This question is related to the question: How do "once saved always saved" advocates explain the parable of the wise virgins?

Many of the answers explain that the foolish virgins never had oil, however one answer pointed out that the difference is they did not take extra oil in a vessel. "But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps" (Mathew 25:4)

It does appear their lamps were burning since both "trimmed their lamps" (Matt 25:7) and the foolish said to the wise "our lamps are gone out" (Matt 25:8).

If this is the case, and the foolish virgins had oil in the lamp but it ran out, what does the oil signify?

1 Answer 1


John Calvin in his commentary on Matthew encourages us to not get bogged down in the minutia of the parables. However, he essentially equates the oil to zeal.

Some people give themselves a good deal of uneasiness about the lamps, the vessels, and the oil; but the plain and natural meaning of the whole is, that it is not enough to have ardent zeal for a short time, if we have not also a constancy that never tires. And Christ employs a very appropriate parable to express this. A little before, he had exhorted the disciples, that as they had a journey to perform through dark and dreary places, they should provide themselves with lamps; but as the wick of the lamp, if it be not supplied with oil, gradually dries up, and loses its brightness, Christ now says, that believers need to have incessant supplies of courage, to support the flame which is kindled in their hearts, otherwise their zeal will fail ere they have completed the journey.

  • 1
    Thanks for pulling this up. Interestingly, a little below, Calvin equals the oil/ supplies also with Christ (8.), Grace (9.) and Perseverance (9.).
    – Beestocks
    Oct 24, 2017 at 12:12
  • I can add that to the answer, if you like.
    – Birdie
    Oct 24, 2017 at 12:25
  • However, I admit I am more confused now than before, since the commentary is unclear on who the foolish virgins represent (8.). There was no discussion on election, and the foolish are represented as "failed in the middle of the course."
    – Beestocks
    Oct 24, 2017 at 12:26
  • I will have to search for a commentary that addresses those questions. My personal understanding is that the kingdom of heaven is the church, and thus all the virgins are externally members of the church. However, the foolish virgins are those in the church who do not work out their salvation, and thus are not elect nor regenerate. They have made a start in their good works, if you will, but did not persevere and thus proved they were not of the elect.
    – Birdie
    Oct 24, 2017 at 12:32

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .