MOMENTS OF TRUTH
The Letter to the Church at Laodicea
20 October 2019
So far in our study of eight different churches found in the New Testament we have examined the church at Corinth and that they were involved in impure living with incest and going to law with one another. We found they were weak in their convictions and also participated in unscriptural worship. They were also unsound in doctrine and they were divided. We learned last week about the church at Ephesus where we learned that they were patient, they could not stand those who were evil, that doctrine was important to them and that they hated the “deeds” of the Nicolaitans and not the people. The thing that was wrong with the church at Ephesus was that they had left their first Love. And because of this, the last thing we learn about the church at Ephesus in the book of Revelation is a very striking remark that comes from our Lord and Savior Himself found in Revelation 2:5, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent.”
So far, from these two churches, we know and must recognize that a church must strive for purity in life. It must strive for strong convictions. It must be scriptural in worship sound in doctrine and united. The Good Lord gave the world the church. We know from the book of Acts that Paul and Barnabas went and established churches everywhere. This same concept of establishing churches in communities the world over is God’s design for bringing light into a dark and dying world. Each congregation of the Lord’s people is to be a shining light in their community. Hence the idea of the removal of a “lampstand” as is threatened by Christ if the church at Ephesus did not repent. The same threat can be applied to every congregation of the Lord’s people who are not striving to adhere to the Will of God.
Our next congregation of the Lord’s people we want to discuss is the church at Laodicea. We can learn from them a great deal as we did from the church at Corinth and the church at Ephesus.
The ancient traveler would journey from Philadelphia some forty miles southeast to Laodicea, located in the Lycus valley in southwest Phrygia at the junction of two important imperial trade routes. In Roman times Laodicea became the wealthiest city in Phrygia. The city was so prosperous that when an earthquake devastated it in A.D. 60 during the reign of Nero, the city officials refused financial aid from Rome. Tacitus, the Roman historian, inferred that it was unusual that any city would be rich enough to rebuild itself. This feeling of self-sufficiency may have permeated the church. They lived in a city that had openly refused Roman aid and carried through with proud independence in reconstructing itself. Against this background of boastful attitude, the church was exposed to the standards of its environment and the result, spiritually; it felt self-sufficient and didn’t seem to need the benefits Christ might bestow. Let’s read Revelation 3:14-22 what Jesus says concerning the church at Laodicea, “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 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-- 18 "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. 19 "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore 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 dine with him, and he with Me. 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. 22 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'
The Lord described the condition of this church as “lukewarm.” This was an attribute to the local water source. With all their wealth, the city of Laodicea could only produce tepid water. They would be very well aware of this. So, Jesus knew what they had and used that to help in his admonition. Just think, the Bible has many descriptions of God’s emotions, but this is the only reference in Scripture to Christ wanting to spew someone out of His mouth! God is quite grieved at this lukewarmness in the church at Laodicea. To spew one out of his mouth graphically describes how repulsive one has become who has forsaken his relationship with God. Just think, all those who sincerely remember the cross of Christ are “zealous of good works” as we read in Titus 2:14.
Jesus begins His complaint with the church at Laodicea with these thoughts in Revelation 3:15-16, “"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Let’s make an application to when it comes to “lukewarm” versus “cold” or “hot.” First one might think to be lukewarm is better than being cold, but to be cold is to know one’s current spiritual condition and there is an increased probability for a change and turn towards obedience. The problem with being lukewarm is that one is self-satisfied and considers that he is need of nothing. We must always examine ourselves to see in what condition we are in when it comes to remembering the cross of Christ. Remembering it honestly will propel us to be “zealous” or “hot” in our service to Jesus Christ.
Let’s note that after Jesus tells them they are “lukewarm” He goes on to describe more about them that they did not recognize. They had become blinded and deceived themselves. Listen to Jesus words in Revelation 3:17, “"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…” Jesus told them they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. Sadly, and worst of all, they didn’t know this because of their boasting of being rich! The church at Laodicea trusted wholly in imaginary riches and was not on fire for the Lord. In their own eyes they imagined themselves to be fervent believers and they commended themselves. We must always remember as the church at Laodicea was admonished, the Lord will measure us by what is our true priority in life.
Jesus counsels the church at Laodicea to make some changes listen to what He says in Revelation 3:18, “"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.” Here Jesus exhorts them to do whatever is necessary to make the things of Christ their possessions. Their city was well known for its gold, but they were poor and needed to lay up treasures of real wealth. Laodicea was famous for their clothing industry but they were “naked” spiritually and needed the pure white raiment prepared for heaven. Laodicea was world famous for its eye ointment, but these saints were “blind” and needed spiritual insight.
While it would seem that these admonitions Jesus brings not only to the church here at Laodicea, and the church at Ephesus, and even Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, are very harsh but Jesus states some wonderful words to bring comfort in Revelation 3:19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” Jesus truly loves His church. And therefore He does not hold back to admonish and rebuke and chasten. If He didn’t truly love, He would just let things go. Notice He tells the church at Laodicea to be zealous and repent. The wise will receive correction and will repent. Zeal and repentance are the natural outflow of a heart wholly given to the Lord.
Every congregation of the Lord’s people needs to be reminded exactly of whom Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior is. Just as all the churches we read about in Revelation are reminded at the beginning of each letter. This helps put in perspective “Who” is doing the admonishing or praising. For the church at Laodicea Jesus says of Himself in Revelation 2:14, “These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:” We learn from this that Jesus is “The Amen.” The True One whose words are final. Jesus is the “faithful and true witness.” He would not misrepresent them which means His testimony on behalf of the church at Laodicea and all churches He will not be biased in testifying of them before God. We are reminded here that Jesus was with God in the beginning and are reminded of John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
Every congregation of the Lord’s people must always remember that without Christ and His word, we can do nothing. With Christ and his Word, we frame our own destiny. Recognizing both the admonishment and praises to the various churches in the Bible aid us in our endeavor to serve our various communities as the pillar and ground of the truth, as the Lord’s church is to be. And as we learned from the church at Corinth the local church must strive for purity in life. It must strive for strong convictions. It must be scriptural in worship sound in doctrine and united. It must always “remember” it’s first Love and it must not be “lukewarm” in its efforts, but be zealous for good works.
In order for congregations of the Lord’s people to make up sound congregations it must start with every individual striving to imitate Christ in their walk in this life.
Each one of us needs to take the Word of God seriously and allow it to permeate our hearts in a way that we will make His Will our very own. Let us do as the apostle Paul explains in Philippians 2:12, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;”
Let everyone believe Jesus Christ as the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Let everyone hear the Word of God and have the faith described by the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 11:1- 13 which helps us see those who chose to live as God instructed them, remembering that they were not permanent residents here as we too must recognize, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. 4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "and was not found, because God had taken him"; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. 7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude--innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
Let everyone do as Peter told those to do on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:38, “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Let all confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God as Jesus explains in Matthew 10:32, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him will I also confess before My Father who is in heaven.” The apostle Paul says in Romans 10:9-10, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Let all follow the wonderful example of obedience found in Acts 8:36-39 where Philip has been teaching the Ethiopian eunuch, “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" 37 Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.” The apostle Paul helps us see the importance of baptism in Romans 6:4, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” When one has been baptized, their sins are washed away and they rise a new child of God, a Christian. This is where the “walk in newness of life” begins. This new beginning requires a lifetime of service to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus says in Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you a crown of life.”