We are studying verse-by-verse through the Book of Revelation and this morning we will finish chapter 3 as we examine the last of the seven churches of Asia Minor. Unfortunately, this last church is the worst of the seven. It has often been called “the lukewarm church,” the church that makes Christ sick.
Perhaps the most helpful thing for us to know about the city of Laodicea 2000 years ago is to know something of its poor water supply. In fact, it really had no water supply at all. The irony is that it was geographically situated between two cities known for their water. To the north lay the city of Hieropolis, known for its hot, bubbling waters that were sought out for medicinal purposes. To the south, lay the city of Colossae, known for its nice, cold drinking water. Then, in the middle was located Laodicea, a city with no water supply at all. Laodicea had to pipe-in water from some hot springs located six miles away. The problem was, when the water finally traveled through the six-mile long aqueduct, it did not have enough time to cool. To this day, people living in the area store water in jars so there is time enough for it to cool. When water does not have time to cool, it is lukewarm and nearly impossible to drink. Add to this the fact the water is heavy in minerals, you have a situation that makes for some very unpleasant drinking water. If you are expecting nice, cold water and you got a big gulp of lukewarm water your first reaction is to spit it out of your mouth.
The Lord Jesus Christ says that is the way He regards the church that was situated there in Laodicea. He says the church is living up to the infamy of its poor water supply. It had become a church that would make one sick. That is a pretty harsh indictment, isn’t it? We will learn this morning from Christ’s words to this lukewarm church.
There are three main lessons . . .
I. We Must Acknowledge Our Steadfast Creator – Verse 14.
We have been saying that our Lord Jesus Christ is going over His X-ray report with each church. He can see right through the superficiality of the church and can see what is wrong on the inside. As He begins each report, He identifies Himself in a way that helps us understand Him a little better. He identifies Himself in verse 14 with three designations, “the Amen,” “the Faithful and True Witness,” and “the Beginning of the creation of God.”
He is our Steadfast Creator. He is the “amen,” which means truth. And He is the “faithful” and “true” witness. That is, He is reliable, dependable, steadfast. Then, He says He is “the Beginning of the creation of God.” The word “beginning” there is the Greek word, “arche,” a word that means “beginning” or “source.” Jesus Christ is the source of God’s creation. This reminds us of John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” We also think of what the Bible says in Colossians 1:16-17, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”
It is important that we get this correct so as not to commit the error of Mormonism or the error of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. God did not “create Christ.” The Bible teaches that God is One. God is One in essence, three in persons. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Son of God has always been. He was in the beginning with God the Father. There was never a time the Son was not. He is eternal. Our Lord Jesus reminds us of that truth right here. He is “the beginning of the creation of God,” the “source of God’s creation.” All things were created through Him and for Him.
II. We Must Analyze Our Spiritual Condition – Verses 15-17.
I hope this morning we will all do this. We do not want to be like the guy who always came out of the service telling the preacher, “You really gave it to ‘em, today!” Every time the guy came through the line that is what he would say. One Sunday there was a terrible snowstorm so the only two people in the church were the preacher and this man. The preacher preached as hard as ever. At the end the man came out of the sanctuary and said, “Preacher that was a tremendous sermon . . . and if only they had been here you would have really given it to ‘em!”
Jesus identifies the “works” of the church in Laodicea as “neither cold nor hot.” The city was not known for hot water like the hot healing springs to the north, nor was the city known for its cold water like Colossae to the south. The city’s water was lukewarm and Jesus says that was indicative of the church in the city, as well. He says, in essence, “Your empty works make me sick. Like taking a drink of lukewarm water I will vomit you out of My mouth.”
He then describes what is wrong with their spiritual condition in verse 17, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” The Christians at Laodicea believed they were rich and wealthy and in need of nothing. The city certainly felt that way. Laodicea was a very prosperous city. Coins minted from Laodicea had the image of the cornucopia on them, the symbol of wealth and affluence. Laodicea was so prosperous that when the city was leveled by an earthquake in AD 60, rather than turning to the Roman government for help, the entire city was re-built by its own citizens. The people were smugly self-sufficient and self-satisfied.
The problem is that this smug self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction found its way into the church. The church members viewed themselves as rich, wealthy, and in need of nothing, and Jesus says, “In point of fact, you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.”
Let’s analyze our own spiritual condition. One of the benefits of a storm such as the one that hit our town Friday evening is that it reminds us of just how dependent we are upon God. When things are going well, we may feel “rich, wealthy, and in need of nothing.” All it takes is a good storm to show us just how poor we really are. We depend upon God and His grace for everything. Our dependence upon God for physical needs reminds us of our dependence upon God for spiritual needs. Without God we are hopelessly lost. Our sin makes us “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” in God’s sight. We must turn to Him for Help.
