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Parable of the Wise & Foolish Virgins

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
September 2, 2022 12:01 am

Parable of the Wise & Foolish Virgins

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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September 2, 2022 12:01 am

On the day of judgment, multitudes of professing Christians will hear Jesus' dreadful words, "I never knew you." Today, R.C. Sproul demonstrates how Christ's parable of the wise and foolish virgins warns us to test the legitimacy of our faith.

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In the parable of the unwise virgins, Jesus uses words that should strike terror into the hearts of unbelievers. I do not know you. He may know their names. He may know where they live. He may be aware of their preaching, their service, and all the rest. Jesus is saying, I never knew you savingly. What was missing in the lives of the virgins was salvation, saving faith. We imagine that we're living for God, doing all the right things, reading our Bibles, maybe even involved in church, only to have Him say He never knew us. It brings a feeling of cold dread to imagine having those words spoken to us when we stand before God's throne.

Today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. R.C. Sproul examines the parable of the wise and foolish virgins and urges us to examine our own preparation for the coming of the bridegroom. At the end of the 24th chapter of the gospel according to Saint Matthew, Jesus gives a sober warning to those who are with Him about being prepared for His coming, where He says in verse 44, Therefore be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. And immediately following this warning, Jesus gives three parables. First of all, the parable of the faithful servant and the evil servant, and then next the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, and then after that He concludes with the parable of the talents. We're going to look in this series at the last two of these three, beginning now with the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, which I personally think is the scariest of all of the parables of Jesus that are recorded for us in the New Testament.

So let's look first at the content itself of this parable that is found in Matthew 25, beginning in verse 1. Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept, and at midnight a cry was heard, Behold, the bridegroom is coming.

Go out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out. But the wise answered, saying, No, lest there should not be enough for us and you, but rather go to those who sell and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came. And those who were ready went in with him to the wedding, and the door was shut. Afterward, the other virgins came also, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.

Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. This lamp is an actual lamp from Palestine from the first century, the type of lamps that were characteristically used at events such as are recorded here in this parable. And this lamp is only about the size of the palm of my hand. That's how large these lamps were. They were fairly flat, and there was an empty space in there for the lamp to be used. These lamps were fairly flat, and there was an empty space in there for a bit of oil, and the wick floated on the top, and the wick would then be ignited, and the light would be used to see in the dark. Nothing could possibly be more useless to lighten one's way in the darkness than a piece of pottery called a lamp without any oil in it.

It's like having a beautiful, modern, electric lamp, but no light bulbs to put in it. So we're told this story of a wedding, and there are ten virgins who are described here, five of being wise and five of being foolish. But what we know about these virgins is this, that this was not a parable like we saw with Diocese and Lazarus or the difference between a beggar and a pagan, wealthy person. Rather, all ten of these women were invited to the wedding. And in the ancient world, this would be the case where they would be invited by the bride herself, and these women would be like ladies-in-waiting. And they would help prepare the bride for this glorious moment when she would be united in marriage with her bridegroom.

And obviously, it was a joyous occasion. It would be celebrated to a great extent, and to have an invitation to the wedding was an honor. But they were not only invited to the wedding, but they were part of the bridal party, so that their status at the wedding was the inner circle. Now obviously, this parable is speaking about the coming of the bridegroom, who is the Master, who is the Son of Man.

He is Christ. And the coming of the bridegroom to celebrate His wedding with His church is, I think, the basic point of the parable. But the problem is, half of these women who are in the inner circle of attendees are deemed to be foolish, as distinguished from the wise ones. And the reason they are foolish is that they came unprepared to this wedding.

Now we need to stop for just a second and again emphasize what kind of people are being described here. These are clearly people in the church, people who are part of the congregation of the people of God. And in order to be a member of the church, for the most part, throughout church history, a person has to make a profession of faith in Christ. So I think it's safe to assume that all ten of these women had made their profession of faith in Christ. So that we're talking now about professed Christians inside the church, not pagans out on the street, people who were trying to crash the wedding party, people from other nations.

These again are friends of the bride, and they are here expecting to participate in this joyous wedding feast when the bridegroom comes. Again, the basic difference between the two groups is that the wise virgins brought not only lamps, but they also brought oil for their lamps. As I said, nothing is more useless than a lamp in those days without oil. The others brought their lamps, but did not bring the required provision of oil. And as it turned out, the wedding was delayed as the groom did not get there at the expected time. And while they were in this interim, they were waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom who was delayed.

