sermon: Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 3): Hidden Treasure
The Parable of the Dragnet
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Given 04-Oct-97; Sermon #309; 75 minutes
The church constitutes Christ's treasure, hidden in the world, purchased and redeemed with Christ's blood. The Pearl of Great Price depicts a rich merchant (Christ), the only one who had the means to redeem His church. The Dragnet symbolizes the scope of God's calling while the separation process indicates God's high standards of selection, indicating a time of righteous and impartial judgment. The Householder parable shows the responsibility of the ministry to be authoritative interpreters of scripture, using what they have learned and experienced to instruct the people.
When we concluded the sermon two weeks ago it may have seemed somewhat overwhelming to think that Satan would go to such extremes to derail the church as a whole, and to derail us as individual members of the church. In the last phrase of The Parable of the Leaven (Matthew 13:33), it says that the whole church organization was leavened, and that could get pretty depressing. It may have sobered some of you, it may have depressed some of you, and may have angered some of you that something like this would have gone on.
Today's sermon is the other side of the coin. Remember I began the last sermon explaining some of the context of Matthew 12 and how Jesus had spent that entire busy day, as the commentators call it, defining the two sides of this great spiritual conflict in which we find ourselves embroiled. The last two sermons that I have spoken have focused on Satan's side in all this—all the things that he would do to trip the church up.
Today we're going to see the great encouragement that Jesus gives to those that are on His side of the battle. So time permitting, we're going to cover the last four parables of Matthew 13. I see some of you shaking your heads and laughing and thinking that's pretty much impossible for me to do, but it fit in my notes, so I think I can do it.
You'll recall from the first sermon I gave you a list of three sections that the parables of Matthew 13 fit into. I'll give you that again. There are eight parables divided into three sections.
The Parable of the Sower
The Parable of the Tares
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
The Parable of the Leaven
Summary Statement: Satan's Plan to Destroy the Church
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure
The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price
The Parable of the Dragnet
Summary Statement: Christ's Work In Behalf Of The Church
The Parable of the Householder
Summary Statement: A Minister's Duty to the Church, or A Minister's Duty
So God willing, we're going to cover these second and third sections today. In a way you could even say that these two sections combine into one, because doesn't Christ say (in Ephesians 4) that the ministry is a gift from Him to the church; and that they are given in order to do the work of preaching the gospel, equipping the saints, and to help bring people up to the measure of the stature and the fullness of Christ? In a way, the ministry is part of Christ's work, but I split it out into a third section because Christ seemed to separate it out Himself in the way that Matthew 13 is structured, so I've done that too and put it as a third section.
Let's get right into it. We're going to take The Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price together, because they are very much alike in form and in meaning.
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure
Matthew 13:44 Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Matthew 13:45-46 Again, 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.
Like I said, those two parables are somewhat the same. There is a man, there is some sort of treasure, and after he finds it, he goes and sells everything he has and buys that treasure. They are very similar. These two parables are universally thought to be positive parables, unlike the first four, where there is dispute over whether they are positive or negative. I've taken the stand that they are all negative, and pretty negative at that, but these are all thought to be positive parables—they mean a good thing. Even so, although people agree that they are positive, they still have different ideas about how to interpret them. I think that once we go through these we'll see that the meaning is very clear.
We've already interpreted two of the symbols found in verse 44—"the field" and "the man." We'll find (in Matthew 13:37) the one who sows good seed there is "the son of man." We've seen (in the other parables) that wherever "man" shows up, it tends to be Christ. The "Son of man" is obviously Christ, and "man," in these parables, is Christ. In Matthew 13:38, it says the field is "the world," and that's very clear. So here you have "treasure" found in the world, and Christ is doing something with it.
How is "treasure" used in scripture? Obviously the literal meaning of "treasure" is what would first come to mind. It means jewels, gold, silver, other precious metals, other gem stones, art, jewelry, and fine clothing. Those things would be considered "treasure." But we're talking here about a parable, and a parable is metaphorical. The symbol here must mean something other than just a jewel, or a bunch of jewels, or a bunch of coins, or a chest full of something. So how is "treasure" used metaphorically in the Bible? Let's read four different scriptures, starting in Exodus 19:5. I'm just going to continue through it.
Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.
Psalm 135:4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure.
Malachi 3:16-17 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name. They shall be Mine, says the LORD of hosts, On the day that I make them My jewels.
If you check the margin on that you will see that "My jewels" is literally "special treasure." He says, "On the day that I make them My jewels, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him."
Now we'll go to I Peter 2:9-10. We'll follow this phrase, "special treasure," throughout the Bible. We've gone to three Old Testament Scriptures, and now one in the New Testament.
I Peter 2:9-10 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.
Did you notice the progression of identity here? First, this special treasure was Israel, the one that God had made a covenant with on Mount Sinai. In the Psalms we saw that He calls His special treasure specifically: "Israel" and "Jacob." And then once He got to Malachi, God is calling His special treasure, "those who fear His name," and "those who speak one to another" about this.
In I Peter 2 it is "the elect" that are His special people. It has gone from "Israel," to a little bit more general—"those who fear His name"—to specific again—"His special people, a holy nation."
"Treasure" here is the church. The church fits all of those things. The church is spiritual Israel. They are the Israel of God.The church is those who fear His name among all the people of the earth. The church is really the only group who truly fear God in a godly way, and of course the church is a people who are not a people. We all came out of the world separately, individually. We were not a people then.
We may have come from the same nation, but we have people over there in South Africa. We have people in France, and we have people in Canada. We have people all over this world who are not a nation themselves but are now bound and united as God's treasure in the church.
You will notice in Matthew 13 that it says that this treasure was hidden in the world. How were we hidden in the world? You will remember, in the Parable of the Leaven, the word "hid" was used in a negative sense, and we found that out by its context. Well, we're going to have to do that again and find out what this "hid" means here in verse 44 in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure.
If you look and see all the things that are in the context of that parable, they are all positive. First you have Christ, and then you have the world (which may not seem all that positive), but then you have joy and you have Christ's self-sacrifice for this treasure. So these are all positive things that happen around the word "hid." I think it must be a little more positive than that. How then is the church hidden in the world? Remember, this is before your calling. How was the church hidden in the world?
Let's go to Ephesians 2. This part isn't quite so positive, but you'll notice (in Matthew 13:44) that it's hidden again, that he finds it hidden in the world, and then once he finds it, he hides it again, so it's kind of interesting. This is the less positive of the two.
Ephesians 2:1-7 And you He made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Did you get where we were hid before? Well, we were hid in the field, weren't we? We were hid in the world. How were we hidden? We were hidden, because we were just like everybody else. We were dead in trespasses and sin, and we conducted ourselves "according to the prince of the power of the air." So we were hidden in plain sight, because everybody else was just like us, but we've been found. Once we were found, what did Christ do? He hid us again. What does this mean then? How does Christ hide us after we're called, after He finds us? Well, let's go to John 17:11. John 17 is kind of an interesting concept. I think you know what it is.
John 17:11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.
John 17:14-18 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.
How did Christ hide us? He sends us right back into the world! He doesn't glorify us immediately, He doesn't place us up on a pedestal, but what He does is He sends us back into the world. We're hidden in the world, but in a different way, after we're called. See, we're no longer of the world, but we look like the world. We haven't changed much except internally, spiritually. So we go back into the world and we go through our daily lives, and people don't recognize us for what we are unless some matter of the truth comes up. Notice what Jesus said in John 17:17. He said, "Sanctify them by Your truth."
Put in layman's terms, "Set them apart by your truth." That is what makes us different from everybody else—God's truth in us. To look at you going down the street, for the most part, you're hidden. You're an average Joe. But if you come across something like what's been happening here in North and South Carolina where the truth suddenly becomes important because you don't want to do something on the Sabbath that your boss or your teacher or someone who has authority in a certain area of your life says you must come in on the Sabbath and do, ... well, then you're separated from them, aren't you?
Of course our lives should be showing that we're living by God's way all the time, but for the most part we're hidden from this world's view by being in among them. It doesn't say that Christ came, and He finds us in the field, and then He goes and hides us somewhere else. It just says that "He finds it, and that He hides it again." It does say that He went back and bought the field, doesn't it?
