the title of the "Lord of all the earth" (Joshua iii. 13), that Jehovah drove out the Canaanites and established His chosen people in the promised land. And in a coming day the Lord Jesus shall be manifested in the fulness of His acquired glory. Then shall He receive the heathen for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession (Ps. ii. 8). But this is not in the present day. For in John xvii. 9, the Son said to His Father, "1 ask for them (the treasure); I ask not for the world (the field) but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine."
Along with this parabolic assertion of the universal Lordship of Christ, two attendant circumstances are given which call for remark: — (1) the joy of finding the treasure and anticipating its possession, and (2) the renunciation of all in order to acquire the treasure.
The prophets had borne witness to the joy of Jehovah over His people Israel when they shall be restored. "Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate; but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married… and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee " (Isa. lxii. 45). Compare also Isa. lxv. 19; Zeph. iii. 17. This however is during that blessed epoch, when " the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. xi. 9). But the truth in the parable is that, even during the period when tares, and leaven and unclean birds defile the kingdom of heaven, the saints constitute such a treasure in the Lord's own estimation as to afford Him abundant joy.
It is indeed marvellous and incomprehensible that grace should be delighted with objects such as we; nevertheless the fact remains. For Luke xv. shows that even one repentant sinner causes joy in the presence of the angels of God. Who then shall conceive with what exceeding joy the whole company of redeemed saints shall be presented faultless before the presence of His glory (Jude 24)? Doubtless the supposition that it is impossible that Christ should find joy in the acquisition of His own, or that they should be of value to Rim, has led to the popular interpretation of the actor of the parable being not Christ but the sinner. A well-known writer declares that to see Christ in the passage " strangely reverses the whole matter" and he characterises the view at its best to be no more than "ingenious"
But to any who are bound by the scripture the phrase, "for joy thereof," should offer an insurmountable difficulty to making the interpretation of the parable descriptive of man's entrance into the kingdom. For it is to be observed that the word nowhere teaches that the sinner receives the gospel with joyfulness, whatever joy may and does follow in due course (Rom. v. 2, 3, 11). In fact the same may be gathered from the parable of the sower in this very chapter. There we find that the one who received the word " with joy," was he who had no root in himself, and who, as soon as tribulation and persecution arose because of the word, was immediately stumbled. And not a word is mentioned as to joy in connection with the "good ground' hearers. And no support can be obtained from Acts ii. 41. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized"; for scholars are agreed that the word gladly " is an unwarranted interpolation. It is true the truth heals, but it does so because it first wounds. It leads to the Saviour which is joy indeed, but it previously convicts of sin which is never a pleasant process. The view in question therefore does not correspond with the plain statements of scripture. But passages have already been pointed out which show that the Lord finds joy in the redemption of His saints. In Heb. xii. 2, it says of Jesus, " Who for the joy set before him, endured the cross despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God."
We may therefore conclude that it is Christ who "for joy thereof " sold all He had and bought the field. For the sinner is never told to sell all that he has to purchase the gospel which is without money and without price. And the reference to the word to the ruler Go and sell that thou hast" (Matt. xix. 21), is of no avail whatever. For this was a test whether so rigid an observer of the law was able to take the path and position of a disciple of the rejected Messiah. He failed as all must, and thus really condemns the theory of those who rob the parable of its force. The allusion to Paul's renunciation of all things for Christ's sake, detailed in Phil. iii. 4-9, is also without point; for this was the experience of one who knew Christ. It is quite a different thing, having found Christ to yield up all for His sake, from surrendering all things as the condition of finding Him. The latter exists in the imaginations of men but not in the gospel.
But this leads to the second point: that the finder sells all that he has and buys the field. In what way was this fulfilled in Christ?
Surely in this that, though He came to the house of Israel as the promised seed of Abraham and of David to reign over the house of Jacob for ever, He renounced that earthly glory, which was and is His by oath and promise, in order that He might have the saints of the heavenly calling which manifestly could not be, had the kingdom then been set up in power. Thus in Matt. xvi. 20, directly He speaks of the assembly which will be composed of those who confess His name in the hour of His rejection, He charges His disciples to tell no man He is Christ. He puts aside His Jewish title, comes before them as the Son of the living God He is however rejected and crucified (Matt. xvi. 16; John xix. 7). But in resurrection He is offered to all, not to Jews alone; for the gospel delivers those who believe from all earthly distinctions and associates them with Christ on high. And this goes on even now, when the Lord waives His Jewish rights that He may gather His treasure out of the field.
HIDDEN TREASURE AND THE
COSTLY PEARL (Concluded).
IN considering these two parables, one can scarcely fail to be struck by their general resemblance. In both, the finder esteems his prize so highly that he is thereby constrained to part with all for the purpose of acquiring the same.
This points to the conclusion that the main subjects of the parables are intimately connected, if not identical. So that as the treasure has already been shown to indicate that nucleus of truth and faithfulness existing in the midst of a heterogeneous mass of profession, so does the pearl of great price figure that same nucleus, though of course in a different aspect. For the two parables before us give a double view of the "good" in the kingdom of heaven, just as the third and fourth of the series give the two characters of "evil," viz., the mustard tree, showing the outward conformation to the world and its ways, and the leaven, marking the corruption that permeates to the very core.
The difference between the parables of the treasure and the pearl seems to be that the first views the saints of God in their individual capacity as precious in the sight of the Lord, while the second discloses that remarkable unity which is a distinct characteristic of the children of God during the present interval. The term "treasure" might include gold, silver or any articles of value, and thus be of a very composite nature; but the beauty and value of the pearl depends entirely upon its homogeneity. So we find that in the latter parable the merchant is especially declared to have found "one pearl of great price."
