The Message to Laodicea: The Church that is Affluent, but Lukewarm and Half-Committed

The Message to Laodicea: The Church that is Affluent, but Lukewarm and Half-Committed

Revelation 3:14-22 (ESV) ~ “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. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 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. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 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. 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. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

 

This is the last church addressed by Christ, and it is the worst church. Christ does not commend Laodicea at all. This is the one church about which He has nothing good to say. Imagine a church that may as well not exist—a church that has no good within its body whatsoever—a church that does no good at all. What was it that made the church so bad? So useless and worthless? Lukewarmness, which means that the church was indifferent, complacent, lethargic, self-satisfied, half-hearted, and neutral. The church and its believers were only half-way committed to Christ, only half-hearted in their worship and service for Him. Imagine! To Christ there is no good whatsoever in a lukewarm, half-committed believer, and most church members are lukewarm! There are few who are really hot, that is, really committed. Hence, this is a critical message that must be heeded by all churches and believers. We must study what Christ says to this church and heed His warning and counsel.

 

Recipients

  • There are the recipients. Christ sends this message to the minister, for he is the one who is ultimately responsible for the state of the church. Christ expects the minister to be the first to heed the warning against lukewarmness and half-hearted commitment. Then Christ expects the minister to take the message of the Lord to the church and declare His warning to its believers.
  • The point to see is this: the minister is held accountable by Christ for the indifference and complacency of the believers. He expects the minister to arouse himself and repent, and to arouse the believers and lead them to repentance and whole-hearted commitment.

 

Speaker

  • There is the speaker, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Note how Christ describes Himself to the lukewarm and half-committed church and believer.
    • Jesus Christ is the “Amen.” This is a title that Christ says belongs to Him. The term Amen is used to close prayer or to declare the truthfulness of some statement. It is a term that declares and guarantees the truth. Therefore, Jesus Christ is the Amen, the declaration, the guarantee of the truth. What He says is totally true and trustworthy. This means two things to a lukewarm church.
      • The lukewarm church can trust the promises of Christ. He will meet the needs of any church that will repent and turn from its lukewarmness and wholly commit its life to Christ.
      • The lukewarm church had better heed the warning of Christ. He is the Amen; His words of judgment will be carried out. The lukewarm church and believer will face the terrible judgment of Christ, face it just like He has pronounced it in His Word. His Word is true, completely guaranteed. What He has said will be. His pronouncement of judgment will come to pass—unquestionably. The church that ignores or neglects His Word does so at its own peril and loss.
    • Jesus Christ is the “faithful and true witness.” Jesus Christ is faithful to God the Father and He bears a true witness to God the Father.
      • Jesus Christ is perfectly honest. He has not told a single lie or untruth.
      • Jesus Christ is also completely honest. He holds nothing back about the truth. He does not keep us wondering or questioning in seeking after and in knowing God. He has not kept a single thing from us that God wanted us to know about Himself.
    • But note: Jesus Christ is the faithful and true witness; He is just what the church is not. The church is lukewarm. It only tells part of the truth, only bears part of the witness. It is only half-faithful to Christ and God. What the lukewarm church needs is to get a renewed sight of Christ. They need to refocus their attention upon Jesus Christ: the only way they will ever see God is to hear the witness of Jesus Christ, the witness of Him who is faithful and true. If the church is looking at other witnesses—depending upon the rituals of baptism, church membership, ordinances, services, ceremonies, fellowship, and worship attendance to make them acceptable to God—then the church is missing the faithful and true witness of God. It is missing Christ, and to miss Christ is to doom oneself.
    • Jesus Christ is the “beginning of the creation of God.” Jesus Christ is the great Creator of the universe, the Maker and Sustainer of the universe and all that is therein. Therefore, He is the source of all—all good things, all real wealth and satisfaction, all purpose, meaning, and significance in life, all love, joy, and peace that a person experiences. Therefore, the church must not depend upon its prosperity: its rituals, ability, energy, wealth, and resources. Its only hope for life is to trust Him who is the beginning of creation, Him who alone can give the church life both abundant and eternal life. Therefore, no matter how prosperous the church, it is not the creator nor the sustainer. Christ alone creates and sustains. The church’s wealth and prosperity are meaningless and useless apart from being absolutely centered in Jesus Christ.

