A Comfortable Church Revelation 3c
Stephen Caswell © 2004
Statistics On Temptation
The magazine Discipleship Journal asked its readers to rank the areas of greatest spiritual challenge to them. The results 1. Materialism, 2. Pride, 3. Self-centeredness, 4. Laziness, 5. (Tie) Anger / Bitterness and Sexual Lust, 6. Envy, 7. Gluttony, & 8. Lying. The respondents also noted that temptations were more potent when they had neglected their quiet time with God and when they were physically tired. Note, Materialism is the number one danger for the Church today.
Last week we saw Sardis, a Complacent Church that was operating without the Holy Spirit. It was about to die. Today we will look at Laodicea, a Comfortable Church who thought they were rich. The Church regularly met together, yet Jesus Christ wasn’t present. Materially the Church had everything, spiritually they were destitute because they lost their fellowship with Christ. Today we will see 3 things: The Correspondence, The Condemnation and The Counsel.
Firstly, The Correspondence
Revelation 3:14a: And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write.
a. The City
· Laodicea was about forty miles east and inland from Ephesus on the Lycus River.
· Laodicea was in a spectacular place, a great valley. It was a very illustrious city.
· Out of the Oriental East, the great camel caravans traveled through Phrygia and Laodicea.
· It was a place of science and of literature. Cicero held court in Laodicea.
· It had an excellent medical school where they made ointments to treat eye and ear complaints.
· The temple for Zeus was the very center of all society, administration, trade, and religion.
· Laodicea was famous for its fine black wool and garments which were exported far and wide.
· Because of all this trade, and tourism Laodicea became an important center of commerce.
· The citizens of Laodicea were very wealthy. The city boasted large banking assets.
· When Laodicea was destroyed by earthquake in 17 ad. they refused imperial help to rebuild it.
· They completely financed the city's rebuilding themselves. They were very self sufficient.
b. The Church
· Epaphras a convert of Paul founded the Church. Colossians 1:7; 4:12-16 tells of this.
· Epaphras, Tychicus, Onesimus, and Mark seem to be the early Gospel messengers there.
· The Church had celebrated over thirty years of ministry when John sent this letter to them.
· They had beautiful buildings and a good reputation in the community.
· Very early it became one of the chief seats of Christianity. Church Council a.d. 344–363.
· Laodicea, Λαοδίκεια means justice of the people. They were healthy, wealthy and wise.
· There are 3 Churches amongst the overgrown ruins discovered at Laodicea.
· Two earthquakes have left the place deserted, called by the Turks Eski-hissar or old castle.
· This describes the Church age from 1900 a.d. to the present time.
· It describes a wealthy Church materially but poor spiritually since Christ is standing outside.
c. Jesus Christ
Revelation 3:14: 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:
Firstly, Christ calls Himself the Amen. The word amen, ἀμήν, means truly, verily, surely, and when used at the end of a sentence it means so be it. The Lord says to the Church that He has the final word. What Christ says, will happen; so take Him very seriously. 2 Corinthians 1:20: For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.
Secondly, Christ says that He is the faithful and true witness. The Church had an opinion of its own spirituality. Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth. This Church was blind to its own needs and unwilling to face the truth. So Christ revealed to them the plain truth. People aren’t always told the truth. Governments, the military, the media and even liberal Churches lie at times. In contrast, Jesus Christ tells us the truth. He is faithful.
Thirdly, Christ says that He is the beginning of the creation of God. Put simply He is their Creator. Jesus Christ made the worlds and everything in it. Colossians 1:15-16: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. Why emphasize this? Because the Laodiceans thought they were rich materially. Yet, it had all come from God’s hand and belonged to Him. The Church had become ungrateful. They forgot God’s goodness.
This Church believed it was rich and even said so. Jesus Christ appears as the One who will give an honest appraisal of their Church. Let's have a look at how He sees them.
