The Parable ~ Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46).
Is the common view of the pearl representing salvation correct?
The following is an excerpt from a book.
The Pearl Is … ~ We can safely disregard the interpretation of the pearl as salvation (conversion) for at least four reasons. First, a consistent theme of Scripture is that salvation is free, not for sale, the price has been paid in full by Jesus Christ. Second, it is God who seeks the sinner not the sinner who seeks God. Third, consistency within chapter thirteen shows that the Son of God who is sowing the seed in the first parable is also the main person in each of the other parables. Fourth, it is hard to imagine that Jesus would speak to His own disciples in a parabolic way with regard to salvation.
There are rational arguments for interpreting the pearl as the kingdom of heaven or as the Church. There are scholars in conservative theological circles who favor the interpretation of the pearl of great price representing the kingdom. Other conservative scholars interpret the one precious pearl to be the Church.
God’s People ~ God refers to both Israel and the Church as His special treasure.
Israel is God’s chosen people—they are special to God. We read that they are God’s special treasure. Speaking of Israel He says, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6 NKJV, also see 14:2). Israel is God’s chosen people, but God has set His people aside for a time and now has called unto Himself a new chosen people, His Church.
In reference to the Church we find, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10 KJV, see also Titus 2:14).
In the Old Testament Israel was God’s special treasure. In the New Testament the Church is God’s special treasure.
Conclusion ~ The parable of the pearl provides the following symbolism: the pearl clearly cannot represent salvation. It does represent either the kingdom of heaven or the Church and this is the primary emphasis of the parable.
If the parable does not refer to the Church but to the total kingdom of heaven, we must still recognize that the major purposes of the kingdom are being carried out in our era by the Church—fulfilling God’s purposes on earth between the two advents of Christ.
Lessons from the Parable ~ Since the topic is applicable to our time period, the time of the Church, the remaining chapters will discuss the one precious pearl with respect to the Church and the time period in which we are living. There is little inherent in our study of the pearl as the Church which is not also applicable to the kingdom of heaven.
Our first step will be to examine seven ways in which the pearl is a unique gem. In each case we shall marvel at the appropriateness of the pearl as a symbol for the Church. It is my prayer that you will thrill to the wonder of God’s Word and that you are a part of the pearl of great price—the one precious pearl.
~ from “ONE PRECIOUS PEARL: God’s Design for His Church, pgs 49-50 (ISBN: 9780741462329)
~ Robert Lloyd Russell, ABUNDANT LIFE NOW