Friday, June 30, 2006

The whole "pearl of great price" or just some of it?

"(45) Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,
(46) who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it."

Matthew 13:45-46 ESV

I was listening to The Listener's Bible (ESV) on my way to work this morning. The reading was a very familiar part of the Bible. John 3!

It struck me how many people who read this chapter or preach on it switch off after verse 17.

"(16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
(17) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
John 3:16-17 ESV

Very few actually read on in this chapter with any real grasp of the magnitude of all this chapter has to say. On the one hand, there is a declaration of the mercy of God in Christ, in that God sent His Son to die on the cross for an uncompromising sinful people. On the other hand, the side of the coin that is all too often ignored, God's wrath is proclaimed to all unbelievers.

"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him."
John 3:36 ESV

This type of preaching (or believing) is all too reminiscent of an age of self-pleasing and easy believism. With everybody having rights of all kinds, the church no longer preaches the gospel in its entirety unless someone is offended and we lose them. Preaching the complete gospel will undoubtedly offend people. When last did your gospel offend people?

"as it is written, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."
Romans 9:33 ESV

I was thinking of the merchant in search of the pearl of great value. He found that pearl and gave up all for it. However, would he have found that great pearl if not all of it were there? Let me explain!

Pearls are made of layers of two materials: a mineral called aragonite and a protein called conchiolin. Let's say that the merchant found these two materials in great abundance. Would he have bought it by selling all he has? I greatly doubt that. You see, he would not have seen any pearl of great price! Only when a mollusk coats each successive layer of aragonite with the membrane-forming conchiolin will a pearl emerge! So, the merchant will not sell all he has for anything but a pearl. Just the aragonite or just the conchiolin alone does not make up a pearl. In order for these two materials to become a pearl, we need the one who makes these pearls (the mollusk) to do what it does best, make pearls. Only the mollusk can make these two materials become a beautiful pearl. A pearl, therefore, is more than just the sum of its parts!

Many preachers and believers try to give people just one of these materials. The gospel becomes subdivided into its parts and then they try to dish out only some of these parts. The wrath of God is never preached on. At my own church, I cannot remember when last I heard a sermon that covers the wrath of God in sending people to hell for the sin that so greatly offends Him in the last 5 years!

The wrath of God is just as much a part of the gospel as is God's mercy. It is justice AND mercy. By preaching only mercy, the whole gospel is NOT preached. Just like one individual mineral cannot make up a pearl, so one element of the gospel alone cannot make up the gospel, no matter how faithful and truthful that element is preached! It still is not the whole gospel!

Just like witnesses are sworn in when testifying in court to "speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth," so preachers, when ordained should be sworn in to "preach the gospel, the whole gospel and nothing but the gospel!"

It simply is not good enough to preach on one of these elements without showing the other one. These two elements--justice and mercy--are intricately woven into one message. One cannot preach on the mercy of God without giving the reason for that mercy. Mercy is absolutely meaningless if there exists no reason for it. So, even preaching about the wrath of God without showing God's mercy in Christ is not good either!

Just like the mollusk makes the pearl into what it is, so the Creator of the universe is the One who set forth the gospel and made it what it is. Who are we to start subdividing it like it belongs to us and to preach parts of it as if they are the whole? The gospel is way more than just the sum of its parts.

The gospel is not a pat on the back for the sorry state that man finds himself in. The gospel does not say that we are victims of sin. It doesn't say, "You're Ok, I'm OK!"

The gospel points a finger at every man, woman and child. We are not the victims of sin, but rather we are the perpetrators of this heinous evil called sin against an infinitely Holy God, and each of us deserves an eternity in hell! Apart from telling us about the mercy and grace of God, the gospel also tells us that if we do not believe in Jesus Christ we will experience the wrath of a Holy God in an eternity of hell!

Let's face it, mankind is evil and if it weren't for the grace of God He would have annihilated mankind long ago!

Do not think that you can mess around with God's grace never expecting to experience His justice! Unless you have seen and believed the justice of God on a dying (and now resurrected) Christ in your stead, you will never get to experience the grace of God!

It is now the time for every Christian, especially preachers and teachers to spread "the gospel, the whole gospel and nothing but the gospel!"

Just thinking ...

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