 

Complaint

  • The complaint is shocking, for it unquestionably describes most church members. What is the complaint? Lukewarmness. Note exactly what Christ says: the church and its members were “neither cold nor hot.” This means…
    • they were only lukewarm, only half-committed, only half-hearted.
    • they were complacent, lethargic, self-satisfied.
    • they were indifferent and neutral.
  • As stated, note how this so clearly describes so many church members. This is serious, even critical, for the judgment that Christ pronounces upon the lukewarm church and believer is terrible. This will be seen in the next note. For now, we need to think about how lukewarmness affects the church and its members.
    • A lukewarm church is only half-committed to Christ. In addition to stressing Christ, it stresses ritual, ceremony, and programs as a way to become acceptable and to please God.
      • Luke 9:23 (ESV) ~ And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
      • Romans 12:1-2 (ESV) ~ I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
    • A lukewarm church is only half-committed to proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
      • 1 John 2:22-23 (ESV) ~ Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.
      • 1 John 4:1-3 (ESV) ~ Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
    • A lukewarm church is only half-committed to teaching the Word of God.
      • 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV) ~ All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
      • 2 Timothy 4:2-4 (ESV) ~ preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
    • A lukewarm church is only half-committed to evangelism and missions.
      • Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) ~ Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
      • Mark 16:15 (ESV) ~ And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
    • A lukewarm church is only half-committed to the church.
      • Hebrews 10:25 (ESV) ~ not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
    • A lukewarm church is only half-committed to attending and staying awake and learning in the services of the church.
      • John 5:39 (ESV) ~ You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
      • Romans 15:4 (ESV) ~ For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
    • A lukewarm church is only half-committed to supporting the church.
      • 1 Corinthians 16:2 (ESV) ~ On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
      • 2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV) ~ Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

 

Warning

  • There is the warning. Jesus Christ warns the lukewarm and half-commited person: “I will spue you out of my mouth.” This is graphic language, but it is used for a purpose. The person who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ is claiming to be a part of His body, claiming to be nourishment for His body, a part of the growth of His body. But when the person is lukewarm, he is none of this. He is like lukewarm food, unappetizing and unwanted. Christ does not want the nourishment that such food provides. It is not fit to help in the nourishment and growth of His body. Therefore, He rejects all who are lukewarm and half-committed. There are two reasons why He rejects them.
    • The lukewarm make a false profession (Rev. 3:17a). Note the verse: the church felt that it was rich and prosperous and had need of nothing. As stated above, the city was extremely wealthy, and practically everyone but the slaves shared in the wealth. We can tell by the very charge of Christ against the church that the believers were financially wealthy. What happened to the church is what so often happens among believers. They equated wealth and prosperity with spirituality. They felt that they had been especially blessed by God because they had been blessed with material possessions and wealth.
    • The lukewarm are rejected because of their true condition: they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. What does this mean? All of these refer to the spiritual life of the church and its believers.
      • The church was spiritually “wretched” (ho talaipōros PWS: 4465). The word actually says the wretched one in the Greek. The church had its full staff and all the programs—so much so that it felt it needed nothing. But the church was really the wretched one. The word means to be afflicted spiritually; to be spiritually contemptible; to be spiritually inferior. In God’s eyes they were spiritually lacking, very much so—so much so that they were afflicted, contemptible, and inferior.
      • The church was spiritually “miserable” (eleeinos PWS: 2607). The word means pitied, despicable. The believers felt self-sufficient and were carrying on all the works of the church, but they were doing it in their own strength. They were missing out on the greatest thing in all the world: the presence of Christ and the power of Christ. They were missing out on experiencing the power of Christ working in their lives and in the church. They were to be pitied. In God’s eyes they were despicable, for they were ignoring and neglecting His Son.
      • The church was spiritually “poor” (ptōchos). They felt rich and in need of nothing, but in truth they were as spiritually poor as a church and person can be.
      • The church was spiritually “blind” (tuphlos PWS: 407). They could see only what was in the world: money and human ability and effort. They did not look beyond to the spiritual need of the human soul nor to the possibility of spiritual and supernatural power working within the church and the lives of people.
      • The church was spiritually “naked” (gumnos PWS: 2645). They failed to see their need for the righteousness of Jesus Christ, for the clothing of Christ’s righteousness. They believed they could be good enough and do enough good to become acceptable to God on their own. They felt their religious works and gifts to the church would secure God’s approval. They did little thinking about their need for the righteousness of Christ and about the death of Jesus Christ for their sins.

 

Counsel

  • Christ counsels them to be zealous and to repent. Note what Christ says: He loves them. They are lukewarm and indifferent to Him, only half-committed to Him, but He still loves them. The word used for love (philō PWS: 2430) means a dear love, a tender, fatherly love. This is the reason He rebukes and chastens the lukewarm and half-committed person. It is not out of anger that Christ tells people they are doing wrong, sinning, coming short, and are doomed. He tells them out of love. They must know they are doing wrong in order to correct their behavior. They must know that judgment lies ahead so that they will do whatever is needed to save themselves. The Lord’s rebuke and chastening hand is for one purpose only: Christ loves them and wants them to see their wrong, correct their behavior, and change their lives. He wants people to possess the fulness of life and the hope of eternal life.

 

Promise

  • There is the promise to the overcomers. The promise is glorious! The overcomer shall sit upon the throne of Christ and of God. The person who overcomes the lukewarmness and half-hearted commitment to Christ, who repents and turns his life over to Christ, shall sit upon the throne of Christ and of God.
 
Pastor Andy Lambert

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