The Wise and the Foolish – The Test of True Discipleship

There is a differentiating factor between the wise and the foolish virgins. As we read various descriptions of the two classes—the wise and the foolish virgins, see where you might place yourself in the descriptions or illustrations. Be honest with yourself. This is one place where it will be fatal to be self-deceived. “When the foolish virgins reached the banqueting hall, they received an unexpected denial. They were left outside in the blackness of the night.” The Review and Herald, October 31, 1899. These foolish virgins felt secure and expected entrance, but they were denied. This is not an experience we want to have.

“We all need to study as never before the parable of the ten virgins. Five of them were wise, and five were foolish. The wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. This is the holy oil represented in Zechariah. ‘Then answered I again, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth’ (Zechariah 4:11–14). This representation is of the highest consequence to those who claim to know the truth. But if we do not practice the truth, we have not received the holy oil, which the two golden pipes empty out of themselves. The oil is received into vessels prepared for the oil. It is the Holy Spirit in the heart which works by love and purifies the soul.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, 1179.

Here is the same definition of the oil, but in different words. “The golden oil represents the grace with which God keeps the lamps of believers supplied, that they shall not flicker and go out. Were it not that this holy oil is poured from heaven in the messages of God’s Spirit, the agencies of evil would have entire control over men.” The Review and Herald, July 20, 1897.

Our Lord describes the foolish, without the oil of God’s grace. “The oil of grace gives to men the courage, and supplies to them the motives for doing every day the work that God appoints to them. The five foolish virgins had lamps (a knowledge of Scripture truth), but they had not the grace of Christ. Day by day they went through a round of ceremonies and external duties, but their service was lifeless, devoid of the righteousness of Christ. The Sun of Righteousness did not shine in their hearts and minds, and they had not the love of the truth which conforms to the life and character, the image and superscription, of Christ. The oil of grace was not mingled with their endeavors. Their religion was a dry husk without the true kernel. They held fast to forms of doctrines, but they were deceived in their Christian life, full of self-righteousness, and failing to learn lessons in the school of Christ, which, if practiced, would have made them wise unto salvation.” Ibid., March 27, 1894.

The difference between the wise and the foolish virgins is that the wise virgins accept and cooperate with God in His plan of redemption. They grasp the promise of the new covenant which is, “The restoration in the human soul of the image of God.” Education, 125. It is “the power of God, ‘which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:57).” Ibid., 125, 126.

Paul says, “I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 8:10–12).

The Jews were not only unprepared, unready, not looking for and understanding the first advent of Christ, but fulfilled the very prophecies of Christ’s suffering, His rejection, His betrayal and death. This happened because they were driven by self and pride, they had changed their fundamental beliefs, they were foolish virgins.

Some have done the very same thing today. “In the time of the Saviour, the Jews had so covered over the precious jewels of truth with the rubbish of tradition and fable, that it was impossible to distinguish the true from the false. The Saviour came to clear away the rubbish of superstition and long-cherished errors, and to set the jewels of God’s word in the frame-work of truth. What would the Saviour do if He should come to us now as He did to the Jews? He would have to do a similar work in clearing away the rubbish of tradition and ceremony. The Jews were greatly disturbed when he did this work. They had lost sight of the original truth of God, but Christ brought it again to view. It is our work to free the precious truths of God from superstition and error.” The Review and Herald, June 4, 1889.

The prevailing popular error that it is impossible to gain victory over sin will lead many to reject Christ by rejecting the Spirit of Prophecy, which explains clearly, in complete agreement with Scripture, that we must overcome not only our sins but our propensity to sin. Many repeat with all the conviction worthy of pure truth that overcoming sin completely is impossible, but this is Satan’s lie.

Let’s look at this a little more.

All ten virgins have lamps – symbol of light—truth.

All ten are called virgins – they profess a pure truth.

All go out to meet the bridegroom – all believe that Jesus is coming again for they “go out to meet Him” (Matthew 25:6).

All ten expect entrance at the wedding feast.

All these are good attributes but the key element is missing from the foolish virgins, the oil of grace, the Holy Spirit in their lives. Steps to Christ, 58, 59 explains it like this:

“Those who become new creatures in Christ Jesus will bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, ‘love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance’ (Galatians 5:22, 23). They will no longer fashion themselves according to the former lusts, but by the faith of the Son of God they will follow in His steps, reflect His character, and purify themselves even as He is pure. The things they once hated they now love, and the things they once loved they hate. The proud and self-assertive become meek and lowly in heart. The vain and supercilious become serious and unobtrusive [inconspicuous, unremarkable, bland, modest, self-effacing, unassuming]. The drunken become sober, and the profligate pure. The vain customs and fashions of the world are laid aside. Christians will seek not the ‘outward adorning,’ but ‘the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit’ (1 Peter 3:3, 4).

“There is no evidence of genuine repentance unless it works reformation. If he restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, confess his sins, and love God and his fellow men, the sinner may be sure that he has passed from death unto life.”

