Calvary Road Baptist Church

The Danger of Hypocrisy

Matthew 25.1-8

(Adapted from a sermon by Asahal Nettleton)


My text is Matthew 25.1-8:


1      Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.

2      And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

3      They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:

4      But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

5      While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

6      And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

7      Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.

8      And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.


This passage is part of a parable that was intended to represent, not the state of the world at large, but professing believers, and to teach the danger of being a hypocritical pretender. A hypocritical pretender is someone who claims to be a Christian but who is not. A hypocritical pretender may even sincerely believe he or she is a real Christian, but in fact is not. The details of the parable are taken from the marriage customs which prevailed among the Jewish people in Jesus’ day, which marriages would be properly arranged by the bride’s parents.

In those days it was customary for the bridegroom to come to the house of the bride late at night with his friends to take his bride to the place that was to be their home. Of course, the bride and her bridesmaids, when notified of the bridegroom’s approach, would go out with their lamps in hand to meet him and escort him to the house. Usually, a bride would have ten of these bridesmaids. Verse 1 reads, “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.” The ten virgins represent those who profess to be genuine believers. The bridegroom, of course, is the Lord Jesus Christ.

The parable can be applied collectively to everyone who professes to be saved, or it can be applied to the individuals who profess to be saved. In the former case, the coming of the bridegroom may be considered to be the coming of Christ at His second coming. In the latter case, the coming of the bridegroom may be considered to be at the time of a person’s death. I would like to apply the lessons of this parable to the situation you may find yourself in today. So, we will not look at the application of this parable to everyone who professes to be saved and is awaiting Christ’s second coming, but to you as an individual who is living out your life until death comes suddenly upon you.

They “took their lamps.” This represents their profession of faith. They “went forth to meet the bridegroom.” This represents their journey through life, in which they profess to be traveling toward heaven. “While the bridegroom tarried,” verse 5. His delay represents the whole span of a person’s physical life on earth. “They all slumbered and slept.” This represents the spiritual slothfulness which is too often visible in the lives of people who claim to be genuinely saved, sleeping instead of watching and waiting for the groom. Verse 6: “And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh.” This represents, for us this morning, the solemn summons that is made by the sudden and unexpected approach of death. “Go ye out to meet him.” When summoned by death you have no choice but to go out of time into eternity to meet Christ and then to be judged by Him. Verse 7: “Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.” The loud summons of death will wake up from their slumbers both the Christians and the hypocrites, and lead them all to inquire whether they are prepared to meet their God. “And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil,” verse 8. Oil is here the emblem of grace in the heart, which constitutes the distinguishing characteristic of the true child of God. “For our lamps are gone out.” But how could they go out, if they had never been lighted? And how could they have been lit without oil? Let me pause here, and propose to you this question. Does this passage show that real Christians can fall from grace and finally perish when they have lost the salvation they once had?

Recognize that some people strongly assert that this parable does teach that a saint can lose his or her salvation. They will ask, almost with an air of triumph, “How could their lamps have gone out, if they had never been lit? And how could they have been lit without oil?” Consider this line of reasoning. If it can be made to appear that in this parable Christ intended to teach that some who shall be finally excluded from heaven were once real Christians, then we have here a conclusive argument against the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Such an argument will have the tremendous effect of proving that one half of all real Christians will somehow end up in Hell. For “five of them were wise, and five were foolish,” verse 2. What proof is there that the foolish virgins represent those who were real Christians? It rests solely on their own testimony. “And the foolish said unto the wise, give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.” The evidence against them rests on the declaration of Christ. He says, “five of them were wise, and five were foolish.” Now, if all of the virgins were Christians, then all were wise. The terms wise and foolish are used in the Bible to designate the righteous and the wicked. Were they not wise when they started their Christian journey? Did they not take oil with them, and afterwards become foolish by letting their lamps go out? This is, no doubt, what the five foolish virgins intended to communicate. However, what was the fact? Christ asserts that they took no oil with them, and plainly suggests that their dilemma resulted from taking their lamps without oil. If they had one drop of oil, or one spark or light kindled by the oil of grace, then the declaration of Christ would not be true. Here, you see, lies the contradiction. Not that our Savior contradicts Himself, since He never said that their lamps had gone out. He only relates what the foolish virgins said. The contradiction lies between Christ and the foolish virgins. They would have you to believe that they had once had salvation and lost it, since they said, “Our lamps are gone out.” However, Jesus says no such thing. He says “they were foolish, and took no oil with them.” So, you see, the only difficulty in understanding this parable seems to arise from taking it for granted that what hypocrites and apostates and those who pretend to be Christians say concerning themselves must be true, although it contradicts the plain statements of Christ.