Secondly, The Condemnation
a. They Had Lost Their Vigor
3:15-16: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
To be spiritually hot, ζεστός, refers to saved people. Hot water in a jug is bubbling, full of life. No doubt you have heard the expression on fire for Christ. If you are on fire for Christ others will know about it. You talk about the Lord often. You witness to the lost. To be spiritually cold, ψυχρός, refers to someone who is lost. It refers to one destitute of Christian faith. They are cold or indifferent to spiritual things. The Lord knows where both hot and cold people stand. But luke warm, χλιαρός, people are hypocrites. These people are between hot and cold, they are tepid. They want the spiritual riches of salvation and heaven and the riches of this world. This Church didn’t boil and bubble over for Christ. In fact they didn’t share the Gospel with anyone.
The Springs At Hierapolis And Colosse
The city of Hierapolis was only seven miles north of Laodicea. Hierapolis was famous for its hot springs. Many people sought the hot water from these mineral springs for medicinal uses. The City of Colosse was also located near Laodicea. It was famous for cold pure water. A drink from this spring was very refreshing. By the time that the hot mineral waters of Hierapolis flowed to Laodicea they became lukewarm. Lukewarm water is useless for medicinal purposes and cannot refresh your thirst either. After you drink a mouthful of it you want to spit it out on the ground.
Christ said they were lukewarm. How does water become lukewarm? If you fill a mug with hot water from the tap it starts out hot. But if you leave it sitting still it will soon become luke warm. For water to remain hot it must remain in an energy source like an urn or hot water system. There was a time that the Laodiceans were on fire for God. They shared Christ with the community. But then they sat around and their love became luke warm. If believers don’t keep sharing their faith with others they soon become spiritually warm. This warning is to Christians living in the last days. Matthew 24:12: Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
b. They Had Lost Their Values
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 —
How do you determine a wealthy person? By what they own like land, houses, cars and possessions. By their appearance; the clothes they wear, their jewelry, their shoes. By their bank account. This was how the Laodiceans determined their wealth. Today many preachers promote the health, wealth and prosperity doctrine. Yet Christ isn’t interested in these things.
Christ said they were poor, wretched and miserable. The Laodiceans thought that they were rich and had become wealthy, but they were wrong. In fact their values were all wrong. They thought that they had no need, but they were using the wrong standard. This is a fault we can all make. A few of the seven Churches made wrong judgments about themselves. The Church at Sardis had a reputation for being alive but Christ said they were dead. The church at Smyrna thought itself poor, but Christ told them that they were rich. The Laodiceans who boasted they were rich, were in fact poor. Because they didn’t have Jesus Christ they were poor and wretched.
The Laodicean Values
The City of Laodicea was a wealthy city. When Laodicea was destroyed by earthquake in 17 ad. they refused imperial help to rebuild it. They completely financed the city's rebuilding themselves. They had many banks and were self sufficient. The Church too was proud of their expensive buildings and wealth. They said they had need of nothing. Yet they lacked the true riches, Jesus Christ. How precious is Christ to you? Jesus told the story of a rich man that had bumper crops one year. He built bigger barns to store it all. Then, Christ said you fool tonight your soul is required of you and who will get all these things. Christ closed with a warning to all of us. Luke 12:21: So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
Money Is Deceitful
Money will buy: A Bed, but not sleep. Books, but not brains. Food, but not appetite. A House, but not a home. Medicine, but not health. Amusement, but not happiness. Finery, but not beauty. Insurance but not Security. A Cross, but not a Savior.
c. They Had Lost Their Vision
An elderly man who was very near sighted thought of himself as an expert in evaluating art. One day he visited a museum with some friends. He had forgotten his glasses and couldn't see the pictures clearly, but that didn't stop him airing his strong opinions. As soon as they walked into the gallery, he began critiquing the various paintings. Stopping before what he thought was a full-length portrait, he began to criticize it. With an air of superiority he began, the frame is altogether out of keeping with the picture. The man is too homely and shabbily dressed. In fact, it was a great mistake of the artist to select such a shoddy subject for his portrait. The old fellow was babbling on when his wife finally managed to get him and pull him aside. She whispered to him, My dear, you are looking into a mirror.
