(The Lukewarm Church)
Now we come
to the seventh and final church Jesus specifically
addressed. The Christians in Philadelphia received
high praise and more opportunity from Jesus. It is
with a sense of hope and high endeavor as we seek to
emulate them in our own congregations. However, as
wonderful as the praise and words were for
Philadelphia, the words for Laodicea were just the
opposite. Jesus described Sardis as being dead, but
there were Christians in Sardis who were faithful.
There were a few things in the church at Sardis that
could be built upon. Jesus had no words of praise
but only rebuke for the church at Laodicea.
was located in the Lycos valley in the province of
Phrygia. It was located at the intersection of
three imperial trade routes, which favored its
development as a commercial and administrative
center. The city occupied an almost square plateau
several hundred feet high about two miles south and
above the valley of the Lycus River and flanked
along its sides by the small rivers Asopus and
Caprus, which discharge their waters into the
Lycus. The city was protected by the Salbacus and
Cadmus mountains to the south, which rise to over
8,000 feet above sea level. Laodicea was just over
one hundred miles from Ephesus, six miles south of
Heirapolis, and eleven miles west of Colosse.
Directly opposite the city, a cliff of about a mile
wide arose some 300 feet above the city. The city
was originally called Diospolis, and afterwards
Rhoas and then Laodicea,
was originally founded by Antiochus II of Syria (261
BC - 246 BC), who named it after his wife Laodike.
Antiochus populated it with Syrians and with about
2000 Jewish families who had been moved to Phrygia
and Lydia from Babylonia. Laodicea had an extensive
Jewish population numbering by some accounts to have
over 7500 registered tax payers. In 62 AD the Jews
collected and sent over 22 pounds of gold to
Jerusalem for their annual temple contribution which
the Romans seized.
was built on the great highway from Asia Minor to
the east, at the junction of several important
routes. After the Roman province of Asia was formed
in 190 BC, it grew to become a great and wealthy
center of industry. The Syrians and the Pergamenes
dominated the city from 190 BC until the death of
Attalus III of Pergamum when it came under Roman
rule in 133 BC. King Attalus III had no male heirs
and left his entire kingdom in his will to the Roman
Empire. The Romans reconstructed and improved the
ancient trade routes so that the city became the
major junction for traffic west to Ephesus and the
Aegean, north and west to Philadelphia, Pergamum,
and Smyrna, east through southern Galatia, and south
to the Mediterranean. Although it had formally been
a small city, it grew rapidly as a result of Roman
rule and became one of the wealthiest cities in
received from Rome the title of free city. During
the Roman period Laodicea was the chief city of a
Roman conventus iuridicus, which comprised
twenty-four cities besides itself. A conventus
iuridicus was the capital city of a subdivision of
some provinces such as Dalmatia, Spain and Asia,
which functioned as an administrative and judicial
especially for the fine black wool of its sheep and
for the Phrygian powder for the eyes, which was
manufactured there. Nearby was the temple of Men
Karou who was the Phrygian God of healing. His
Greek counterpart was known as Asklepios, and
associated with their temple was a well known school
of medicine. In the year 60 AD, the city was almost
entirely destroyed by an earthquake, but so wealthy
were its citizens that they rejected the aid of
Rome, and quickly rebuilt it at their own expense.
It was a city of great wealth, with extensive
worship in Laodicea:
Along with the
temple to Asklepios one could find the worship of
Zeus and of Isis. Isis was an Egyptian mother god
associated with the Phrygian goddess, Cybele. She
was also associated with Aphrodite and Venus who
were all characterized with orgiastic behavior in
their worship. Imperial worship began early in the
city, but no evidence exists that Laodicea ever had
a temple for the imperial cults so their influence,
while definitely oppressive may have been a little
less severe than in some of the other cities.
in Laodicea may have been founded by Epaphras of
Colossi, a companion of Paul, during Paul's third
missionary journey. A marble block bearing the name
of Epaphras has been discovered in the city. There
is no record of Paul visiting the city himself, but
some of the Christians there were known to him by
name. He wrote a letter to the church there which
has been lost. Paul tells the Colossians that he was
"struggling" for this city (2:1),
indicating he was aware of the situation in the
church there, and passes greetings to them through
the church in their sister-city, Colossi (4:15).
