Christ was eclipsed by the church of Laodicea. His light should have been shining in the world around them, but their condition decreased the potency of that light. They had to get their heart right!
Note: This is the harshest of the letters, but the hope in it is off the charts.
Theme: We know of lukewarmness as an absolute killer. This letter provides us ways to overcome it.
The Author (14)
14a “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
Large Jewish community: history tells us they made a large annual contribution of gold to Jerusalem.
The Christian community there was closely tied to the that of Colossae, a mere 11 miles away.
- Mentioned a few times in the book of Colossians.
- Colossians 4:15–16 (ESV)—15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. And we know the Colossian church was battling false teachers.
Laodicea was a proud financial center.
- Tiberius aided this city in rebuilding after an a.d. 17 earthquake, but when another earthquake hit in a.d. 60 they were able to refuse imperial aid due to the enormous wealth.
Laodicea was a proud clothing manufacturer.
- Expensive garments made of specialized black wool were one of its most important exports.
Laodicea was a proud medical city.
- Local doctors were put onto the local coinage.
- A famous medical school connected to the temple of Aesklepios was relocated there.
- Famous for their eye and ear ointment.
14b ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
14 The Amen: The so be it, the ratification of all things.
- 2 Corinthians 1:20 (ESV)—20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
14 The faithful and true witness: You can look at Jesus and know exactly what God is like.
- John 14:9 (ESV)—9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
- Hebrews 1:3 (ESV)—3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
- The Laodicean church marred the image of God with their unfaithful witness, for God is not uncaringly lethargic.
14 The beginning of God’s creation: Ruler, source, or origin.
- Colossians 1:14–20 (ESV)—14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Lukewarmness is remedied with a renewed and elevated view of Christ.
The Issue (15-17)
15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
15-16 Cold nor hot / Cold or hot / Lukewarm / neither hot nor cold: The tepid church.
- The Laodicean church would have especially understood this picture.
- Their water was provided by an aqueduct connected to hot mineral springs in Hieropolis, five miles to their south. The water cooled as it traveled, become lukewarm in the process.
Lukewarmness was brought on by playing the middle — neither cold nor hot.
The church wasn’t totally indifferent to Christ, but neither were they fervently zealous for Him. They played the middle. Their lukewarmness meant they had just enough warmth to keep them from feeling a need for Christ.
Conclusion: Lukewarmness is remedied by making a commitment in either direction.
17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
17 For you say / I am rich / prospered / need nothing: They thought their riches and their goods satisfied their need. In reality, they had everything they wanted, but nothing they needed.
17 Not realizing: The spiritual reality — they were self-deceived.
- Proverbs 16:2 (ESV)—2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.
16 I will spit you out of my mouth: Not salvation, but witness bearing.
The Solution (18-20)
18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
18 I counsel you to buy from me / love: This is a loving rebuke.
- Gold: A reference to their great wealth.
- White garments: A reference to their specialized black garments.
- Salve to anoint your eyes: A reference to their medicinal ointment.
- Christ wanted them to desire the riches, clothing, and sight that actually matters.
Note: In this whole letter there is no anger. It is all pity. He is not angry at their condition, but pities that they are satisfied in that lukewarm state.
Lukewarmness is remedied by shifting your view of priorities.
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
20 I stand at the door and knock: Christ was standing outside this church. The handle is on the inside. We open the door.
20 Eat with him, and he with me: The long, main, principal meal of the day. This speaks of a personal closeness with Christ.
Lukewarmness is remedied through personal interaction with Christ.
The Overcomer (21-22)
21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”
21 The one who conquers: Because He overcame we overcome; He conquered so we conquer. 1 John 5:5 (ESV)—5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
All of these promises seem to be eternal in nature, therefore for believers:
- Ephesus: Revelation 2:7 (ESV)—7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’-
- Smyrna: Revelation 2:11 (ESV)—11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’
- Pergamum: Revelation 2:17 (ESV)—17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
- Thyatira: Revelation 2:26–27 (ESV)—26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.
- Sardis: Revelation 3:5 (ESV)—5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.
- Philadelphia: Revelation 3:12 (ESV)—12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.
- Laodicea: Revelation 3:21 (ESV)—21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
22 Hear: Lukewarmness is a contradiction to the gospel. There is no room for it. The proper responses are either hatred or love, not lukewarmness.
As we wrap up this series, consider all these churches:
- Ephesus: the loveless church.
- Smyrna: the persecuted church.
- Pergamum: the doctrine-changing church.
- Thyatira: the divided devotion church.
- Sardis: the dead church.
- Philadelphia: the church with an opportunity.
- Laodicea: the lukewarm church.