Christ complained that they were blind. They were like that old man in the museum. They were living in a fool’s paradise, proud of a church that was about to be rejected. These people could not see themselves as they really were. Nor could they see their Lord standing outside the church. They couldn’t see the open doors of opportunity in their community. They were so wrapped up in building their own kingdom that they had become lukewarm in their concern for a lost world. Proverbs 29:18a says: Where there is no vision, the people perish. The city of Laodicea was noted for its eye salve, but the kind of medication the saints needed was not available in the local medicine shop. They needed Christ to do this. Jesus Christ the Great Physician uses the Word of God to open our eyes to spiritual reality. He helps us to see things from His perspective.
d. They Had Lost Their Vestments
3:17b: Because you do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.
Thirdly, Christ complained that they were naked. The Laodicean Church was unaware of this. Laodicea was famous for its fine black woolen clothing. They were leaders in fashion and exported their garments far and wide. The Church didn’t know that they had a need. They thought they were glorifying God. But in reality they dishonored His name by their nakedness. Like the emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s story, these Christians thought they were clothed in splendor when they were naked! To be naked means to be defeated and humiliated. Adam and Eve were naked until the Lord clothed them. Laodicea needed this same provision. The Laodiceans could go to the market and purchase fine black woolen garments, but that would not meet their real need. They needed the white garments of God’s righteousness and grace.
Application -- God Counted Crosses
I counted dollars while God counted crosses, I counted gains while He counted losses,
I counted my worth by the things gained in store, But He sized me up by the scars that I bore.
I coveted honors and sought for degrees, He wept as He counted the hours on my knees;
I never knew until one day by the grave, How vain are the things that we spend life to save;
I did not yet know until my loved one went above, That richest is he who is rich in God’s love.
Thirdly, The Counsel
a. Reheat Rev 3:19: As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
Christ loved them and couldn't tolerate their lukewarm state any longer. So He command to be zealous. Zealous, ζηλεύω means, to desire, to earnestly strive after, to be heated to the boil. It is akin to the word hot in v 16. Cold coffee can be reheated in the microwave. Christ can warm up our hearts if we repent. Christ rebuked them and told them to be on fire. How do coals get so hot? By staying in the fire. We need to stay close to Christ and share Him with others! Churches must repent of any half heartedness. 2 Timothy 2:6: For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. Luke warmness must be repented of! Are you on fire for Christ? When did you last share your faith with someone?
Wesley said: If I had three hundred men who feared nothing but God, hated nothing but sin, and were determined to know nothing among men but Jesus Christ and him crucified, I would set the world on fire. A heathen convert said; Send us men with hot hearts.
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.
The Lord offered the Church pure gold if they would come to him. Real wealth is our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Real wealth comes from above not here bellow. Matthew 6:19-21: Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Material wealth will all go up in smoke!
Without Jesus Christ we will end up spiritually bankrupt, destitute! Christ said, you cannot serve God and mammon. He won't have fellowship with us if our hearts are set on material wealth. Christ vomits luke warm believers out of His mouth. The Laodiceans left Christ outside the Church. To have no need of Him is spiritual poverty. They needed to repent! What is your treasure? Jesus Christ or wealth? Romans 8:31-32: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
In Love With God’s Son
There was an extremely wealthy man who possessed vast treasures of art. The man had one son who was an ordinary boy, and who passed away in late adolescence. Having loved the lad deeply, the sorrowing father died of a broken heart only a few weeks later. The father’s will provided that everything would be sold by auction and, strangely, the father stipulated that an oil painting of his son was to be the first item offered by the auctioneer. Large crowds came to bid on the widely-reputed collection of art.
