Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 26, 2014
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
— Matthew 13:44-46, ESV
Think of two ways to throw a party for a special occasion. You can have a spur-of-the-moment surprise party, or you can enjoy a party that has been meticulously planned and sorely anticipated? Which one would you prefer? I really don’t care, as long as I get invited to the party!
The kingdom of God is sometimes likened in Scripture to a great party or lavish banquet, and indeed it is on both counts. How did you enter in? Was it a sudden surprise to find yourself loved by God and saved by grace? Or, did God graciously put people in your life to teach you the Bible and share with you the gospel over a period of time before grace arrived? Either way, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
But grace has two faces. Sometimes it comes suddenly and surprisingly. Other times it arrives after a seemingly long pursuit. Either way, it is still grace, and no matter how grace arrives in your life, it changes your life completely. This is the message of the next two parables in Matthew 13, the parables of hidden treasure and the pearl of great price. Together they tell a tale of God’s amazing grace, in two faces, and reveal the face God is looking for in you.
The first parable is a story of discovered treasure. The ancient land of the middle east was a constant battlefield (not much has changed in two thousand years). When a man went to war or when a man anticipated war coming to him, the best thing he could do with his valuables was to bury them. Often the man would not survive the battle. Since he alone knew where the treasure was buried, the buried treasure became the hidden treasure in Jesus’ story. One day a common laborer comes to clear a field for his boss’ farm. The plow hits the ground in just the right spot, and, surprise, hidden treasure is discovered. Knowing that whatever is discovered on land belongs to the land owner, the employee shrewdly puts the treasure back in to the ground, makes a deal with his employer to purchase the land for himself, thus acquiring the greatest treasure he has ever known. This parable is not told to debate the relative morality of a business transaction. This parable tells a simple story. When you unexpectedly find what you’ve always wanted, you gladly give up everything else to get it.
The next parable makes a similar point in a slightly different way. Pearls were a new and valuable commodity in Jesus’ day. Since their discovery, many men have made it their ambition to collect them. None of them come cheap, but certainly some pearls are worth a greater price than others. A merchant makes it his business to make a living off of pearls. He wheels and deals, schemes and dreams, and trades for years to get a fine collection of valuable pearls. Yet he yearns for that perfect pearl. One day his search comes to an end. There it is, the pearl of greatest worth, the pearl that requires him to give up all other pearls in order to obtain it. Then, the most important transaction of his life is made. This parable is not told to give advice on trading pearls, stocks, or bonds. This parable is not about excusing the material desire for more. This parable tells a simple story. When you finally find what you’ve always wanted, you gladly give up everything else to get it.
Two Faces of Grace
When you unexpectedly find treasure what you’ve always wanted, you gladly give up everything else to get it. Or, when you finally find the pearl you’ve always wanted, you gladly give up everything else to get it. Either way, surprised or pursued, you gladly give up everything else to get it. These are the two faces of grace.
For some people, the gospel is like the hidden treasure. You're shoveling through life, doing the best you can to dig up what you want, and religion in general nor Christianity in particular have any appeal to you. Then, you hear a sound, the effectual call of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It hits you like a ton of bricks. It convicts you deeply of your sin and indifference towards God. The Bible seems interesting and the church seems inviting and all of a sudden you believe, you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The surprise party ushers you into the kingdom of God. You were not looking for God, but God had treasure in store for you. This face of grace is easy to see.
The other face of grace is a little more subtle and takes longer to see. You’re given a couple of pearls for parents, who bring you up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Other pearls are strung, like a good church and Christian friends, Bible studies and youth camps, and a plethora of opportunities to hear the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then one day, repentance and faith comes, and years of prayers and planning come to fruition. Welcome to the kingdom of God. Just remember, you did not enter in because of parents or pastors or planning. You are in because the face of grace smiled upon you and brought you the faith that saves and admits you to the party.
The Apostle Paul saw both faces of grace. He was surprised on the Damascus Road and literally saw the face of grace that changed his life. On the other had, he had pursued God since childhood through the lesser pearls of theological education and legalistic righteousness, until finally he found God, or rather God found him, face to face with grace.
My salvation was like a surprise party. I wasn’t looking for God, I was just trying to get through college and hit a baseball. But God hit me, hard, with grace, and now I’m saved. My daughters have been attending worship since nine months before they were born. They have been prayed over and preached to for years. It seems as if they have eased into the kingdom of God, but only God and each individual can know for sure.
Would you like to know for sure that you are on the list, that you are admitted to the party, that you are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, the two parables and the two faces of grace are here to tell you that your face is the way you can know for sure that you are saved.
One Face of Faith
Biblically and theologically speaking, the proper response to grace is faith. But what does faith look like? How many faces does it wear? How can I know that faith, true saving faith, this product of grace, is really, truly in me? Look at the parables and look at what they have in common. They show us two faces of grace, but only one face of faith.
It is a face marked with glad and deliberate renunciation. The farmhand in the field gladly renounced, or gave up, all that he had in exchange for the unexpected treasure. The shrewd pearl merchant gave up every single pearl he had ever accumulated to obtain the one that made life worth living. So no matter how the grace of God appears in your life, the only proper response is a face of faith that gladly gives up everything else in exchange for the surpassing riches of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Renunciation is not a common word in Scripture, although it does appear in a couple of key texts in Luke 14:33, in the context of becoming a Christian, and Titus 2:12, in the context of living the Christian life. Perhaps Luke’s quotation of Christ is most revealing concerning this face of faith: “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple.” Jesus gave it all for you, that is grace. You must give up all for Jesus, that is faith.
The famous missionary martyr Jim Eliot put on the face of faith this way: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” The farmhand knew that the treasure was worth more than everything else he owned. The pearl marching knew the value of the great pearl exceed the combine value of all the other pears. Do you believe, do you live in such a way, that Jesus Christ and His kingdom is worth more than anything and everything else you could ever have in this life?
If so, that’s the face of faith that God loves to see. It is a face that values Christ and Christ’s church more than making money or amassing material possessions. It is a face that puts God’s word over and above any other demand or desire. It is a face that looks for God in private devotion and public worship, joyfully renouncing the pursuit of lesser things for those scared moments with God. It is a face that gladly embraces the call of vocational ministry or career missionary service, when there would be many easier ways to live. It is a face that puts all other relationships under the importance of your primary relationship with Jesus Christ.
God puts treasure in the field and pearls on a string by His sovereign grace. Have you seen the face of God’s grace? Then what does God see when He looks into your face? I pray that it is ten face of saving faith, bestowed upon you by God’s amazing faces of grace.