So He buys the world, because that is where His treasure is—hidden in the world—but in a slightly different way from when He found it. We're no longer hidden in the world because we're like the world and doing the sins that were in the world, instead we're hidden in the world because we're just average people, and unless the truth comes up in a matter of our daily lives, we seem just like everybody else. At least that's the way I look at it. You may have a different idea of what "hidden in the world" means, but that's what I came up with.
In Colossians 3:3, we get a slightly different look at this. Paul actually uses this phrase, or this idea, when he's talking to the Colossians.
Colossians 3:3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
I looked this up in the commentaries to see what the commentators would say, because I wasn't quite sure what this would mean. I wanted to see what several people thought, and the idea is very much the same as in The Parable of the Hidden Treasure. This means that God has a treasure, and He hides it in Christ. See, we're a part of the body of Christ. We're hidden there like in a vault, a treasure house, a place where you want to keep your valuables so that they will be secure and nothing bad will happen to them; they won't be stolen or they won't be degraded somehow.
The idea here is that if you are truly seeking those things which are above, and you're truly "in Christ," then your eternal life is secure. I don't want you to think that this is eternal security, because it's not. The Protestants have an idea about eternal security that is very false, that once you believe in Christ, that's it, and your eternal life is guaranteed. In verse 1, Paul makes it very clear that there is something that we must be doing for this to happen.
Colossians 3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
We've got to be seeking those things which are above in order for us to have that eternal security.
Colossians 3:2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
If we're doing those things, then God promises that He has taken us as His special treasure, and He is putting us in His vault for safe keeping.
What is the next thing that happens? Christ finds us, and hides us again, and what is His reaction? Joy!
Matthew 13:44 And for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
I went to this Scripture two days ago, on Thursday, but let's go to it again. Go to Hebrews 12 and verse 2. You will see the joy of Jesus Christ in what He did for us in buying the field. It tells us that:
Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
See, He was joyful that He could do this for us, that He could buy us, that He could redeem us, that we could be His purchased possession. There obviously wasn't a whole lot of joy in dying on the cross in the way He was crucified. There was no joy in that at all. It was excruciating and terrible, but there was joy in what it produced. There was joy that He had qualified to become King of kings, and Lord of lords, and our High Priest—the Savior of all mankind, all those who would believe in Him.
There was joy that that step in the process of bringing the Kingdom of God to this earth had been fulfilled. There was joy in heaven that this had happened, and the plan of God was moving forward and God would then have sons and daughters. The creative process of refurbishing the entire universe had taken a great leap forward. The King had succeeded. The Savior had saved. What joy there was in those in the spirit realm who understood that a great leap forward had taken place, and then it made possible for all men to be saved, for those who believed.
It says here in Matthew 13:44, (which we've already touched on a little bit) that he sold everything and bought the field.
Let's read John 3:16, the most famous verse in all the Bible (according to some).
John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Our God, Jesus Christ, gave up everything and redeemed the whole world. As it says in this verse, "whoever believes in Him" should have eternal life, ...not the whole world just because the whole world was there, but out of the whole world, those that believed in Him. Paul says in Hebrews 9 that He gave Himself "once" for all time, for all sin, and He doesn't have to give Himself again. That's all it took, but it took all He had.
Paul is talking to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28.
Acts 20:28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
That was the purchase price for the field—His own blood, which I said was "His all." So what was the lesson here in The Parable of the Hidden Treasure? Well, it's pretty simple. Our Lord and Savior, finding the treasure of His elect in the world, conceals and protects them against all the depredations of the enemy. Remember, we're hidden. That's the protection part. And with His own life's blood, He redeemed us with joy. That's the lesson of this parable.
This should give us great confidence in our spiritual battles. The greatest battle has already been won, and not only that—since we are His treasure and since He hides us (and protects us through that hiding), and sanctifies us through His truth, and prayed there that we would be protected from the evil one, it's not as bad as it seems. We've got a lot more going for us than we might think. So to summarize this parable here, Christ joyfully gave His all for our redemption, and protects us even though we're still in the world.