One more comment before we proceed: Many will justify their own reluctance to come to Christ by flattering themselves that they do not want to be hypocrites, with many suggesting that they see too many Christians who are hypocrites to want to be like them. However, you will clearly see from this parable that the Lord Jesus reveals that hypocrites are those who merely pretend to be Christians. Thus, the false reasoning a lost person might use to mollify his conscience and somehow credit himself with virtue for not wanting to be a hypocrite is so much nonsense. It fools only the fool.

From this parable we learn a number of things:




“The kingdom of heaven,” verse 1. This phrase applies to Christendom, to those who claim to be born again believers here in southern California. This great mass of professing believers is likened unto ten virgins, five of whom were wise and five were foolish. Even Calvary Road Baptist Church is composed, in part, of hypocrites who will never be admitted to heaven. Friends, there is no doubt that this is what the Lord Jesus Christ was explicitly teaching. He would have us all remember and take warning that there are many people who belong to the same good church, who hold to the same beliefs and doctrines, who assemble in the same auditorium, and who gather around the same table for communion, but who will never meet in heaven.

In some churches, perhaps where God has recently sent revival, there may be a majority who are saved. However, in the book of the Revelation, in Sardis, there were only a few names found who had not defiled their garments. In general, according to the Lord Jesus Christ, most who seem to be prepared for heaven will not actually be fit to enter it.


Matthew 7.21-23:


21     Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

22     Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

23     And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.


Matthew 8.11-12:


11     And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

12     But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


Does this offend you? Do you believe that I am unduly harsh in my judgments? Do you think I am being uncharitable? Do we pretend to be more charitable than Christ? If, my friend, you do not suspect danger from this direction, then you reject and ignore some of the most solemn warnings which Jesus Christ ever delivered to man. Many people make an empty profession of faith.


Luke 13.24-28:


24     Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

25     When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:

26     Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.

27     But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.

28     There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.


This warning is delivered to people who were confident they were right with God. Of them Jesus said, “Many shall seek to enter in and shall not be able.” Many will stand outside knocking when it will be too late. Do you doubt that a number of us here today will be found in that situation? Many professors will finally be lost.




People who appear to be alike now may be very different in the sight of God. In First Samuel 16.7, the LORD informed the prophet Samuel that “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” No degree of external conformity can determine the state of the heart. “He is not a Jew, who is one outwardly,” Paul told the Romans. Jesus spoke of those whose outward appearance was beautiful, and yet He compared them to whited sepulchers, within “full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”

Without an appropriate external appearance, we can safely conclude that there is no genuine salvation. If a real relationship with Christ exists in any individual, there must be a reflection of it in the outward and observable appearance of that person. This is because the light must and will shine. However, where the appearance seems to us to be unchanged, there may be a great difference in the sight of God. The contrast to God may be as great as that between light and darkness, holiness and sin, heaven and Hell.




It should be the great and constant object of every person to be prepared for the coming of Christ. All our views and aims, and everything which we say and do, should have reference to that glorious event. Every conscious moment we should stand prepared to hear the summons, “behold, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.” It is your business to be ready now. If you are not now ready for eternity, then you are not living up to your profession.

My friend, are you prepared to hear the summons? “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately,” Luke 12.35-36. If the message of Amos was “Prepare to meet thy God,” then the Lord Jesus Christ would urge you to already be prepared to meet thy God.




The phrase, “He is so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good” expresses the sentiments of the devil. Real Christians can never be too devoted to God and to His service. Oftentimes the problem is that not even the genuinely saved are nearly committed enough to the cause of Christ. “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.” We have all seen and are fearful of a misguided and false zeal. However, true Christian zeal, humble and with a holy love to God, can never rise too high. “All slumbered and slept.” The Bible is full of complaints about the slothfulness and the lukewarmness of Christians. That is why there are loud warnings and exhortations for believers to awake, to be zealous, and to repent.