It is possible that the Philemon of the New
testament may have been from Laodicea. There has
been an inscription discovered in the city written
by a freed slave to a master called Marcus Sestius
And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true
witness, the beginning of the creation of God:
The word "Amen"
literally means, let it be so. "The Amen"
here denotes the one in whom reality is found. There
is also the sense of completeness and finality in
it. Before Christ, there was no other; and after him
there is no other. The Christians in the Roman
empire had hundreds of false pagan gods they could
choose to worship but Jesus was "the Amen" .
"The faithful and true
The faithfulness of Christ is affirmed in this.
Jesus Christ had no need of faith in the sense of
its use today; but "as a man" he walked in faith,
implicitly trusting and obeying all that the Father
willed of Him. All human justification hinges on
the perfect faith and perfect obedience of Christ.
Were it not for the perfect faithfulness of Christ,
mankind would have no hope.
"The beginning of the
creation of God"
Some religious groups today try and use this
scripture to teach that God created Jesus. This
flies in the face of a host of other scripture that
affirms the deity and eternal nature of Jesus Christ
John 1:1-14. Scripture also reveals, "For by
him [Jesus] were all things created, that are
in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and
invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or
principalities, or powers: all things were created
by him, and for him: And he is before all things,
and by him all things consist" (Colossians
1:16-17). The correct understanding of this
verse is Christ as
the Source of all the things God created. The
church in Laodicea would be very familiar with
Paul's letter to the Colossians because they were
instructed to read it aloud in their assemblies (Colossians
"I know thy works, that
thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert
cold or hot."
Jesus told all seven of the
churches that He knew their works. He knew what
they were doing, He knew what they were not doing.
Once again we are faced with the fact that it was
the works of these churches that determined whether
Jesus found them acceptable or not. The application
for us today is that Saved by grace through faith
does not mean saved without obedience to the will of
God. The words of Jesus ring loud and clear:
"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 who is in heaven"
The Laodiceans were lukewarm
in their service to God. They were indifferent and
uncaring. They were unconcerned about the things of
the Kingdom. They had all they thought they
needed. There was no passion, there was no driving
force for them, There was no fire left, they no
longer cared. The Christians at Ephesus were
condemned for losing their first love. The
Christians at Laodicea had lost it all.
is depicted in scripture as the bride of Christ.
What groom wants a wife that is non-committal and
uncaring? Husbands are commanded to love their
wives just as Christ loved the church and gave
Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). But what about the
wife who gives nothing back, who won't love her
husband enough to do anything? A woman that is on
fire and zealous for her husband is eager to serve
and vice-versa. Similarly those of Christ's bride
in the church who show up on Sundays, set in the
back, never ask questions, never participate in
church activities, never involve themselves with
anything, never help with the services or help out
in congregational activities are like the spouse who
never does anything. They are just along for the
ride with no thought whatsoever of putting anything
of their own into the relationship. Such an
attitude is sickening to say the least. How does
one deal with such a non-committal attitude? How
does Jesus feel about it?
So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor
cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth.
To Jesus, the Christians in Laodicea had come to
stand for the most disgusting thing on earth, a fat,
lazy, uncaring and complacent church, basking in
their own presumed achievements, but wholly
unacceptable to the Lord.
The Christians at Laodicea were
accused of being lukewarm, like the water they
drank. The Greek word for "spew" literally means to
vomit, so Jesus was telling the Laodiceans they made
Laodicea, potable water had to be transported to the
city by aqueduct and raised to a tall
water-distribution tower by siphon action. In fact,
the city's major weakness was its lack of an
adequate and convenient source for water, its
location having been determined by the road system
rather than natural resources. As a result, water
had to be brought in by this aqueduct from about 6
miles away. By the time the water reached the city,
it was usually neither hot nor cold, rather it was
the temperature of the surrounding environment.
