Give Not Holy Things To Dogs
Matthew 7:6 - A Message by Pastor Eric Chang
Today, we continue our exposition on the Sermon on the Mount in Mt. 7:6. In this verse, we read that the Lord Jesus says, “Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.” We need to ask the question, “What is the Lord Jesus saying to us here? What is the meaning of this?” The Lord Jesus said at the beginning of Matthew Chapter 7 that we are not to judge brothers and sisters. We are not to condemn brothers and sisters. But does that mean that we should be without any discernment? We may not condemn people, but we must discern what they are. We have to see clearly what they are.
Now the Lord Jesus here says that you do not take a holy thing and throw it to the dogs. You do not take pearls and throw these before swine. This would seem to indicate that certain people are being described as dogs and swine. That, of course, is not exactly very flattering. We do not exactly like to be called either of these. But one thing we must bear very carefully in mind when the Lord Jesus says this - it is that by using these terms, like dogs and pigs or swine, He is not attempting to insult anybody. The fact is there is no better way to describe certain people, their character, their nature, than by these figures.
Jesus Speaks the Truth - No Exaggeration, No Flattering
You know, sometimes, the truth is not very nice to listen to. We do not like to listen to the truth. If a person is very filthy, very dirty, you may say, “Well, you are behaving like a pig!” You are not pointing to insult the person. You might say that even of your own child that you love very much. You say, “You are like a little pig! You are filthy!” So, you may say that even of somebody whom you love, not insulting the person, but describing that there is no other way to describe his condition but to say that he is as dirty as a pig. I would say that when you come to know the spiritual filth and degradation of sin, you would say that the pictures of swine and of dogs is really no exaggeration of the condition of some people who are degraded in sin. It is, in fact, much worse than swine and dogs.
I find that sometimes the comparison of a sinner to an animal is not an insult on the sinner. It is an insult on the animal. Let us consider this statement for a moment. I would take, for example, those people who could put millions of Jews into gas chambers. To call them pigs or swine is an insult on the swine. The swine would never do a thing like that. When you think, for example, of those people in Hong Kong or even in America, or in England, for that matter, who attack innocent passersby and beat them until they are blind or maimed or even dead, no dog ever does that, unless it is a mad dog or a vicious dog. You see, animals do not do the kind of vicious things that sinners and evil men do. When it says that they turn and attack you, well, men attack each other all the time. What is exceptional about that? So, we can see that when the Lord Jesus speaks of people in sin, in their sinful nature, as swine and as dogs, He is not only not exaggerating the situation: it is, as we can see, when compared to these animals, really an understatement.
So let us pursue this question and ask, “What exactly is the Lord Jesus saying to us in these words?” First, let us look carefully at these animals, the dog and the swine, and try to see exactly what the Lord Jesus is teaching us from this picture. From this, we will soon see, as I have already hinted, that by the picture of dog and swine, he is characterizing the human nature, the carnal nature as it is lost and degraded in sin. And we are going to see the parallel step by step, until we can appreciate the beauty of Jesus’ teaching and the truth of it, even if the truth of it does not flatter us or make us feel good. I hope that Christians are people who are concerned for the truth and are concerned to know that truth no matter whether it makes them feel good or not.
I am very worried for those people who say that they do not like my preaching because it is too severe. They do not like my preaching because it is always convicting people of sin. They do not like my preaching because it is always rebuking people. Now I am not worried what they think of me; I am worried about them. This is because to say of a message, “I don’t like it because it is too severe” or “[there is] too much rebuke in it,” the question is not whether you like a message or not. The only question we must ask is: “Is it true?” If somebody says to me, “What you say is not true,” then I will be the one who worries. But if somebody says, “Not that your message is not true, but I don’t like it,” then I worry for him. Do you see anywhere in the teaching of the Lord Jesus that he pats us on the back and says, “You are a wonderful guy! You don’t need anything more”? On the contrary, he says, “As to the human nature in its degradation and sinfulness, it is like the dog and like the swine.” If you do not like to listen to it, it does not matter. The Lord Jesus is not here to win votes; neither am I. But the person who is concerned about the truth, he will ask himself, “Is it true? Is the human nature really like this?” When he sees the truth of it, then he is convicted. He repents and then God’s grace comes upon him.
