“And to 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 that 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, having 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 be not revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Be zealous, therefore, and repent. (NKJV)
In our last post, we looked at the city of Laodicea and how our Lord used the situation of the city to instruct His church. We saw how the Lord presented Himself to the church as the True and Faithful Witness, as the One who shows the credibility of God’s Word (the “Amen”), and as the One through whom everything had been created, even the very environment in which Laodicea found itself. He had quite a lot to say to the church there, this church which was so very pleased with itself.
How they saw themselves, v. 17, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy and have need of nothing.’
In short, they had arrived.
How the Lord saw them, “you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,” v. 16. “You are wretched, poor, blind, miserable and naked,” v. 17.
In short, they hadn’t even started.
What about this thing of “cold and hot and lukewarm”? Mostly, it’s thought that “cold” is either lost folks or Christians whose names are on a church role, but they’re not at all active in the church. “Hot” speaks of feverent service to the Lord. “Lukewarm” is kind of the Christian who comes to church once in a while, puts a little money in the plate, “believes” the Bible, but has no real enthusiasm for the things of God. One maybe who serves “God and mammon”.
The Laodiceans would likely have understood it differently. They were dependent for their water supply on aqueducts bringing water from two different springs some distance away from the city. The thing is, one of these springs was hot and the other was cold. By the time the water from either of these springs reached the city through these aqueducts, it had become lukewarm. These waters were also heavily contaminated with minerals, so that lukewarm water would be undrinkable, hence the reference to “vomit,” or as the KJV has it: “spue” (the old spelling of “spew”). Have you ever taken a drink of something that was repulsive? You don’t swallow it; you immediate spit it out, you “spew” it out. You get rid of it right away.
When the Lord said that He wished they were either “cold” or “hot,” He wasn’t saying He wished they were either lost or saved, or fervent. Cold water and hot water both have their uses. Jesus was saying He wanted them to be useful to Him.
How different is their view of themselves and the Lord’s view of them! There is so much that could be said about this! They judged themselves by what they saw in the mirror, so to speak. Perhaps they looked down on some of the other churches as not being quite up to their standard. This is contrary to Paul’s admonition in 2 Corinthians 10:12, For they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. You see, we can always find someone “worse” than we are. The trouble is, “they” aren’t the standard. The Lord Jesus is. Only a fool thinks he or she measures up to that standard!
What He counseled them, vs. 18, 19.
“To buy”. This reminds me of Isaiah 55:1, 2, Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?
This doesn’t mean that the things the Lord offers and requires are for sale. There is no amount of money or wealth which can “buy” a single blessing. At the same time, there is a “cost” to obtaining these things. We have to let go of the world if we want to take hold of the blessing. We cannot serve this world and the Lord. Cf. our Lord’s teaching in Luke 14:25-33. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have responsibilities in this world; it means that we can’t let them come between us and serving the Lord.
– “gold refined in the fire.” This refers to “faith.” Cf. 1 Peter 1:5, which speak of faith as being more precious than gold that perishes.
“that you may be rich.” James 2:5 refers to the poor of this world rich in faith (KJV). The poorest believer has more wealth than the richest billionaire can even begin to imagine, Matthew 16:26.
But pay attention to the fact that the Lord says, “Buy from Me.” It isn’t enough to have the faith of your parents or your spouse or your church. They may have true faith, but they can’t give it to you. They might be able to show you the way, but you have to get it from the Lord yourself – and that’s done through reading and studying the Bible, the Word of God: So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, Romans 10:17. You can hear it through faithful preachers and teachers or from others, but faith must become yours and not just theirs.
– “white garments that you may be clothed.” This speaks of righteousness, and since it must come from Christ, it refers to the righteousness of Christ imputed to believers. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, For He [God] made Him who knew no sin [Jesus] to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
It’s just a couple of weeks until Christmas. But that little “babe in a manger” didn’t stay there, though the world leaves Him there. He grew up to die on a Cross, not as an accident, not as a criminal, but as a substitute. That little, helpless infant was to be God’s substitute for believers. He would grow up to live that life we could never live, be that person we could never be, and die that death we could never die. His life satisfied God’s law by obeying its every provision. His death satisfied God’s law by paying the price for every broken provision. He paid the price for the sins of believers. God looked at Him on the cross as He looks at us in our sins. He looks at us, if we’re believers, and sees us as righteous and perfect as His Son was, and is.. Mind you, we’re neither righteous nor perfect in ourselves, but we’re accepted in the beloved, Ephesians 1:6. It will only be because of Him that we make it to heaven, forgiven of our sins and considered to be righteous.
“that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed.” I admit that I don’t understand all that’s involved here, or any of it, really. The idea seems to be prevalent that everyone will make it into heaven and all will be sweetness and light. That doesn’t seem to be the picture here. The Lord is talking to one of His churches! About their shame…. And 1 John 2:28 speaks of being ashamed before Him at His coming. Clearly, there is something here to think, and to pray, about.
As for those who are not His –
Revelation 20:11-15 paints a scene with which we really have no comparison, and which many reject or try to water down: this idea of final, eternal judgment. To many, hell is only a swear word, but Scripture says it’s an awful reality. Apart from faith in the Lord Jesus, that’s what every man and woman faces.
“anoint your eyes with eye salve.” As we mentioned earlier, Laodicea was famous for three things: commerce, fashion, and medicine. This last is what our Lord refers to here. Laodicea was especially noted for an eye salve, or a poultice, to be placed on the eyes. Jesus uses that word here. He wants them to be able truly to see what they really are: “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” To see that He and He alone has what they need: true riches, a covering for their sin, and understanding of spiritual truth. And that they might see that they do need these things.
Some people might think all this isn’t very “loving.” We seem to have the idea that “love” means tolerance, that we just accept anything and everything. We seem to have lost the idea that anything can actually be “wrong.”
It’s because the Lord did love this church that He told them to repent, to change their attitude and their activity. If He didn’t love them, He would just have let them go their way.
You see, unlike modern, unbelieving child psychology, our Lord believes in raising His children, not letting them raise themselves. And that sometimes requires discipline. A godless world equates the idea of discipline, which in Biblical terms includes corporal punishment, with child abuse. But the Lord at His most foolish, as the world thinks of it, is wiser than all the people who oppose Him. We see the results of Dr. Spock and his disciples in the chaos that has enveloped our young people and our culture the last two or three generations. That’s the real child abuse. To let youngsters run wild, to grow up as rebellious and miserable adults, with no thought or understanding that actions have consequences. To wonder what went wrong when their world falls apart, or to blame everyone else for what they themselves have brought upon themselves.
I didn’t really mean this to be about raising children, but this is what the Lord does for us. This is what the Lord was doing to the church at Laodicea. They were so satisfied with themselves. He wanted them to be satisfied with Him.