Now we'll go on to The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price. Like I said, it is immediately obvious that The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price and The Parable of the Hidden Treasure are similar because of their similar form and the similar symbols that are in them. They both tell the same basic story. It's interesting that in this series of parables here, Christ did two that are so very similar. This is not unusual.
In Genesis 41:1-7 is Pharaoh's dream about the upcoming famine. If you will notice, God gave it to Pharaoh twice. I can't remember which order it was in, whether it was the grain first, and then the kine, or whether there was the kine first, and then the grain. It doesn't matter. He did this to emphasize the dream to Pharaoh. That was the first reason. Repetition is the best form of emphasis.
The second reason He did it was because there was something in the second one that wasn't in the first one that was important for Pharaoh to understand. What this tells me (and what it told Joseph) is that there was not only going to be a famine of the vegetation, but there was also going to be a famine in the livestock as well. This would be a total famine, and so they had to prepare accordingly. In these two parables then—The Parable of the Hidden Treasure and The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price—there must be something additional in The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price that is not quite understandable from The Parable of the Hidden Treasure. He gave another parable with a little bit different meaning ... very similar, but a little bit different in order for us to be encouraged.
The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price
Let's talk about the merchant first, in the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price. The merchant was common in Palestine because Palestine is the crossroads of the Middle East. It was the crossroads of the Roman world. To get anywhere you pretty much had to go through Palestine. Even if you had to ship things, they often went through Palestine because they would go along the coast and they would make their ports there along the coast of Palestine.
The particular merchant that Jesus speaks about was a very uncommon merchant. He was special. He was so special because he had a very narrow niche in the market. He only bought and sold pearls. This gives us an indication then of what kind of person this merchant was. If he could devote all his time just to the seeking of pearls, he must have been a pretty rich merchant. He must have been pretty highly placed. He wasn't your common caravan master. He was someone whom we would call "a specialist." You might even call him a buyer for a particular type of person, like royalty.
The reason I mention that is because, in the ancient world, pearls were so rare that usually only kings could afford them, and the kings used them in their crowns and on their clothing to show off (to show their royal splendor) and to say, "Look at me. I can afford pearls."
Some have thought that the merchant is a person like you and me who goes seeking after Christ, or after the gospel, or after the kingdom. But when you look at it from the Bible, that is just absolutely impossible. It cannot be. We'll just take a couple of verses here to show this.
Romans 3:11 There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.
Right there that idea gets thrown out the window. Nobody seeks after God. Let's look at another one—John 6:44. You know this one by heart.
John 6:44 No man can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.
It basically says nobody can seek after God either. Let's look at Isaiah 55:1
Isaiah 55:1 Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; and you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
It means we can't buy anything from God, so how could we be the merchant who goes and buys the pearl. It's not possible. Luke 7:42 is interesting too. This is part of a parable here of the two debtors. One phrase is very interesting in this.
Luke 7:42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both.
The creditor here is God. The debtors are you and me. And Christ (God) freely forgives us even though we have nothing to buy forgiveness with, ...and so we can't be the merchant. There is just no way. First, we don't seek Him; secondly, we have to be called in order to seek Him; and thirdly, we can't buy it, and if we could buy it, we don't have the money to buy it. On all counts, it's impossible. We cannot be the merchant. That leaves only one person that it could be—Jesus Christ Himself. He's the only one with enough "money" in order to buy this pearl.
Luke 19:10 For the Son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.
John 15:16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.
John 10:3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
Only Christ can do that.
Isaiah 43:1 But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.
That tells us who the merchant is. Without a doubt it's Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.
Like the hidden treasure, the pearl is something of value. It can be part of a treasure, but there is one difference between "treasure" and "the pearl." Notice what it says in Matthew 13:44. It says "like treasure," but notice what it says in Matthew 13:46—"one pearl of great price." What's the difference? "Treasure" is a collective noun. That is, it is made up of many pieces of gold, silver, coins, articles of fine clothing, art, gem stones. It's like the treasure of a pirate that's buried somewhere in the Caribbean. There's usually a chest of something. That's what He's looking at in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure—many some things, many treasures. What He is looking at in The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price is one particular treasure. We might call it "the centerpiece" of His treasure as this one Pearl of Great Price.
Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all.
Here you have that "one" bit again, but I wanted "one body." Here Paul stresses the church's singularity, its uniqueness, its oneness. There is only ONE church.
Romans 12:5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
Here Paul emphasizes our unity even though we're made up of many. We're many members, but we're one body. Not only that, we're interdependent with one another. We rely on one another to do certain things within that body to make the body function as it's supposed to.
Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Here this verse focuses us on being called into one body, and God's part in it, that God specifically put us in one body to do something, to be something. In I Corinthians 12:12-14, 27 this is repeated. We are many members, but we are one body, and God put us each in the body to do what He wants us to do.
I Corinthians 12:12-14 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.
I Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
That "pearl is "the church," and the pearlis the church as a whole, whereas the "treasure," in the preceding parable is "the church" in its individual members. In the first parable Christ is assuring us that He has His eye on us, that we are so valuable to Him as an individual, but in this parable, He switches the focus just slightly to let us know that all of us as a whole, as a body, as His Bride, are important. He makes that His centerpiece of His treasure—the Bride who will marry His Son.
In Ephesians 5:25-27, we'll bring out the "bride" aspect here.
Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.
This gives you some idea of how much value Christ places in the church. We are His Bride. We are the centerpiece of His kingdom, of His treasure. This is pretty high praise. A pretty lofty goal. It says here in Ephesians 5 that once He calls us a church, He sets out to perfect us, to make us absolutely holy and without blemish so we can be a fitting spouse for Him.
Revelation 19:7-9 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb! And he said to me, These are the true sayings of God.
So what's the lesson here? How could we summarize this? Christ joyfully gave His all for the church as His Bride, and He is going to prepare it as His adornment, just like a king adorns his clothing and his crown with pearls. This should give us even more encouragement in our battle against Satan. We have so much going for us, not only as individual sons and daughters of God, but because we have been called right now as members of His Bride. If we keep up the good work, if we allow God to work in us and take out all the blemishes, what a glorious future we have!
The Parable of the Dragnet
When I started studying, this became one of my favorite parables because I think it has a great deal of meaning. I won't say it is definitely my favorite, but I think we can get a lot more meaning out of it than meets the eye at first.
Matthew 13:47-50 Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
This doesn't sound too positive, does it—condemnation, judgment, the lake of fire, gnashing of teeth. (I love that word! You can just almost hear it right in the word. "Onomatopoeia.") We can also see a similarity between it and The Parable of the Tares where this same idea happens. At the end of the age the tares will be gathered up and thrown into the furnace of fire. The emphasis there in The Parable of the Tares is on the wicked and the work that they do, and their judgment because of their wickedness, their works. But here, instead of the wicked being highlighted, it's mainly about the process of judgment, not necessarily condemnation. It's not only about people being condemned for doing bad, it's also about people being saved and rewarded for doing good, so there's a little bit more positive spin on it there.
This idea of the dragnet and the whole parable is drawn from the work of such men as Peter and Andrew and James and John. They were fishers of men. No they weren't. They were fishers, and He made them as fishers of men. They were fishermen, and they became fishers of men. On the Sea of Galilee, they used a dragnet. What they did is, they had a long net that they drew between two boats, and they coordinated these two boats to sweep a specific area of the Sea of Galilee.
Then they would draw the net up to shore and the fishermen then had to sit there on the beach and go through the entire net and throw the good fish into a barrel, for sale, and take the bad fish and throw them into another barrel so they could burn them later on. They got rid of the bad fish in the sea. They didn't want to catch them again. That's the idea here.
A partial interpretation of this is found in Matthew 4:18-20. I already mentioned that Christ called His disciples and told them that He would make them fishers of men, ...not just fishermen—they would go out and bring in a catch for Him. So part of this then is that the church, the people who are called, are caught in God's net, and the net is drawn by His servants. It's not very hard to understand that.
Now we have the sea. They threw this net into the sea. That's a very interesting symbol. I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time on these symbols, but just enough to give you a taste.
Revelation 13:1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns.
Revelation 13:11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.