You know, in this connection, I would like to share with you a few words in 2 Tim. 4:1-4. Here, the Apostle Paul says to Timothy that: “In the presence of God, I charge you in the name of Jesus, who is the judge of the living and the dead”, that is, it is a command. In v2 he says, “You must preach the Word. It does not matter whether you think it is the right time or not, you get on with preaching it.” It does not matter whether the circumstances are favorable or not favorable, you preach the Word of God. And then he goes on to say, “You must preach this with patience”, that is, keep on going even if you are opposed or rejected, and to do this with all the skill and the requirements of the preaching and the teaching of the Word of God. The first thing he says is: “You are to convince them.” The word is the same word as “convict of sin” that is used concerning the work of the Spirit in John. (The Chinese translation has “責備” [which means rebuke], which is a slightly different order. The word “rebuke” comes second in the English.) The second thing that Paul says to Timothy is: “You must rebuke them.” Finally, he says, “You have to exhort them.” Does he say anywhere you are to pat them on the back all the time?
Now when you do these things, you are not going to be popular. But Paul commands Timothy to do just that. He goes on in v3 to say, “Because the time is coming when people will not endure sound doctrine.” Just think of that. They do not want to listen to the pure doctrine, the Word of God. But they have got “itching ears”: they want people to tickle their ears, they want people to scratch their backs. I think of this Chinese instrument. It is very interesting. It is a long one with a fork; you can scratch the back [with it]. This means that if nobody else scratches your back, you can do it for yourself. They do not want to listen to the Word of God. They want to get some people to say the things they like to hear. That is the sign of the last times. But Paul says to Timothy, “Don’t you do anything like this. Don’t please, to tickle people’s ears, to cater to their feelings and desires. You preach the pure doctrine of God’s words.” That means bringing rebuke where it is necessary. That means convicting of sin where it is necessary. And you do it even if people hate you; it does not matter. You can see why Paul teaches his student, Timothy, to do this. It is because that is the way the Lord Jesus preached. That is the way we have to preach.
Jesus Uses ‘Dogs’ and ‘Swine’ to Picture Human Nature in Sin
Thus, we come back to this. The Lord Jesus says, “The sinful nature, what is it like?” Whether you like to hear it or not, the sinful nature is like the dog and it is like the swine. If you have not been changed yet, if you have not been born again by the power of God, then you are like the dog and like the swine, spiritually. No matter how beautifully you are dressed on the outside, God looks in your heart and He says, “You are like the dog. You are like the swine.”
What do we learn about dogs? The first thing we have to notice about dogs, in the time of the Bible, is that the dogs were all half-wild. In those days, people did not keep their pets or very seldom kept their pets inside their house. In fact, very few people kept pets at all. In countries where the standard of living is low, where life is hard, people just cannot afford to keep pets. Those of you who have lived in China know that in China, we very seldom have pets. We simply cannot afford to keep these animals. The result was that these animals, these dogs [were wild]. There were dogs around; but they were generally wild or half-wild, rather like the dogs in the Chinese villages. I do not know if any of you have been to Chinese villages. I do not know about Guangdong. I did not spend much time there though I passed through there. But in other provinces, especially in the villages, you have lots of dogs running on the streets and they are all, more or less, wild. Sometimes these dogs were really quite vicious. In fact, when we read in the Bible, we find, for example, in 2 Kings 9:10, that the dogs actually eat the human flesh of people who are killed. And these dogs that we read about in Ps. 22:16-17 are exactly the vicious dogs that we find in this half-wild state.
You know, we are used to seeing cats as pets, but when I was in Israel, I was surprised to find where I was living, the cats were all wild. Where I was living, these cats all lived in the compound near the house, but you could never come near a cat. They would never let you come near them. It is because if you come near, they will just run away. But if you corner them, you might get attacked. They lived on the garbage thrown out from the house or the leftovers that were thrown out. Thus, in those days, that is how the dogs were, too. They were just living off the garbage that was thrown out and they were living on the streets.
Now the Lord Jesus says, you must not give what is holy to dogs. The principle is the same even if it is a pet dog; you do not give to it what is holy. What does this mean? Under the Jewish law, the animals that were sacrificed on the altar, they were holy. The priest could eat of it. Sometimes the person who sacrificed, depending on what kind of sacrifice, some kind of sacrifice, the offerer could eat of the sacrifice. The flesh and every part of the sacrificial animal is holy. The law was that you could not take any part of the sacrificial animal and throw it to the dog, not even a bone. From Exodus Chapter 22, we see that only unclean meat, unclean things were thrown to animals. [v31] That meant any kind of meat so long as it was not sacrificed and dedicated to God.
