The Church of Laodicea: The "Lukewarm Church"
And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans* write,'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,* I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'"
Introduction: Laodicea- the City
Geographically, Laodicea laid some forty miles southeast of Philadelphia and some forty miles east of Ephesus.The city comprised of a wall of vast compass, three marble theatres, and, was built like Rome was, on seven hills. It was the last of the seven churches addressed with a special messages on the Lycus river on the border of Phrygia, near Colossae and Hierapolis. Laodecea was the recipient of two letters by Paul according to Colossians 4:16.
Laodicea was also part of a great trade route from Ephesus to the east and the commercial seat of large manufacturing and banking operation that boistered a huge wool and carpet industry and a manufacturer of eye salve. Distinguished from several other cities of that name by the appellation Ad Lycum, Laodecea was founded by Antiochus II (261 B.C. - 246 B.C.) of Syria, who named it for his wife Laodike, and who populated it with Syrians and with Jews who were transplanted from Babylonia to the cities of Phrygia and Lydia.
Though Laodicea stood on the great highway at the junction of several important routes, it was a place of little consequence until the Roman province of Asia was formed in 190 B.C.. It then suddenly became a great and wealthy center of industry, famous specially for the fine black wool of its sheep and for the Phrygian powder for the eyes, which was manufactured there (Revelation 3:18).
In the vicinity was the temple of Men Karou and a renowned school of medicine. In the year 60 A.D., the city was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake, but the citizens were so wealthy that they rejected the Roman aid, and responded quickly by rebuilding their homeland it at their own expense (Revelation 3:17). Laodecia was a city of great wealth, with extensive banking operations (Revelation 3:18). There is little known of the early history of Christianity there; Timothy, Mark and Epaphras (Colossians 1:7) seem to have been the first to introduce it to the Gospel. However, Laodicea was early the chief bishopric of Phrygia, and about 166 A.D. Sagaris, its bishop, was martyred. In 1071, the city was taken by the Seljuks; in 1119, it was recovered to the Christians by John Comnenus, and in the 13th century it fell finally into the hands of the Turks. The city was the center of the worship of Asklepios and also of a provincial court where Cicero lived and wrote many of his letters, home of many Jews, called by Ramsay. Called "the City of Compromise," the church here founded apparently by Epaphras (Colossians 4:12), now a deserted ruin, one of six cities with this name (meaning justice of the people).
As written in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul was very instrumental in planting the gospel in this city. In the Epistle he wrote to the Colossians, Paul wrote saultations to them, and to Hieropolis, probably because Laodicea was a little more than 20 miles from Colosse. As it stands today, it has been long since demolished, and lies in its ruins to this day, an awful monument of the wrath of the Lamb. The ruins, now called Eski Hissar, or "old castle", lie near the modern Gonjelli on the railroad, and they have long served as a quarry to the builders of the neighboring town of Denizli. Among them nothing from before the Roman period has appeared. One of the two Roman theaters is remarkably well preserved, and there may still be seen the stadium, a colonnade, the aqueduct which brought the water across the valley to the city by an inverted siphon of stone pipes, a large necropolis, and the ruins of three early Christian churches.
How Jesus Christ Addressed the Church:
"These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God";
According to Matthew Henry Commentary: The "Amen" means one that is "steady and unchangeable in all his purposes and promises." All of God's promises which are all yea, and all amen. He is a witness for God and his truth, and he can approve of nothing which the God of truth would not approve. Jesus is identified as the "faithful and true witness" because he is the "testimony of God" to all men and He ought to be both received and fully believed. Jesus is also the "testimony" of men to God that will be both fully believed and regarded, and...He will be a swift and true witness against all indifferent lukewarm professors.
