The church of Laodicea was once a fervent, healthy church, but over time it degenerated.
It was one of the seven churches in the 1st century AD that was specifically addressed in the Book of Revelation by Jesus Christ. It was located in what’s known today as modern-day Turkey (Asia Minor).
The church turned away from Jesus, their first love, and instead, found satisfaction in worldly pursuits. They were lukewarm with no passion for Christ. The church had become a mere social gathering and they were self-absorbed and proud.
Charles Spurgeon in his Sermon – An Earnest Warning about Lukewarmness said, this scripture was not written just to instruct the church of Laodicea, it had a much wider aim.
Churches like Laodicea still exist today. Backslidden churches that were once vibrant, but now lukewarm. This letter is meant for those churches too.
John’s Vision of Christ
Jesus appeared to the apostle John when he was in prison on the Isle of Patmos. He was to send a message to the world, a message that is now recorded in the last book of the Bible, The Book of Revelation.
He addressed the seven churches of Asia, also known as the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse. The churches were Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatria, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
In the letter to the church in Laodicea, Jesus starts with these strong words:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-17)
Jesus is obviously disappointed in the church, so much so, that He said He was about to spit them out of his mouth. The word spit in this context means, to vomit. He was sick to His stomach at how they were conducting themselves.
Before going any further it’s important to understand the context of this text and what was happening in Laodicea at the time. The city of Laodicea was very wealthy. Its economy was booming.
The textile industry exported fine black wool that was in high demand. It was well known for its banking centers and to add to that, they had a medical school that produced a famous eye salve that cleared up eye infections.
They were prosperous, in need of nothing.
They had a large population that required a substantial water supply. This posed a problem for Laodicea, for they had to derive their water supply from the mountains to the south, which was approximately 6 miles away. By the time the water arrived, through the aqueducts, it was lukewarm, concentrated, and full of sediment that was disgusting to drink.
So, Jesus cleverly used their lukewarm water supply as a spiritual metaphor for their lukewarmness. “So because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:16).
The lukewarm water was so disgusting that it would make you sick to your stomach if you tasted a drop of it. So Jesus directly challenged the Laodicean church for their reliance on its wealth, stating that He wished they were either one or the other – hot or cold.
“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.”
In this metaphor, Jesus was making a comparison between Laodicea and 2 other surrounding cities, Colossae and Hierapolis who had an abundant water supply. The cold water of Colossae was refreshing to drink and the hot water of Hierapolis had healing properties, but Laodicea’s lukewarm water was good for nothing. It was undrinkable.
Jesus was comparing the church’s lukewarmness to the city’s water supply, which was impure, lacking the ability to offer any refreshment or healing.
He was essential saying, they were useless, just like their water.
Jesus says Be Useful for Something, be hot or be cold, but please do not be lukewarm for that is disgusting. It’s shameful.
We are Christ’s witnesses on earth. Nonbelievers only have us to look to, to know Jesus. If they do not see fervent, loving, cheerful, passionate people, in love with Him, then what hope is there of winning any souls.
But, on top of that, what is the point of even meeting? It’s futile and utter foolishness to God. Complacency, arrogance, pride, and self-sufficiency disgust Him.
What does each kind of Church look like?
Hot – this type of church is invigorating, loving, warm, spiritual, and has the ability to heal the brokenhearted. It’s a place of refuge and they can win souls in this environment. This is pleasing to Jesus.
Cold – this type of church is spiritual, inspiring, refreshing and it encourages people to grow more in Christ and be a blessing to others. In this environment, new believers also come to Christ.
Lukewarm – this church is spiritually dead – indifferent and lacking in zeal. Jesus has left the building. They are arrogant and self-sufficient, in need of nothing, not even God. A self-centered church, not eager in soul-winning.
In this analogy, the cold water represents a church that is active and alive for Christ and the hot water equally represents an active, vibrant church. Either kind is pleasing to the Lord.
In this passage, Jesus begs the Laodicean believers to choose one or the other, hot or cold, but above all, not lukewarm. According to Jesus complacent Christians are good for nothing and make him sick to His stomach.
Even though the church of Laodicea was like this, Jesus still cared for them, He stands at the door and knocks. ‘That is not the position our Lord occupies to a truly flourishing church’, says Spurgeon.’ Jesus should be at the heart of the church, not outside knocking on the door.
Yet, Jesus is patient, merciful, kind, and forgiving.
Look at these next verses:
“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:18-20)
Earlier on he addressed them as poor, blind, and miserable. They shut Him out, but He then made an offer that appealed to their hearts, you can buy gold from me and become rich, (spiritually rich). He’s essentially saying that everything they had was worthless.
But, He’s giving them another chance. If anyone hears His voice and opens the door (of their hearts), He will come in and eat with them (fellowship intimately with them).
A Call to Repentance
He is calling the whole church to repent, but it is a call to individuals to open their hearts one by one. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
It’s a call to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, to the church and every individual believer.
Have You Invited Jesus into Every Area of Your Life as Lord and Saviour?
St Paul in the letter to the Corinthians said, ‘examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith, test yourselves.’ (2 Corinthians 13:5)
What habits, attitudes, or behaviors are getting in the way of you having a vibrant, fervent life In Christ?
One way to gauge if you are lukewarm is to look at your prayer life.
- How often do you pray?
- How do you pray?
- Who do you pray for?
- Do you have a burden in your heart for the lost?
- Is your relationship with Jesus sweet and pure?
- Do you come boldly to the throne of grace?
- Do you worship and give thanks?
- Do you love the saints and pray for them?
- Does your time in prayer motivate you to do good deeds?
- Do you experience deep inner peace and joy?
- Is your prayer life transforming you inwardly?
This is a serious message for all believers to think about.
It really got me thinking. What does it really mean to give up chasing money, materialism, and earthly pleasures?
They feel so good, right? Don’t we like these things.
Is Jesus trying to make us miserable?
Yet, He says we are already miserable – “you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” (if we chase after these things and not God).
So, the question I have and I will leave it with you is …
What is this life In Christ really like when we surrender all of that to Him?
Abandon ourselves to Him.
It’s a scary thought.
What about the security I feel in my job, my possessions, my relationships, and let’s face it, my addictions (we all have some).
Who would I be then?
And would l be happy?
This is the question we must all face on the narrow path.