Now this means that we can learn several things about dogs and swine. I should tell you as a point of exposition that, here, swine and dogs are simply two descriptions of the same thing. The person who expounds the Bible and thinks that this refers to two different kinds of people, of course, makes a fundamental mistake. The fact is that in understanding your Bible, there are certain sayings which stand in parallel to each other. That means that when a statement in the Bible stands in parallel, it means it is saying the same thing in two different ways. This means that dogs and swine, therefore, are referring to one and the same thing. It is using different expression to say exactly the same thing.
1) In Our Carnal Human Nature, We Love Sin and Filth
We can learn several things of what the Lord Jesus is saying to us about the carnal human nature from swine and dogs. We know that swine love filth and dirt. And so in 2 Peter Chapter 2, we read there that the swine that is washed, returns back into the mud. [v22] It is a very interesting phrase that the Apostle Peter uses there. It is because there, it represents those people – those pigs – who have been washed. Think of that! You wash a pig. What is the use of washing a pig? You polish it; you clean it; you wash it and you make it all nice and white. Well, so long as you do not let it out of the room, that is all right, although I am not sure if anybody wants a pig in the room. But the moment you let it out, what does it do? Whoa! It enjoys the mud so much, rolling around in there. There the Apostle Peter says again the same unflattering, unpleasant truth that we have to listen to. He says that there are some Christians who are just like pigs. They have been washed; they have been baptized. You see a nice picture: “washed,” “baptized.” The trouble is that their nature has not been changed. To be baptized without being changed, without being born again, what is the use? Your whole nature is still the same. So that as long as you are in the church – whoa! – you behave like a nice, clean pig. The trouble is that you are still a pig. Then you go outside where there is the dirt and filth. And when you see that nobody is looking at you, [you think,] “Aha! That’s nice. It is nice to have a little roll in the mud.” Thus, the Apostle Peter says that these people, these Christians, these so-called Christians who have gone back into sin, are like pigs that have gone back into the mud.
So, [it is the same with] the dog, too. The dog is also a filthy creature. Anyone who has had a dog will know how much beating you have to give it to train it not to mess the floor up in the room. In Shanghai, we had a little dog. And this dog, the filth that it did all over the house is really something terrible. I mean, if you did not watch it for one minute, the next thing you know, you have a puddle on the floor. It is not only that dog; every dog is like this. So, every dog has to be trained. It has to get its nose put there and get it whacked to teach the lesson that it does not do such [things, to teach it] that such is not acceptable human civilized practice. This is dog culture, but not human culture. Thus, [it is as if you say:] “When you live among us human beings, you do not behave like this.”
2 Peter tells us another disgusting habit about dogs, which we almost would rather not talk about. But since the Bible mentioned it: the dog has the disgusting habit of returning to its vomit. Any of you who have had a dog know this is absolutely true, whether we like to hear it or not. Dogs and swine are both filthy creatures by habit. They have to be disciplined and trained. But you let it go for a minute, and as far as this second disgusting habit that I have mentioned, not even a trained dog can be kept off that.
So, the first thing we learn about the human nature in its natural state, without being changed by God, is its love for sin, its love for filth. Look! You have been a non-Christian before. Just think back how you enjoyed the thoughts of sin, how pleasurable they were. Did sin disgust you? As long as sin did not hurt you, you can enjoy it.
2) We Were Unfaithful
What is the second thing about this animal nature that we can learn? The dog is one of those animals that has no faithfulness to its partner. That is, the male has no faithfulness to the female or vice versa. And the swine is just like this. Any dog will mate with any other dog. It has no sense of faithfulness to its partner.
You know that today they talk about the “new morality.” The “new morality” is that, really, sex is free. You can have sex with everybody and sex is very natural to human nature. It is perfectly in order in the “new morality” that you sleep with anybody, and say, “That’s just nice! Why have inhibitions?” We do not need these human traditions and human laws and man-made ethics to tie us up. We must be free to have sex with everybody. And this kind of thing is described as the “new morality.” Well, it is about as old as the dog. In other words, man has learned from the dog. He is just going back to the dog and he calls this “new morality.” What is new about that? It is evolution going in the reverse. And behaving like dogs, they call this the “new morality.” In fact, there are animals which are very faithful to their mate, but not the dog and not the pig. So we can see that here again, we see the human nature. In fact, in the Bible, this characteristic of the dog is mentioned in Deut. 23:18. There, the people who live in a very loose fashion – this kind of people who are sexually licentious – are described as dogs.
3) We Were Vicious and Aggressive
Now the third thing we notice about this animal nature of dog and swine is that they are very aggressive. That dogs are aggressive, it does not even need to be demonstrated. We all know that. But you say, “Well, swine certainly are not aggressive.” If you say that, it is because you do not know swine. Let me tell you, if you ever go to a farm and you see the swine, whatever you do, do not stick your hand out in front of the swine. It is because if you stick your hand in front of the swine, the chances are that you will be minus your hand.
In July of 1970, I was in Switzerland and I read a very interesting notice in the Swiss newspaper, which shows a lot of light on our passage here. In fact, I clipped that notice out of the newspaper. It was a report about a farmer who lived in the island of Sicily, in Italy, in a village that was off the town of Ragousa in Sicily. And there he had seven swine. He was obviously not a rich farmer; he had only seven swine. One day, he went into the pigs’ pen, as he often did, to feed the swine. On this occasion, the pigs decided that they would rather eat him than the food that he brought. And these pigs attacked him. The seven pigs bit him all over. The result was that when his wife found him, he was almost gone. The newspaper report went on to say that he was rushed to hospital, but he died on the way to hospital. You have to watch out for pigs. I do not know what is the reason that these pigs attacked him. Maybe they were exceptionally hungry. Maybe he did not come on time with the food, and the pigs, these lordly pigs, were rather annoyed with their master. The pigs literally bit the hand that fed them, which shows that they have neither loyalty to their master nor to their mates. Certainly, pigs can be fed. They can also, like dogs, be tamed to some extent. But pigs, like dogs, can be very aggressive.
So here, when I first read this passage, when I saw these words: “You cast your pearls before swine and they will turn upon you and attack you,” I thought, “Surely, pigs do not attack people.” It was because I thought pigs never attack people. In China, I saw a lot of pigs and they all seem to me to look very harmless. But now we can see even from this newspaper report that pigs can be very dangerous under certain circumstances.
4) We Were Unclean - Unfit for Use for God or Man
And so, the fourth thing we learn from the Bible about pigs, as well as about dogs, is this: these things were declared unclean animals in the Bible. What does it mean that they are unclean? It meant that they could not be used either for God or for man. They could not be used for God; that means they could not be offered as a sacrifice to God. They could not be used for man; that means man could not eat their flesh. They could not be used as human food or for human purposes.
Here we can see then the human nature in all these things – its love of sin and evil, its unfaithfulness to its mate. Its unfaithfulness in this very profound sense is precisely because of the connection to the first point: its love for sin, its lust. The third thing we saw is its viciousness and aggressiveness, which is exactly human nature in its natural state; it is vicious and aggressive. How often we have seen that, even in the lives of those who call themselves Christians? You say something that they do not like and they shoot back at you. They snap back and they bite back at you. It is what the Bible calls backbiting. They come back and they bite you. They attack you. And so, we find all these ugly things. In fact, unfortunately, sometimes among Christians, even those who seem to have become true Christians or claim to be true Christians, you correct their faults and what happens? You think you are doing them a kindness, a favor and what do they do? They turn around and they attack you. We find that stated exactly in Gal. 5:15, where Paul warns the Galatians. He says, “Take heed, if you bite one another and swallow one another, that you do not consume one another.” That is really sarcastic. He says, “You, people – you, Galatians – be careful! If you behave like dogs and swine, you’ll destroy each other.”
Dogs and Swine Typify Carnal Human Nature at Its Worst
Now then, what conclusions can we draw from all this? We see then that the dog and the swine typify human nature at its worst. If we are lovers of the truth, if we are honest with ourselves and we have looked at these four points, we would say, “Oh, yes, Lord, I am exactly like that. Lord, have mercy upon me, that in my carnal nature I so love sin. I am so vicious and aggressive. I am so unclean, and therefore, I cannot come into Your presence.” We know that the Lord Jesus speaks the truth to us. Which one of these elements – any element – which one is not true? Which one does not accurately portray our carnal nature? That is what I mean by the beauty of Jesus’ teaching and its truthfulness. At once, we see that every one of us were in the state in which we were before had this kind of character. When somebody criticized us, did we not lash back at him? We were vicious and aggressive. So we were. And all of us were partakers of this character.
How then to Preach the Gospel to Anybody?