These two symbols are very, very similar. The "earth" (or the land) and the "sea" both show origin. Their origin is of the earth. They are not out of that realm. Jesus does things, and these signs and wonders come out of heaven, but these beasts, which we know are of the wrong system, come out of the sea and out of the earth, ...so it shows that their origin is on earth.
In Revelation 17:15, we'll get the Bible's definition of what "waters" is symbolically. The angel said to John:
Revelation 17:15 The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.
Just as a sea is composed primarily of water, the world is composed primarily of peoples, nations, groups, and languages. They make up what the world is. When the fish are caught in a net in the sea, it means that we are called out of the world. But there is something more to that. Remember, it says here that it gathers some of every kind. This means that God's net catches fish without partiality to age, sex, station, ethnicity, race, wealth, intelligence, language, beauty, or whatever trait you want to divide people into.
God is an equal opportunity Caller. Just because you have red hair it doesn't mean He leaves you out. It doesn't mean anything. God is worried mostly about your character and what He can do with you.
Romans 2:11 For there is no partiality with God.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 9:18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
Romans 9:21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
The following was after Peter's vision where the animals came down and he told God he had never eaten anything unclean, and he wasn't about to start.
Acts 10:34-35 Then Peter opened his mouth and said, In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.
That's the idea of some of every kind being caught in God's net. It's very clear. The church is God's catch, and it's a cross-section of the entire world. God is no respecter of persons in His calling. Just because you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth doesn't make you anymore likely to be called than the next guy down the block or across the railroad tracks.
However, once we've accepted Christ, God does show Himself partial, and that's where we get into verse 48 of Matthew 13, because He is very partial to those who love Him, who obey Him, who serve others, who grow and produce fruit. See, He's partial to good fish. He doesn't want any stinkers in the lot. The parable shows that in the process of salvation God judges whether we are good useable fish, or bad fit-for-the-fire fish. He judges us according to how well we measure up against the standard, and that standard of course is "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).
This is done in modern fishing. Most places in the United States have a standard. If you catch a fish and it doesn't fit the standard of a certain length of fish, you are required by law to throw it back in. It's the same thing in God's kingdom. God throws His net out there and drags you in, and if you don't fit that certain limit ...well, you don't only get thrown back in, it's much worse. You get thrown into the fire.
John the Baptist said something like this in a little bit different way.
Matthew 3:12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Matthew 25:31-34 When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
It's the same idea. If we don't make the standard, God is going to throw us away. In Matthew 25:31-34 is The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Christ is the Judge, and He sets the sheep on the right hand, and the goats on the left hand, and it says that the sheep go into glory, and the goats go into the lake of fire.
So without a doubt there is a judgment coming, and we're involved in the judgment right now. Not only is the sentence coming, but we're being judged as I speak right now, and we're being judged about whether we're doing good or evil. God very clearly in many places tells us to live accordingly, and expect it. He doesn't leave us with any doubt about whether there's going to be a judgment. He tells us very clearly what it takes to qualify to pass the judgment ...so we're set then.
He also tells us that everybody is judged the same way, according to the same standard, by the same rules, by the same law. If a bad fish gets caught in the net with the good fish, well, the bad fish will have His judgment too. See, this is actually a bit more encouraging than it looks on the surface. If we see that there are bad fish among us, we don't have to worry about it because we know that the Judge has promised a judgment, and it's not on our shoulders to judge that person. It's not on our shoulders even to do anything about that person, because he's not our fish. He's God's fish, and God will make the decision whether to throw him out or to keep him, depending on his deeds and what He has done.
As a final thought on that last bit I want to go to another Scripture. All we have to do is prove that we're a good fish. We don't have to prove whether somebody else is a bad fish, or whether they're a good fish. You just have to prove that you are a good fish.
Psalm 98:9 For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, and the peoples with equity.
I wanted to highlight this. This should be a great relief to all of us, to know that God judges with equity. We're all going to be judged by the same Judge, by the same standard, fairly, and without respect of persons, our origins, or anything but what our character is. There won't be any sliding scale so that some people get off easy and some people have it harder.
