Church at Laodicea
“Jesus Christ is either worth everything or He is worth nothing. If He is the true Savior and Lord – the way, the truth, and life – as He claims to be, He is worth everything. He is worthy to be served with our entire soul, entire mind, and entire strength. If He is not what he claims to be, then, God forbid, He is an imposter, a sham, a fake – and He is worth nothing. It is impossible that Jesus is only worth something. He either deserves your whole heart or none of your heart. It makes no sense at all to give Him only half your heart. The Bible tells us repeatedly that He despises half-hearted religion; He is disgusted with lukewarmness. That is what He tells us again in His message to the church of Laodicea.”
So begins Joel Beeke as he writes on ‘Christ’s message to a lukewarm church’ in his commentary on the book of Revelation.
The final letter in Christ’s messages to the seven churches of Asia Minor is directed to the church of Laodicea, which was a lukewarm church. Laodicea, some forty miles southeast of Philadelphia, was the chief city in the southern region of Phrygia. It was known for its school of medicine, which specialized in diseases of the eye, and for its soft black wool, which was woven into luxurious garments. Many of the people in the city and perhaps in the church of Laodicea were upper class. And as a center of banking and finance, Laodicea was a city of immense wealth. It was so rich, in fact, that when much of the city was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 60 and the Roman government offered emergency assistance, the Laodiceans declined to accept it. At the same time, the city had no natural water supply and had to bring in water via an aqueduct from a town six miles to the south.
Laodicea was proud of its self-sufficiency. The people believed they didn’t need help from the government or anyone else; they could do things on their own. That self-reliance was both Laodicea’s passion and its downfall. Jesus alludes to this spirit of self-sufficiency when he says to the church at Laodicea, ‘You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing’ (3:17a).
We do not know whom God used to plant a Christian church in Laodicea, though Epaphras, who had first evangelized Colosse, also preached in Laodicea (Col. 1:7; 4:12-13). By the time John wrote Revelation, the congregation there had become self-satisfied, self-righteous, and spiritually lukewarm. Christ has no praise for her. In the messages to the other six churches, our Lord always finds something favorable to say. But Christ says nothing good about the church at Laodicea. Rather, he says she is lukewarm, neither hot nor cold.
This Lord’s Day we will consider Christ’s message to this church from the book of Revelation 3:14-22. In this message Christ comes to wake up the church as he notes his serious disgust in the words, ‘Because you are lukewarm…I will spit you out of my mouth’ (3:16). And yet, in his grace and mercy, Christ holds out hope for Laodicea. There is a way for her to be healed. He presents the remedy by directing the Laodiceans to do three things (see 3:17b-22).
I pray that you join us this Sunday as we look at this church, and especially, as we consider what it means to be lukewarm. Will you take time now to pray for the service and for the message? Would you invite someone to come along with you? I am praying for you as you make preparations to come.
This Sunday is set aside in our nation to recognize fathers. Happy Father’s Day! We give thanks to the Lord for the fathers in our congregation and count it an honor and privilege to regularly pray for you as you lead and serve your family in Christ. May the Lord grant you grace ‘to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8).
For Christ and For His Kingdom,
Revelation 3:14-22 (focal, v20a: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock…’)