But you say, “If that is the case, then all of us were dogs and swine, then none of us were fit to receive holy things. If that is the case, if everyone is like dogs and swine, how can we bring the holy things to anybody?” Ah! There is one important difference, though. There are two kinds of people. Even though both kinds partake of the same nature, yet there is also a big difference between the two. There is one kind of people who know they are like this and they are sorry for it; they are grieved about it. They ask, “Why am I like this?” This is the kind of people that the Lord Jesus speaks about at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. He says that there are people who mourn; they mourn over sin. They know that they are evil, they are vicious, but they are sad about it. They are sorry about it. And because they mourn about this, they hunger and thirst for righteousness. They say, “Lord, You are so right. I am like the dog. I am like the swine. But have mercy upon me. I want to hunger for righteousness and truth. My condition grieves me, O Lord. Have mercy upon me.”
But what is the other kind of person? The other kind of person is the one who has exactly the same nature, but he is not ashamed of it. He is the kind of person the Bible speaks about that glories in his shame. It is exactly as Paul speaks about in Phil. 3:19, “Their glory is their shame and their god is their belly.” Just like the dogs and the swine, their god is their belly. Whoever throws them a piece of meat, they will follow that one. This is the kind of person who, therefore, is not only not repentant; he does not mourn; he even wants to boast about his sin. These are the kind of people who say, “There is no need to be born anew.” Notice the other kind, they long to be changed. But this kind, they are very proud of their sin. They say, “Hmm, do you know how many girls I have conquered?” They think that it establishes their manliness. I am sure they do not succeed very well in competing with the dog. The dog can beat them anytime. Are they ashamed of themselves? No, they are so proud of their dog-like nature. They are so proud also of their swine-like nature.
When I was on a ship going over from Hong Kong to Europe, there was this doctor on the ship that I may have mentioned to some of you before. And he boasted to me of his sin. He was actually proud of his sin. This is the other kind of nature. And this is the kind of person the Lord Jesus is speaking about here. When He speaks about the dog and the swine, He is speaking to the disciples who have already repented. They also had this nature, but they have repented. They mourned for their sins; they were changed. But the other kind of persons, who glory in their shame and in their sin, the Lord Jesus says of this kind of people, do not cast your pearls before them. Do not give them the holy things.
Comparing Holy Things to Pearls
1) Pearls Are a Picture of Purity
Let us consider for a moment what the Lord Jesus means by ‘holy thing’ and by ‘pearl.’ By the principle of the parallel that I have already told you, you will see that the ‘pearl’ and ‘holy thing,’ these two are illustrating each other, so that the ‘pearl’ pictures to us what the ‘holy thing’ is like. What does it tell us about what is holy? Let us consider the pearl. Now, all of you have seen pearls. A pearl, for one thing, is white in its purity. Pure! When you look at a pearl, does it not immediately strike you how pure it is, how white it is? Holiness is always expressed in its purity. It is the opposite of what is sinful and filthy. Immediately, you can see the opposite character of the swine and the dog that love filth and the purity of the pearl. They stand at extreme opposites.
2) Pearls Are a Picture of Perfection
What else do we see about the pearl? Well, everybody knows the pearl is round and roundness expresses, of course, perfection, completeness. That is just what holiness is. Holiness is perfection. It is completeness. What do we mean by perfection? Perfection, when it comes to holiness, means the completeness of our love and our dedication to God. When the Bible tells us that we must be perfect, it does not mean that we can be sinless in this life. But we saw that it meant perfect devotion to Him. In one thing we can be perfect: that my love to Him is 100%! What kind of a person is holy in the Bible? It is the kind of person who loves God with all his heart, soul and strength. And the person who loves God in this way, you can be sure, will not deliberately commit sin.
3) Pearls Are Developed through Suffering
What else can we learn about the pearl? The third thing about the pearl we notice, and we all know, that the pearl is developed through suffering. All of you know that the pearl comes when a bit of sand goes into the oyster. The oyster, in its discomfort, secretes in its suffering the thing that covers it, which is the sand. So, the pearl is actually the product of suffering. And we see that holiness, too, comes from suffering, that is, the suffering that comes when we count the cost of discipleship. It is the suffering that comes when we break with the world. When we do this, when our loved ones oppose us, when they do not understand us, even when we walk in the path of righteousness and truth, when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, when we are ridiculed for the sake of the truth, when we have become disciples of Christ, [we suffer]. There is always, brothers and sisters, a close connection between holiness and suffering. Those who have not suffered, you will often see that they know very little about holiness. But those who have suffered, they know what holiness is. The Apostle Peter has a very interesting statement. He says, “Those who have suffered have ceased from sin.” [1 Pet. 4:1] They have become holy.
