The merchant in the parable is Jesus. He left the glories of heaven (Philippians 2:5-11) to bring many others to glory (Hebrews 2:10 / 1 Peter 3:18).
The merchandise is the Church. The pearl in this parable is not a Savior whom the sinner has to “buy.” It is the sinners who are bought by the Savior (1 Peter 1:18-19). The Church is the pearl bought with a price (Acts 20:28), which includes all believers (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The means of payment is the life of Christ given up to save others (John 3:16 / 1 Timothy 1:15, 3:16 / 1 John 2:2, 4:9-10). Consider how an oyster makes a pearl. The formation of a pearl begins when a foreign substance slips into and irritates the oyster. The mantle covers the irritant with layers of a substance called nacre, the same substance that is used to create its own shell. This eventually forms a pearl. So a pearl is the product of suffering, where a foreign substance is covered with the essence of the oyster, also called mother-of-pearl. The church is the fruit of the suffering of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21 / 1 Peter 2:24).
The iniquity of man had caused the injury to Jesus, but now it has been covered by Him and shares His beautiful nature (Colossians 1:27 / 2 Peter 1:3-4). The Church is clothed with a beauty not its own but with the beauty of the One it had been against. Because of the power of Jesus the jeweler, the germ has now become the gem (Zechariah 9:16 / Malachi 3:17-18).