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. (NIV)
Laodiceans – Description of Jesus
This word means firmness, dependability, certainty, and truth. When a congregation used it in the Old Testament, it meant that what was said to them was true and became binding on them. When Jesus used it, it meant that what He was about to say was binding on Himself and the hearers and that it was reliable and true. When He said these to the church in Laodicea, it let them know that without a doubt, His warnings will be enforced and that His promises to those who receive Him are just as sure.
When you cross the Jordan, these shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. For the curse, these shall stand on Mount Ebal: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali. The Levites shall then answer and say to all the men of Israel with a loud voice, “Cursed is the man who makes an idol or a molten image, an abomination to the Lord, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.” And all the people shall answer and say, “Amen.” (Deut 27:12-15 NASU)
These verses are followed by eleven more curses. When “amen” is used in these verses, it is the same as a vow. It is solemn before the Lord and He expects us to follow through when we say amen in the same way as He expected the nation of Israel to live by their statements of amen.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for ever and ever. And all the people said, Amen, and praised the Lord. (1 Chron 16:36 KJV)
This psalm recorded in first Chronicles starts in verse 7 and recounts God’s awesome provision for the nation of Israel when the ark was brought back to Jerusalem. It is not a light thing to say amen to a prayer or at the end of a song. It shows our complete agreement to it. In a church that sings a song and always ends with amen, how many people actually agree with the words of the song? Today we take this much too lightly at the end of our prayers. It has become the announcement of the end of the prayer instead of our wholehearted commitment to what was sung or said.
For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Cor 1:20-22 NKJV)
It is through Jesus that we are even able to say amen and when we do, we are acknowledging His seal of ownership on us as well as the promises that He has given us.
Faithful and True Witness
But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” (Mark 1:38-39 NLT)
Jesus went to the people. It isn’t easy and we need to be sustained by His Word to be a witness. The truth is that unless we meet people we will not be effective in wining them to Christ.
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;” (John 6:53 RSV)
Jesus didn’t make it easy for people to believe. Many times we are more interested in making a convert than a disciple, so we try to make it easy for them to “accept” Jesus without knowing the commitment that they need to make.
He doesn’t hold back the truth. “Woe unto you …” (Luke 11:42, 43, 44, 47, 52) Jesus confronts evil without excuse. He even told the Pharisees that they were of their father the devil (John 8:42). We also need to be tough on sin when it is encountered. There is no room for waffling. If a person is not convicted of their sin, they won’t recognize their need for a Savior.
Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. (John 4:6 KJV)
Jesus didn’t let personal comfort deter the message. When a woman approached the well, Jesus engaged her in a conversation that eventually led to her faith in Him. Sometimes, when we feel least like it, He uses us the most.
“He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me.” (John 14:24 NASB)
Jesus didn’t alter the message. We need to be confident that the gospel message is from God as given to us in the Bible. Jesus was confident that the Father had provided Him with the words to speak. He could confidently say that He is the only way to the Father. Today, many people who want to witness are confronted with people who say there are many ways to God. They fail to witness to this because they are not confident that this is the truth from God.
And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matt 7:28-29 KJV)
Jesus knew what He was talking about. While we depend on the Holy Spirit to give us the right words, He can use us much more effectively when we know the Word. We are instructed by 1 Peter 4:11 to speak as ones speaking the very words of God. We can’t do that unless we know the Word.
Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live." And he went with him. (Mark 5:22-24 ESV)
Jesus was willing to go out of His way to meet a need. We also need to be able to go out of our way to meet a need, which many times will open a door.
Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name! (John 12:27-28 NIV)
Jesus always sought the glory of the Father. We need to glorify the Father when we witness rather than doing it to be a “good Christian” or to impress others with our skills.
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. (Mark 1:35 KJV)
Jesus was constantly in prayer. If we are lacking in prayer, we will probably lack in every other attribute of a faithful witness.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. (Matt 23:37 NASU)
Jesus had compassion for the lost. Do we have such a passion to see people come to Christ that we would even desire to see those who persecute or abuse us be gathered to us and have fellowship together?
Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done. (Luke 22:42 NKJV)
Jesus had a desire to do the Father’s will. We often have to make a choice to deny ourselves and follow His will. That is often contrary to every natural inclination such as self-preservation or simply taking the easy way.
Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, "Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father's house into a marketplace!" (John 2:16-17 NLT)
Jesus had a consuming desire for the things of God. We should want purity in our worship of God, unstained by worldly methods and goals.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicode'mus, a ruler of the Jews. (John 3:1 RSV)
The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samar'ia?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. (John 4:9 RSV)
Jesus didn’t let outward appearances distract Him We should never exclude the opportunity to witness to someone because of their ethnic, economic, religious, or any other background traits.
But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. (Luke 23:34 NASB)
Jesus had a forgiving attitude. We need to be able to forgive offenses against us, especially when it has been a result of our trying to reach others.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45 ESV)
Jesus had a servant attitude. We need to have a very basic attitude to serve others rather than ourselves first.
The Ruler of God’s Creation
The NASU translates this phrase as, “the Beginning of the creation of God.” Most others, use a slight variation. The NIV that is quoted above is the only major translation that uses Ruler.
I had some trouble labeling Jesus the Beginning of the creation of God. So I looked up the word in the Greek. The word is arche.
Arche (ar-khay’); (properly abstract) a commencement, or (concretely) chief (in various applications of order, time, place, or rank).
It appears that Taylor also had a problem with the KJV translation when he paraphrased the Living Bible. He worded it as the “primeval source of God’s creation.” Therefore I feel free to expound on this.
The word arche is also used in Rev 22:13.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. (NIV)
All the translations agree with the translation to say that Jesus is the Beginning. We understand that this verse and others like it signify that Jesus is eternal. The use of arche here and in Revelation 3:14 is a title rather than an object. I believe a better translation would be something like this, “the one who started the creation of God.”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2 KJV)
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58 KJV)
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Heb 13:8 KJV)
If Jesus were the first thing God created, it would fuel fire to those cults who claim that Jesus is not God but a created being. The NIV captured the correct idea, which does not conflict with other Scripture and agrees with the following verses.
The men were amazed, and said, "What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?" (Matt 8:27 NASU)
And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. (Heb 1:3a NASU)
All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:3 NASU)
All these verses show that Jesus created all things and He continues to rule over creation.
Perhaps the church at Laodicea needed to understand His authority so that they would realize He has the right to do what He says He will do to them.
“Hey guys, I know that you are neither hot nor cold and you have done a really great job at being lukewarm. Because you’ve been able to achieve such a consistent level of nothingness, you should really be proud of yourselves.” Oops! Jesus doesn’t find any reason to commend them. So much for outcome based education. There are times to encourage others positively, but there are also times silence needs to be maintained.
Neither Hot nor Cold
Let’s assume that a hot person is one who is “on fire” for the Lord, someone who is active and has a zeal for the things of God. They recognize their dependence upon God for all things. These are the people the Lord can use. He would rather have them hot. The cold person is like the woman caught in adultery. She knew that she was a sinner and could recognize her need. The Holy Spirit can convict people like that and that is the only reason He would rather have them cold.
I’ve heard that the drinking water in Laodicea was lukewarm because it passed through some volcanic rock. Others say that it was a result of a long aqueduct in the hot sun. Thinking about lukewarm drinking water brings to mind a great place to grow bacteria, algae, and all sorts of other stuff that would not only make the water taste bad, but make it dangerous. If the water had been kept cold, the germs wouldn’t get a chance to grow. If it were kept hot, they would be killed. In this world, when we allow ourselves or our churches to adapt to the surrounding temperature of the world, we become germ ridden and dangerous. The germs let sin run unabated and the danger is that members will think they are saved when they aren’t. No wonder Jesus will spit out a lukewarm church.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut 6:4-9 NKJV)
We hear or get the impression (especially from the media) that a socially acceptable amount of religion in each person’s life is OK. Anything above that is fanaticism. However, what is acceptable has never been defined, which leaves the doors wide open to calling people fanatical or even dangerous. But the Lord Himself has already told us what He wants of us. Note the word “one:”
‘Echad (ekh-awd’); a numeral from ‘achad; properly, united, i.e. one; or (as an ordinal) first:
From this definition, we commonly and rightly draw on the fact that God is one, especially a triune God that is united as one. It also reveals that He is the first, meaning that He should be first in our lives. Riches, security, or anything else should not take over His place as our Lord. The love that we have for Him has to consume us completely. It must occupy all of our mind and emotions with all the power that is within us. To demonstrate this, it is to be so evident to our children that they have no doubt as to what motivates us. When we are at home or driving along in our cars, the topics of conversation should be laced with the Word of the Lord. This is His instruction on how we are to view and act toward all things. All the work of our hands should bring glory to Him. Our houses should show forth to each person entering it that the people who live there put the Lord first. Have you ever visited someone and looked around to try to find some evidence that he or she is a Christian? It is very humbling to have some objective self-evaluation and see just how far from hot we are.