They fell asleep. And at midnight, they were roused by the public announcement, behold, the bridegroom is coming. And the story says that the five virgins who were wise immediately trimmed their lamps. They were ready to move into wherever the ceremony was about to take place.

It was inside of a building of some kind. But the foolish virgins realized that they did not have what was needed, which was oil for their lamps. Now throughout church history, there have been all kinds of attempts to interpret this parable as an allegory. And when we first started our study of the parables, I said that there were occasions where Jesus Himself gave an allegorical interpretation to a parable, such as the parable of the sower. But for the most part, the safest way to interpret parables is to look for one poignant meaning of the parable and not get lost in trying to assign a particular significance to every detail in the story.

If you do that, you will usually end in serious confusion. Nevertheless, when it's obvious that at the center of this story, there was a significant lack in one group that was not in the other group, and the lack in the story is defined as the oil for the lamps, people want to say, well, what is the significance of the oil? Historically, the Roman Catholic Church has identified the oil with good works that are necessary to be added to faith in order for a person to be saved. Protestants on many occasions have looked at the oil as a symbol of the Holy Spirit because in biblical literature, oil is frequently used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit, and the idea here is what these foolish virgins were missing was the Holy Spirit. Now, whether there is an allegorical point there or not, one thing is absolutely clear. What they were missing, whether it was the Holy Spirit or something related to the Holy Spirit, we know that whatever it was that they were missing would exclude them from the wedding feast.

Again, on the surface, it's oil. But Jesus, of course, was speaking more deeply about that because of the grim conclusion He comes with respect to those foolish virgins after the bridegroom arrives after midnight. The wise virgins, as we read, trimmed their lamps and were able to go into the sanctuary or wherever the marriage feast was being held, whereas the foolish virgins, lacking what was needed, tried to negotiate with the wise virgins and say, how about letting us have some of your extra oil because we've plumb run out here. We'll be stumbling around in the dark unless you give us some of your oil.

They said, sorry, there's not enough for us to keep our lamps lighted and to give you enough to get your lamps functioning perfectly. The only thing you can do is to hurry up and go into the town and find somebody that sells oil and buy it and then come back and hope that you make it back before it's too late. And so, the foolish followed the advice of the wise at that point, which is an extraordinary thing just to mention because that doesn't usually happen, doesn't usually happen, and they went their way to go and purchase oil. Then the moment of truth came in the person of the bridegroom. He came, he went into the wedding, and as was the custom, the doors to the outside were closed, shut, locked.

And these people who were supposedly part of the honored guests were shut out of this joyous wedding celebration. And when the foolish virgins came back and realized that the wedding had started, they tugged at the door, they tried to get in, the door was locked, they're knocking on the door, and they're shouting through the door, interrupting the marriage ceremony, saying, Lord, Lord, he's saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. Years ago, I preached this sermon at St. Andrews on what I called the double knocks, which was an occasion where there are about 15 times in all of sacred Scripture where somebody is addressed by the repetition of their name, Abram, Abram, Jacob, Jacob, my father, my father, Elisha says to Elijah, and throughout the Scriptures, you know, Martha, Martha, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?

Absalom, Absalom. So when the name is repeated, it was a Jewish idiom to express personal intimacy. So when the foolish virgins come and the door is locked, they don't just cry in the night, Lord. But they say, Lord, Lord, Lord, you're my Lord. I wanted to be here. I expected to be here for your wedding. And you're my Lord, Lord.

You know me. I have an intimate knowledge of you, a close personal relationship with you. Again, I'm not a gate crasher, an alien or a foreigner trying to come into this wedding. And Jesus says, assuredly, certainly, I do not know you. The bridegroom said, you may have invitations.

You may have lamps without oil. And you call me, Lord, Lord. I don't know you. I don't know who you are. Let me just go back earlier in Matthew's gospel to the Sermon on the Mount that ends in a similar manner where Jesus says in chapter 7, verse 21, not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven.

But He who does the will of my Father in heaven, many, not a few, not some, but a large number will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, haven't we prophesied in your name? I was a preacher. I was a Sunday school teacher. I was an elder. I was a deacon.

