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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

THE CHURCH OF THE LAODICEANS

Rev 3:14-18 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. (Also See Rev. 3:19-22)

The church of Christ in Laodicea was located near the other churches in the Asian cities of Colosse and Hierapolis, all three of which were scriptural churches, and all were mentioned in the apostle Paul's letter to the Colossian Christians. Secular historians tell us that, at the time of John's writing, the city of Laodicea was well known for its wealth, industry, and medical supplies and practices. Epaphras, a fellow laborer with Paul, is thought to have been instrumental in establishing the church of Christ in Laodicea, which probably met in the house of a man named Nymphas (See Col. 4:12-16).

In His message to the church of Christ in Laodicea, Jesus immediately identified Himself as the Amen. As used at the close of prayers, the word "Amen" carries the meaning of "let it be so" or "so be it." As it is used here to describe the character and deity of Jesus, it has the meaning of one that is "true, sure, faithful, and loyal." His message is true, His prophecies are sure, as a friend, He is faithful, and as the Son of God, He is loyal. These characteristics are implied when He is said to be the faithful and true witness, who was with God in the beginning of time, when all things were created (See John 1:1-5).

Jesus, in His all-knowing power, told the church of the Laodiceans, I know thy works. This is the same omniscient statement made to all seven churches in Asia. However, in the case of this church, Jesus found nothing that warranted praise. He told them that thou art neither cold nor hot. They were completely apathetic, that is, they were indifferent, impassive, and had no feeling, emotion, or desire to further the cause of Christ or concern about their own spiritual welfare. They were merely going through the motions of being a follower of Christ Jesus, without recognizing the spiritual consequences of their indifference.

Having once been established as a faithful congregation of God's children, they had lost their zeal; and their assembly and worship services had become a social event, rather than a spiritual revival. They could not be led away by false doctrines because they were equally indifferent about any form of "religion." Jesus desired that they were either cold or hot; anti-Christian or pro-Christian. Similar to the apostle Paul, those that zealously opposed Christianity, would demonstrate the same zeal for Christ, when they found God's true gospel of salvation in His Son, believed in it, and became obedient to its commandments.

Jesus described these apathetic Christians as being lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot. They were irresolute, without purpose, indecisive, and religiously unconcerned. This attitude was true throughout the congregation, from the elders, deacons, preacher, teachers, and the men and women that made up its general membership. There were no spiritually redeeming qualities to be found in this body of Christ. Because they were lukewarm, Jesus considered them repulsive, saying to them, I will spew thee out of My mouth. To accent this teaching, consider this fact. Cold and hot drinks are appetizing, and are very often served with meals, while lukewarm water or other liquids are often used to induce vomiting. This was the spiritually, unappetizing effect of all members of the church in Laodicea on Christ Jesus.

Like the wealth for which this city was noted, so were the members of this body of Christ. By worldly standards, they were rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing. Material prosperity, and the insatiable desire for more wealth, seemed to have been the cause of this congregation's indifference. When more value is placed on worldly possessions than heavenly treasures, the cause of Christ wanes, and apathy reduces the minds of men and women to a state of indifference. One has only to read about God's warning to the nation of Israel, to confirm the apostatizing effect of earthly wealth. When we forget the true source of all earthly, material blessings, our hearts will say, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. In the worldly state of mind identified here, one has already forgotten God, and the doctrine under which He desires us to live (Read Deut. 8:12-17).

Although heaped with earthly wealth, Jesus told the church of the Laodiceans that they were spiritually poverty stricken - knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. They were spiritually blind,and could not see their own state of spiritual danger, but to other faithful Christians, they appeared to be filled with wretchedness and misery. These indifferent Christians had plenty to sustain their physical bodies but they were spiritually poor,havingno treasures laid up to sustain their souls in eternity. They were spiritually naked.The symbolic garments they wore covered their physical bodies, but were stained with the sin of lukewarm indifference. As described here, they had no righteous, pure, white garments to cover their naked souls (See Rev. 16:15).

Here is Jesus' solution to human reliance on earthly wealth: I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich. The apostle Paul gave the same advice to the Colossian brethren, as Christ, through John, delivered to the church of Christ in Laodicea. He wanted them to be knit together in love, rich in understanding ...of the mystery of God, ...and of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (See Col. 2:1-3). Embedded in this scripture is Christ's pure "gold," free from the impurities of worldliness, that all Christians are to seek, and when found, are to hold on to throughout their life on earth. Jesus continued by telling them to buy pure, symbolicallywhite raiment, without the stains of sin, to cover their spiritual nakedness. And to cure their spiritual blindness, Jesus tells them to purchase His eyesalve, which is far more effective than any man-made ointment used to perfect one's eyesight. The only way men and women of the world can clearly see the spiritual state of their soul is to read, hear, understand, believe, and obey Jesus' gospel message of salvation. This is His spiritual eyesalve, as found in the inspired words of the New Testament.

In the four verses following the lesson text Jesus continues His reprimand to the church of Christ in Laodicea. Although He has rebuked their lukewarm, indifferent manner of Christian living, He still loves each soul in this congregation. This He evidenced by saying that as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. There are times when love must be demonstrated by corrective action to those Christians that have openly defied, and rejected, New Testament doctrine, through sins of either commission or omission. With the Laodiceans, their sin was one of a more willful omission of good works, and the worldly example that they were setting for others to witness. Christians must learn the necessity of corrective actions when error takes over their lives, For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth (Heb. 12:6). Following Jesus' rebuke for their actions, He tells the Christians in Laodicea to be zealous therefore, and repent (Vs. 19).

Verse 20 assures us of the ever-nearness of our Lord and Savio,r as demonstrated by His promise to the family of God, that resides within the church of Christ. Where there is sin and error by any member, or the entire membership as a whole, be assured that Jesus is near enough to render the spiritual healing and guidance needed to restore one to the strait and narrow pathway of life that leads to heaven. He stands outside our door and, pleadingly, knocks for us to allow Him to enter. Our response should be to invite Him in, sit down and sup with Him, as our Great Counselor, cast on Him all our cares, and heed His spiritual advise.

Having reconciled our lives in obedience to the will of God through Jesus, He gives us this assurance: To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne (Vs. 21). Just as Jesus overcame all trials and tribulations of the world, including death on the cross of Calvary, He is now seated at the right hand of God in heaven. This example was exactly the mission God assigned to His Son, while He was on earth, and that mission He faithfully accomplished. By His example we are assured that, through obedience to God's truths found in His New Testament doctrine, we too can overcome all Satan-inspired worldly temptations and inherit heaven as fellow-heirs with Christ Jesus, our Lord. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches (Vs. 22).