Jesus' Words To Laodicea
Our Text this morning is found in Revelation 3:14-22,
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 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 eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Jesus comes to the church in Laodicea in verse 14 speaking “the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness and the beginning of God’s creation.
As the Amen, Jesus speaks what is true, trustworthy, certain and sure .
As the true and faithful witness, Jesus speaks of what He has seen and heard. Jesus is true, honest and righteous is words and in deeds. (1 John 3:18 – Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.)
As the witness He is able to testify to others in a way that men can hear and understand.
He is the beginning of creation through which all things find their origin, and source of being.
Jesus gives no commendation to this church. Rather, He reproves them for being lukewarm.
What makes the sin of indifference so nauseating to Christ?
What makes the lukewarmness of this church so intolerable to Jesus?
In many ways our culture is gravitating toward the extremes.
You are either on the left or on the right.
Your are either conservative or liberal.
You are either one of the good guys or you are one of the bad guys.
Yet, in our everyday life there is typically a greater pull towards lukewarmness.
At work, the guy who works harder usually frustrates everyone for raising the standard and the production that is expected of others.
The person in the church who leads in holiness and devotion is seen as too spiritual and legalistic.
In his book entitled, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs describes the individual who is drinking from the deep wells of grace. Such a person is not Lukewarm. “Where contentment of heart springs from grace, the heart is very quick and lively in their service to God...It is very active and lively, not dull, in the service of God. And just as a contented heart is very active and busy in the work of God, so he is very active and busy in sanctifying God’s name in the affliction that befalls him.”
Drinking from the deep well of grace produces life and liveliness that looks nothing like the ordinary lukewarm life that surrounds us.
Burroughs goes on to describe the person, or the church, who fails to drink of the well of grace in the following manner. “I will give you just one mark of the difference between a man or woman who is content in a natural way (lukewarm) and the one who is content in a spiritual way (lively and dynamic): Those who are content in a natural way overcome themselves when outward afflictions befall them and are content. They are just as content when they commit sin against God. When they have outward crosses or when God is dishonored, it is all one to them; whether they themselves are crossed or whether God is crossed (lukewarm). But a gracious heart that is contented with its own affliction, will rise up strongly when God is dishonored.”
Examples of zealous people
Acts 17:16 – Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.
Daniel 1:8-9 – But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the Eunuchs.
1 Samuel 17:25 – And David said, to the men who stood by him, ‘What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?’
Burroughs has begun to capture why Jesus becomes nauseated with this church in Laodicea. They are:
lukewarm – they reflect the culture, as we will see, more than they reflect God (Eph 5:1)
disinterested – they stand aloof, distant and uninvolved in the things of God
inattentive – they are apathetic, bored and easily distracted from the things of God
neutral – they have become inactive and uncommitted
nonchalant – they are unconcerned regarding the Kingdom of God
uninvolved – they appear to be undecided even when Jesus stands knocking at he door
passionless – their faith is cold-hearted, lifeless, stiff and unloving
They are faithless
Dr. William Barclay speaks of this in his commentary on Revelation. He says, “The one attitude which the Risen Christ unsparingly condemns is indifference. It has been said that an author can write a good biography if he loves his subject or hates him but not if he is coldly indifferent. Of all things indifference is the hardest to combat. The problem of modern evangelism is not hostility to Christianity. The problem is that to so many Christianity and the Church have ceased to have any relevance and men regard them with complete indifference. This indifference can be broken down only by the actual demonstration that Christianity is a power to make life strong and a grace to make life beautiful.”
The church in Laodicea was not compelling the culture around them that Christianity is a power to make life strong and that it is a grace to make it beautiful.
John Stott says of the Laodicean church, “What more terrible condemnation could there be of a churches condition, than that the Lord would prefer a cold Christianity to the sort He actually finds there...If we had not already read of the seven stars in the hand of Christ, we might well doubt whether she is a true church at all.”
The church in Laodicea was not proclaiming the gospel; rather, they were proclaiming, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.” (Revelation 3:17a)
These words are shocking, shameful and scandalous.
It would be distressing if we caught our own hearts saying this briefly and quietly to ourselves; but this church boasted out loud and they were blind to the scandal of it all.
#1 They said, “I am rich”. They believe that they have all that their hearts have desired.
If the apostle Paul were to enter this church he would say to them, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
#2 They said, “I have prospered”. The emphasis of this word is on focusing on what they had achieved and accomplished with no acknowledgment to God for these blessings.
