Be Overcomers – The Lukewarm Church of Laodicia
“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: 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 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— 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. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 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. 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.
22 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’” Revelation 3:14-22 NKJV
Laodicia was known as a wealthy region with a large Jewish population in John’s day. It was a center for Caesar worship and for the worship of the healing god Asklepios. It is said that an earthquake devastated the region in 60 A.D. and Laodicia was so wealthy that they refused any imperial help in re-building the city. They very successfully relied on their own resources. They didn’t need outside help. They didn’t ask for outside help. They didn’t want outside help.
While they were self sufficient, the problem they faced was a poor water supply that made them vulnerable to attack. If an enemy surrounded the city and supplies were cut off, the city would be easily defeated. Because the leaders knew this, they were known to be very accommodating to potential enemies; wanting to compromise and negotiate rather than run the risk of fighting.
The main supply of water for Laodicia was from a 6 mile long aqueduct from hot springs in Heirapolis, and as a result, when they received water, it would always be “lukewarm.”
The water that Laodicia had would not be warm enough to soothe and bring healing nor was it cold enough to be refreshing. The church in Laodicia knew the frustration of having to drink lukewarm water every day. When they heard Jesus calling them lukewarm, they understood that statement to paint a picture of indifference and compromise.
I read one commentator state the following:
“The cause of Christ has been hurt more by Sunday-morning bench-warmers who pretend to love Christ, who call Him Lord but do not His commands, than by all the publicans and sinners.” (Havner)
The picture of the church in Laodicia is that they had too much of the world in them to be happy in Jesus, but they had too much of Jesus in them to be happy in the world. They wanted to be spiritual bench warmers that were content to put their trust in material belongings, physical health, and financial prosperity, but still have enough of Jesus to get to heaven!
I have found it unusual that Jesus would challenge people to be hot or cold, rather than lukewarm. To me, lukewarm sounds better than being cold, doesn’t it?
Jesus wanted the church to be hot and on-fire for Him. He would rather that they be cold than lukewarm, because if they were cold, that feeling of coldness may just drive them to repentance and to return to Him. A lukewarm believer is simply stuck in the middle trying to get just enough of Jesus to avoid hell, AND THIKING THAT EVERYTHING IS OK.
Hmmm… The church at Laodicia was from a wealthy and affluent place (compared to the world around them), often felt that they were self sufficient because of their wealth, had rather liberal government leaders, and faced the challenge of church-goers settling for being Sunday-morning-bench-warmers. Because Laodica was a wealthy city, it might be that some of the spirit of the marketplace crept into the church twisting their values. Although they could provide their latest annual report with impressive statistics and budgets, Jesus was about to vomit them out of His mouth!
Finally, the passage to the Laodician church contains a very popular and familiar bible verse.
“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.” Revelation 3:20 NIV
We often use this verse to lead lost people to Jesus Christ. We use it to mean people should open the door of their heart to Jesus and invite Him to come in for salvation. The basic application of this verse is to believers. This passage talks about a wayward church that had lost its passion and needing to open its doors to allow Jesus to come in for a warm and intimate time together. The Lord was standing outside the church!
This church is being reminded by the Messiah Himself. While God may have blessed you with material possessions, don’t shut God out of the church!
Here’s an interesting point. Although Jesus is outside the church, He spoke to the individual – “if anyone hears” – and not necessarily the entire congregation. God can do great things in a church even through one dedicated individual.
“Be an Overcomer!” Jesus challenges. Don’t settle for a watered down faith in God because you have material wealth. Be an Overcomer! Jesus demands. Don’t settle for just enough Jesus to escape hell. Press on and hunger for so much of Jesus that those around you will escape hell because of your faith too.
The Laodicians needed to be challenged not to be compromising and lukewarm believers. They needed to incline their ears to hear what the Spirit of God was saying to them. They were challenged to let Jesus in the doors to the church and to be the overcomers He originally called them to be. Jesus called the church then, as He does today, to rise above their culture, and embrace the Him as Savior. That sounds like great advice for the church in Laodicia. It sounds like great advice for the church in Honolulu too!
Lord Jesus renew a fresh and vibrant passion for You once again. Amen.
Ty Tamasaka is an author who hold a Master of Arts Degree from Pacific Rim Christian University in Christian Ministry He is a Bible teacher who loves to encourage people to enjoy Jesus’ grace and extend His Kingdom. Ty just released his new book Starting Fresh: Following Jesus on the Adventure of a Lifetime in addition to More than a Conqueror: 5 Pathways to Personal Revival.