“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”
Jesus knows their works, and He deems them completely repulsive. What are their works, and why are they unpalatable to Him? Whether we are considering an actual church, Christian individuals—or preferably ourselves—we can consider works to be anything done in the Name of Jesus. Though His sacrifice pays for our sins and there is no sacrifice that we can add to remove our debt to Him, we are supposed to offer ourselves to the Lord because this is our reasonable service and the response of true faith. This could include Christian sermons, Christian music or other forms of media, or most importantly, the manner in which a Christian conducts their life.
Jesus describes their works as “neither cold nor hot,” but instead they are “lukewarm.” As such, they are not sacrifices that He deems acceptable. How does this apply? They do not openly oppose the gospel or reject the faith of Jesus Christ, nor do they completely embrace it with fervent dedication. In many ways, they are simply going through the motions. They occupy a somewhat safe middle ground that does not create any controversy. Nice and tepid. The “comfortable” church or Christian is not overly zealous, so they cannot be overly offensive to the cold or the hot. They do not overly trouble the unbelievers, nor do they oppose Christ to such an extent as to deny the faith.
Jesus would rather that they were cold or hot.
If they were cold, or completely opposed to Christ, then it would be clear that they did not serve Jesus. An avid atheist is not mistaken for a believer, so they are easier to spot and less dangerous in many ways than one who retains an heir of Christianity but without real dedication. Such lukewarmness can be dangerous to those who are new to the faith or weak in the faith because they pull many into the same, half-hearted comfort zone.
Such as these are also likely to bring disgrace to Jesus and His servants. “If this is what being a Christian is about, then I don’t want it” is a common reaction caused by lukewarm believers whose pretense and lack of real dedication leads to hypocrisy, sloppy doctrine, and lack of any serious conviction towards a life that brings the good things of God to others.
If they were hot, or fervently affected by the things of Jesus and His gospel, then it would be clear that they serve Him. They could not be mistaken for an unbeliever, because they strive to do their upmost for God as one who grows in their ability, by the grace of God, to “do all things as unto the Lord” and to “love the Lord, thy God with all thy heart, soul, and mind.”
“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
There are few Christians or churches as prosperous as those who “serve God and mammon.” By occupying the safe and soothing middle ground of lukewarm dedication to the truth of Jesus Christ, they are greatly enriched. This can include actual material wealth, but not exclusively. This can also include a wealthy reputation. People have a generally favorable opinion of them, and they have a glowing opinion of themselves. They might even believe that God has blessed them, thinking themselves to be exemplars of the faith that others should revere and look up to.
Through the blindness of their pride, they consider themselves to have all that they need, both materially and spiritually. However, Jesus, who is the “faithful and true witness” can see what they really are: wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.
They are not so saintly as they seem, nor are they as blessed and full of joy as they pretend to be. Within their hidden lives, out of the view of others, they are hateful and miserable. They might have material security and wealth but are not rich in the things that truly matter: the riches of the Kingdom of Heaven, and they cannot seem to see their lack.
Though they dress fancifully, which we can consider in the literal and in the spirit as one who is cloaked with the pretense of holiness that is outward but not sincere, Jesus says that they are naked. They are not clothed with His righteousness, but with their own, which do not even compare to “filthy rags,” but are far worse. At least filthy rags offer some clothing, but instead they are totally exposed: exposed to Him who can see what is really going on, and who will judge it for what it is.
“I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”
Gold tried in the fire. What is this gold? This is the life of Jesus Christ. These are His works, which when put to the test, are as pure as gold. Consider all that Jesus endured, and without sin. Compare this to ourselves, who with the least provocation can become spiteful, covetous, proud, or liars, to name a few. His life was tried more than any man could be tried. He was the Son of God, yet He was humble. He was hated vehemently, yet He loved. He was opposed by religious authorities, yet He spoke the truth. He was killed, yet He remained faithful to the Father. Truly, His life and His sacrifice are pure as Gold, and He offers this to us freely.
Instead of being ambitious in this world and through wealth and popularity “buy” the goodwill of man, we should “buy” of Christ so that we can obtain the goodwill of God. The truth is, we cannot buy it. However, if it could be bought, then we should count what Jesus offers as that “pearl of great price that once found, a person would sell all that they have to buy that pearl.” Such is the Kingdom of God, and we only obtain this precious treasure from Him. Through faith in Him, we experience the true riches of His kingdom as the “beginning of the creation of God” works within our hearts, giving us a new nature that is free from the slavery of this world. Through faith in Him, we will be “born again” at His coming, renewed fully and adopted as the sons of God.