We must realize that we are spiritually poor, spiritually blind, and spiritually naked in the sight of God before we can be saved from our sin. So long as we think “we are okay” in His sight, we are not going to experience His forgiveness of sin, because we do not think there’s any need for it. The fact that we may enjoy nice homes, nice clothes, and nice automobiles does not mean that we are spiritually okay in the sight of God. We must regularly get honest before God, analyzing our spiritual condition and seeking His grace.
III. We Must Apply Our Savior’s Counsel – Verses 18-22.
Jesus counsels us as to what we need to do to fix our situation. In verse 18 He says, “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 not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” In essence, Jesus is saying, “You need to start shopping at a different store. Buy gold that lasts, buy clothing that lasts, the righteousness of Christ – that is what you ought to be wearing, and “anoint your eyes with My eye salve, so that you may really see.” Laodicea had gained some notoriety for an eye salve called, “Phrygian Powder.” People bought it and anointed their eyes with it, believing it would help them see better. Jesus says, “You are spending too much time shopping at the wrong store. Come buy from Me the things that last. You are so worried about your physical sight that you have totally neglected your spiritual sight.”
So many of us understand this truth and that is why we can sing with feeling the words of John Newton, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”
Jesus says in verse 19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” God says, “I love you, church. That’s why I am rebuking you and punishing you. It’s so that you will be zealous and repent.” God does that to us in His love. He often allows some pain and suffering our way so that we will turn back to Him. We must regularly turn back to Him. He seeks fellowship with us. You see that in the image painted in verse 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 dine with him, and he with Me.
This is an interesting picture, isn’t it? Jesus Christ is outside of the church building trying to get in! It reminds me of that story about the janitor of a big fancy church who was seeking membership in the church. He was already a Christian and he felt led to talk to the pastor one day about joining the church. The pastor sort of looked down upon the janitor and said something like, “Well, why don’t you take some time to pray about it.” The janitor said he would. Several months passed and the pastor one day saw the janitor and wondered why he had not asked him about membership again. The pastor said, “Did you pray about joining the church?” The janitor said, “Oh, yes. I talked to the Lord about trying to get into this church and the Lord said, ‘Don’t worry about it. I, too, have been trying to get into that church for years!’”
The words of Jesus are directed at the church, but His words apply to both the Christian and the unbeliever: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” In the Ancient Near East, to speak of “dining” with someone was to speak of sharing intimate fellowship with a person. Time was spent talking, encouraging, and fellowshipping. To share a meal was to share a life.
If we will apply the counsel of our Savior we will enjoy fellowship with Christ and reconciliation with God the Father.
Jesus says in verse 21, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” The New Testament speaks often of the Christian’s future reign with Christ. The time will come when we will reign and rule alongside Jesus Christ. The point again is eternal fellowship with our Lord and Savior. Christians will share in the glory of Christ for eternity. Eternity is at stake. That is why Jesus concludes with the familiar phrase in verse 22, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” This phrase has now occurred seven (7) times in chapters 2 and 3. The implication is that it is possible for Christ to be speaking and yet we do not hear.
Dr. Vance Havner used to say, “The big question today is not, ‘Is God speaking?’ The really big question is, ‘Are you listening?’”
May God deliver us from ever being a lukewarm church, lukewarm about Christ, lukewarm about the cross, lukewarm about our condition, and lukewarm about the condition of others. You know, if there’s one major lesson we’ve learned this week in the face of the tragic death of a much beloved teenager in our community, it is that time is short. None of us is promised the next moment. For that reason, we want to be busy telling others about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our study of the seven churches ends with the phrase that has occurred seven times, “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Again, the implication is that it is possible for Christ to be speaking or the gospel to be shared and yet we are not listening. While the phrase is directed to Christians, the same is true with respect to our evangelistic efforts. We even speak of our efforts “falling on deaf ears.”
The older we get, the harder of hearing we become. Now that’s not just true for senior adults. Actually the process of “presbyacusis,” or “hearing loss” begins at an early age. I came across a fascinating story about a new ring tone being used by teenagers on their cell phones. It is usually called either “Teen Buzz” or “Mosquito Ring tone.” It is popular with the teens because most adults cannot hear it. They will put it on their cell phones and then text message each other in school. The tone is 14 kilohertz and is a high-pitched tone that most folks find difficult to hear with advancing hearing loss beginning somewhere around their 20s. The older we get, the more difficult it becomes to hear. The same is true in the spiritual realm. We do not always have “ears to hear.”
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!