Seven Churches: Laodicea

Revelation 3:14–22 (ESV) — 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.’ ”

The church in Laodicea was lukewarm. Jesus told them that he wished that they were either cold or hot, but since they were lukewarm he was ready to spit them out of his mouth. This has often been interpreted to mean that Jesus wished the church was either for him (hot) or against him (cold). This understanding misses the point by assuming a modern day figure of speech was what Jesus was referencing. He was not. When Jesus spoke of being cold or hot, he was speaking of two types of water that were useful. Cold was good for drinking where hot was good for bathing. Lukewarm water was good for neither. Jesus wanted the church to be good for something, but their lukewarm devotion left them worthless.

The church at Laodicea is a firm warning for us today. The church thought it was rich, but it was poor. They thought they were doing well spiritually, but they were in great need of spiritual healing and growth. We must be careful to judge ourselves properly and know the health of our relationship with Christ. Many of us may find that we too are lukewarm as we have allowed other things to become more important to us than our relationship with our Lord and fulfilling his mission in the world.

The picture of Jesus standing outside the door of this church and knocking is shocking. How could a church have Jesus standing outside and wanting to enter and fellowship with them?

Lord, help us to be cold or hot and never lukewarm. We desire to be useful to you. Amen.


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