I did all these things. I cast out demons in your name, done many wonders in your name. And then I will declare to them, I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.

You see the parallel here. At the wedding, the bridegroom says, I don't know you. Here earlier at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, He will say, I never knew you. Not like I knew you and then cut you from my Christmas card list or forgot your name, but you were never known by me. Now, obviously, when the bridegroom says this, who represents Christ, He's not talking about an absence of cognitive information in the mind of the bridegroom. It's not like Jesus is saying, I never was acquainted with you.

I never saw your name on the list of the church or on the role thereof. He's using the word to know here, not simply in the cognitive sense, but in the personal, filial sense, the redemptive sense. He may know their names. He may know their names. He may know where they live. He may be aware of their preaching, their service, and all the rest. Jesus is saying, I never knew you savingly. And what was missing in the lives of the virgins was salvation, saving faith. They obviously didn't have the regenerative power of the Holy Ghost if they lacked saving faith, because if they had saving faith, even if they would have been late or delayed, the Lord would have said, shame on you for being late.

Shame on you for being so foolish to forget your oil. But He wouldn't say, I don't know who you are. This parable, friends, is not about pagans. It's about professors.

And by professors, I don't mean people who teach in a university. I'm talking about those who have made a profession of faith, but who do not possess what they profess. And if we tie this to Matthew 7, Jesus says this is not going to be a handful of exceptional people who have made false professions, but their number will be many.

And so, in the time that I have left in this session, I have to ask you, by way of application, which group do you identify with? If you're church members and if you've made professions of faith, it would be natural for you to identify with the wise virgins and maybe even look at the stain at the fools who didn't bring any oil in their lamps. And so, if you've made professions of faith, it would be natural for you to identify with the wise virgins and maybe even look at the fools who didn't bring any oil in their lamps.

But what if you're one of the foolish ones? The thing that's so clear about this in this warning that Jesus gives is that when the door opens, it's too late. And He's talking about His coming, which can be in one of two ways. His final coming, where there will be people in the church and He won't know. But if He delays another 50 years or 100 years or 110 years, then each one of us will have a private judgment, for it's appointed once to die and then the judgment. And so the question is, when I close my eyes in death and breathe my last breath on this earth, the next face I will see will be that of Jesus. And He may say, who are you? Outer darkness. It's too late.

The door is shut. So my plea, if anybody hears my voice in this parable, that you will take the weight of it very seriously and examine yourself to make sure that you have saving faith and that you manifest the fruit of that saving faith, that you're not just relying upon church membership or being in a Bible class or even involved in Christian service. Everyone who makes a profession of faith is invited to the wedding face of the Lamb, but not everyone will enjoy it. This is a scary, scary parable called to wake us up if we have a false sense of security. That's exactly what the Apostle Paul instructs us to do in 2 Corinthians chapter 13, to examine ourselves, to see whether we're in the faith, our good works, our involvement in church, even our knowledge of the Bible.

None of those things save us. We've heard a sobering message from Dr. R.C. Sproul today here on Renewing Your Mind.

I'm Lee Webb, and I'm glad you could be with us. The parables of Jesus provide us with insight into the kingdom of God. We learn about how we are to prioritize our lives and what we can expect in the judgment to come. Dr. Sproul's series on the parables covers 12 of these insightful stories, and we'd be happy to send you the two-DVD set when you contact us today with a donation of any amount. There are a couple of ways you can reach us to make your request.

One is by phone at 800-435-4343, or if you prefer, you can go online to Your donation is fuel for our many outreaches around the world. For example, right now the Reformation Study Bible has been translated into German, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, and other languages, with the goal of unlocking God's Word for more than one billion new readers. Dr. Sproul served as the general editor of the Reformation Study Bible. More than 75 distinguished theologians provided commentary, and it contains more than 20,000 new or expanded study notes. Its publication and distribution is a major part of our global outreach here at Ligonier Ministries, so we thank you for your generous support. Next week, we have the privilege of bringing you several messages from our 2022 Ligonier National Conference. Stephen Nichols, Robert Gottfried, Stephen Lawson, and others will address the theme Upholding Christian Ethics, so I hope you'll join us beginning Monday for Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-03 07:41:59 / 2023-03-03 07:50:10 / 8

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