The following two statements are from an article on the parable of the ten virgins entitled “A Solemn Lesson.” “Repentance for sin is the first step in conversion. Repentance is an intense hatred of sin in all its forms. … He who is truly repentant, he who is regenerated, hates sin. All manner of selfishness is distressing to him. Indifference to God on the part of those around him grieves him.” The Signs of the Times, August 13, 1894. The wise virgins are regenerated. They have been born again.

This experience is no happenstance. It is no accident. It is a conscious choice. Again, Steps to Christ describes the path of the wise virgin. “Many are inquiring, ‘How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?’ You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.

“Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.

“Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith.” Steps to Christ, 47, 48. [Emphasis author’s.]

Here is where the foolish virgins fail. They are not hypocrites. Hear the words of the Lord. “The class represented by the foolish virgins are not hypocrites. They have a regard for the truth, they have advocated the truth, they are attracted to those who believe the truth; but they have not yielded themselves to the Holy Spirit’s working. They have not fallen upon the Rock, Christ Jesus, and permitted their old nature to be broken up. This class are represented also by the stony-ground hearers. They receive the word with readiness, but they fail of assimilating its principles. Its influence is not abiding. The Spirit works upon man’s heart, according to his desire and consent implanting in him a new nature; but the class represented by the foolish virgins have been content with a superficial work. They do not know God. They have not studied His character; they have not held communion with Him; therefore they do not know how to trust, how to look and live.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 411.

This is serious business. “They have not studied His character; they have not held communion with Him.” We learn of God, of Jesus, His character, of His work and purpose for mankind in the holy words of Inspiration.

“The life of Christ that gives life to the world is in His word. It was by His word that Jesus healed disease and cast out demons; by His word He stilled the sea, and raised the dead; and the people bore witness that His word was with power. He spoke the word of God, as He had spoken through all the prophets and teachers of the Old Testament. The whole Bible is a manifestation of Christ, and the Saviour desired to fix the faith of His followers on the Word. When His visible presence should be withdrawn, the Word must be their source of power. Like their Master, they were to live ‘by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4).

“As our physical life is sustained by food, so our spiritual life is sustained by the word of God. And every soul is to receive life from God’s word for himself. As we must eat for ourselves in order to receive nourishment, so we must receive the Word for ourselves. We are not to obtain it merely through the medium of another’s mind. We should carefully study the Bible, asking God for the aid of the Holy Spirit, that we may understand His word. We should take one verse, and concentrate the mind on the task of ascertaining the thought which God has put in that verse for us. We should dwell upon the thought until it becomes our own, and we know ‘what saith the Lord.’ ” The Desire of Ages, 390.

Do you know experientially, “what saith the Lord?” The wise virgins do. They know the voice of their Lord. What about the foolish virgins? We read, “… but the class represented by the foolish virgins have been content with a superficial work. They do not know God. They have not studied His character; they have not held communion with Him; therefore they do not know how to trust, how to look and live. Their service to God degenerates into a form. ‘They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as My people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness’ (Ezekiel 33:31). The apostle Paul points out that this will be the special characteristic of those who live just before Christ’s second coming. He says, ‘In the last days perilous times shall come: for men shall be lovers of their own selves; … lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof’ (2 Timothy 3:1–5).” Christ’s Object Lessons, 411.

Here it is stated again: the foolish are content with a superficial work. They do not believe that it is possible to overcome. So as long as they keep their sins confessed they will be fine. They believe that Jesus did it all at the cross. All that is necessary now is to believe. This is the overpowering yet fatal deception of today.

The foolish virgins have been content with a superficial work and they do not truly know God. What we need is faith that works by love and purifies the soul.

“Those who have divine enlightenment will see the necessity of overcoming, for they will realize something of the purpose of Heaven in regard to the influence they are to exert upon others for their salvation. If those who have serious faults to overcome, would rely on God with earnest faith, he would work for them; and the more diligently they devoted themselves to the cultivation of virtue and the discharge of duty, the more grace would they receive to become like the Pattern. With the experience of conversion to Christ, a new life begins. The apostle says, ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Whoever accepts Jesus will make determined efforts to overcome through the strength imparted to him from Heaven; his whole character must and will be transformed. Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of his faith, he will go on from grace to grace, from strength to strength, and power will be given him to uproot every evil. … Faith, living, active faith, works by love and purifies the soul; it becomes an abiding principle in the life. Everyone who has accepted the righteousness of Christ is placed on high vantage-ground. His conversation, his habits, will be of a high, refined character, after the example of his Lord, and then he will not lie against the truth. He will rise above all baser things into the pure atmosphere of heaven.” The Signs of the Times, October 13, 1890.

