Sad sad is the church in Laodicea. She is the only one of the seven churches where there is not one thing said that is commendable. The church in Smyrna was commended for enduring tribulation, poverty and blasphemy of professing Jews. The church in Philadelphia was commended for their faithfulness to the name of the Lord, their strength, and their perseverance. Even the church in Sardis, while said to be dead, had some who had not stained their garments with sin. But, the church in Laodicea had not one thing to commend her.
The deeds of this church manifest their attitude toward God. Therefore, the letter to the Laodiceans reaches the climax of denunciation. “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth” (Rev. 3:16.) Spewing them out of His mouth was a figure with which the Laodiceans would have been familiar. They received their drinking water from a spring six miles to the south over an aqueduct, and it arrived disgustingly luke-warm. Though the Lord gives this strong rebuke doesn’t mean the Lord has lost all patience with these people. Had that been the case, He would have left them alone. He holds them still in love and has hope for them, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent” (Rev.3:19.) So even though there is the strong denunciation, the Lord is also patient and appeals to them to repent.
Please observe this church was not condemned because they had become open and flagrant sinners. Further, this church had not surrendered to the enemy. The text does not indicate that this church was composed of a bunch of traitors nor had they become openly antagonistic. The condition of this church was worse. They had become completely self-sufficient while living in an affluent society. In spite of their claims, they were luke-warm. They had no earnestness, no zeal, and no enthusiasm. They were contently paddling about in the shallows of Christianity. Laodicea had simply lost interest. Jesus loathes such an attitude.
Why does Jesus hate luke-warmness? He hates it because the self-satisfied man is the hardest to reach. He sees no need. Jesus also hates luke-warmness because it strikes the death blow to our greatest usefulness. Greatest opportunities, which at the time they appear seem of little importance, are missed because we just half try. We will try provided it doesn’t get in the way of what we want to do; provided it doesn’t cost us anything or make us sweat; provided no hardship is involved; provided everything is nice and air-conditioned; provided it doesn’t interfere with our life and other activities. Further, luke-warmness renders Christians useless by robbing our enthusiasm. As Christians we are committed to winning souls for Christ. It does not take vast cleverness, vast ability, but it does require genuine earnestness. It is doubtful a person has ever been won to Christ by a Christian who lacked enthusiasm. There is a story of a village in Tennessee where an old man posed as an atheist. He never went to church. During the services it was his custom to sit in front of one of the stores and whittle and talk theology to those who were willing to listen. But one night the church caught fire. There being no fire department in the village, the people had to do their firefighting with a bucket brigade. It happened that Uncle George, the atheist, found a place at the head of the line. He was working at this job feverishly when one of the members walked by and said, “Uncle George, this is the first time I ever saw you at church.” “Yes,” came the reply, “this is the first time the church was ever on fire.” A building on fire will always bring people out. A man on fire is the most compellingly interesting thing in the world. To be listless, then, is a big step toward being useless because such an attitude at once paralyzes effort and influence. Finally, Jesus looks upon luke-warmness as disgusting because indifference grossly misrepresents Him. The heart of Jesus was the hottest that ever beat in a human body. There may be many times we misrepresent our Lord but none so tragic and complete as when we claim to be like Him and yet are lukewarm.
What was the Lord’s council for this church? The Lord’s remedy for their self-satisfaction is “… be zealous and repent” (vs.19b), literally, be boiling, and repent, lose no time, spare no labor. To become alive they first must face their true condition. They were satisfied with themselves. Their luke-warmness blinded them. As a result they need to apply eye-salve so they could see the difference between what they thought of themselves and what they really were (vs.17). They said, “We need nothing.” The Lord said, “You need everything.” One of the hardest things we are ever called upon do is to face the facts about ourselves.
The second step in passing from luke-warmness to boiling was for these people to see themselves as they might be. These people did not have to continue in their self imposed poverty, spiritually. They could possess true riches. In the place of their shameful nakedness they could wear white garments of a stainless character. Instead of their blindness they needed to anoint eye-salve so they might see Him who is invisible. We too need to look away from our disappointing selves to the better men and women of God that we might be. Recognizing our potential can turn luke-warmness into fervor.
Finally, to pass from luke-warmness to the possession of zeal was to let Him in (vs.20). In their self-satisfaction they had shut the door in the face of Christ. He invites to “come in and sup,” which denotes intimacy and friendship. He said, “I stand and knock, I’m not going to kick the door down, you have to let me in.”In order to see the real impact of this we need only recognize their present condition and how offensive they were to Him. Yet, He was willing to receive them with favor. He even stands pleading with them. He desires to be admitted, but if they do not answer, He will turn away. He will not force Himself. He speaks. They need only hear.
Laodicea is the self-satisfied church that has grown luke-warm, proud and self-satisfied, and all its wealthy claims are an empty illusion. She has had many relatives. Are we members of the Laodicean family tree?
by Rickie Jenkins