REV. 3 : 14 ‑ 21
” I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!”
“LAODICEA [LAY ah duh SEE uh]‑‑ a city in the fertile Lycus Valley of the province of PHRYGIA where one of the seven churches of Asia Minor was situated . About 65 kilometres (40 miles) east of Ephesus and about 16 kilometres (10 miles) west of Colossae, Laodicea was built on the banks of the river Lycus, a tributary of the Maeander River. The words of the risen Christ to Laodicea in contain allusions to the economic prosperity and social prominence of the city. Founded by the SELEUCIDS ….(261‑247 B. C.), Laodicea became extremely wealthy during the Roman period. For example, in 62 B. C. Flaccus seized the annual contribution of the Jews of Laodicea for Jerusalem amounting to 20 pounds of gold. Moreover, when the city was destroyed by an earthquake in A. D. 60 (along with Colossae and Hierapolis), it alone refused aid from Rome for rebuilding (compare the self‑sufficient attitude of the church of Laodicea in ). Laodicea was known for its black wool industry; it manufactured garments from the raven‑black wool produced by the sheep of the surrounding area. The apostle Paul does not seem to have visited Laodicea at the time he wrote . Epaphras, Tychicus, Onesimus, and Mark seem to have been the early messengers of the gospel there
. A letter addressed to the Laodiceans by Paul has apparently been lost; some consider it to be a copy of the Ephesian letter. A church council was supposedly held at Laodicea (A. D. 344‑363), but all that has come down to us are statements from other councils. The site of Laodicea is now a deserted heap of ruins that the Turks call Eski Hisar, or “old castle.” According to the comments about the church at Laodicea in the Book of Revelation, this congregation consisted of lukewarm Christians . The living Lord demands enthusiasm and total commitment from those who worship Him”. (from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary) (Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers) “Perhaps nothing recorded of the church of Laodicea is so memorable as the risen Christ’s dismissal of it as ‘lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot’. This characterization of the Laodicean Christians’ lack of zeal and effectiveness was specially apt, as the city’s water supply, drawn from hot springs at Denizli to the south, was still tepid after flowing for five miles in stone barrel pipes. It was thus less palatable than the cold water which refreshed the citizens of neighbouring Colossae, or the hot water whose medicinal properties were valued by those of Hierapolis”. (The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Atlas pp421)
The characteristics of the Laodicean church are: 1. Economic prosperity….“I lack nothing”; 2. Social prominence….“I must maintain my social position”; 3. Self‑sufficient attitude….“I need no help”. Paul in his letter to the Colossians/Laodiceans
did not appear to address any of these problems; therefore, it is apparent that the church at Laodicea lapsed into this condition some time after this letter.
“I am rich….and do not need a thing”; the Laodicean church existed in a city that was extremely rich from it’s industry. From this background many came into the church. The church no doubt had large offerings, and they were able to send sizeable offerings to other churches in the region. As time progressed the motive for these offerings may have changed considerably. .
“white clothes to…..cover your shameful nakedness”; the Laodicean church no doubt strived to maintain their social prominence so as to continue to have the impact on their community. It is sure that many poor migrated to this city in order to share in the wealth, but it is very possible that the believers were blinded to the fact that here was an evolving mission field in their own back yard, as they maintained their social standing. We can be absolutely sure that any church that caters to a “high society” will eventually lose sight of their mission to the needy. Such activity will lead to spiritual adultery because all programs cater primarily to social needs rather than spiritual needs. . “salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” ; the Laodicean believers had become so self‑centered they could not see their bad condition. The city and it’s citizens had long been independent of Rome, and were capable of covering all their emergency expenses; they did not need any external assistance. This attitude no doubt became the attitude of the church as well; they were blinded by their wealth and had completely lost sight of their risen Lord .
The church at Laodicea obviously started out as a strong spiritual church but got into a downward spiral of self‑sufficiency which led them to the disgusting spiritual state described by verse 15. The results are typical and could represent any church in our own communities. (1) No vision: the community suffers as people never hear the gospel. (2) No joy: all their energy is concentrated in guarding what they have. (3) Total self sufficiency: they have no time to assist other congregations; i.e. they act alone or within a small circle. (4) Social prominence: membership consists of the “upper crust”. (5) Spiritual decline: people pleasers instead of God pleasers.
As lukewarm water is distasteful to the thirsty person, so is a lukewarm spiritual condition to the HEAD of the church! The risen Lord is now unwelcome in the “midst” of His people; “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 him, and he with me. “ Lukewarm: ‑ having or showing little zeal or enthusiasm; indifferent; lacking the courage to follow God or to rebel against Him; being disgusting to God.
IS THE FIRE MISSING? To think that overenthusiasm is a problem in the church, according to A. W. Tozer, is like sending a police squad to a cemetery at midnight in case of a demonstration by the residents. In fact, one of the most common sins of the church today is lukewarmness. If the fire is missing from the church, it certainly cannot spread. Scripture describes four aspects of lukewarmness that we should guard against: (1) Arrogant materialism causes us to erect lavish million‑dollar edifices while we send only a trickle of nickels and dimes to spread the Gospel among those who have never heard (2) An independent attitude of self‑sufficiency robs us of the fellowship and community that characterized the early church. (3) Apathy blinds many to the fact that we are in the middle of a spiritual battle. (4) Our true spiritual condition is like that of the Laodiceans (Rev. 3:17). We are miserably poor, blind, and naked. Yet Jesus wants to bring cleansing to us as individuals and as churches, if we will repent. (Is the fire missing?” by George Verwer. Decision, Oct 1990. Pages 25‑26 )
It is the duty of every local church, as should have been the case at Laodicea, to avoid becoming spiritually lukewarm. We must seek to become rich in the knowledge of the scriptures…“buy gold refined in the fire”. We should always be covered in the garments of righteousness so that we do not become exposed to spiritual adultery…“white clothes”. Our eyes should always be opened by the word of God so that we can see our true spiritual condition…“salve for the eyes” . We must always be sensitive to the voice of our risen Lord so as to maintain our fellowship…“If anyone hears my voice” . We must seek to be overcomers so as to earn the “right to sit” with Christ on His throne….“…I will give the right to sit with me on my throne” .
Every church should be enthusiastic and totally committed to worshipping and serving God, not men! .