Foundational Framework 57: Living a Worthy Life

Foundational Truths: The Bible is God’s self-revelation.
God is the Eternal, Sovereign Creator; all that He creates is good.
Man is a responsible agent, held to a moral standard.
Sin originates within a person, separating us from God.
God declares one righteous by faith alone, apart from works.
The glory of God is the centerpiece and goal of all existence.
God’s glory is maximally realized in the promised, coming Kingdom.

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Our study of Matthew 13 and the “word of the Kingdom” (Matt 13:19) continues with the last three parables being given in a private setting. In 13:36, we are told that Jesus left the crowd of Jews that He was previously speaking to and entered again into the house from whence He had come to teach in parables in the first place (13:1). Jesus began speaking in parables after the rejection of the works of the Holy Spirit (which testified that the Kingdom of God had come upon the Jews) by the Jewish leaders (Matt 12:24, 28). Before moving on we must remember two very important points connected to Jesus’ style of teaching.

First, Jesus spoke in parables as a means of judgment against the Jewish people. Those who had rejected Him during His earthly ministry would have the “mysteries of the Kingdom” hidden from their understanding. Jesus’ method of teaching (parables) involved a principled story-telling that was to convey important truths regarding the Kingdom of God and was such that would obscure the meaning to those who had rejected Him as their promised Messiah. Jesus explains, “I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matt 13:13). He then proceeds to tell His disciples in 13:14-15 that resorting to this method is actually a fulfillment of prophecy. The hardened hearts of the Jewish people had earned them further ignorance and missed opportunities to have in their possession what YHWH had always promised them. It was a sad affair that Israel had earned because of their unbelief and disobedience, but one that the Lord Jesus would see through in truth, not compromising His judgment of them despite His profound love (Matt 23:37-39).

The second important point involves the flipside of Jesus’ parables in that they are described by Him as revealing “the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven,” with this revelation being something that the disciples were privy to because of their acceptance of Him (Matt 13:11). The Eleven (minus Judas- John 13:27) had already placed their faith in Jesus and now He was granting them more understanding regarding His Coming Kingdom (Matt 13:12). In this they were greatly blessed, for many prophets and “righteous men” had desired to see and hear all that they had before them in that moment, but had not (Matt 13:16-17). This moment in time held an unveiling of previously unknown truths regarding the earthly reign of Christ from the throne of David, and of all of the devout Jews of Israel’s history, this rag-tag group of anxious and doubting men were the recipients of its message.

Grace certainly abounds as the Lord sees fit for His divine purposes with no regard to status, occupation, or merit.

Matthew 13:44. In this parable, Jesus speaks of “the kingdom of heaven” being like a treasure that was hidden in a field. This would have been a concept that the disciples would have been able to relate to. In the first century there were no banks or safes in order to store valuables, so the one who possessed such things would have to hide them in the ground.[1] In this teaching, a man finds the treasure and hides it again. Joy over his discovery motivates him to sell all of his possessions, and in doing so, he purchases the field.

At this point, it should be noted that the popular interpretations of this passage have consisted of mainly two viewpoints. The first interpretation is that the “treasure” is Israel and that the Messiah is the “man.” Upon finding her, Jesus goes and “sells all that he has,” symbolizing His going to the cross, and in turn buys the field (which is connected to “the world”- v.38a) with His blood. Along with this, some have considered that Israel being hidden in the field and the field being considered a necessary purchase relates to the Jews being dispersed throughout the nations of the world.[2] While this is a popular understanding among many who are of the dispensationalist viewpoint, there are some concerns regarding this interpretation.

First, while the “man” may be interpreted this way due to a previous parable (Matt 13:24b, 37), this does not necessarily need to be the case, and is an educated assumption at best.

Second, while Israel is often referred to as God’s treasure in the Old Testament (Ex 19:5; Deut 26:18; Ps 83:3 [where the word for “treasured” is more literally translated as “hidden”]; 135:4), there is no indication that the Lord “stumbled across” them, buried them again, and then needed to purchase a vast expanse just so they would be His permanently. From all indication that one would receive in reading through the Old Testament, Israel already belonged to God (Isa 43:1).

Third, the emphasis being placed upon Israel as the ones needing redemption limits what transpired at the cross. This would only make sense if Jesus had died only for the sins of the Jews, but Scripture speaks to so much more than this (John 1:29; 1 Tim 2:4-6; Heb 2:9; 1 John 2:2).

Finally, this parable, by its very introduction, not to mention all of the other parables in Matthew 13, have nothing to do with the cross of Christ and His death for sinners. However, it does have everything to do with “the kingdom of the heavens,” keeping in perfect step with the parables that Jesus spoke beforehand. This should be sufficient enough evidence to see that this parable is not speaking of Jesus purchasing the world through the cross in order to possess Israel.