“Genuine faith is followed by love, and love by obedience. All the powers and passions of the converted man are brought under the control of Christ. His Spirit is a renewing power, transforming to the divine image all who will receive it. It makes me sad to say that this experience is understood by but few who profess the truth. Very many follow on in their own ways and indulge their sinful desires and yet profess to be disciples of Christ. They have never submitted their hearts to God. Like the foolish virgins they have neglected to obtain the oil of grace in their vessels with their lamps. I tell you, my brethren, that a large number who profess to believe and even to teach the truth are under the bondage of sin. Base passions defile the mind and corrupt the soul. Some who are in the vilest iniquity have borrowed the livery of heaven, that they may serve Satan more effectively.

“ ‘Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin’ (1 John 3:9). He feels that he is the purchase of the blood of Christ and bound by the most solemn vows to glorify God in his body and in his spirit, which are God’s. The love of sin and the love of self are subdued in him. He daily asks: ‘What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?’ ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do’ (Psalm 116:12; Acts 9:6)? The true Christian will never complain that the yoke of Christ is galling to the neck. He accounts the service of Jesus as the truest freedom. The law of God is his delight. Instead of seeking to bring down the divine commands, to accord with his deficiencies, he is constantly striving to rise to the level of their perfection.

“Such an experience must be ours if we would be prepared to stand in the day of God. Now, while probation lingers, while mercy’s voice is still heard, is the time for us to put away our sins. While moral darkness covers the earth like a funeral pall, the light of God’s standard-bearers must shine the more brightly, showing the contrast between heaven’s light and Satan’s darkness.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 119, 220.

Don’t these words from Inspiration just thrill your soul? Oh, to the soul in love with our Saviour, these words are electrifying, they are life. Obedience is not drudgery.

“The service of Christ is not drudgery to the fully consecrated soul. Obedience to our Saviour does not detract from our happiness and true pleasure in this life, but it has a refining, elevating power upon our characters. The daily study of the precious words of life found in the Bible strengthens the intellect and furnishes a knowledge of the grand and glorious works of God in nature. Through the study of the Scriptures we obtain a correct knowledge of how to live so as to enjoy the greatest amount of unalloyed happiness. The Bible student is also furnished with Scripture arguments so that he can meet the doubts of unbelievers and remove them by the clear light of truth. Those who have searched the Scriptures may ever be fortified against the temptations of Satan; they may be thoroughly furnished to all good works and prepared to give to every man that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them.” Ibid., vol. 3, 374.

Another description of the wise virgins from the pen inspired by our God: “When we seek for appropriate language in which to describe the love of God, we find words too tame, too weak, too far beneath the theme, and we lay down our pen, and say, ‘No, it cannot be described.’ We can only do as did the beloved disciple, say, ‘Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God’ (1 John 3:1). In attempting any description of this love, we feel that we are as an infant lisping its first words. Silently we may adore; for silence in this matter is the only eloquence. This love is past all language to describe. It is the mystery of God in the flesh, God in Christ, and divinity in humanity. Christ bowed down in unparalleled humility, that in His exaltation to the throne of God, He might also exalt those who believe in Him, to a seat with Him upon His throne. All who look upon Jesus in faith that the wounds and bruises that sin has made will be healed in Him, shall be made whole.

“The themes of redemption are momentous themes, and only those who are spiritually minded can discern their depth and significance. It is our safety, our life, our joy, to dwell upon the truths of the plan of salvation. Faith and prayer are necessary in order that we may behold the deep things of God. Our minds are so bound about with narrow ideas, that we catch but limited views of the experience it is our privilege to have. How little do we comprehend what is meant by the prayer of the apostle, when he says, ‘That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen’ (Ephesians 3:16–21).” The Review and Herald, November 17, 1891.

This describes the passion of the wise virgin. The foolish virgins do not thrill to these words. The foolish virgins do not understand these words. The foolish virgins are put to sleep by these words, uninterested in these themes.

“Many who profess to be Christians become excited over worldly enterprises, and their interest is awakened for new and exciting amusements, while they are coldhearted, and appear as if frozen, in the cause of God. Here is a theme, poor formalist, which is of sufficient importance to excite you. Eternal interests are here involved. Upon this theme it is sin to be calm and unimpassioned. The scenes of Calvary call for the deepest emotion. Upon this subject you will be excusable if you manifest enthusiasm. That Christ, so excellent, so innocent, should suffer such a painful death, bearing the weight of the sins of the world, our thoughts and imaginations can never fully comprehend. The length, the breadth, the height, the depth, of such amazing love we cannot fathom. The contemplation of the matchless depths of a Saviour’s love should fill the mind, touch and melt the soul, refine and elevate the affections, and completely transform the whole character.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 212, 213.

This is the definition of the wise virgin. Does it fit for you? This is one question where you cannot afford to be self-deceived. “The Lord calls upon His slumbering people to awake out of their sleep. Many who in their ignorance consider themselves to be wise—like the foolish virgins in the parable—do not realize that their lamps are going out. When they awake to their condition it will be too late for them to obtain a fresh supply of oil, and they will be unready to meet the Bridegroom.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 9, 206.