In keeping with the proviso of the will, the boy’s portrait was first held up for bids. No one cared about the deceased boy. Not until several moments had passed did an old negro servant, who had always loved the boy, place a seventy-five-cent bid. The picture was at once sold to the negro, there being no further bids registered. Then the dramatic moment came; the sale was stopped, as the will had further provided that anyone who loved the son enough to buy his portrait should receive everything in the father’s house. All who treasure Christ will inherit all the Father has!
Christ also offered eye salve so that they could see. God uses the Word to help us see things His way. Without it we cannot see. Unless the Laodicean’s applied the eye salve they wouldn’t even see Jesus standing outside their church knocking, seeking to come in. Christ showed them their true spiritual state. 2 Peter 1:9: For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. These things are faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly, kindness love. They needed to see life from a spiritual perspective; to repent. To repent, μετανοέω, means to change one’s mind, to see things God’s way. When Jonathan was 2 he started looking at things cross eyed. When we brought him glasses everything came into focus. Jonathan even said that things looked brighter.
The Laodiceans were proud of their fine black garments. They were fashionable and quite expensive. Yet they weren’t acceptable. because their works couldn’t cover their spiritual nakedness. Isaiah 64:6: But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; Christ offered them white garments; or righteousness deeds. Romans 13:14: Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Salvation means that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us and we stand faultless before God. Sanctification means that Christ’s righteousness is imparted to us and becomes a part of our character and conduct. Revelation 19:8: And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
The white robes speak of a number of things. Firstly, white speaks of purity. Christians are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. Secondly, white speaks of victory. When we serve God in this wicked world we gain victory over Satan and sin. Thirdly, white speaks of festivity when Christians will celebrate the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Finally, white speaks of glory. The Lord’s saints will shine brightly for all eternity.
Revelation 3:20: 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.
Fellowship with Christ
Christ is standing outside the Church asking to come back in to their lives. How did this happen? Tragically, the Church didn’t need Christ anymore, they were comfortable without Him. So He appealed to the individual — if anyone — not to the whole congregation. He appealed to a small remnant in Sardis, and now He appeals to the individual. He knocks through circumstances and He calls us through His Word. For what is He appealing? Fellowship with us. To share a meal is to share intimate fellowship with Christ. The Laodiceans were a comfortable church who thought they had everything. Yet they lacked the greatest treasure of all, knowing Jesus Christ. Christ pleads for them to repent and invite Him to come in and share fellowship. Romans 2:4: Don’t you realize how kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see how kind he has been in giving you time to turn from your sin?
Reign With Christ
Revelation 3:21-22: 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. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Note that when we invite Him in, the supper room becomes a throne room! It is through communion with Christ that we find victory and become overcomers indeed. Christ gives a far greater reward to faithful saints than we can obtain on earth. What's more it is an eternal reward that won't fade or perish. If believers will place Jesus Christ in the center of their lives, He will place them in the center of His. On His throne. What a privilege. There is no comparison to this.
About 3000 years ago in Israel there was a poor crippled boy named Mephibosheth. He lived a difficult life in a small town called Lodebar. Then one day Mephibosheth was summoned to the palace of King David. David invited him to eat at His table every day. He treated this poor crippled boy like one of his own sons. He gave him land and servants. What kindness. Mephibosheth enjoyed the kings company at every meal. He received wealth and honor. A poor, crippled boy became rich, like a prince. Mephibosheth gladly accepted the Kings invitation.
Don’t feel sorry for Mephibosheth. Without Christ we are just like him, spiritually poor and crippled. Jesus exposed the spiritual poverty of the Laodiceans. He lovingly told them to repent and receive His wealth and health. How does Christ see us? What is He saying to us today? Are we comfortable Christians? Are we self sufficient, having no need of Christ or on fire for Him?
Let me ask you, How’s your spiritual wealth? Have you laid hold of Christ? Has He enriched your life, restored your sight, clothed you with His righteousness? Or Is He asking you to repent and to be zealous for Him again? Is He knocking at your door, seeking your fellowship? Will you open the door and let Him in? He won’t wait forever. Will you let Him in today?
2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.