The local water in Laodicea
flowed down the river from the hot springs at
Heirapolis where it was used for healing baths. The
water, however, was rough with alum and sulphur
which made it unfit for drinking. Drinking this
water would make one sick if he tried. The city's
potable water, having flowed six miles through an
aqueduct, arrived tepid.
The Laodiceans well knew
what it was like to drink lukewarm water and what it
was like to become sick and vomit from drinking the
local water. Jesus purposefully used words that
would positively identify those to whom He was
addressing as the direct recipients of His
teachings. In other words, this was Jesus' way of
saying, "make no mistake about this, I'm talking
to you". The Christians at Laodicea or any of
the other churches could not set back and say Jesus
was not specifically talking to them. There was
just too much of their history and circumstances
pointed out in His words to make any mistake about
it. All that was left for them to do was to look at
each other, acknowledge to themselves that they had
been found out and were not getting away with
anything and make whatever necessary changes Jesus
commanded. There was no way any of them could stand
before God and make the claim they didn't know Jesus
was really talking to them. Jesus told them they
made Him sick and they knew it was them He was
The application for us
today is that even though Jesus pinpointed the
Laodiceans specifically for this rebuke, His
feelings toward any church guilty of being lukewarm
would make Him sick. Let's all examine ourselves
and be sure that our service does not make Jesus
want to vomit us up.
"Because thou sayest, I am rich, and have gotten
riches, and have need of nothing; and knowest not
that thou art the wretched one and miserable and
poor and blind and naked:"
Laodicea was a
wealthy city. The fertile ground of the Lycus
valley made good grazing for sheep. The Laodiceans
had selectively bred sheep that produced black wool
which was in high demand and brought fame to the
region. Carpets and clothing was manufactured from
the black wool and brought extensive wealth to the
Agricultural and commercial
prosperity brought in the banking industry. Laodicea
was well-known for its banks, minting its own
coinage from the second century BC on. The city was
so famous for its banking industry that even the
Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero went there to
exchange money. The city was so wealthy that after
the devastating earthquake of ad 60 which caused its
near-total destruction, it was able to rebuild
itself while proudly refusing any help from Rome,
which other similarly afflicted cities had been glad
to accept. It was, in fact, one of the most
prosperous of all the Asiatic cities.
prided itself on its financial wealth. As mentioned
earlier when an earthquake devastated their city,
they refused Roman help saying they did not need
it. By human standards, Laodicea was wealthy, but
under the scrutiny of Jesus, they were not. They
lacked the riches that count in His eyes.
was well known for its medicinal concoctions, one in
particular which was a supposed remedy for weak
eyes. Yet Jesus said they were blind and could not
see themselves for what they really were.
prided itself on it's clothing manufacture and trade
industry which flourished as a result of the black
wool developed in their area. Yet Jesus says with
all the fine and luxurious clothing at their
disposal, they were in fact naked.
As so often
before, we see the history of the
area surrounding the church pictured in the words of
Jesus. In this manner, Jesus is able to make the
point that "this means you". The Laodiceans would
read these words and instantly associate them with
their own conditions. This is a real slap in the
face to them; a wake up call directed specifically
at them and they well knew it.
"I counsel thee
to buy of me gold refined by fire, that thou mayest
become rich; and white garments, that thou mayest
clothe thyself, and (that) the shame of thy
nakedness be not made manifest; and eyesalve to
anoint thine eyes, that thou mayest see."
had lots of material Gold but Jesus advised them to
seek the gold that would make them rich. Jesus
taught elsewhere, "For what doth it profit a man,
to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? For
what should a man give in exchange for his life?"
(Mark 8:36-37). The material wealth of the
Laodiceans was worthless. It could not buy them
what they really needed. Gold represents something
valuable and Jesus had the gold that is pure and
valuable and was available for them to purchase.
