The Futility of Shiny, Empty Lamps


John Piper on the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:

Verses 7-9 “Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’”

A life of foolishness deepens foolishness. When the shout goes out that the bridegroom is here, they trim their empty lamps. Still no oil. Just outward form. They trim their empty lamps when the cry rings out! This is deep folly. They have neglected the means appointed for doing their duty, and not even the shout wakens them to their empty lamps—not at first anyway. They trim their empty—their useless—lamps.

And then they ask the impossible. Give us from your oil. The fact that the five wise virgins won’t give them any oil is not meant to teach selfishness. It’s meant to teach the impossibility of borrowing faith. It’s meant to teach the impossibility of borrowing the power of the Holy Spirit—the impossibility borrowing obedience and faithfulness. It’s too late. That is what we will see.

What the wise virgins mean when they say in verse 9, “There won’t be enough both of us, go buy your own oil,” is this: We can’t have faith for you and for us. We can’t have inner spiritual life for you and for us. We can’t give you obedience and the faithful use of God-appointed means. If you neglect them, in this life, we can’t create them for you. Each one bears his own load. So in desperation the foolish virgins, who wasted their lives, ran for the impossible: instant end-time obedience. Instant end-time faith.

Verses 10-12: “And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’”

These are terrifying words at the end of the age when Jesus comes back. “I never new you.” You were part of the church—one of the ten virgins—not part of the world. You had lamps. You had religion. You had form. But you took no care for what was inside. You carried the lamp. You kept it shiny. Others looked at you and assumed you had life, faith, inner reality. And all you had was an empty lamp. And now, you are about to face one who sees right through your lamp, and says,“Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.” You don’t want to hear those words. Many will. But you don’t have to.

To read or listen to the rest of the sermon, click here:

 

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