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The Church of Lukewarmness

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Sunday March 9th 2008

Landover Hills Baptist Church

Title:    “The Church of Lukewarmness

Text:    Revelation 3:14-22


Laodicea was about forty-five miles southeast of Philadelphia and about one hundred miles due east of Ephesus.

  • Along with Colosse and Hierapolis, it was one of the cities in the fertile Lyous valley.
  • The great Roman road stretching to the inland of Asia from the coast at Ephesus ran straight through its center,
  • Making Laodicea an important center of trade and communication.
  • In addition, its wealth came from the production of a fine quality of famous glossy black wool—whether dyed or natural in color is not known.

That the city's banking assets were noteworthy is evidenced by the fact that Cicero cashed huge bank drafts in Laodicea.

  • So wealthy was Laodicea that after the great earthquake of A.D. 17, which destroyed it,
  • The people refused help in rebuilding the city, choosing rather to do it entirely by themselves.

Laodicea had a famous school of medicine; and a special ointment known as "Phrygian powder,"

  • Famous for its cure of eye defects, was either manufactured or distributed there,
  • As were ear ointments also.

Zeus, the supreme god, was also worshiped in the city.

Laodicea is difficult to describe because no one thing stands out.

  • There were no excesses or notable achievements to distinguish it.
  • It was a city with a people who had learned to compromise and accommodate themselves to the needs and wishes of others.
  • They did not zealously stand for anything.

A six-mile-long aqueduct brought Laodicea its supply of water from the south.

  • The water came either from hot springs and was cooled to lukewarm or came from a cooler source and warmed up in the aqueduct on the way.
  • For all its wealth, the city had poor water.
  • A large and influential Jewish population resided there.
  • As for the church in Laodicea, it may have been founded by Epaphras (Col 4:12-13).

I.          The Lord’s Complaint          Vs. 14 - 17

The speaker identifies himself by a threefold affirmation:

"The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation."

A.        This term “amen” means the acknowledgment of that which      is sure and valid.

1.         It is a word of human response to the divine verity or action.

a.         Jesus is the "Amen" in the sense that he is the perfect                       human, obedient response to the divine promises.

b.         Jesus response to God's will was the perfect response of                   obedience and suffering: he is the "faithful and true                                witness"

2.         The same thought is expressed by Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:20: "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are `Yes' in Christ.

a.         And so through him the `Amen' is spoken by us to the                      glory of God."

b.         In one sense, all Christians are called to be "little amens"                  after the example of Christ. 

3.         The "ruler" (arche, "source," "origin") further amplifies the Amen statement.

a.         Paul used “ruler” in Colossians 1:18 to describe Christ as                 the source or origin of all creation.

b.         What is plain is this:

1)         When Christ addresses a church that is failing in                   loyalty and obedience,

2)         He is to them the "Amen" of God in faithfulness and in true witness,

3)         The only one who has absolute power over the          world because he is the source and origin of all    creation.

B.        Spiritual Apathy        Vs 15-16

1.         Sadly, the speaker's knowledge reveals an unqualified          condemnation of the Laodicean church.

a.         The verdict is the exact opposite of the church's own                        evaluation and expectations.

b.         Their deeds were "neither cold nor hot."

c.         The expression "cold nor hot" may refer to their lack of                    zeal (v. 19) or their uselessness, for Christ says, "I wish                       you were either one or the other" (lit., "either cold or hot")

2.         There is good reason why we should not try to take both of these    words as if Christ meant I wish you were either spiritually cold  (i.e., unsaved or hostile) or spiritually hot (i.e., alive and fervent).

a.         In the first place, it is inconceivable that Christ would                      wish that people were spiritually cold, or unsaved and               hostile.

b.         Furthermore, the application of "hot" and "cold" to                           spiritual temperature, though familiar to us, would have                  been completely foreign to first-century Christians.

c.         The two adjectives in "neither hot nor cold" should be                      understood together as equivalent to "lukewarmness" 16

d.         That is to say, they were useless to Christ because they                     were complacent, self satisfied, and indifferent to the real                   issues of faith in him and of discipleship.

3.         City Water Supply

  • Since the city of Hierapolis, seven miles north of Laodicea, had famous "hot springs," it may be that the springs affected the temperature of the water supply.
  • "I am about to spit [vomit] you out of my mouth" seems to allude to the lukewarm water.
  • "Cold" could refer to the useful cool water located at Colosse, less than ten miles away.
  • "Hot" would remind the Laodiceans of the beneficial "hot springs" to the north of Hierapolis.
  • Yet Laodicea, for all its wealth, had a bland – tasteless – wishy washy water supply—one that induced vomiting!
  • Christ detested the Laodicean attitude of compromise,
    • One that seeks easy accommodation and peace at any cost.
    • With such a condition, he must deal harshly.
    • To be a Christian means to be useful to Christ.

C.        Spiritual Ignorance   Vs. 17

The deeper problem in the Laodicean church was not simply their Apathy:

1.         It was their Ignorance of their real condition: "You say, `I am          rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.'"

a.         Observe the way this indictment is related to the general condition of the populace at large—rich in material possessions and self-sufficient.

b.         The prevailing attitude (of self sufficient and having no                   needs) of the surrounding culture had crept into the                                congregation and had paralyzed their spiritual life.

c.         The Laodiceans may have interpreted their material                          wealth as a blessing from God and thus have been self                       deceived as to their true spiritual state.

d.         In any case, they had misread their true condition.

