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.(Matt 13:44)
Have you ever made a great buy–something you were delighted to obtain?
It feels great to buy something you really want, doesn’t it?
The Lord Jesus taught that in some sense the kingdom of heaven is a great buy. The question is, in what sense?
Two interpretations are possible.
The Lord Buys the Kingdom
The man who finds the hidden treasure (i.e., the kingdom) and sells all that he has to buy it could be the Lord Jesus Himself. He is the one who has purchased our salvation (Acts 20:28;1 Cor 6:20; 7:23; 2 Pet 2:1). He who was rich became poor as He gave up His very life for us (Matt 20:28; 2 Cor 8:9; 1 Pet 1:18-19).
Believers Buy Kingdom Rewards
The only other option is that we buy the kingdom for ourselves.
It should be obvious that the only way this view could be possible is if buying the kingdom refers to obtaining eternal rewards. Eternal salvation is not something which we buy. It is an absolutely free gift (John 4:10; Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8-9; Rev 22:17).
(Amazingly Lordship Salvation teachers take this passage as a call to give up everything that we might buy eternal salvation. [See, for example, MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, pp. 135-39]. What an affront it is to the Savior to suggest that we pay even part of the price for our salvation!)
There are many passages which teach that eternal rewards are earned by hard work (cf. Matt 16:24-27; 19:27-30; 1 Cor 9:24-27; 2 Cor 5:10; 2 Tim 2:3-15). If buying the kingdom can refer to obtaining kingdom rewards–and there is nothing in Scripture which forbids such an association–then this view is certainly possible.
Which View Is Correct?
While both views are consistent with Scripture, only one was intended by the Lord. Which one?
I believe the Lord was talking about Himself as the one who buys the kingdom. There are three solid reasons why I come to this conclusion.
First, the Lord Himself is clearly the central figure in the two immediately preceding parables (Matt 13:24-33; compare v 37).
Second, in those two parables the Lord referred to Himself simply as “a man.” He used that exact same designation in our parable as well, suggesting that He was again referring to Himself.
Third, our passage says that the reason the purchaser bought the field/kingdom was “for joy over it.” Hebrews 12:2 uses almost exactly the same language to refer to the Lord Jesus dying on the Cross for us. It says that He endured the Cross “for the joy set before Him.” That joy in all probability refers to the joy which He will experience when He is installed as King (see Heb 1:8-9).
How wonderful it is that the Lord Jesus has paid the full and complete payment for our salvation! This motivates us who have received the free gift of eternal life by faith in Christ alone to give all that we have and all that we are to serve Him. As the famous missionary C. T. Studd once put it:
- If Christ be God and died for me, then there is nothing too great that I can do for Him.
N.B. The parable which immediately follows this one, the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (Matt 13:45-46), is clearly parallel in thought. The above remarks thus apply equally well to it.
Free to Us
- Eph 2:9
“…justified freely by His grace…”
- Rom 3:24
Costly To Him
- Matt 20:28
“…knowing that you were redeemed… with the precious blood of Christ…”
- 1 Pet 1:18-19