The second major interpretation is that Jesus is telling these men that if they want to have eternal life it will cost them everything. With this view, the “kingdom of heaven” has been equated with “eternal life.” Therefore, they (and by extension “we”) must be willing to sell everything in order to gain heaven. The issues with this understanding should be both obvious and alarming, yet it is considered a legitimate understanding of the text by some who even go so far as to acknowledge the free gift of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone only to then include the “give up everything” call of discipleship as necessary and indispensable to the equation.[3] Such atrocities in Scripture, theology, and logic are too easily excused with the label of “paradox.”

Let us stop and acknowledge the violence that occurs in embracing such a claim, being found to muddy the foundation of the Christian Life and murky the waters of the atonement of Christ.

Salvation is a free gift, and one that is offered freely because it has already been purchased by Another- the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:29; 3:16; 5:24). This free gift is received by personal faith alone (John 1:12; 6:47). If this free gift costs the recipient anything it ceases to be a gift and becomes a transaction (Rom 11:6). This gives the recipient of the “costly gift” the right to lay claim to it because of what they were required to give for it. It is no longer a gift that was totally undeserved, but has now become an item that is to be rightfully possessed because of the personal price paid. This is NOT the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who died for the sins of the world and rose on the third day in order to freely offer eternal life to anyone and everyone who would receive it, and to do so “without cost” (Rev 22:17).

A friend of mine stated the issue this way:

If someone thinks that they have to give Christ something (i.e., commitment, surrender, obedience, etc.) in order to receive eternal salvation, then they are attempting to enforce a bilateral contract, namely an agreement formed by an exchange of a promise in which the promise of one party is consideration supporting the promise of the other party.[4]

The idea that the gift of salvation is something that we must be willing to “sell all that” we have in order to obtain it is nothing short of heresy because it makes our actions and obedience a necessary part in accomplishing the whole of our redemption. This blasphemous conclusion would rightfully qualify the one needing salvation as a co-redeemer with Christ, seeing that this view considers Christ’s work on the cross as insufficient to fully save. To necessitate any works on the part of the one needing saving is heresy.

With that being said, what would be a more consistent interpretation of the parable of the treasure in the field? To answer this question, there are two important factors that must be grasped before proceeding that will greatly aid in clearing the path for a greater understanding.

First, the audience for these series of parables has changed. Beforehand, we saw the Master speaking to the crowds which were the ones who had rejected Jesus’ message (Matt 13:1-9, 24-35), but here we see His audience as the Twelve, being those who had accepted His message. We must remember that Jesus is turning away from the Jews because of their unbelief. Even though Judas is present, this group of men would go on to be the bedrock that the Holy Spirit would use in establishing, discipling, and nurturing the coming Church in sound doctrine (Acts 2). The Eleven are “already clean” because of the Word that Jesus had spoken to them (John 15:3), thus they are in a prime position to receive the “mysteries of the Kingdom” with greater understanding; an understanding that will give way to bearing fruit (Matt 13:23b).

Second, the focal point of Jesus’ teaching has not changed, that being the “kingdom of heaven” (Matt 13:44, 45, 47). Though the audience is different, we should not assume that the phrase “the kingdom of heaven” has changed its meaning since Jesus entered the house. However, we would be correct in considering that what Jesus is going to communicate to the Twelve regarding the Coming Kingdom will concern itself with things directly pertaining to them since the crowds are no longer present. With this audience, the purpose of judgment has been removed from Jesus’ use of parables. However, Jesus still continues to teach in parables, meaning that the “mysteries of the kingdom” (Matt 13:11) can be further understood, resulting in the “abundance” that comes from receiving more revelation about the kingdom because the disciples were the ones who already “had” in the first place (Matthew 13:12a is very important in understanding this concept).

With this second point, we must also consider the contextual argument of this entire pericope.

Jesus began Matthew 13 with the Parable of the Soils and provided an explanation of this parable in 13:18-23. The subject of this first parable is the “word of the Kingdom” (13:19) and the various types of reception this message receives from those who hear it. Each type of reception creates a reaction. While the first message was “snatched away” by Satan so as to render no understanding (13:19), the second and third groups receive the message and even embrace it, but end up abandoning it due to persecution and affliction (13:21) or due to the cares of this present age and the greed that permeates one’s being overshadowing its significance (13:22). However, it is the final soil who receives the word of the Kingdom and who hold fast to it because they have “understanding” (13:23). This “understanding” results in fruit that brings forth “a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” (13:23b). It is this last group that is in view when Jesus is speaking with His disciples about the treasure hidden in the field (13:44a) and the pearl of great value (13:46a).