Jesus also identifies himself as "the beginning of the creation of God", either of the first creation, which means, he is "the beginning" (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1), that is, "the first cause, the Creator, and the Governor" of it; or of the second creation, the church; and so he is the head of that body, the first-born from the dead, as it is in chapter 1:5, whence these titles are taken. Christ, having raised up himself by his own divine power, as the head of a new world, raises up dead souls to be a living temple and church to himself. This expression is a very important one in regard to the rank and dignity of the Saviour, and, like all similar expressions respecting him, its meaning has been much controverted. (Colossians 1:15). The phrase used here is susceptible, properly, of only one of the following significations, namely, either: (a) that he was the beginning of the creation in the sense that he caused the universe to begin to exist-that is, that he was the author of all things; or (b) that he was the first created being; or (c) that he holds the primacy over all, and is at the head of the universe. It is not necessary to examine any other proposed interpretations, for the only other senses supposed to be conveyed by the words, that He is "the beginning of the creation" in the sense that Jesus rose from the dead as the first-fruits of them that sleep, or that he is the head of the spiritual creation of God,
I know your works: (Revelation 2:2)
If there was ever a challenge to the "divinity" of Jesus Christ, these 4 words quickly dispels them. In every letter addressed to each church, Jesus makes it perfectly clear and immediately impresses upon every church that he is fully aware of every one of their works and why they do what they did before he addresses anything else concerning them.
He lets every Christian, and non-Christian no matter where they reside that He is intimately acquainted with all that we do; whether it is good and bad, ugly or indifferent. The fact that Jesus is the Son Of God and completely divine makes Jesus more qualified to dispense all rewards and administer punishments according to divne truth and justice.
It should be observed that, as many of the things referred to in these epistles were things pertaining to the heart-the feelings, the state of the mind-it is implied that he who speaks here has an intimate acquaintance with the heart of man, a prerogative which is always attributed to the Savior. John 2:25. We must understand that no one human has the ability to know everything about you or anyone else . Only a divine person can do this and this declaration, therefore, furnishes a strong proof of the divinity of Christ. (See Psalms 7:9; Jeremiah 11:20; 17:10; 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39).
Jesus' Charge against this Church: "Religious Indifference"
Revelation 3:15: "That you are neither cold or hot"
The severe indictment that Jesus levies against this church, it's ministers and the congregation is "religious indifference". If anyone could rightly indict this church Jesus could. After all, he knew them better than they knew themselves: To them he levies this charge: Thou art neither cold nor hot. After he indicts them , he then gives his soverign position against their indifference in verse 15: "I would thou wert cold or hot." Lukewarmness or indifference in religion is the worst temperment any professing child of God can have in this world. If your religion is truly a real thing, it should be and is the most excellent thing, and therefore we should be in good earnest in in making sure that we got "good religion" and continue to strive for the mastery of the faith in Christ Jesus; If it is not a real thing, it is the vilest imposture, and we should be earnest against it. If the pursuit of pure, undefiled religion is worth any thing, it must be worth everything!
Having an indifference toward the thngs of God and yet claming to be dedicated to Christ and the ministry in every perspective is totally reprehensible and completely inexcusable! Can't you hear the same question Elijah raised to the Children of God (Israel) as he challenged the 450 prophets of Baal: Why are you caught between two opinions? If God be God, follow him, but if Baal (be God), follow him. If you are truly a child of God, it's imperative that you completely be sold out to Jesus Christ by faith and then that you let your faith be proven by the works of pure religion.
"I would thou wert cold or hot".......
That is, Jesus prefered that the members of this church, inclusive of the pastorate would either display either a hot or cold passion rather than the nonchalant, self delusional attitude they exhibited. As far as Jesus is concerned, "any behavior in a given situation is better than acting neutral, especially in relationships where love is professed, but obviously does not exist or where vows (promises) have been assumed and made which are not yet fulfilled".
The "fact" that Jesus prefered that their attitude should be "hot" is clear enough and make perfectly good sense. But, it makes you wonder why Jesus would also accept a state of "utter coldness" where there was no profession of real love?
These following answers were given by the scholastic writere of the Barnes Bible Commentary:
(1) Professed coldness or indifference is more honest than acting in a neutral state yet professing to be "on top" of your game..
There is no disguise; no concealment; no pretence when a person make the declaration of being coldhearted. We know their "true status" and "where we stand with them in relationship". We know "up front" with whom we are dealing with and we know what to expect from them in any given situation.. Now, grant it, this is a very sad social and spiritual state to be in, but at least, it's honest. God has so fashioned our diverse personalities that even in our diversity, all prefer that others possess the type of character where theirwe professions are clearly made, as opposed to rejection or avoiding anyone who operate their lives always in a state of insincerity and hypocrisy.
(2) Such a state is more honorable.