Once in heaven, every Christian will look back and feel a sense of shame because his heart was not more deeply and warmly engaged in the cause of Christ. At the hour of death, not one true believer will think he labored too hard, or will feel regret because he feels that he was too devoted to the service of Christ. At that solemn hour when eternity is entered, every child of God will wake up as he never did before. The very moment he meets Christ in the next world he will most definitely blush at his past stupidity. Never will Christians be sufficiently awake, till their hearts burn with an angel’s flame.




The distinction is not in the head, but in the heart. Verse 4 reads, “The wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.” Here is something which they took and which the others did not take. It is a difference of hearts. The one has oil in his vessel, the other has none. The true professor is concerned mainly about his heart, that it will be fueled with all the Christian graces. The false professor, on the other hand, is only concerned with his empty profession. “I don’t care what he says. I know that I’m saved.”

The Apostle Paul reminds us that salvation is a matter of the heart. “He is a Jew, which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter,” Romans 2.29. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness,” Romans 10.10.




On this point there is a difference of opinion. Some say they are lost because they once had Jesus in their hearts, but have since lost Him. This is similar to what was said by the foolish virgins: “our lamps are gone out.” However, Christ has given us the true reason why many false professors will be lost. He declares that they were foolish, and “took no oil with them.” The reason why so many will be lost, is not because they have lost genuine salvation, but because they never had a genuine salvation.

You see, they did not begin right. They took the lamp of profession without grace in their hearts. This was their great error. And it was what finally ruined them. This is because no one is more likely to die without coming to Jesus Christ for real salvation than people like this who have falsely professed to be saved. To those who have made false professions of faith, who really are like scribes and Pharisees in their false hope, the Savior says, “Verily, I say unto you, publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.”


What am I supposed to say in response to this warning by the Lord Jesus Christ? Am I to exhort you to persevere, to hold on, and to hold out to the end? Do I hold up the Lord’s wonderful promise for all to hear, “he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved?”

The problem is that there is one class of individual who professes to be saved who, if he does persevere, if he does hold on and hold out to the end, will certainly be lost. You see, in these last days of religious apostasy we spend too much time trying to persuade those who make professions of faith to latch on to the promises of God and to claim as their own the assurance of salvation, as though assurance of salvation is salvation itself.

However, it is sometimes necessary to warn you to pause and examine yourself. If you are a new creature in Christ, if you have entered the strait gate and the narrow way, then go on and endure to the end and be saved. If you have only a name to live while you are dead, let me warn you to stop. The fatal example of the foolish virgins should serve as a warning to you now to begin with your heart.

Suppose a search should be made of everyone in this congregation. Suppose each and every heart could be opened up to inspection, and that five out of every ten should be found who have no love for God, no light in them whatsoever? What would you do? All of us are traveling on together, and soon our journey will come to an end. Should some of you hold on and hold out to the end in the spiritual state you are presently in? If you do, remember, some of you have no oil in your vessels.

Is your heart right with God? Is it fueled with all the Christian graces? Does it burn with love for Christ? Have old things passed away, and have all things become new? If so, then go on and endure to the end, and you shall be saved. However, if your heart is not prepared, stop where you are. Go no farther. “Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?” Go back, for you are on the road to death. Go back, please, and enter the strait gate and the narrow way, for if you persevere a little longer, if you take a few more steps in your present course, and you will be forever too late. Make haste, for the time is far spent, and Christ is at hand. “The coming of the Lord draweth nigh.”

Be quick about it, because the time of your death is nearer than you might imagine. “Behold, the bridegroom cometh.” Then they that are ready will enter heaven; and the door will be forever shut.

A final comment for those of you who fear being a hypocrite. You look around and see those professing Christ who are in no way saved, and you do not want to be that way. I understand. I will work on that with you, so long as you do not let your concern about being a hypocrite keep you from coming to Christ. Better to be an inconsistent Christian who goes to heaven than a consistent sinner who goes to Hell.

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