In summation, this parable of the hidden treasure in the field is:

1.     still spoken of in the parabolic fashion of teaching,

2.     spoken privately to the disciples of Jesus in the house (Matt 13:36),

3.     still regarding the subject of the “kingdom of heaven” whose meaning and contents have not changed at all from the Old Testament understanding of the literal, physical, theocratic reign of the Messiah for 1,000 years on the Earth from Jerusalem as He sits upon the throne of His father David as prophesied (2 Sam 7:16; Luke 1:32-33), and

4.     it is a truth that, when understood, will bring forth a bountiful result of fruit from the disciples (Matt 13:23).

Here we have a biblical maxim that is a foundational point throughout all of the Scriptures: With more revelation comes more responsibility, and such responsibility in understanding greater revelation from God in His Word demands a response so that one’s life is now operating from the convictions that have just been learned.

In this way, God is glorified!!! This is what God’s truth is supposed to do in the lives of believers. When we are given a greater understanding of God’s will (which is His Word), we are responsible for embracing this truth and conforming our lives accordingly.

In this private setting with those who have chosen to follow Him closely (John 6:67-69), Jesus explains to them the surpassing worth of the kingdom of heaven, especially in comparison to any of their personal possessions. One author notes, “The central truth being taught is the immense value of the kingdom, which far outweighs any sacrifice or inconvenience one might encounter on earth.”[5] The urgency of the man, the motivation conveyed that sparks his action (“and from joy”-Matt 13:44b), and the extreme exchange that the man is willing to make for the treasure all point to a relinquishing of lesser things in order to own something greater for one’s self. Robertson agrees: “The point here is the joy of discovery of something of supreme worth. The kingdom, like the treasure, is worth more than all a man’s possessions. He may well sacrifice these all for it.”[6]

Matthew 13:45-46. While the following parable contains many similarities to the parable of the hidden treasure, there is one major difference that must be noted. In 13:44, the man in the parable found the treasure, but there is no real indication that he was looking for it. However, when he found it, he went to extreme measures to accumulate the cash necessary to purchase the field containing the treasure. In 13:45-46, the merchant is actively looking for pearls of great worth. When he comes across a pearl that holds immense value, he sells everything he has in order to obtain it.

Jesus’ general point is clear: Whether you are looking for the kingdom or not, once you come across it, give everything that you own in order to possess it for yourself. So often we believe that the things that we possess are the markers for greatness in this life. Many are enthralled with money, social status, keeping up with their peers, or desperately trying to maintain a fake image among others. Jesus is stating that whatever you have held dear or esteemed as “worthy,” give it up for the sake of personally possessing something of infinite value. Do whatever it takes, at all costs, to possess the kingdom.

The immense value of the kingdom of God is something that is stressed throughout Jesus’ ministry. While many passages address this fact, looking at the Sermon on the Mount briefly will give one a clear and convincing picture. Notice the following verses:

Matt 5:3- “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matt 5:10-12- “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed

are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matt 5:19-20- “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matt 6:33- “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Matt 7:21- “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”

In each instance listed, we see that the “kingdom of heaven” is associated with an attitude, disposition, or a general way of life that the person is called to live. These instances call for self-discipline, meaning that the believer who would “enter the kingdom of heaven” would be the one who has understood the “word of the kingdom” and is willing to position his or herself in such a way that the pleasures and trappings of this life are unworthy endeavors that will keep us from the richness that is available in the Life to come.

Also notice that “entering the kingdom” is associated with “rewards in heaven” (Matt 5:10-12). This is Jesus’ point in the private parables of Matthew 13. He desires for His disciples to have a “rich entrance” into the kingdom of heaven. He calls them to a way of life that will lead to ruling and reigning alongside Him in the millennial kingdom.

He calls us to do the same. Jesus invites His followers to follow Him through persecution and sacrifice to a maximum return in the Life to come that broadcasts God’s glory throughout all existence!!!

Where will you be in the kingdom?

[1] James M. Freeman and Harold J. Chadwick, Manners & Customs of the Bible (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), p. 438.

[2] See John F. Walvoord, Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come (Galaxie Software, 2007), p. 104–105; Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, Expanded ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), p. 1538; William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), p. 1258.

[3] See John F. MacArthur Jr., The Gospel according to Jesus: What Does Jesus Mean When He Says “Follow Me,” Electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Academic and Professional Books, Zondervan, 2000), chapter 12; Robert James Utley, The First Christian Primer: Matthew, vol. 9, Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2000), p. 121.

[4] Kevin Hobby, personal correspondence, 30 December 2018.

[5] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville: Nelson Publishers, 1997), Mt 13:44.

[6] A. T. Robertson, Commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1911), p. 171.