For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 MEV
We've been in a series contrasting Law and Grace. More specifically, we've been uncovering hidden truths in the many parables and events of the Gospels that reveal how Jesus came to fulfill the Law, bring it to its completion, and usher in the New Covenant. Christ came to reveal the Father and bring about a new and living way of approaching Him.
As we dig deeper in the Gospels, prepare to have any man-made traditions challenged. In Matthew's Gospel, we find the Parable of the ten virgins. I have heard this parable taught for years as a lesson for those who have not committed their lives to follow Christ with their whole heart.
Is this the purpose of this parable? To show how believers can lose their salvation? Is it to show how Jesus views carnal Christians? That those who aren't really committed will be left out when Christ returns? When we understand the purpose of Jesus' ministry we recognize these ideas as works and performance-driven teachings and reject them.
What is the Parable of the ten virgins teaching? Understanding the audience and the purpose of Jesus' ministry it becomes clear Jesus isn't teaching a hopeless gospel. He isn't teaching a strive to arrive, work harder, or do more gospel message.
Jesus is teaching His disciples, His followers. He is giving them the truth, the message to bring to their brethren, the people of Israel. Look again at this parable.
Jesus speaks of five wise and five foolish virgins. They all have lamps and the oil needed to light those lamps. Now while they all wait for the Bridegroom to come, the five foolish virgin's lamps go out. The Bridegroom returns and they are not allowed into the wedding, because they are not known.
This is where tradition teaches, the foolish were unprepared for the arrival of the Bridegroom. Meaning, that they were living in sin, worldliness, and carnality. When Christ comes if you are living this same way you will miss His return and be left out. I can see how many interpret this parable this way, but that's because they do not have the revelation of Grace and the New Covenant fully.
This works-driven view comes from a conscious awareness of our own shortcomings and the self-efforts we've all engaged in to compensate for our flaws. When we feel our efforts have outweighed our failings we feel more confident in pointing out others' foul-ups, flaws, and failures. Thus we began interpreting the Word in light of self-effort.
To understand this parable, look at the symbology Jesus used. Look at the timeline Jesus is pointing to. Jesus is speaking of the future, so this concerns the time after His redemptive work on Calvary. He uses the symbols of lamps and oil. The Scriptures have used that symbology previously.
The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord that sheds light on one’s inmost being. Proverbs 20:27 NIV
Here this passage under the Old has more effectiveness and reality under the New, seeing the believer's spirit man has been recreated and born from above. The born-again human spirit is the lamp of the Lord. Look at another passage concerning lamps.
For the commandment is a lamp, And the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life, Proverbs 6:23 NKJV
So we can see two contrasting lamps, two contrasting lights. Under Grace, the New Covenant, the born-again believer's spirit is the lamp and the light of the Lord. We aren't under Law, we don't need commands written on stone to lead us and guide us. The Lord dwells within us and His light leads us and guides us.
The other lamp speaks of the commandments, the light being the Law. Seeing any pattern here? Once again Jesus contrasts Law and Grace. Who is the true light? Jesus Christ is the light of the world. If the light is out, it's because the lamp has a light other than Jesus. That is trying to come to God, and achieving righteousness by deeds of the Law.
Going deeper, Israel has been called a virgin prior to this passage. Amos and Jeremiah both have used this to describe Israel. So can we see a clearer understanding of this parable? This is speaking of Israel and Christ coming. Those whose light is Christ are found in Him, they are known of Him. Those whose lamp and light are the Law, their lamps are out, for Christ has fulfilled the Law. These, though they were Jews are no longer known by God.
God has known Israel. God calls them His chosen people, the apple of His eye. Yet when Christ came, He paid the price, He made a new and living way for all to receive. He opened salvation to all men, Jew and gentile alike. Jews who reject Christ, reject Grace and refuse His free gift of eternal life are just as lost as the gentile who reject Christ.
God has gone through much effort to conceal and reveal throughout the Gospels and the Epistles the truth that the Law is finished in Christ. Christ is the end of the Law for Righteousness to all who believe. Those under the Old who have heard the truth but continue to reject Grace in favor of Law are walking with their proverbial lamps out. Grace is the Gospel. Grace is the foundation of the New Covenant. There is no light or guidance from the Law, it cannot lead anyone to eternal life.
Is the Parable of the ten virgins teaching believers to be more committed? That only the most faithful and morally upright will be known by God? No, this parable is contrasting Jews who have received the Gospel of Grace, who are leaning on Christ for their Righteousness, and Jews who cling to the Old and the Law for life, right standing, and eternal hope.
The question may arise, why were the foolish then instructed to go buy more oil to light their lamps if it was about Law and Grace? Look at God's instruction for the tabernacle. The oil that burns perpetually was derived from olives that were beaten and crushed. Who was He that was beaten and crushed for our sins? Jesus! This oil is a picture of Jesus' redemptive work.
The foolish went to go buy more oil. Again this speaks of Law and works. We can't buy Righteousness. Something that we can pay for means our efforts provided the wages to make the payment. Peter declared we were redeemed with the Blood of Jesus not silver or gold, or something that can be earned or purchased by our efforts.
I ask again, was this parable teaching believers to be better? To do more? To be more faithful and obedient? To work harder? To live more upright or you will be rejected by God? No, this is contrasting the New and the Old. Those who await Christ, the Messiah, in Christ, and those awaiting the Messiah based on their abilities, and observance of the Law.
In summation, the Word reveals Jesus and His Grace from cover to cover. That holding on to Grace and not Law is where eternal life is truly found. In contrasting Grace and Law, something vitally important must be noted. That is the everlasting and unchanging Love of God.
When we contrast Law and Grace we aren't saying God hates the Law and those who were under Law. When we say the Old is obsolete and our Faith is attached to the New, this isn't saying God hates Israel. Understanding Grace, is not an invitation to anti-Semitism.
Though the Old is done and the New has come, it doesn't mean the Church replaced Israel. He hasn't abandoned the Jewish people or "divorced" them as some now teach. Imagine someone saying that because of witchcraft God has "divorced" Himself from all Africans! How racist would that be? Same for Israel. Stay with Grace revealed and relinquish all man-made ideas that are contradictory to Grace and Love.