It is a more elevated condition of mind, and marks a higher character. The man who is constantly false to maintaining his engagements or obligations, who makes professions and promises never to be realized, we can make nothing. There is essentially an underlying meanness in such a character, and nothing in it which we can respect. But in the character of the man who is openly and avowedly opposed to anything; who takes his stand, and is earnest and zealous in his course, though it be wrong, there are traits which may be, under a better direction, elements of true greatness and magnanimity.
Saul of Tarsus, for example exemplified a character containing the elements of true greatness; however, in the character of Judas Iscariot there were never. One of these men (Saul) was capable of becoming one of the noblest men that has ever lived on the earth and proved out to be just that after a "Damascus Road" experience with Jesus and subsequent training from a Temple Rabbi named Annanias. The other, (Judas Iscariot) even under the personal teaching of Jesus Christ for 3 years, turned out to be nothing but a self centered, self serving traitor.
(3) There is more hope of conversion and salvation in such a case.
Comparitively, using the same 2 men as paradigms, in Saul's case, there existed grounds of hope that Saul would be converted and saved, even when in his unconverted state "breathing out threatening and slaughter against the early church. Judas, on the other hand, while being numbered among the professed disciples of the Saviour, there was no hope.
This brings us an important power point to remember:
"The most hopeless of all people as it pertains to salvation, are those persons who are members of the church, yet without any true religion;. These are they who have made a "personal profession" without any evidence of "personal piety" and are content with "a name" to live.
There are 2 important things to remember concerning this type of person:
(a) The essential character of anyone who will allow himself to do this is eminently unfavorable to true religion.
Within this kind of person, there is a lack of that thorough honesty and sincerity which is so necessary for true conversion to God. He who is content to profess to be what he really is not, is not a man on whom the truths of Christianity are likely to make an impression. This is hypocrisy in the highest sense.
(b) Because of this person's true character, this person will not apply the truth to himself.
Truth that is addressed to impenitent sinners as far as he or she is concerned, does not apply to them, because he does not rank himself in that class of people.. Truths addressed to hypocrites they will not apply to themselves however insincere and hollow they may be. The means of grace adapted to save a sinner, as such, he will not use; for he is in the church, and chooses to regard himself as safe. Efforts made to reclaim him he will resist; for he will regard it as proof of a meddlesome spirit, and an uncharitable judging in others, if they consider him to be anything different from what he professes to be.
As a scathing consequence, there are probably fewer persons by far converted of those who come into the church without any religion, than of any other class of persons of similar number; and the most hopeless of all conditions, in respect to conversion and salvation, is when one enters the church deceived.
Christ's Warning to the Church: "I will spew you out of my mouth"! and Why!
God shows a great disgust for the trepid attitude the church displayed and Jesus in obvious deep disgust and loathing at their indifference threatened to "spew them out of his mouth"!
This church stood the danger of being utterly rejected and cast off as a church. Over the course of modern history, the threat of this type of church being rejected by God has been fulfilled many times subsequently since this threat from heaven was made to the Laodecean church. Throughout our modern history as scandal after scandal has come to light in many churches, pastors and church leaders who became complacent in their evangelistic effeort and representing the kingdom of God in key pertinent allowed Satan to infiltrate the infrastructure of the church's administration and convince them to become more focus upon social action and philanthrophy.
After these leaders became "increased with good and socially famous" and the institutional church became popular, both the pastors and the churches stopped growing spiritually. Ultimately in a manner of speaking, they ran the true Spirit of God out of the institution; "abandonong the charge to evangelism and opted for entertainment" They abandoned their calling from God and became "a house of merchandise rather then a house of prayer". When God stood at the door and knocked they left HIM knocking at the door!
Time after time, these churches failed to see their real need for repentance and it may be remarked, also, that what was threatened to that church may be expected to occur to all churches, if they are in the same condition; and that all professing Christians, and Christian churches, that are lukewarm, have special reason to dread the indignation of the Saviour.
Why the Warning?
"Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing";
This church was located in a "high traffic" commerce district that became a wealthy commercial city. They boasted of being self serving and self contained., having more than enough and needing assistance from anyone including God. This had been the characteristic of these people: to boast of their wealth, that they carried this same spirit into everything, and ultimately this arrogant attitude manifested in regard to their religion and in the Laodecean Church.