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jer 29:12-13 NKJV)
These verses were written to those who would be taken captive into Babylon (sin). They needed to wake up and see that it was their sinfulness that put them there. Once they recognized their sinfulness, as Daniel did, it would only be through prayer that God will listen and act. However, their prayers must be earnest, i.e. with all their heart. Earnest prayer is a part of being hot. People who have it all together and imagine themselves as secure (like the Laodiceans) do not look for the One who can guide them and change their lives. They don’t want their lives changed.
That is why the Lord says, "Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don't tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead." (Joel 2:12-13a NLT)
There is nothing lukewarm about the way the Lord describes how we are to repent or pray for the sins of others. We need to allow ourselves to be willing to weep and mourn before the Lord. This is part of loving Him with all our soul. We can be completely open and bare before him. It is not weakness to weep, as the world would say. It is the sincere declaration of our heart before an eternal and almighty God who understands and is pleased by our complete and total subjection to Him, as demonstrated by our willingness to do that which others would declare as showing weakness. He can use our weakness and our tears in our prayers to do wonders, move mountains, and turn stone hearts into hearts of living flesh. These are hearts that can be moved and used by Him. We then need to pray also for ourselves because His answer sometimes requires us to act as unselfishly as we pray; to endure oppression on behalf of others is intercession.
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear omen to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake. (Phil 1:27-29 RSV)
One thought about being hot is being willing to stand up for what is correct about the gospel. The gospel of the wealthy and secure is a socially acceptable gospel. It is one that only talks about feeding the poor and solving mankind’s ill by changing the environment. It speaks nothing about the need for sinners to repent, because they themselves have not repented. They do not see the depraved condition of anyone outside of Christ as causing the problem. Instead, they believe the problem is outside of themselves, in their environment. These “gospel” preachers do not suffer opposition from the world since they are not a threat to real change at the heart level.
And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.
(Col 1:29 NASB)
Of course we know that it is only by Jesus’ power that we can be hot. We also shouldn’t be getting hot for anything that doesn’t glorify Him. We also can’t work hotness up in ourselves. We can only depend on Him and the energy that He has given. But we must also be aware of it and not turn it off. We must not quench the Holy Spirit in our lives either. Pour water on the fire and soon we will become lukewarm.
Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures, who sit securely, who say in your heart, "I am, and there is no one besides me; I shall not sit as a widow or know the loss of children": (Isa 47:8 ESV)
This whole chapter in Isaiah is amazing; it is a prophecy against Babylon, but the thoughts apply specifically to everyone who is living in a secure atmosphere and thinks that there is nothing that can happen to them. Loss of children in that culture was the loss of future security. Becoming a widow was loss of provision. Our security and provision are in Jesus alone. When we look to anything else it will eventually be removed. God does this for the believer and unbeliever alike. What is the chief sin here? Is it not self-reliance? The Laodiceans say that they are rich and need nothing. The Babylonians thought that there was no other country as mighty and powerful as theirs. God has proved both wrong. At the end of Isa 48, we see signs of a decadent, dying culture, which turned to horoscopes, sorceries, and mediums. This is also a sign of our times and the general lukewarmness of the U. S.
Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come! (Amos 6:1 NIV)
The Lord also told the leaders of Judah and Israel to look at other nations to see what had happened to those who followed after other gods. They were also powerful and yet fell. Are we in the United States or any affluent nation any different? Many Christians think that the United States has a corner on power and prosperity because of our Christian heritage. Israel had promises directly from God as His chosen nation. Our country doesn’t enjoy that same promise. The Church (Jesus’ body) has the promise that the gates of hell will not prevail (Matt 16:18), but not the U.S. or any other nation. This promise can be understood that hell will not withstand the attack from the Church or that hell will not overcome the Church. Either way, we must remember that Jesus gave this promise to His body, not to any specific local congregation or country. Any church could come to a point of feeling secure and comfortable. We only need to look at history for examples so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes.