We won't be judged against each other, which is nice, because I know there are people that put me to shame. We don't have to worry that the Judge is going to succumb to bribery because you don't like Mr. X, and you slip Christ a few bucks under the table. It won't happen. Mr. X may be your boss in the kingdom, because Christ judges fairly, not according to whether you like the person or not.
We don't have to worry about the Judge having a bad day. We don't have to worry that the Judge won't be sympathetic to our cause. We can feel confident that the Judge knows the law absolutely up and down. He knows us absolutely up and down, and He won't overlook any pertinent information. He has no ax to grind Himself or any ladder that He's trying to climb. He's already on the Supreme Court. He doesn't go any farther.
So what is the summary of The Parable of the Dragnet? God's calling is first impartial, and then His judgment is absolutely fair. As a little sidelight, the wicked will get what's coming to them, so that should be very encouraging. You don't have to worry about those people, even though they may be trying to destroy us. That's in God's hands.
The Parable of the Householder
Matthew 13:51 Jesus said to them, Have you understood all these things? They said to Him, Yes, Lord.
I wonder how much they really did understand. They probably understood a good bit. Whether or not they did at the time, we don't know, but He took them at their word.
Matthew 13:52 Then He said to them, Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the Kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.
We can tell immediately that this parable is a little bit different from the others. It doesn't start out as "the Kingdom of Heaven is like." It's not one of those type of parables, but it has to do, obviously, with the Kingdom of Heaven, because it says it right there in the context. Also it is aimed directly at the disciples. He said to them, "Because you said you understood this, now here's My instruction." So it's aimed specifically at what we would call today, "the ministry."
The word "scribe" here may cause us a problem at first, because we normally think of a scribe as someone who writes something down for another person, like a king would have. A king would have an official court scribe. All the things that took place in the courtroom or in his throne room would be written down by the scribe as the official record of the kingdom.
Well, that's not exactly what is meant here. In the first century, among the Jews, the scribe had a very important position in the community. Ezra was the proto-typical scribe. This goes back several hundred years [prior to this Matthew 13 parable]. This is in the 450s BC. Ezra had already made the mold for what a scribe is.
Ezra 7:6 This Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled [or ready] scribe in the Law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given. The king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.
What this tells us is that the specialty of a scribe was the law of God, or the words of God, the Bible. That is what a scribe did. His job was to know the Bible.
In Nehemiah 8, we'll see what they did with their knowledge of the Bible. This, by the way, happens on the Day of Trumpets a few years later.
Nehemiah 8:2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the congregation, of men and women and all who could hear with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month.
Nehemiah 8:5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.
Now we'll go to verse 7. It goes through all those names of the people.
Nehemiah 8:7-8 [The scribe] helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.
Now we have a fuller picture of what a scribe was. He was a person who spent his life studying the Bible and knowing just as much as he could about what was in it. He stood before the people and expounded and explained until they understood. We call him a "minister" today. That's his job. He spends his whole life studying God's words, and he stands before the people on the Sabbath day, and he tries to help people understand what God says in His word. So we have a minister. This is very easy to understand.
The next word we have to look at in Matthew 13:52 is the word "instructed." "Every scribe instructed concerning the Kingdom of Heaven." This is a very interesting Greek word. It is the verb form of the noun that means "disciple." So it really means, "every scribe discipled concerning the kingdom." So now we have the scribe as a student. He has been taught, but there is an idea here that he is continuing to be taught. Not only is he a teacher, but he is also a learner at the same time. (Remember, we're all in this together.) The preacher is under judgment too. He has to go on learning so that he can go on teaching. That's pretty much the answer there to what that is.
Jesus sent out His disciples to preach the Kingdom of God.
Matthew 10:7 And as you go, preach, saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
This is the commission to the Church. To the apostles He says, "Teach everything that I commanded you to the people." So they were teachers as well as students.
In this parable here we're given a third description of this person. He is also called "a householder." This is kind of interesting. It kind of hits in the teeth what we've been going through in the church over the past five or seven years or so. Do you know what this word "householder" means? It literally means "house despot." It means "the ruler" or "the master of the house," or "a house."