If you have not suffered anything for Christ, maybe you still do not know very clearly, in your experience, the definition of holiness. But if you do not love God with all your heart, soul and strength, where you are always ready to compromise with the world, you will never suffer anything. Nobody wants to persecute you. If you think yourself fortunate because you have not been persecuted, in fact you are very unfortunate. That is why right at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus says, “Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” [Mt. 5:10] Jump up and down with joy! Why should you have joy? It is because you are on the path of holiness and because you are in the company of the prophets. Every one of the prophets suffered. They were slandered; they were attacked; and they were persecuted. Every prophet had that same treatment. Why? It is because the prophets always spoke the truth. They did exactly what Paul told Timothy to do: to convince, to rebuke, to exhort. And the people who did not love righteousness hated them. That is why the Bible says, “All who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer.” [2 Tim. 3:12]
4) Pearls Are Obtained through Great Danger
What else can we learn about the pearl? Consider this: the pearl is obtained through great danger. The pearl, of course, does not just come up and swim to your face. You have to go down. You have to dive down into the depths of the sea to get it. And the pearls in Israel were obtained, to a great extent, from the Persian Gulf and from the Red Sea. From there, anyone who has been to those places know – and I have been to the Red Sea – the place is full of sharks. The divers who go down for pearls risk their lives, every time they go down, from being killed by sharks. When we passed through the Red Sea, some of the seamen decided to have some fun. They said to me, “Watch! We’ll throw a few pieces of meat into the Red Sea and you watch what happens.” They threw a few big chunks of meat out into the sea. Within a few minutes, the place was swarming with sharks because, of course, they smelled the blood. And so, these sailors threw out the great meat hook to try and catch a shark just for the fun of it. Well, needless to say, you can hardly catch a shark with a meat hook, but they tried for the fun of it anyway. They did actually hook the shark, but they could not pull it up because the meat hook was too sharp. It just came free. So, you can see these pearls have to be obtained at great danger. What does that teach us about holiness? It teaches us again of the cost of discipleship. But it also makes me think of the Lord Jesus who obtained for us righteousness, not only at the risk of His life, but actually at the cost of His life.
5) Pearls Are Enormously Valuable
Finally, notice this concerning the pearl. Pearls were enormously valuable. That is why, the other day, we saw in the parable how a man, in order to obtain a pearl, had to sell everything he had to get one pearl. Today, genuine pearls are still extremely expensive. Today, you can get a lot of good cultured and imitation pearls. And these good cultured and imitation pearls are also very expensive. The big natural pearls are very hard to come by today. Why are they so valuable? It is not only because they are so beautiful, not only because it is so dangerous to get them, but because they are very, very rare. Holiness today is also very rare. There are lots of dogs and swine around the place. But there are not very many pearls. Holiness is hard to come by. Anyone who has tried to be holy will know how costly it is. It was costly for the Lord Jesus to obtain it for us. It is costly for us to keep it when we have got it. The world is always trying to take our holiness away, to rob away the holiness of Christ in our lives. Satan is ever trying to tempt us back into sin by threat or by cunning temptations.
To See the Value of the Pearl Is to See the Preciousness of Jesus and the Gospel
Thus, now we begin to see what is holiness and what is meant by the pearl. But is the pearl – is holiness – precious to you? Is the Gospel precious to you? How precious is it to you? Is it as precious to you that you have seen its value? And you have seen its value that it is worth everything you have got, like that merchant who sold everything to obtain that one pearl that we see in the Lord’s parable? How come other people did not discern the value of that pearl, but that merchant discerned the value of the pearl? Can you see the value of that pearl? Can you see the preciousness of the Gospel? The pearls here represent the holy things, and the holy things represent the Gospel, because the Gospel is the Gospel of God, which is given to us. It is from God; it is holy.
How do we know that it represents the Gospel, and the holiness that God offers to us in the Gospel? Well, if you understand the NT, you will understand the reason why. From the point of view of exposition, the word ‘holy’ in the original, in Greek, is in the neuter. Here, the situation is that the word ‘Gospel’ in the original, in the Greek, is also in the neuter. The result, of course, is that there is this clear word play that is being used. They used the one to represent the other; that is, they used the word ‘holy’ to represent the Gospel for this reason. The reason, of course, as I have already said, is that the only way we can have holiness is through the Gospel of Christ. There is no other way. When we understand all this, the whole meaning of the Lord’s teaching now should become very clear to us.