Here's a powerful point to remember:
"Many of the world's most wealthiest who have much of this world's goods, when they make a profession of religion, are very apt to suppose that they are well off in everything, and to feel self-complacent and happy". The individual Christian, or a Christian church in possession of much wealth if they are not watchful and prayerful is likely to produce just the lukewarmness which it is said existed in the church at Laodicea.
Now, understand God is not against a person possessing wealth because it is "He" that gives you the power to obtain wealth. If we understand this, it should make us more humble rather than arrogant. The possession of great wealth many times tends to make a professed Christian self-complacent and self-satisfied in every respect to make them feel that, although they may not have much religion, yet they "wholistically speaking" feel that they are well off; and to produce, in religion, a state of just such lukewarmness as the Savior here says was loathsome and odious. Must you be reminded that the abundant life that Jesus talked about has nothing to do with the accumilation of the many things you have now in your possession.
In every respect, this church felt their needs were satisfied; they had enough of everything. They felt, therefore, no stimulus to effort; they sat down content self-complacency, and indifference. They were well provided for as to their bodies, and this made them overlook the necessities of their souls. Or they thought themselves well furnished in their souls: they had learning, and they took it for religion; they had gifts, and they took them for grace; they had wit, and they took it for true wisdom; they had ordinances, and they took up with them instead of "the God" of ordinances. There is a common illusion among people that if a person has wealth he has everything. The bible gives us a vivid example of this attitude in the rich man who pull down his small barns and built him bigger barns and said to his soul: "Soul, take thine ease....eat...drink...and be merry because you got many days laid up for you." (Luke 12:18) This Church saw themnselves one way...Jesus Christ saw them the opposite of what they saw of themselves:
But.. knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
[A]. They were "poor", really poor:
They said and thought they were rich, yet when it came to their souls, they had no provision for their souls to live upon. Their souls were starving in the midst of their abundance. They were indebted to "the justice of God", but were "spiritually bankrupt" and had nothing to pay off "the least part" of the debt.
[B.] They were "blind", blinded by "earthly prosperity"
They could not see "the danger of their real spiritual state". They could not see into themselves. They were blind, and yet they thought they saw with a clear vision. The light that was in them was not light at all but "darkness", and "great was that darkness"! This church had a "skewed vision" of Jesus and his mandate for all churches. They could not see Christ crucified, resurrected, ascended and sitting at the right hand of God the Father before their eyes. They could not see God by faith, even though Jesus was always present in them. They could not even see death, though death was always before them. They could not even look into eternity, though they stood upon the very brink of eternal judgment continually.
[C.] They were "naked", dressed in "earthly elegance" but "naked souls" without "heaven's white robe":
They were without "spiritual" clothing, They had neither possessed "the garments of "justification" or "sanctification"". Their nakedness exposed both their guilt and pollution . Unknowingly, they were always exposed to sin and shame. The Prophet Isaiah rightly identified their "psuedo-righteousnesses" as "filthy rags". These filthy rags worn to cover them, but actually defiled them. They were naked, without house or harbor, or safe haven for sadly, they were without God, , the ONE who has been the dwelling-place of his people in all ages. Only in Jesus alone can the soul of man can find rest, safety, and all suitable accommodations.
Here's another powerful point to remember:
"The riches of the body will not enrich the soul; the sight of the body will not enlighten the soul; the most convenient house for the body will not afford rest nor safety to the soul". The soul is a different thing from the body, and must have accommodation suitable to its nature, or else in the midst of bodily prosperity it will be wretched and miserable.
Christ's counsel to this 'lukewarm" church:
"I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see"
A. These people were poor;
Christ counsels them to buy of him gold tried in the fire, that they might be rich. He lets them know where they might have true riches and how they might have them. First, Where they might have them—from himself; the pearl of price. Secondly, they must buy it. How can those that are poor buy gold? Just as they may buy of Christ wine and milk, that is, "without money and without price", (Isaiah 55:1). Something must be parted with, to make room for receiving true riches. "Part with sin and self-sufficiency", and "come to Christ with a sense of your poverty and emptiness, that you may be filled with his hidden treasure."
B. These people were naked;
Christ tells them where they might have clothing, that would cover the shame of their nakedness. This they must receive from Christ; and they must put off their filthy rags so they might put on the white raiment which he had purchased and provided for them--his own imputed righteousness for justification and the garments of holiness and sanctification.
