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Failure of the Church to get the balance of the faith/works issue right (Part 3)

11/07/2014

Why is this parable so important to the Church, and the balance of faith and works?

(BTW, when I write “Church”, with a capital, “C”, it means each individual who are part of the family of God.)

Last time we learned the tradition of a Jewish proposal to wedding celebration at the time of Jesus.   This is something his disciples knew. Jesus’ parables all centered around life as the people, of his day, knew it; nestled within was a message ready to be unpacked and understood. Sometimes his disciples had to ask Jesus to explain the message, but in this case I do not think that was necessary.

If you have not already read the parable click this link now and take a moment to read it, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+2five%3A1-13&version=NIV.

On the surface there is the simple story of a groom coming for his bride, but there is the troubling and strange account of five bridesmaids without enough oil, who ended up being shut out of the ceremony by the groom who said, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.”

You might be asking, “What’s with that?” Well, note the parable is not called “The Parable of the Wedding Celebration.” No, it is called “The Parable of the 10 Bridesmaids.” So, we know the message of the parable is contained in what happens to the 10 bridesmaids, and the rest is just the setting, the framework for the message.

Five bridesmaids were ready when the groom came; five were not ready. By the time they got ready, it was too late. The door had closed.

If we understand the groom to be Jesus, and the bride to be his Church, then we can understand the bridesmaids to be part of the bride’s entourage.  It was meant that the bridesmaids would enter the celebration with the bride, yet five did not. Why?

Why? They did not have oil for their lamps. They had to go get some.

Keep in mind, the message of the parable is clothed by the story of a familiar event. The groom is Jesus, the bride is the Church, the bride (Church) had invited the bridesmaids to be part of the group, and thereby to be with her when she entered the wedding celebration. The lamps were used to light the way as the wedding party marched through the streets from the bride’s house to the place of the celebration. Oil was needed to light the lamps.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

These bridesmaids either had Jesus (the light) or they did not. Those who did not, Jesus did not know.

To complete the explanation, think of the oil that the five did not have. Since they did not have oil, they did not have light.

Re-phasing that statement then, it would read… Since they did not have oil, they did not have Jesus.

So, what is the oil?

This is the key that unlocks the whole of Matthew 25, and is a life changer for us. The oil is the Holy Spirit.

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Matt 3:11 NIV

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26 NIV

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38 NIV

Please don’t miss this. It is the Holy Spirit living in a follower of Christ that is the oil which lights the flame, which gives them a new life in Christ.

Saying you are a Christian is nice. Believing in God is great. However, you are missing true life in Christ unless you accept what Jesus did for you on the cross, accept Jesus as the Lord of your life, and are gifted with an in-filling of Christ’s spirit, the Holy Spirit. It is then that you experience a wholeness, joy, and peace through good times and bad.

It is this oil, the Holy Spirit, a gift from God for the believer, that lights your world in a whole new and exciting way.

And you can be sure that when the wedding feast occurs, Jesus will not look at you and say, “Truly, I don’t know you.”

Why is this parable so important to the Church, and the balance of faith and works?

Because it all starts with our walk with Christ.  It must start with grace, the grace of God to provide a path of forgiveness.  First grace, then works.  First faith, then works.  None of us are perfect, but heaven is.  Only those who have been washed clean of their sins can enter a perfect place, the place of eternal celebration.

“God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him (an open invitation to all) may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

I look forward to seeing you at the celebration!

God’s blessings,

M.

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