Do Not Throw the Precious Pearls of the Gospel to Those Who Reject It
What is the meaning now we can see? In plain words, the Lord Jesus is saying, “Do not take the Gospel and throw it to those people who glory in their shame like the dog. Do not take the precious pearls of the Gospel and throw it to those people who love sin like the pigs.” Why not? It is because they do not appreciate the Gospel. They regard the Gospel as foolishness. The Bible tells us in 1 Cor. 2:14 that the carnal man does not accept the things of God. He regards them as foolishness. And not only do they not appreciate it, they turn upon you and attack you for trying to help them, so that not only are they not helped, they actually commit more sin. The question though is: How do you know whether a person is a dog or a swine in his character? Of course, the Lord Jesus is not saying, “Do not preach the Gospel to them,” because unless you preach to them, you do not know whether they accept it or not. The Gospel must be preached to everybody. But when a person has heard the Gospel and he rejects the Gospel, the Lord Jesus says, “Then, do not keep pushing the Gospel at him. Do not throw it at him.”
That is how you can see the connection with the next statement of the Lord Jesus, which we will look at next week, where the Lord Jesus says, “Ask, and you shall receive.” If you do not ask, you do not receive. That is God’s principle. That is why James says in his letter, “You do not have because you did not ask.” [Jam. 4:2] And so, we can see God’s principle is this: He never takes the Gospel and stuffs it down our throats. The Lord Jesus says, “You don’t do it either. I have not given you the right to do so.” He shows you the Gospel. He presents to you the Gospel. If you ask for it, you can have it. Preaching the Gospel is like putting salvation in the shop window, putting out the beautiful pearls for you to see. But if you want to obtain it, you have to go into the shop and ask for it. You have to obtain it by faith. But God is not going to throw it at you.
Now when a preacher or a Christian worker is not just presenting – showing – the pearls, but actually taking the pearls and throwing them at a person, then he is misusing the Gospel. How did that merchant find that pearl of great price? Well, he must have seen it somewhere. If he did not see it, then he could not have found it. It did not say that he went and dug in the mud for it. It was somewhere displayed, and as he walked by, he looked at it and said, “Ah! That is a pearl of great price.” And then he wanted it, so he asked for it. He paid the price to obtain it. So the Lord Jesus gives His disciples, in this verse, a very important principle in preaching the Gospel. Because so many Christians did not understand this verse, they actually did great damage to the Gospel. I have too often seen Christians trying to stuff the Gospel down the unwilling throats of a non-Christian. What is the result? The result is that that person becomes even more opposed to the Gospel.
How many of us went to Christian school? I went for many years to a Catholic school. By the time I came out of the Catholic school, I must say I was the most anti-Christian person around. That school put me off Christianity. For years and years, I did not want to hear about Christianity. I did not want to hear about religion. Why? It is because they tried to stuff their religion down my throat. You see, this is the one thing that we must not do. Proclaim the Gospel, by your word and by your life – more importantly by your life than by your word! Let the holiness of God be seen in your life. You are the shop window. Or to change the picture, as Paul says, “You are the letter of the Gospel written in words that people can see, the living word.” [2 Cor. 3:2-3] And so, people can see the Gospel and those who want it, who long for the holiness, for these precious pearls, they will come to you and say, “What must I do that I may have these, too?”
So, whatever you do, brothers and sisters, understand the principle: do not force the Gospel down anyone’s throat. The Gospel is too precious. When you throw the Gospel at people, they think this thing has no value. You are throwing it in all directions. This is the reason why in our church, for example, we do not give out Bibles as a present, not even to those being baptized. It is a strange thing about human nature. What they get free, they think it is cheap. Whatever you dish out to them, they say, “Well, I didn’t have to buy this; it’s not worth much.” You give a Bible to the non-Christian; that might be a very nice kind thing to do. You give him some Scripture portion, maybe that is fine. But whatever you do, do not throw the Bible [to him]. If he is very willing to have one, if he is desirous to have one, well, you say, “I’ll buy one for you.” The best thing is let him go and buy his own Bible and then it is very precious to him. [He will say,] “You know I paid for this Bible.” So, if anyone drops it there, he says, “Hey! Hey, be careful now. Look here, I paid for that.” Human nature is very strange. I do not say everybody is like that; but unfortunately, very many people are like this.