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14 NKJV)
Many people claim this verse to say that if Christians will pray, then the Lord will heal their nation. This promise in the Old Testament was given to the physical nation of Israel. It goes hand in glove with all the other promises and curses that were given the nation. Some claim that the Church has inherited all the promises of Israel and are now being spiritually fulfilled. If that is the case, then the land is spiritual and would not apply to the nation where the Church exists. Others say that the promises of Israel still stand. In that case, it doesn’t apply to the Church at all.
It took the whole nation of Israel to repent and pray for this promise to be fulfilled. If every Christian in the U.S. (or any other nation) would unite in the same prayer (as has been tried in the U.S.), the promise would still not be fulfilled because Christians do not comprise all the people in each country. I believe that only if an overwhelming majority of people in the nation were Christians and united in their theology as well as practice would we see the kind of healing we would like to see.
It will come about at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And I will punish the men Who are stagnant in spirit, Who say in their hearts, “The Lord will not do good or evil!” (Zeph 1:12 NASU)
Neither their silver nor their gold Will be able to deliver them On the day of the Lord's wrath; And all the earth will be devoured In the fire of His jealousy, For He will make a complete end, Indeed a terrifying one, Of all the inhabitants of the earth. (Zeph 1:18 NASU)
This prophecy is set quite appropriately in the day of the Lord when He returns. He says that those who are complacent will be punished. The church at Laodicea is complacent; they think that the Lord will do nothing, the same as many churches think today. They do not see God as One who is sovereign and directs the destinies of man. They teach that there is no concern that He might come back today. They also teach by the way they live during the week that He is only a Sunday God. The rest of the week is to be devoted to storing up riches. Yet He says that in that day their money will not be able to save them. Let’s see them jump in their SUV 4X4 and try to escape the judgment!
But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. (Matt 9:13 NKJV)
God has mercy on sinners. By sinners, I mean those who know that they are without God. He is looking for those who will acknowledge God and their own sinfulness. A “cold” person is the one in church who bypasses communion because he knows he isn’t worthy to take it. The lukewarm person is the one who is unworthy but thinks because of his own goodness (brought many sacrifices – gave what he thought was a lot of money – is not as bad as others) is worthy and partakes in communion. Jesus is essentially saying that He will save the sinners because they are willing to look truthfully at themselves, while He will not save the self-righteous because they are unwilling to see their need. We should probably be spending most of our evangelism time on people who admit to their sin, rather than an inordinate amount of time on people who say that they have a form of righteousness. “Lukewarm” people could include cult members or people who really believe that they are not living a life of sin.
“Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him.” (Matt 21:31-32 RSV)
I think Jesus was trying to tell us that the ones who are in blatant sin know it. They are the ones that will be touched by a revival. The inward sins of the heart can be kept secret and are therefore easier for a person to dismiss.
The great thing is that Jesus says “cold” people are only being saved sooner. There is always hope for any sinner to repent and come to Jesus.
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. (1 Tim 1:12-13 NLT)
But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. (1 Tim 1:16 NLT)
Paul used himself as an example of what God can do. He calls himself the worst sinner, and declares how much glory God receives when one like Paul is saved. I once heard a murderer preach and give his testimony in church. He knew he was a sinner long before he went to prison. His story was simply awesome as he revealed how God had changed his life and was now allowing him to spread the gospel. God received the glory for that change. No wonder Jesus would rather a person be cold than lukewarm.
How God Views Us
Look at the contrast between what the people at Laodicea thought of themselves and how Jesus viewed them. He didn’t hold back any comments but let them know just what they were in His eyes.
Since I am afflicted and needy, Let the Lord be mindful of me; Thou art my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God. (Ps 40:17 NASB)
David, the king of Israel, expressed just the opposite attitude of those in Laodicea. When we recognize our need and true condition, our thoughts and His are lined up together, a first step in repentance.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! (Ps 139:17 ESV)
If we express ourselves in this way, we will have an attitude that He can use.
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:9 NIV)
This is still one of my favorite verses. I know and thank God that whatever I may be thinking or whatever wisdom He gives me, there will always be more. His thoughts are holy and true; ours are flawed and earthly. This helps me put my trust in Him, knowing of His perfection, knowing that He knows my true condition.
May we be faithful witness of Jesus rather than blending into the world and becoming lukewarm. May we be 100% sold out in our love of Jesus and let the world know what it means to have an acceptable amount of religion as defined by Jesus!