It is of no small importance that the distinction thus laid down by these two parables at the very inception, so to speak, of the present order of divine things should he borne in mind. Dilating upon the privileges and responsibilities of the church to the obliteration of those of the individual is as far from the truth as exalting the individual at the expense of the church. To ignore, or even weaken either, must result in confusion of mind and failure of testimony.
And it was undoubtedly seen needful to unfold this dual relationship of the saints of God, at this juncture, lest it might be supposed that, in their remarkable unification, their recognition as individuals was thereby destroyed. We have therefore the parable of the treasure preceding that of the pearl. The interest of Christ in His own is shown to be towards them personally before it is collectively. They are said to be His, first severally, and then jointly.
We have this order in the presentation of these truths in the Epistle to the Ephesians even as here. The apostle there writes to the saints and faithful, and unfolds God's eternal purpose concerning them. He first enumerates the blessings they possess as individuals rather than as a corporate body. They were blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ (chap. i. 3). They were elected in Him before the foundation of the world (ver. 4). They were predestinated to the adoption of sons (ver. 5). They had redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (ver. 7). In Rim they had obtained an inheritance (ver. 11). In Him also, after they had believed, they were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (ver. 13). These all are the sure portion of every soul saved in this day of grace, both at Ephesus and everywhere else, Gentile or Jew. The blessings are common, as is the mighty power of God which quickens and raises them though previously dead in trespasses and sins.
But more than this. It is then particularly dwelt upon that Jew and Gentile, so long and so widely separated, are now seen alike children of wrath, once alike dead in sins; yea, also quickened together, raised together, and even seated together in Christ Jesus (Eph. ii.) To faith it is now displayed in the very heavenlies that the ancient distinction between Jew and Gentile is abolished. Indeed it could not be expected that any mere earthly privilege should hold good in the heavenlies, much less when all are viewed in Christ Jesus. Nothing could be a stronger affirmation of the establishment of an entirely new order of things than is here given. Far-off ones are made nigh in Christ Jesus. Both are made one by Him. He has made in Himself of twain one new (new " in point of character, not of time only) man. Both are reconciled to God in one body by the cross. He preached peace to the distant and to the nigh. Through Him both have access by one Spirit unto to the Father. Thus the Gentiles who were strangers and foreigners share, not only the personal blessings ("fellowcitizens with the saints and of the household of God "), but also the corporate ("are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together fur a habitation of God through the Spirit"), Eph. ii.
Clearly this was a revelation not heard of nor even hinted at before. Neither Old Testament history nor prophecy spoke of Jew and Gentile on one common platform. The mystery of Christ "in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit ; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heir and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (Eph. iii. 5, 6). Here again it is declared that the Gentiles, beside being " fellow-heirs " which might not exclude class distinctions, were of the " same body." So that the " unity of the Spirit" (Eph. iv. 4) is of an altogether unique character, and neither known nor prophesied of before.
In the millennium, Israel most certainly will not be merged in the other nations, nor on the other hand will the Gentiles be advanced to the same level as the Jew. In that day God's ancient people shall be the "head" and not the " tail." The seed of Israel " shall inherit the Gentiles and make the desolate cities to be inhabited" (Isa. liv. 3). The supremacy of the people shall be owned; for "many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek Jehovah of hosts in Jerusalem and to pray before Jehovah. Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, in those days it shall come to pass that ten men shall take hold, out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you " (Zech. viii. 22, 23). Again, " Many nations shall cone and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many peoples and rebuke strong nations afar off" (Micah iv. 2, 3). These scriptures are surely sufficiently explicit to decide that the pearl would be no suitable figure for the kingdom set up in power, when the Gentiles will be subordinate to the Jews, in no way brought into such an intimate unity with them as is described in the Epistle to the Ephesians as existing at the present moment.
In the Epistles the figure to which this unity is referred is that of the human body. "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Cor. xii. 12, 13). Compare also Rom. xii. 5; Eph. iv. 12; Col. i. 18. This figure is beautifully adapted to illustrate the unity resulting from the co-ordination of the various component parts. The members however diverse in themselves are harmonized by the Spirit of God and brought into a state of mutually interdependent relationship, so that each member is essential to the perfect unity of the body and also to the due performance of its functions. (It may be added that the "body" also is used to express the intimate relation between the living Head and its members, as well as between the members themselves.) And herein lies the difference between the two figures— the "pearl" sets forth unity joined with beauty and value, while the "body" indicates unity along with activity and mutual co-operation. In the parable the church is viewed as in the Divine mind and purpose, but in the Epistles as in actual life and practice upon the earth; hence the variation in the emblem.
The beauty and consequent value of the pearl in question transcended that of all other pearls. Here we are brought in presence of the inconceivable fact that the Lord Jesus saw that in the assembly which called out the ineffable delight of His heart. It is not ours to question here whether that quality be inherent or derived, though we may well be certain we shall never discover in ourselves any adequate cause. It befits us rather to ponder, wonderingly and adoringly, the words of Holy Scripture, " Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present to himself the church glorious, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish " (Eph. v. 24-27). He then is the Lover of the assembly in its entirety; He gives nothing short of Himself for it. His object is to present to Himself the church perfected and unblemished in glory. And He lays claim to it because of His sacrifice. When He came to Israel, He came to "His own." But He "gave Himself for us " (Titus ii. 14). So that the Lord takes the church on the ground of His work on the cross, and not on that of promise or prophecy. In the expressive words of this parable, He " went and sold all that He had and bought it."
We have seen therefore that, in this comprehensive survey of the kingdom of heaven in its corrupted form, two parables are given to assure the hearts of the Lord's people, that however extended may be the influence of evil principles and persons upon that which professes His name, they themselves are too much upon His heart, to allow His purpose regarding them to be thwarted. The Lord knows, loves, and rejoices over them that are His.