2.         Christ's revelation of the Laodiceans' actual situation shatters their illusions and calls them to repentance: "But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked."

a.         Probably the first two characteristics—"wretched" and "pitiful"- are to be linked together, while the latter three explain this twofold condition in more detail (cf. v. 18).

·         They are not, as they thought, rich and without need; they are pitifully wretched and in great need, being "poor, blind and naked."

·         In opposition, Jesus said to the church at Smyrna, "I know … your poverty—yet you are rich!" (2:9).

·         To be "wretched" physically describes life when everything one owns has been destroyed or plundered by war.

·         Here it refers to the Laodiceans' spiritual destitution before God.

b.         "Poor, blind and naked" refer to the three sources of their                miserable condition.

c.         "Luke-warmness," then, does not refer to the laxity of Christians but the condition of not really knowing Christ as Savior and Lord and thus being useless to him.

II.        The Lord’s Counsel Vs. 18 – 19

A.        Restoration was Needed       Vs. 18


The commands of Christ correspond exactly to the self-deceptions of the Laodiceans.

1.         Gold, a source of the wealth of the city,

a.         Was to be bought from Christ and

b.         To become the spiritually poverty-stricken's true wealth.

2.         Their shameful nakedness was to be clothed,

a.                   Not by purchasing the sleek, black wool of Laodicea,

b.                  But by buying from Christ the white clothing that alone can cover shameful nakedness (16:15).

3.         For those who were blind to their true condition,

a.                   The "Phrygian powder" was useless.

b.         They needed to buy salve from Christ so that they could truly see.

The reference to buying would recall the famous market near the temple of Men Karou, where the commodities manufactured at Laodicea could be bought, along with imports from other areas.

4.         But to what do gold, white clothes, and salve symbolically refer?

a.         The only cure for poverty-stricken disciples was to                           purchase from Christ gold which is refined in the agonies                      of the shared passion.

b.         For their nakedness the only recourse was to buy such                      clothes as the naked Christ had worn on the cross.

c.         The blindness of self-deception could be cured only by                    understanding the correlation between Christ's love and                   his discipline

d.         These three purchases constitute a substantial definition                   of the kind of zeal and repentance which was the burden             of all John's writings.

B.        Repentance was Needed       Vs. 19

1.         Even though the state of a church, such as that in Laodicea verges on disaster,

a.         All is not lost if there are those in it who will receive                        Christ's loving rebuke and come back to him.

2.         "I love" is the Greek phileo ("to have affection for").

a.         This verb does not necessarily connote a lower level of love than agapao.

b.         Sometimes it has the force of agapao (e.g., John 5:20; 16:27; 20:22.)

3.         Christ's statement "I rebuke and discipline" speaks of his love

a.         He spits out those he does not love and "rebukes"                 ("reproves," "convicts") and disciplines those who hear            his voice.

b.         The difference between the expelled and the disciplined                  lies in their response:

c.         "So be earnest [zeleuo, `zealous,' `enthusiastic'] and repent."

d.         The Laodiceans' repentance would come from a rekindling of their loyalty to Christ.

III.       The Lord’s Calling    Vs. 20

A.        To those who hear the words of rebuke, Christ extends an invitation to dine with him.

1.         Christ standing at the door to the hearts of the members of the congregation at Laodicea.

2.         Christ will come and have fellowship with anyone who hears his voice of rebuke and thus proves himself Christ's friend by zeal and repentance.


B.        What a SWEET PROMISE.

1.         “if any man….”

a.         One person can let Jesus in His church!

b.         One can start a passionate desire to be used By Him!

c.         Are You that person?

2.         In letters, invitations narrow.

Ex.       Thyatira–“the rest”;

                        Sardis– “a few”;

                        Laodicea–“any person.”

Jesus standing, knocking


Romans could force lodging for night.

Jesus a gentleman – not busting down the door

God of Universe, stands knocking

3.         Here is cure for Laodicean church, Christian. 

a.         SIMPLE:         “LET JESUS IN!”


Any closed system of energy will eventually die.


W/o heat from outside, hot water in boiler become cold;

W/o electricity from outside, freezer become warm.

Church can’t be closed system.

Must be constantly letting presence, power of Jesus flow unhindered into fellowship, personal life

3.         “Sup” – Eat supper with.

The "eating" refers to the main meal of the day, which was a significant occasion for having intimate fellowship with the closest of friends.


Greeks had 3 meals:

            Breakfast bread soaked in wine;


            Evening meal –

                        Full meal

                        Sit long,

                        Share intimate fellowship.

Jesus saying, I want to have intimate fellowship with you.


You must open door.


Holman Hunt’s Painting of Christ,

            Light of world,

            Standing at door knocking.

His peers, said he made a “mistake, left off door handle.”

“No mistake. Handle on inside.”

Point being:    

  • If we open our hearts and lives to Him,
  • He will come into our church, our life and make us what He wants us to be!

Which is:

  • Totally –  Surrendered – Passionate – Intentional Living – Spirit Living – Followers of Jesus Christ –

For the Purpose of:

  • Fulfilling the Great Commission of reaching lost people:

            With the Powerful – Life Changing Message

NOTE the PROMISE: “sit…throne.”

When we invite Jesus in, dining room becomes throne room.

            You open heart to Him

                        He opens heaven to you

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