James spoke of corrupt riches of man being rusted in
chapter 5. The most valuable Gold is refined
through a process of fire. The goldsmith heats the
metal up until it is molten and the impurities in it
are then separated leaving only the pure gold.
writer wrote of the suffering of Jesus which made
him the author of salvation to all who obey him
(Hebrews 5:8-9). Jesus is the "way, and the
truth, and the life" and no one can come to the
Father but by him (John 14:6). The thing of value
that Jesus has is the way, and the truth and life.
And it was tried by the fire of his suffering on the
cross. Jesus overcame everything just as he
mentioned in verse 21 of this letter to the
Laodiceans. So how does one buy from Jesus, the
valuable gold, the way, the truth and the life?
Jesus tells us:
not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat
which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son
of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the
Father sealed" (John 6:27). Paying close
attention to the words "which the Son of man
shall give unto you" we note that Jesus is going
to give us something he told us to labor for.
Everlasting life cannot be purchased by earthly
riches or by the works of men. Nor can it be
purchased with works of righteousness either. In
order to pay for eternal life, we would have to be
able to make the death of Jesus unnecessary and give
Him back His life sacrificed on the cross. There is
no way mankind can repay that debt. In the end,
even though we should live a life of obedient
service to Jesus, we are to consider ourselves
unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10). The Christian
life faithfully lived is a life of self sacrificed
service to the will of God (Romans 12:1). And in so
doing we have labored for the gold tried by fire,
the real gold, the valuable gold. And in the end,
even though we can never hope to fully pay for it,
God will give it us anyway. That is called "grace".
The Laodiceans were famous for their production
of black garments. White symbolized purity in the
minds of the first readers. The garments they were
told to purchase from Jesus were white which
thou mayest clothe thyself, and (that) the shame of
thy nakedness be not made manifest"
In the Old Testament, God told Nahum to tell the
"I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, and I
will shew the nations thy nakedness, and the
kingdoms thy shame" (Nahum 3:5). Their
disobedience made them naked and worthy of shame.
The Laodiceans were likewise guilty of the same and
Jesus told them to cloth themselves with obedience
so that their shame would not be made visible to the
eyesalve to anoint thine eyes, that thou mayest see"
As mentioned earlier Laodicea was famed for its
production of an eye salve for relief of swollen
weary eyes due to traveling many miles. The sand
and dirt from the roads would irritate the eyes of
travelers and they could find relief from the eye
salve of Laodicea. Jesus is telling them to use
some of their own medicine so they can see their own
condition and do something about it.
another one of those "I'm talking to you" statements
that Jesus so frequently makes in these letters to
the various churches. There was no doubt in the
minds of the Laodicean Christians that Jesus knew
all about them. Nothing was hidden from His view.
Jesus knew all about the other conditions
surrounding them. None of those Christians could
claim that Jesus was just out of touch of their
situations. They knew perfectly well that Jesus
knew exactly what He was saying and to whom He was
application for us today is that Jesus is as
familiar with our life of service and the goings on
around us as he was with them. Nothing we do or
fail to do escapes His notice. There is praise and
honor for the obedient and criticism and
chastisement for the disobedient.
"As many as I love, I reprove
and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent."
Being told by the Son of God
that they made him sick had to be devastating and
disheartening to them. How many of us who
discipline our children assure them afterwards that
it is because we love them that they are
disciplined? We do this so that they will not be
crushed and left without hope. We do this so that
they will know and be reassured that it is for their
own good that they have been corrected and that they
are still loved. Parents do not chasten children
because they enjoy it. Young children cannot
recognize the dangers around them in everyday life.
It is vital that they are obedient to their parents
so that they will stay out of danger as they grow
up. For instance, parents teach their children not
to play with fire. Obedient children will avoid a
lot of pain and suffering while disobedient children
may go ahead and play with fire and bring disaster
upon themselves. Parents know and recognize the
danger of fire and though the children may not, if
they are obedient, they will not be harmed by
something they do not recognize as a danger.
with fire often times looks like fun to a child, but
they cannot fully appreciate the danger it holds for
them. Parents do not forbid children playing with
fire because they don't want them to have fun. They
forbid it because they know what it can do to their
not deny us things that are sinful because he does
not want us to live enjoyable lives. God sees sin
for what it really is. Like the fire to the
children, sin sometimes looks like fun. We cannot
always perceive the danger in light of the
temptation. But God knows that sin is enslaving and
ugly and that it ultimately leads to pain and
suffering. God loves us and He knows what it will
do to us and He wants us to avoid it so that we can
live long and happy lives.
having corrected the Laodiceans harshly, He then
reassures them that they were chastened because He
loves them. And they are then given the remedy.
