LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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THE CHURCH OF LAODICEA

 

 

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:  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. 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—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. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 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. 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. (Revelation 3:14–22).

 

We come now to the last of the letters to the seven church of Asia. Of all the letters to the seven churches, this letter is probably the most well-known because of its lukewarm condition. Laodicea is located on the Lycus River almost due south of Philadelphia. It was built by the Selucid king Antiochus II in about 260 b.c. It was 11 miles west of Colossae and 99 miles east of Ephesus, both cities having churches to which the Apostle Paul wrote letters that are in the New Testament. It was originally called Diospolis (City of Zeus) and later called Rhodas. Antiochus eventually renamed the city Laodicea in honor of his wife, Loadice.  The people of Laodicea enjoyed great wealth and that wealth was partly responsible for Rome giving it the title of free city—a self-governing city.

 

Outline of the Letter

 

Verse 14, the Glorified Christ reveals Himself as the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness and the Beginning of the Creation of God.

In Verses 15 and 16 Christ reveals their true spiritual condition, which is lukewarmness that is famously preached upon.

Verses 17–20 Christ offers the church the solution to its problem.

Verses 21–22 is the gift Christ offers to overcomers.

 

The Glorified Christ

 

The Glorified Christ reveals Himself as “the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God”. As with His address to the church at Philadelphia, Christ does not use any of the descriptors mentioned in chapter one, but He is called “the faithful witness” in chapter 1:5 and He calls Himself “the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending” in verse 8.

Christ was sent by the Father to be His witness and He was faithful to carry out that witness. In John 5:31–32 Jesus said, “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true”. The Jewish leaders were accusing Jesus of making Himself equal with God. He is saying to them, “You do not have to take My word for it; Someone else witnesses to that truth, and this Witness cannot be wrong”. Who is this witness?

 

But I have a greater witness than John's; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. (Verses 36–37).

 

God the Father is His witness and He has shown His approval of Jesus through the work He has done. Christ returned to heaven but He did not leave Himself without a witness. In Acts 1:8 he tells His disciples, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”.

That He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End certainly speaks of His eternal divinity, however this is said in connection with His being a witness. Christ began the church on the Day of Pentecost through the divine act of sending the Holy Spirit to baptize the believers, giving them power to be His witnesses. So, He is the beginning, but He also ordains that the church be empowered by the Holy Spirit to witness until the very end of time—the Ending.

Jesus said to this church, “I know your works”. This is a church that failed to be a faithful witness. Since the church is empowered by the Holy Spirit to be Christ’s witness, something came up in the life of this church that voided that power and they ceased to be a faithful witness.

 

The Accusation

 

Christ makes the accusation in verse 15, “you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot”. Philip Mauro in his book Of Things Which Soon Must Come to Pass remarks:

 

These words strikingly describe a condition of indifference. The Laodiceans were not warm in affection for Christ, they were not burning with zeal in His cause; nor yet were they cold and altogether heartless.

 

This indifference certainly flows from their lack of consecration to the very source of the witnessing empowerment, the Holy Spirit Himself. It is the office of the Holy Spirit to lead as Jesus taught us in John 16:13, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak of His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak”. In John 15:26–27 Jesus says, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning”. It is the office of the Holy Spirit to testify of Christ in our lives and thereby cause us, the church, to bear witness of Christ to the world.

This church had become so complacent with salvation they refused to move on in the will of God. They were neither hot nor cold. Christ wants for His church to have some zeal. Not noise, not activities, but a zeal for both the word of God and the work of God. But this requires consecration. Here is a church that lacked consecration and had become distasteful to such a degree that Christ was about to spit them out of His mouth. Albert Barnes in his Commentary on the New Testament makes an insightful comment on this:

 

The image is intensely strong, and denotes deep disgust and loathing at the indifference which prevailed in the church at Laodicea. The idea is, that they would be utterly rejected and cast off as a church: a threatening of which there has been an abundant fulfilment in subsequent times. It may be remarked, also, that what was threatened to that church may be expected to occur to all churches, if they are in the same condition; and that all professing Christians, and Christian churches, that are lukewarm, have special reason to dread the indignation of the Saviour.

 

This church is so deceived that cannot see its true condition. They look at certain of their accomplishments as proof to themselves that they are right with God. Adam Clarke puts their words into words easily understood: 

 

Thou supposest thyself to be in a safe state, perfectly sure of final salvation, because thou hast begun well, and laid the right foundation. It was this most deceitful conviction that cut the nerves of their spiritual diligence; they rested in what they had already received, and seemed to think that once in grace must be still in grace.

 

The Glorified Christ tells them they are wretched. They think they are clothed in the richest of spiritual garments that God should admire; instead, their clothing is less than rags. Clarke tells us about the word wretched:

 

Most wretched. The word signifies being worn out and fatigued with grievous labors, as they who labor in a stone quarry, or are condemned to the mines. So, instead of being children of God, as they supposed, and infallible heirs of the kingdom, they were, in the sight of God, in the condition of the most abject slaves.