C. They were blind; and he counsels them to buy of him eye-salve, that they might see,
They were challenged to give up their own wisdom and reason, which caused them to be blinded from the things of God, and then, resign themselves to God's word and Spirit, and their eyes shall be opened to see their way and their end, their duty and their true interest.
A new and glorious scene would then open itself to their souls; a new world furnished with the most beautiful and excellent objects, and this light would be marvellous to those who were but just now delivered from the powers of darkness. This is the wise and good counsel Christ gives to careless souls; and, if they follow it, he will judge himself bound in honour to make it effectual.
Christ's "loving explanation" and Appeal"
"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.'
The meaning is, that "the rebuke" it is a proof of love on his part. Whenever the church or a Christian go astray, the Lord will offer a stern rebuke to recall them either by admonitions and by trials. Just a father calls back his children who are disobedient; and there is no higher proof of his love than when, with great pain to himself, he administers such chastisement as shall save his child.
Be earnest, strenuous, and ardent in your purpose to exercise true repentance, and to turn from the error of your wicked ways. Waste no more time. Spare no labor, work dilligently that you may obtain such a state of mind that it shall not be necessary to bring upon you the severe discipline which always comes on those who continue lukewarm in religion. The truth taught here is, that when the professed followers of Christ have become lukewarm in his service, they should lose no time in returning to him, anti seeking his favor again. As sure as he has any true love for them, if this is not done he will bring upon them some heavy calamity, alike to rebuke them for their errors, and to recover them to himself.
Jesus' Final Call to the Church" "
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne". "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'"
A. Here Christ is graciously pleased by his word and Spirit to come to the door of the heart of sinners. He draws near to them in a way of mercy, ready to make them a kind visit.
B. Christ finds this door shut against him; that is, the "door to the heart of man" is by nature shut up against Christ by ignorance, unbelief, sinful prejudices.
C. When Christ finds the heart shut, he does not immediately withdraw, but he waits to be gracious, even till his head be filled with the dew.
D. Christ uses all proper means to awaken sinners, and to cause them to open to him: he calls by his word, he knocks by the impulses of his Spirit upon their conscience.
E. Anyone who open to Christ shall enjoy his presence, to their great comfort and advantage.
He will sup with them; that is commune and dine with them. He will accept what is good in them and make it better. Everyday, God gives fresh supplies of graces and comforts, and stirs up fresh acts of faith, and love, and delight.
The Promise Made to the Overcoming Believer;
If the Laodecean Church in its present state overrun and overcome with lukewarmness and self-confidence, hears the warning and becomes contrite in heart and spirit and take heed to the ples of Christ and repent to the reproofs and counsels of Christ, they have the promise of being energized with fresh zeal and vigour toward the true riches and become more than conquerors.
Jesus promised to forgive their sin and restore them they should have a great reward. And what is that reward? They shall sit down with me on my throne, as I also overcame, and have sat down with my Father on his throne, (verse. 21).
Remember, Christ while living on earth was subject to all types of temptations and embrioled in many confilcts with the Chief priest, scribes, pharisees and other religious sectsmet with his temptations and conflicts and yet, he overcame them all, because HE was more than a conqueror. Even now, Jesus serves as our Great High Priest, having overcame both sin and Satan, sits now at the right hand of God the father as our great Intercessor.
When he has sat down with God the Father on his throne, Jesus possessed that same glory which he had with the Father from eternity. As the "lamb" of God who came to take away the sin of the world, He conceal much of his divine glory while on earth, leaving it as it were in the hands of the Father, as a pledge that he would fulfil the work of a Savior before he reassumed that manifestative glory, his divine glory equal to the Father.
Finally..... That those who are conformed to Christ in his trials and victories shall be conformed to him in his glory; they shall sit down with him on his throne, on his throne of judgment at the end of the world, on his throne of glory to all eternity, shining in his beams by virtue of their union with him and relation to him, as the mystical body of which he is the head.
A Message to all unbelievers and those believers who are living in a fallen state:
"A careless, obstinate sinner stands to lose everything and live in eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire by refusing to open the door of their heart to Christ"! In 2 chronicles 7:14-16, God made an open appeal to the Israel to repent and return to serving the true and living God: As a child of God and the temple of the Holy Spirit, I appeal to you to take heed to these words from the Word:
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there".
Rev. William Edward Boddie MDiv.