EXEGESIS: MATTHEW 25:1-13
Pamela Ayn Austen
Parable of the Ten Virgins
1. At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
2. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take along any extra oil.
4. But the wise ones took oil in flasks along with their lamps. 5. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6. At midnight the cry rang out, "Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!" 7. Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8. The foolish ones said to the wise, "Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out." 9. "No," said the wise ones, "or there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves." 10. But while they were on their way to buy it, the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. 11. Later the other virgins arrived and said, "Lord, Lord, open the door for us!" 12. But he replied, "Truly I tell you, I do not know you." 13. Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
The lamp represents the human heart; the oil represents faith; and the light represents eyes that see with good and Godly judgment. The five wise virgins, or servants of God, made sure their faith was maintained and strong, and they pursued God through his word and Spirit to the end of their lives. They built up their faith in Jesus from the heart.
The unwise virgins, or servants, were lazy about maintaining their faith through the long stretch of their lives, and here is what they thought. "I'll stay in church, and I'll be with other Christians, and if I lose my faith, well, I'll just rely on the faith of my friends around me. Through their strong faith, they'll take me by the hand and bring me into God's good graces." These were the virgins who didn't bother maintaining their own oil - their own faith. They thought they could just rely on the oil (faith) of others around them.
I have someone close to me who, over the course of a few months, has said to me, "I may not have a lot of faith, but you have a lot. But I have faith in your faith." And by saying that, this beloved person in my life was really saying, "Though I don't have oil for my lamp, I'll trust you and your lamp and your oil to see me into heaven and God's presence."
It doesn't work like that. There is one lamp, one heart, per person. Each heart must have its own true faith in Jesus, as each virgin had to have her own oil for her own lamp. My faith, my lamp full of oil, cannot save anyone but me. If the other person's lamp is empty of oil, they must go and get oil for themselves; meaning, they must go to God and God's word through study and prayer, and perhaps hear someone witness to them through preaching, and they must grab hold of a faith in Jesus that is all their own.
We're told, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:17 You must hear or read God's word, and trust and believe in all that it says. Then true faith will be granted, because Jesus said, "All those who call upon the Lord in truth shall be saved." Romans 10:13 But further it says, "How then can they call on the One in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach to them?"
When Peter asked the man studying the book of Isaiah if he understood what he was reading, the man said, "Sir, how can I unless someone guides me?" Acts 8:31 And Jesus said in Matthew 7:24, "Therefore, anyone who hears these word of mine and acts on them is a wise man who built his house on the rock."
So we see who is wise: those who hear God's word and call upon him in truth and with real faith in him. This is wisdom, and their faith in Jesus and God's word is the oil in the wise virgins' lamps, which is their heart. And the faith in my heart cannot be taken out and given to another person; they must have faith in their own heart; and they purchase it by taking the time to read and hear God's word. It must be their own faith, their own oil, their own wisdom to seek out and desire Jesus to dwell within them. I can't give to my beloved friend the oil in my lamp, though if I could, I would. I can only say, like the five wise virgins, "Go quickly and get oil for yourself." But if they tarry, and Jesus arrives too soon for them, and he takes their breath of life before they've given their faith and heart to him, then the door to heaven will be closed to them.
Psalm 49:7-9 says, "No one can by any means redeem his neighbor, or give to God a ransom for him. For redemption of the soul is costly, and never can payment suffice, that he should live on forever and not see decay."
The wise virgins didn't just have oil in their lamp (faith in the heart), but they instructed others on how to get their own oil. In this parable, it illustrates that it's too late for the unwise servants. But as of today, it isn't too late, and before it is too late, we must keep on and on and on warning and speaking and leading and instructing them, if perchance anyone of them will listen and go now and gain the oil, the faith, they need in Jesus to be saved. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 5:1,2