They are like the man mentioned in Luke 12 who says, “’What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there will I store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink and be merry.”’”
God will say to such a one, “Fool, this night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God.”
#3 They also said, “I need nothing”. They were not aware of any need. They had no demands and they made no requests. It is almost inconceivable that a church would reflect such an attitude. Matthew 5:6 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfies.
Jesus says in verse 17, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”
Most of these traits mentioned here are direct references to things that this city was known for.
Jesus says that these people are wretched, poor and pitiable. This spiritual diagnosis was completely at odds with the reputation of the people in this city.
Jesus says that they are wretched. This means that they are afflicted, distressed and oppressed with a burden. The apostle Paul speaks of this wretchedness in Romans 7:24 when he writes, “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death.”
Jesus says that they are distressed. It was vital that the city of Laodicea be at peace and stop all conflict and distress.
They had no natural water source and the flow of water to the city could be easily cut off. The water was brought in through a buried aqueduct from 6 miles outside the city. When the water arrived into the city it was warm and full of calcium and minerals that made the water taste bad.
Everyone in the city was aware of their vulnerability to conflict.
The members of this church were blind to the spiritual battle that they were to be fighting.
Jesus says that their true spiritual condition is that of being poor and pitiable. The city they lived in was very wealthy and self-sufficient.
When an earthquake destroyed the city they rebuilt it with their own resources and they required no help from Rome.
They were so prosperous that they minted their own currency and acted as an exchange center for many travelers.
Jesus also says that they are blind and naked. This diagnosis of Jesus stands in sharp contrast to this cities reputation.
One of the industries that Laodicea was renown for all over the ancient world was their hospital and the production of medicines to treat eye and ear diseases.
Some of their doctors became so influential and so well respected that their busts were placed on this cities currency.
This church needed to have an accurate diagnosis of being spiritually blind.
This church thought that they were well but they needed to know that they were pitiable and blind so that the Lord could heal them. Jesus says in Mark 2:17, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Laodicea was famous for their textile manufactures and their production of affordable outer coats. They were most known for their production of a certain type of wool that was soft, of high quality and it had a glossy black finish. Yet, Jesus says to the church that they are naked. This was a shameful thing for both Jew and Gentile alike.
Who can deliver them from the miserable condition that they now find themselves? Again, the apostle Paul wrote, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25a) But will they look to Jesus? Will they come to the door at which Christ in knocking and open that He might come in?
Philip Powers writes, “There are some who would not be dependent upon others for anything...It is not like Christ, not to be dependent upon anyone for anything...As a man, with human needs, He was willing not only to give, but also to receive.”
Jesus says to them in Revelation 3:18, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.”
The Laodicean’s are to find true riches in Christ which cannot be found in material wealth which does not truly satisfy and which vanishes so quickly.
They are to clothe themselves in the righteousness of Christ and in the righteous deeds of the saints. “For there is little point in a man adorning his body, if he has nothing to adorn his soul. Not all the clothes in the world will beautify a person whose nature is twisted and whose character is ugly.” (William Barclay)
They are to allow the Great Physician, Jesus Christ, to send the Holy Spirit to them so that they might see.
What is the price of these things? It is free. Consider Revelation 22:17, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”
Or consider Isaiah 55:1-3, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may life; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.”
In Revelation 3:19 Jesus says that those He loves, He rebukes and disciplines, so they should be zealous and repent.
The word for ‘zealous’ is the same word used in verse 15 for ‘hot’.
This church who received no accommodation from Christ is now told that they are loved with the most tender affection.
His reproof and correction are primarily seen in how Jesus compels them to see the error of their ways. He proves that what He has said can not be otherwise.
In Revelation 3:20 Jesus stands at the door and knocks. If anyone hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in and eat with Him.
Last year when a team from Community Church went to Ecuador I experienced something that has an application here. We were remodeling a home when I saw a man standing on the outside of the gate. I went over to the gate and opened it. The man did not make it two feet into the front yard before one of the local leaders stopped the man and asked him to stay outside the gate.
The leader then told me that the front yard is considered part of the house in that culture and only the homeowner can approve someone being brought in. They do not want strangers to have access to the house that may not be welcome. Then people were dispatched to find the homeowner so that she could let him in.
Jesus will not force His way in. We have to respond when we hear the gospel and hear the knocking upon our hearts.
Some might look at this text and wonder how to not be lukewarm. Let me close with these words from Hebrews 12:1-3 - “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”