Now we come to the most famous church, unfortunately, and that is the church of Laodicea. Jamieson gave this description of the city: “The city was in the southwest of Phrygia, on the river Lycus, not far from Colosse, and lying between it and Philadelphia. It was destroyed by an earthquake, A.D. 62, and rebuilt by its wealthy citizens without the help of the state [TACITUS, Annals, 14.27]. This wealth (arising from the excellence of its wools) led to a self-satisfied, lukewarm state in spiritual things, as Revelation 3:17 describes.” It is most likely that this church was started under the ministry of Paul. It appeared to have a close relationship with the church at Colosse and it appeared as if God was pleased to give this church some form of special revelation. “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea” (Col. 4:16, see also 1:1). We do not know what the letter of Paul to this church said; God was not pleased to preserve it for us. It is useless for us to argue about whether or not that letter was inspired. I fancy that it was just as the letter to the Colossians but that God did not preserve it for His own reasons and it was therefore not part of the cannon. Whether or not that is true this one thing is sure; the letter written to the Laodiceans had apostolic authority and was meant to be read and distributed just as the rest of the New Testament Scriptures. We have read the phrase “let him hear” time and time again in these last two chapters. Here we have a church that would not hear. The word of God fell on the stony ground, yea even by the wayside and it was snatched away. At the end of this message from Christ to this church Christ is standing outside of the church knocking and asking if anyone can hear. In some sense the Word of God in the end did not profit them for it was not mixed with faith. Those who take the dispensational view see the Laodicea age as the apostasy foretold in the last days before the coming of Christ. The fact that this is the last church spoken of before we get to the prophecy proper in the book of Revelation lends some bit of credence to this idea. We have seen some fault thus far with the dispensational view in the other churches and those points still hold here. The local New Testament church though does not have to be found in the state of Laodicea. Any church can hear the word of God and be a faithful Smyrna or Philadelphia when Christ comes. I believe it is a sad fact that many churches will be found as Laodicea. This is the indifferent church as we shall see in the coming verses. Gill stated that the name Laodicea carries the following meaning; “Its name signifies “the righteousness of the people….”” It is the sense of self righteousness which makes one indifferent to the things of God.
First, Christ is to this church known as the faithful witness against them. “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” Christ is the Amen. He is the God of truth which is where we get the word Amen (Isa. 65:16). When we use the word Amen we mean that it is sure, it is of a truth. In short we are attesting that it is of God. Christ is the Amen. Gill stated this: “The word “Amen” is the name of a divine Person with the Jews, and it seems the second Person; for so on those words in Proverbs 8:30…. Christ may be so called, because he is the God of truth, and truth itself; and it may be expressive of his faithfulness, both to God his Father, and to his people, in whom all the promises he either made, or received, are yea and amen; and also of the firmness, constancy, and immutability of Christ, in his nature, person, and offices, in his love, fullness of grace, power, blood, and righteousness; and is very appropriately assumed by him now, when he was about to give the finishing stroke to all covenant engagements, and to all promises and prophesies….” The word Amen is forever connected with the truth Christ. Paul stated this precious fact: “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (I Cor. 1:20). It is the sureness of Christ that stands in contrast to the hypocrisy of the indifferent church. Christ is also the faithful and true witness. By His word and His testimony men stand or fall. To those He confesses is everlasting life and for those who are denied by Him everlasting damnation. His word stands and by His word men are saved or condemned. This is a fact which the indifferent church must deal with (Jer. 42:5). Lastly, He is known to them as the very God. He is the beginning of the creation of God. This is a humbling and awe inspiring thought. Christ is the First Cause of all things. He is the very God. He is the uncaused Cause. It all started with Him; not in the sense that He is created but rather in that He is the Creator. In Him, as Paul stated, we and all things have their being. All things were created by Him and for Him. So then He is the standard in that He is the Amen. He is the prosecutor of men in that He is the faithful and true witness. He is the ultimate reality in that He is the beginning of the creation of God. For a church to be indifferent concerning the things of Christ is foolishness.
Secondly, Christ knows their true nature which is nauseating to Him. “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” Let us remember that the opposite of love is not hatred. The opposite of love is indifference. Gill describes such as the lukewarm professor. “A lukewarm professor is one that serves God and mammon; that halts between two opinions, and knows not what religion is best, and cares little for any, yet keeps in a round of duty, though indifferent to it, and contents himself with it; and is unconcerned about the life and power of godliness, and takes up with the external form of it; and has no thought about the glory of God, the interest of Christ and truth; and this was too much the case of this church, at least of a great number of its members; wherefore it was very loathsome to Christ, hence he threatens….” There is a rash of this in modern Christianity; going through the motions, singing the songs of Zion without care to their meaning, reading the Word without conviction, hearing preaching without changing, praying without understanding, and confessing without possessing. I love the following quote from Henry: “Lukewarmness or indifference in religion is the worst temper in the world. If religion is a real thing, it is the most excellent thing, and therefore we should be in good earnest in it; if it is not a real thing, it is the vilest imposture, and we should be earnest against it. If religion is worth anything, it is worth every thing; indifference here is inexcusable: Why halt you between two opinions? If God be God, follow him; if Baal (be God), follow him. Here is no room for neutrality. An open enemy shall have a fairer quarter than a perfidious neuter; and there is more hope of a heathen than of such. Christ expects that men should declare themselves in earnest either for him or against him.” Do you want to know what God thinks of such Christianity? Christ would rather you be an open blasphemer and hater of God. At least they are honest with themselves, with other men, and with God. If you are not going to be on fire for God go out of these doors and live openly in sin; that is what Christ would rather you do. I am not encouraging sin in any man. I am encouraging the fire of revival. Choose you this day whom you will serve; and then serve with all of your heart and soul. To be lukewarm is to be nauseating to God. Jamieson stated this: “Physicians used lukewarm water to cause vomiting. Cold and hot drinks were common at feasts, but never lukewarm.”