 

They are miserable, most deplorable and to be pitied by all men.

They are poor, having no spiritual riches, no holiness of heart.

They are blind, the eyes of their understanding have become darkened so that they cannot see their real spiritual condition.

They are naked. Clarke says they are “without the image of God, not clothed with holiness and purity. A more deplorable state in spiritual things can scarcely be imagined than that of this Church”.

Clarke adds a comment that is true, not just in the time he lived, but maybe even more in our time, “It is the true picture of many Churches, and of innumerable individuals”.

It is a horrible thing for churches to be in this condition, but it is worse for an individual. Christ offers you a full salvation and a life of the greatest spiritual prosperity. Jesus requires only two things: First, repent, give up you sins, and second, let the Holy Spirit guide you in all things.

How many follow their own will and call it the will of God; how many follow the leading of their feelings and call it the leadership of the Holy Spirit? How many are absorbed in self-love and call it consecration to the will of God?

 

Christ’s Counsel

 

Christ has some counsel for you. I trust that you are not so self-absorbed that you cannot hear what He says.

First, buy from Christ gold that has been refined in the fire.

Malachi 3:2–3, “He is like a refiner's fire and like launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the LORD An offering in righteousness.” This refining is the cleansing from sin through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. It is absolutely necessary to be what God intends for saved people to be. Their lives must be clean from sin. It is only from a pure heart that we can properly live for God and serve Him.

Isaiah 1:22, 25 (NLT), “Once like pure silver, you have become like worthless slag. Once so pure, you are now like watered-down wine. . . . I will raise my fist against you. I will melt you down and skim off your slag. I will remove all your impurities.” This describes Laodiceans: worthless slag. They are of no use to God. In fact, in order for His church to effectively do the work of the kingdom, God must remove the slag, all the impurities. Do not be one God has to remove!

Psalm 12:6, “The words of the LORD are pure words, Like silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times.” Here we see the agency of God’s refining: the Word of God. None of God’s promises can fail; the salvation and holiness God promises are real and they are yours if you submit to His word.

Zechariah 13:9, “I . . . Will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, this is My people; and each one will say, The LORD is my God.” This is God’s promise. Since this is necessary in salvation, God will see that it is done if you will but submit and consecrate yourself and your will to Him.

Once you have been refined, then Christ says to buy white garments.

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.” (Living Bible Translation): “She is permitted to wear the cleanest and whitest and finest of linens. (Fine linen represents the good deeds done by the people of God.)” Simply stated, the refined life produces works of righteousness. There is no defilement of sin or self-seeking in the lives of God’s people. They seek and fulfill God’s will for their lives.

2 Corinthians 5:3, “having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.” What more can I say?

Having been refined and clothed in righteousness, anoint your eyes with eye salve so that you can see.

Ephesians 1:17–18, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”

Having been purified and actively living a holy life, one receives God’s wisdom which he will apply to every circumstance of life he encounters. As you live the consecrated life, that hope of what God has for you becomes clearer and clearer so that the issues of the world and self become totally insignificant.

 

Christ’s Command to the Laodiceans

 

Christ’s command for modern Laodiceans is to be zealous and repent. This definitely means to have a change of mind but with a real zeal, not just a perfunctory and empty compliance.

Christ’s offer is made out of true, deep divine love: “as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten”. Christ genuinely cares for His church and He wants everyone that professes to follow Him to really experience salvation and commitment that identifies them as His people.

Verse 20 has been the topic of countless sermons throughout the church age. “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.” Christ faithfully follows after the Laodicean professing Christian telling him he must repent. He stands at the door of their hearts, knocking, trying to get their attention. However, all too many that fall into this complacency are just too lazy to get up and answer the door.

It is sad to say that the vast majority of Laodiceans nowadays cannot even hear Christ calling to them.

They are content with their perceived spirituality; they have convinced themselves that they have need of nothing.

If they find themselves in a church where Christ is able to knock on the door and call out to them, they will probably leave and find another church, or tune in to some television preacher.

Christ is a true gentleman in that He will not barge in; He knocks and He calls their names.

It is up to you to open the door.

Overcomers are given a splendid promise in verse 21, “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”. This is an entitlement to reign with Christ over sin in this world and then to share eternity forever with Him in the presence of God. Christ offers hope to people in all seven of the churches of Asia and the specific problems they encounter. Adam Clarke offers a hopeful ending to the letters to the churches:

 

This is the worst of the seven Churches, and yet the most eminent of all the promises are made to it, showing that the worst may repent, finally conquer, and attain even to the highest state of glory.

 

Where do you stand? Can you hear Christ knocking on the door of your heart; can you hear Him gently calling you to be zealous and repent?