I have heard it told me that one we have recited the “Sinner’s Prayer” all is done: we are saved. Often, but not always, there is some kind of admonition to follow up by attending Church or such, but it is so secondary.
Jesus died for us and gave us a free gift; we just need to take it from Him and say thanks. But there is a price to be paid, for as Jesus said in Luke 14:27-28 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me, he cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he may have enough to finish it.”
There are other verses in the Bible which say much the same. The Great Commission does not just say “save souls” it says disciple nations. Disciple in that usage, means for us “to disciple and be discipled.” There is a cost, as Jesus therefore says by inference, in the Great Commission.
Let us have a look at the Story of the Virgins found in Matthew 25:1-13. This extract is from The Message version of the Bible:
“God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep.
In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bridegroom’s here! Go out and greet him!’ The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, ‘Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.’
They answered, ‘There might not be enough to go around; go buy your own.’
They did, but while they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked. Much later, the other virgins, the silly ones, showed up and knocked on the door, saying, ‘Master, we’re here. Let us in.’
He answered, ‘Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.‘”
There are five things all the virgins have in common:
They all are expecting the bridegroom.
They all know the bridegroom is coming, but don’t know exactly when.
They are all believers.
The all have lamps and oil.
They all fall asleep, both the wise and the foolish.
Indeed, there is only 1 difference between the foolish and the wise – the amount of oil they have.
As in most of Jesus’ teachings, there is depth in the meaning, though this time it is not in the form of a parable. Even so, for us, we need to have some keys to unlock that which those listening would have understood clearly, but which because of cultural differences, are hidden from us.
First, numbers in the Bible generally have specific meanings. Jesus tells us at the very first verse, the main theme of the teaching here is God’s Kingdom. Thus the number 10, the 10 Virgins here, represent the Church – a congregation. For the Jews, 10 was the minimum number of attendees in a Synagogue before public prayers could be offered. Those listening would have interpreted the 10 virgins to represent the Synagogue congregants, for us, churchgoers.
Secondly, the oil which the virgins have in their lights represents the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in Matthew 5:14 we are “the light of the world” and Second Timothy 1:14 confirms that the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Revelation 19:7 confirms we, the congregation of Christ, are the brides waiting for His return. This is all about us.
Thirdly, there are only two conditions for being filled with oil, being filled with the Holy Spirit: enough or not enough. There are no half measures here. The silly ones did not have enough, the wise did. This is the only difference between them.
Fourthly, at the start, all the virgins had oil in their lamps. Like all Christians, when they first accepted Christ, they were in-filled by the Holy Spirit, however the silly ones had done nothing to replenish the oil used up, since the initial filling. The silly ones had used up all their oil until their lamp ran dry ran the light failed. The wise had invested in more oil, the foolish had not, and now paid the consequences for this inaction, this inattention.
Fifthly, the foolish virgins were told to go out and buy oil. This means the oil, the Holy Spirit, does not come free after the initial filling. It.. He is available, but at a price. It does not automatically replenish itself. We cannot just do nothing and expect the Holy Spirit to continue to fill us, over and over again. There is a price to be paid for that infilling and Jesus tells us this in Revelation 3:17-18 in his words to church in Laodicea where he says “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.”
Christ’s words to the church in Laodicea are as appropriate to us today as they were at the time they were written. This teaching from Jesus is aimed at those who profess to be Christians and mistakenly think they are part of the elect. Jesus is saying to them: “No!”, or as more explicitly told in Matthew 25:41 “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”.
What is the price to purchase oil? Praying, Reading the Bible, and Waiting upon God.
I recognised that I have sinned and have fallen short of the standard and deeds you have required from me. I come before you this day to repent and turn back from my worldly ways to Your ways, the ways of Jesus, the ways of the cross and the ways of the narrow road. Strengthen me to pray, Oh Lord. Strengthen me to read the Bible and to wait upon You. I lay my will down at Your feet and ask you to lead me. I ask that you will use me for the furtherance of Your Kingdom and that my life shall now be all about You, and not about me. Fill me Lord I pray, with Your Holy Spirit, and let me be a beacon for You in my neighbourhood and community where I live, work and play. Use me Oh Lord.
In Jesus mighty name I pray. Amen and Amen.