So what can we get from this? Well, "house despot" implies a great deal of authority, as well as responsibility over his house. The buck stops with the householder, with the master of the house. Now He says he's like one of these people—like a householder—and what He is saying here is that the minister of God has been charged with being an authoritative interpreter of Scripture.
I know that the more independent thinkers out there probably don't think that the minister has much authority, but this parable gives the minister a great deal of authority in expounding His word. He calls them "a house despot." They didn't quite have the same negative connotation to the word "despot" as we do now, but it still meant a master, a person with authority. I don't want to push this too hard, but I did want you to see that he was a teacher, he is a student, and he is also a leader—one who has authority, but one who also (at the same time) has a great deal of responsibility, and here comes the responsibility: "This householder," Christ says, "brings out of his treasure things new and old."
Matthew 13:52 Then He said to them, Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the Kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.
Now let's look at the word "treasure." You might think that this sounds like that word back there in verse 44. Well, it's not really. It doesn't mean treasure—as in the gems and all those things. It means "a treasure house," or "a treasury," or "a storehouse," or "a storeroom" where you would store treasure. I don't know why they translated it that way. It's very clear from the Greek that it means "a place" and not the actual treasure itself. In this place one would store what is necessary, like food or clothing, for the house.
You would have a certain storeroom where you placed all your grain and fruits and vegetables and meal, or it was a place where you stored your valuables—the family jewels, or the family art that you didn't want to go up in flames in the house. All the good things that you want to put away for safe keeping would be put into your treasury, or in your storeroom, or in your storehouse. That's what this means. In the context, then, the minister is to use what he has learned and experienced in his life for the good of his house—all those things he had stored up in order to present to the people.
That's what that means. His treasure is mainly in his head—the things he has learned and experienced as he has lived God's way, and as he has studied God's way.
Then he tells them to bring out "old and new." This becomes more understandable if we think of "old and new" in terms of food stuffs. The master of the house will be in charge of making sure that his storeroom was full or had everything in it that was needed to feed the family or people who were staying there.
Now a wise householder, a wise master of his house, would balance serving his oldest store with fresh produce so that the old or the new is not wasted. Let's say if he served only the new, the old would go moldy and it would be ruined and it would have to be thrown out. It would be wasted. But if he served only the old, then the fresh and the new would also be wasted because you wouldn't get the benefit of let's say the flavor and nutrition that is in fresh produce. So the wise householder serves his family old store as well as the fresh off-the-vine food, and he mixes them in balance so that neither is wasted.
This is how Jesus says a minister should teach the people: by carefully balancing the teaching, let's say, of the Old and the New Testaments. That would be "old and new." Or, if you will, balancing our traditional understanding of God's truth with new insights and applications of how it could be used in our time and our situations.
It doesn't mean that the old is thrown away. It doesn't mean that the old is wrong. It just means that a minister may see an angle to this that hasn't been seen before, and he needs to preach on that because it will help the people in their present situation. This is exactly what Jesus had done in the parables. He had taken the old truths of what the Kingdom of God is, and what all the people considered the Kingdom of God, and He shone new light on them so that people would understand that He had come as the Savior, and this was how things were going to transpire from now on. He had taken old truth and shined new light on them.
This is another parable. This is "The Faithful and The Evil Servant" parable:
Matthew 24:45-46 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.
The summary here is that a minister's duty is to make the truths of God clear, fresh, and living so that the church may grow.
I certainly hope that I've done that for you in these sermons on the parables. I hope you see the great spiritual conflict that our conversion has embroiled us in, and how very serious it is. I spent two sermons on how serious that spiritual warfare is that we're fighting now. But as we've seen in this sermon on the lighter side, Christ and God the Father are doing their utmost to make it a fair fight, and more than fair. We are more than conquerors. We are victors. They have provided redemption, the preparation, and provided fair judgment and teaching so that we will be victorious.
Psalm 144:1 Blessed be the LORD my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.
Psalm 144:11-15 Rescue me and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of foreigners, Whose mouth speaks vain words, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood that our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as pillars, sculptured in palace style; That our barns may be full, supplying all kinds of produce; That our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields; That our oxen may be well-laden; that there be no breaking in or going out; that there be no outcry in our streets. Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!