This is an illustration spoken by Jesus that details what takes place in the life of a person when they come to value him above anything else. It shows a powerful reaction that a man experienced upon realizing the treasure that Jesus Christ is. The central element around which the story turns is the treasure itself; the treasure represents Christ, or, more specifically, the salvation that comes through him/the joy of following him. The dynamic (or “changing”) figure in the parable is the man who finds the treasure; that is, finds joy in trusting and following Christ.
First, be sure to note the inherently obscure nature of treasure hidden in a field. It is not easily or often found. This is consistent with the prediction of Jesus that most people on the planet would not be His followers: “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14).
Within this one-sentence story, it is obvious that something happened to this man that has elicited a truly radical reaction. This wouldn’t have taken place if the treasure had had moderate value; this man didn’t find a hundred dollar bill or his lucky coin. He found a treasure that was worth more than everything he owned. This man’s entire value system was turned upside down in an instant; he found something of unspeakable value. So it is when a person sees Christ as He truly is for the first time – as the perfect Son of God, a sufficient sacrifice for sin that enables us to have a personal relationship with the all-powerful God of the cosmos. While it’s true that some people turn more quickly and dramatically than others away from the things they formerly valued (in the story, what the man sold) and to Christ (the treasure), this has no bearing on the significance of the story: one by one or all at once, the former things that we loved and cherished pale in comparison to the value of following Christ and serving Him. This is the kind of value exchange that Paul writes of in his letter to Philippi: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.”
It is difficult to overstate the importance of noticing the order in which these events take place. The selling of possessions comes after the treasure has already been found, not before. The treasure cannot be bought or earned in any way; no selfless act or good deed can merit it. Salvation is found by grace alone through faith alone. The selling of possessions to buy the field is used to illustrate that the treasure has unfathomable value, not that we must perform some self-sacrificial act to become saved. Absolutely nothing can be given by us to obtain salvation; but much must be given for the sake of it, after it has been obtained through faith. This explains the place of good works in the Christian life – good works are performed not in order to be saved, but because a person already is.
Finally, note the state of mind that the man in the parable is under at the time he sold all his possessions – he is in a state of joy. There is no dutiful moseying, no sorrowful glances as his life’s inheritance slips away. The value of the treasure is so compelling, he willingly and joyfully gives up all he has for the sake of it. He is enthralled at the proposition of the treasure; he is a new being, born again.
This conversion is the kind of dramatic change that songs of joy are written about: “I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.”
I want you to see Jesus for the treasure that he is.
Some of the most unfathomable blessings of God are found in Ephesians 1:3-14. And I’m not just talking about common grace blessings that are given to all people (like sunsets and pretty flowers), I’m talking about special grace blessings that are given as gifts only to those who belong to Jesus (like salvation and all the elements that compose it). Now Ephesians 1:3-14 does not simply list these special gifts and say, “Here they are!” It is not a systematic theology book and I don’t intend to try to make it into one. Rather, this passage was written as a part of its surrounding context and drives to a point later on in the letter. But, just for the sake of being blown away by the incredible blessings God has bestowed upon his Church, let me list what I see God giving his people in this passage:
• every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (v. 3)
• an unconditional choosing (v. 4)
• a loving and blameless stance before him (v. 4)
• loving predestination (v. 5)
• adoption as sons (are you kidding me? No.) (v. 5)
• grace in the Beloved (Christ) (v. 6)
• redemption through Christ’s blood (v. 7)
• the forgiveness of our trespasses (v. 7)
• the knowledge of God’s mysterious will (v. 9)
• unity in Christ (v. 10)
• a guaranteed inheritance (v. 11, 14)
• a permanent sealing by the Holy Spirit (v. 13)
• the word of truth (i.e., the gospel of salvation) (v. 13)
These bullet points are each divine miracles, scandalous grace-glimpses. Look closely and you can spot election, the effective gospel call, justification, adoption, perseverance, and the promise of future glorification (nearly all the elements of salvation). There are few Bible passages that make me feel more loved than this one. Rightly so.
But now we have arrived at the question that will require our attention for the next few posts – the question of motive…. Read the rest of this entry »