They need to be zealous. This is exactly what a
lukewarm Christian is not. They have to repent,
stop being lukewarm and start being zealous of good
works as commanded in Titus 2:14.
teachers of salvation by faith only need to take a
long and prayerful look at the church at Laodicea
who made Jesus sick because of her lack of works.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any
man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in
to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."
Jesus is standing at the door of opportunity for
all mankind. The Greek word for "hear" is "akouo"
which carries the meaning of listening or giving
attention to. Calvinist doctrine teaches the
predestination of the elect. They teach that God in
His sovereign authority chose before time began who
would be saved and who would be lost. Jesus says
here that He will come in and sup with "any man"
who listens and opens the door. "I will come in
to him, and will sup with him, and he with me"
means he will be in fellowship with whoever may
listen and open the door. Fellowship with God and
with Jesus is taught by John in 1:3, "that which
we have seen and heard declare we unto you also,
that ye also may have fellowship with us: yea, and
our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son
Jesus Christ." Those who are "in Christ"
and living faithfully are in fellowship with God and
His Son, and Jesus says this spiritual blessing is
available to all.
significance here is that Jesus is standing outside
the door to the church at Laodicea wanting in.
Jesus stands knocking at the door of opportunity
from the outside but we have to open it from
inside. Opening the door is a figurative term for
doing those things necessary in order to bring
oneself into a state of fellowship with Jesus
Christ. Opening the door is our responsibility and
it is up to us to learn what steps must be taken to
open that door.
"He that overcometh, I will
give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I
also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his
Truly the Revelation was
written to the overcomers. Those who would be
faithful and zealous to the end. Jesus said "Be
thou faithful unto death and I will give the a crown
of life". How do we today receive the crown of
life from Jesus? By being faithful unto death and
overcoming all obstacles in our paths. Every single
one of the churches were told to overcome, every
single church was told to be faithful or to remain
faithful, to stand fast, to persevere, to repent if
necessary. The reward for submissive obedience is
an eternal inheritance in heaven with God. The
reward for rebellious disobedience is an eternal
separation from God in the torments of Hell.
to earth as a man and overcame everything. He lived
a sinless life even during His torture and
crucifixion. If Jesus had of ever sinned, He could
not have served as our perfect sacrifice. Only the
sacrifice of a perfect, spotless, sinless individual
could do what needed to be done. Jesus endured the
world to the end, even while on the cruel cross of
Calvary. We would do well to pause and consider
just what was hanging in the balance for all mankind
while Jesus bled out His life on that cross.
Scourged and staked naked to a wooden cross, spat
on, reviled and hated by His own creation. He
endured that shame and agony without a single sin
and secured the hope of eternal life for the very
people who killed Him and for us today. The eternal
fate of all mankind hung on whether Jesus overcame
or not. He overcame His cross and now we are called
to do the same, whatever that cross may be.
"He that hath an ear, let
him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."
Any who will listen better
heed what Jesus, through the inspiration of the Holy
Spirit, by the hand of John, said to the churches.
We notice that Jesus expressly used the plural form
of the word church. All the things He said were
applicable to all the churches He addressed. One
Spirit; one message; many churches. The exhortation
to the Laodiceans to be zealous does not apply just
to the Laodiceans. It applies to the all the rest
as well. The praises and condemnations given out by
Jesus to each individual church were applicable to
all of them. The application for us today is that
they were likewise applicable to us.
Let us heed
what the Spirit said to all the churches of Asia and
realize that it has relevant applications to all the
congregations of the Lord's church today.