Thus, I should point out to you that God turns away from those who reject the Gospel is a very scriptural principle. When Paul preached the Gospel to the Jews and they rejected it, what did Paul say in Acts 13:46-51? He said to them there, “Because you consider yourselves unworthy of the Gospel, look, I turn to the Gentiles. I am not preaching to you anymore. I’ll bring these pearls to the Gentiles.” So, you see, what did Paul do? They did not want to hear the Gospel, but did he say, “I’m going to preach to you. You just sit there and listen”? No, Paul does not do that. He says, “I turn away from you.” When he speaks about cleaning the dust off his feet, this is exactly what the Lord Jesus said. He said, “When you preach in one place and they reject you, you go away from there. You go away and even shake the dust off your feet as a witness to them.” [Mk 6:11] To witness what? The point that from now on, you have absolutely nothing to do with them, not even to have the dust of their town or village on your feet. That is very severe, isn’t it? So, remember the mercy, on the one hand, of God, and the severity to those who reject. But the meaning of this passage as it applies to us as Christians is this: these who completely rejected the Gospel end up with absolutely nothing, except to perish.
Have You Got Treasure in Heaven or Not?
But consider those who accept only in proportion, who accept in a limited and a reserved sense. Do you not see, that in the same sense, you cut yourself off from the priceless treasures of God’s Gospel? That is why some Christians are so poor spiritually. Let me tell you in the kingdom of God, there will be very rich Christians and there will be very poor Christians. There will be Christians in the kingdom of God with multitudes of pearls. And there will be some Christians who manage to get saved only by the skin of their teeth, like a person running out of a burning house with absolutely nothing but the pajamas he is standing in. That is, of course, exactly the picture that Paul is giving in 1 Corinthians Chapter 3, “They are saved, but so as by fire.” [v15] That is like somebody escaping out of a burning house. They are saved, but they got absolutely nothing. When you are in the kingdom of God, brothers and sisters, what kind of a Christian are you going to be? Are you going to be one of these beggarly Christians, or are you going to be one of these wealthy spiritual Christians?
In the kingdom of God, brothers and sisters, there are all kinds of Christians ranging from those who have nothing to those who have riches. You store up riches on earth? What are you going to get when you are in the kingdom? If you let the swine nature and the dog nature in you control your Christian life, or dominate in any sense your Christian life, you are going to be a beggar of a Christian. You are going to be a beggar of a Christian in this life and a beggar in the next life, spiritually. But if you are the kind of Christian who loves holiness and values the pearl, you are going to be a Christian who lives the abundant life, the wealthy spiritual life here and now, and then also in the kingdom of God. That is wisdom. Have you got treasure in heaven or not? What is the use of having riches on earth; you will not take with you one-half penny or one-half cent? You are going to leave everything behind, my friend. On that day, you will see to have that treasure was the only one that counted.
So, brothers and sisters, we all have the dog nature and the swine nature. For that reason, we must never be arrogant towards those other people who are sinners. When you look at other sinners, remember you, too, are a sinner. I am also a sinner saved by grace. But for the grace of God, I am like any pig and any dog. I have no cause to boast over anything and anyone. When I see those people who glory in their shame, my heart is just sad and sorry for them. I have no reason to feel proud in comparison to them. But the Scripture tells me that if they reject the Gospel, I have to turn sadly away from them.
Turning from Those Who Reject the Gospel May then Cause Them to Repent
Perhaps the very fact of my turning away from them may cause them to turn them back to Christ. So, do not be wiser than the Lord Jesus. Do not think you know better than the Lord Jesus how to deal with the situation. Do not think that you are kinder than the Lord Jesus. When a person rejects the Gospel, sadly, but firmly, turn away from him. But the very fact that you turn away from him may be the last chance for him to repent because that turning away from him may suddenly wake him up and [make him] say, “Hey, maybe that is exactly what I needed.” Often, the thing that was offered, and is offered no more, suddenly becomes precious. You learn that lesson when you deal with children. When you take some good food, and you say, “It’s good for you, eat it! Eat it and swallow it,” all the more he does not want to eat it. You say, “You don’t want to eat it? I am taking it away.” [He then will say,] “Hey! Hey! Bring it back! Bring it back.” You see, do not think you are smarter than Jesus or kinder than Jesus. That is the great mistake that so many Christians make. I have seen people turn to the Lord who did not want to hear the Gospel, who did not seem to want to hear the Gospel at first. But when I stop talking to them about the Gospel, then they start inquiring. Let us then live in the wisdom of God.
Now you can see that what seemed to be such a simple statement of the Lord Jesus has so much riches in it: the riches about how we can progress in the Christian life if we put away the swine nature and the dog nature in us and then we can obtain these precious pearls; and the lesson in how we are to witness in giving on these pearls of life to others. Let us let God search our hearts to see if we have truly been transformed, whether we are drawing nearer and nearer to God day by day in holiness.
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church