Thirdly, Christ knows the root cause of the churches failure. Let us hear what the root cause of the indifference of the church is from the one that knows and judges all things. “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked….” The root of the problem was pride. They did not have a realistic view of themselves. They thought of themselves more highly than they should. They saw themselves as rich in grace, rich in talent, and rich in works. They saw themselves as growing and increasing; they were increased in goods. They were looking back and patting themselves on the back for all that they had accomplished. They were counting their barns and planning on building greater. They saw themselves as in need of nothing. That is summing up the grand problem of indifference. When you come to the point that you can stand before God and say that you need nothing than you have come to the point of nausea. You have told yourself the ultimate lie. We are not independent of God but wholly dependent on Him. To believe otherwise is to adhere to Satanism. This is what they said of themselves but what God saw was much more important. He saw what they really were. They were wretched; that is, they were worthless. They were of no worth to themselves, of no worth to their fellow man, and of no worth to God. They were miserable. They were cut off from the source of true joy and were enjoying only fleeting moments of a false happiness. The word miserable carries the root word miser which is one that is covetous or insatiable. They have no abiding satisfaction for they have no abiding Christ. They were poor. They had not means of purchasing the things they truly needed. They were blind. They could not see afar off. They could not see their own sin. They could not see the true righteousness of Christ. They were naked. The shame of the sin was uncovered for all to see. They were not witnesses for Christ but they were seen for the hypocrites that they were before this world. The world always knows what Christians are supposed to be.
Fourthly, Christ gives divine counsel to the backslidden church. “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see.” Hear the great Counselor! He says come and let us reason together (Isa. 1:18). Gill stated this: “Christ is a Counselor, and is every way fit to be one, for he is the all wise God, the Ancient of days, and the Father of his people, and, as Mediator, the Wisdom of God; and he was concerned in the council of peace from everlasting; and when he was here on earth he gave counsel in person, and now he gives it by his Spirit, and by his word and ministers….” Let us then hear what Christ has to say. The entire counsel is summed up in the first three words that Christ said, “buy of me….” Christ represents Himself as the merchant man who does business in this world. He invites this church to do business with Him. He also presents Himself as the only purveyor of that which men need. We are constantly bombarded by the voice of salesman telling us that their products can give us peace and joy and true relief. Let us remember that the great Merchant (Jesus Christ) is the only one that sales the wares we need. That which the church or any individual in the church needs can only be gained by doing business with Christ. Let us not get the idea that the term buying here entails man purchasing grace with good works. Jamieson wisely summed it up like this: “”Buy” does not imply that we can, by any work or merit of ours, purchase God’s free gift; nay the very purchase money consists in the renunciation of all self-righteousness, such as Laodicea had (Revelation 3:17). “Buy” at the cost of thine own self-sufficiency (so Paul, Philippians 3:7,8); and the giving up of all things, however dear to us, that would prevent our receiving Christ’s salvation as a free gift, for example, self and worldly desires. Compare Isaiah 55:1, “Buy… without money and price.”” The cost of buying the truth is giving up all of the lies that we may cling to. There is a cost! Christ invites them to buy gold of Him. This gold is pure and precious for it is tried in the fire. Job was confident that when he was tried of God he would come forth as gold and Peter knew that the trying of our faith is much more precious than gold. To buy the true riches of Christ is to humbly put ourselves in the hands of the refiner that He may purify us and make something glorious out of us. He counseled them to buy of Him white raiment. He invites us to give up our filthy rags of self righteousness and cloth ourselves with His perfect righteousness. Our self-righteousness is not sufficient to cloth us. We need what Christ alone has and can give. He counsels us to anoint our eyes with the eye salve that He provides that we may gain our sight or see clearly. This can be nothing less than the truth of His word which is “enlightening to the eyes.”
The next thing that we notice in our text is that Christ implores His church to receive His correction. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” It is indeed an act of love that causes Christ to deal harshly with that which belongs to Him. It is love in a father that chastens his son (Prov. 3 & Heb. 12). Christ wants His church to know that it is only due to His love for them that the rod is used. Open rebuke is better than secret love for a secret love is not love indeed. The rod is greater than the indifference of a parent to the wrong of the child for that is not parenting indeed. Christ wants this indifferent church to gain the heat of zeal from His rod. He wants them to repent. Gill stated this: “zeal was what was wanting in this church; which is nothing else than hot, fervent, and ardent love, love in a flame; whereas she was neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm, Christ would have her be “zealous” for God….” Let the love of Christ towards us excite our love for Him.
Lastly Christ invites anyone within the church to fellowship with Him. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Indifference in the church robs her of the presence of Christ. Here Christ is represented as standing outside of the church. He is not sitting on His throne here but standing in expectation. He is actively trying to get the attention of those in His church. He here is knocking. Later His door may be shut and we may be the ones standing outside knocking. Then it will be too late but for now He is trying to get our attention. The church is pictured as it was in Solomon’s Song. The bride is asleep and indifferent to the knocking. May we be awakened as she was (Song 5:1-6) while He may be found. There is no one in the church left out. If anyone will hear they can get up and go to the door. They can sit down in true fellowship with Him. They can commune with Christ in a real and intimate way and He may do so with them. This is indeed a great invitation.