White raiment. These are the robes of righteousness that are given to the saints of God—the righteousness of Christ that we wear to cover our sins. We are never good enough to stand before God on our own. Without the righteousness of Christ, we are naked, and all of our sins are fully exposed. We cannot fashion clothing for ourselves. We cannot perform enough good deeds to make up for our sin. We all need Him, because without His sacrifice our sins remain and we have nothing coming to us but the just punishment, which is death.
Anointing eyesalve. Salve is a healing ointment, and with this ointment, the blind can see. Nothing blinds quite like pride, and through pride, we can easily see ourselves and others in an unrighteous manner. We can see ourselves as righteous, and all the while we embrace sinfulness and decadence. We can see ourselves as holy, and all the while we despise our fellow servants and mankind in general.
Sinners cannot see God, and there are no sinners more hopelessly blind than those who think that they are righteous while they despise the things of God and despise others. If our gold is of Him and our righteousness of Him, then we can see Jesus. We can get to know who He really is, and we can see our great need for Him. We can learn to see others with a kinder eye as well, not as those who flatter and ignore sin to gain the gold of this world, but as those who understand their own depravity were it not for the mercy of God found in Jesus Christ.
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 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.”
If those who are as the Laodiceans do not become serious about the things of Jesus Christ and His gospel, then He will rebuke and chasten them. This is a good sign because it means that Jesus still considers them to be His sons. As the author of Hebrews wrote, God chastens every son that He loves. If no chastening is given, then we are not sons.
How will He chasten them? This can take many forms. This can mean rebuke in spirit that brings the heart of the believer down so that they might seek the Lord. This can mean loss of the things that they trust in more than God. This can mean humiliation as they are exposed for having fallen into a state of lukewarmness, leading to false appearances of righteousness. Whatever form this might take, the result will not fail for those who truly belong to Jesus. He will complete His work in the children of God, even if that work means painful experiences for the believer.
Rather than suffer chastisement, it would be better if the believer would listen to what Jesus has to say. He “stands at the door.” He wants to talk to us, but we need to listen.
We cannot hear Him if our ears are dulled by the undeserved praise of this world. We cannot hear Him if we are listening for opportunities to tear others down so that we can feel superior. We cannot hear Him if we are listening to the wisdom of this world that is foolish to God, telling us that we must do as the world does and prosper thereby. We can not hear Him when the enemy of our soul is clouding our mind with intrusive thoughts of blasphemy, accusations, vanities, envies, murders, and covetousness. The enemy indeed sends loud, raving waters after us. Thanks be to God that if we seek Jesus in faith and with honesty, He will say to those waters, “peace, be still” so that we can hear Him by the Spirit given to us.
“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
If we hear Jesus and strive to commune with Him, then He will lead us and there is no further need for chastisement. Rather, we have assured victory in Christ. What should sitting in the throne with Jesus represent for us? Should this represent power and control over others? Perhaps in His Kingdom. We will reign with Him. What does it mean to reign? Does not Satan also have this desire, and more?
Satan does not want to share Jesus’s throne. He wants it all for himself and by his own strength. We who overcome Satan, by the power of Jesus only, will indeed have authority. However, this should first be a desire to be in authority over ourselves.
Through faith in Jesus, and by His strength, we can grow in our ability to control our sinful desires and bring ourselves into greater submission to Christ. The greater we submit to Him, the better we can serve Him. As Jesus said, “the greatest among you will be your servant.” Unlike Satan whose rule is one of tyranny that seeks his own pleasure and glorification, our throne is service to God and man through submission to Christ for His glory and good pleasure. Our desire is for Him: to know who He is, to be where He is, and to serve Him faithfully all the days of our life—which if we are in Christ—are days innumerable.
The above is a section of a chapter I am working on within a book entitled, “These Things Saith He.” This chapter considers what the Spirit of the Lord is communicating to the church of the Laodiceans in Revelation 3. Previous sections considered key attributes of Jesus Christ that the church was being reminded of, so as to make this message resonate more fully with the believer. That is the hope of These Things Saith He–to consider who Jesus is, to put Him first, and hopefully have “ears to hear” for the edification of the writer and for the church. Next, Lord willing, I will publish the completed chapter. Then, the completed book.
Previous section of this chapter: Jesus is the beginning of the Creation of God
Previous completed chapter: These Things Saith He Unto the Angel of the Church in Philadelphia
One thought on “The Spirit’s Message to the Laodiceans”
Amanda nice differencing His work over our works. His righteousness by faith and us trying to appear righteous which is blasphemy. Amen
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