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Laodicea: The Lukewarm Church – Revelation 3:14-22

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a lukewarm church

In the second and third chapters of Revelation are letters from Jesus to seven of the first-century churches in what is today Turkey. While I believe these letters were addressed to real churches of that day, I also believe they have great application to our churches today. The last of these was to the church of Laodicea. Laodicea was a church that was neither hot nor cold. It was a lukewarm church.

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.  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 that person, and they with me.

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Revelation 3:14-22 NIV

A Church Without Commendation

Of the seven churches addressed in these two chapters, two of them are commended without reservation while four of them have issues that need to be addressed, although Jesus does have some positive things to say about them. But when we come to the seventh church, Laodicea, we find one with no redeeming virtue. How sad that Jesus would look at a church and see nothing of any value to him.

Hot, Cold, or Lukewarm

Laodicea was apparently a city without a good water supply. To the south of them was Colossae with refreshing cold springs. To the north was Hierapolis with hot springs and accompanying spas. Both of these sources of water, whether cold or warm, were good. But Laodicea had neither. Water was piped in from Colossae, and by the time it reached the city it was lukewarm, not very appealing.

It is common to see the metaphor of hot and cold water here in relation to being spiritually dead, or on fire. And lukewarmness related to spiritual indifference. But in the context here, both cold and warm water are positive and commendable. Cold water is good for drinking. Warm water is good for bathing. But lukewarm water is just not very appealing. Jesus’ identification of Laodicea as a lukewarm church, in danger of being spewed out, is an indication of how much he disliked their condition.

Rich, but Poor

Laodicea was not like Smyrna or Philadelphia. Those churches were poor and suffering. Laodicea was neither. Bur Smyrna and Philadelphia had something that Laodicea lacked. And that was any form of commendation from Jesus. Jesus’ counsel to them was to wake up and recognize how poor and wretched they actually were. And to seek the true riches and health that only Christ can give.

Jesus does have one comforting thing to say to them though. That he rebukes those he loves indicates that he loves even this church. It was not too late for them to repent and return to him. He is standing at the front door knocking. If they will open the door, he will come in and have fellowship with them.

Too many of our churches today are dangerously close to being lukewarm, if not already there. Jesus is trying to get in to rekindle a passion within them. Will we respond and let him in? Or will we ignore his knock and find ourselves spewed out of his mouth?

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Ed Jarrett

Just an old clay jar that God continues to see fit to use in his kingdom's work. I am retired, married with 2 children, and 4 grandchildren. I have followed Jesus for many years. And I love to share what He has given me from His word.

A Note to Readers

The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.

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