Some people are good at taking tests. Others are terrible at it. Jesus assessed the church in Laodicea and found them lacking. They were like students who aren’t total failures but aren’t acing the exam either. Let’s look at Jesus’ words to learn how these saints were falling short:
Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea: Thus says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:14-16)
Jesus began His assessment by telling the church in Laodicea that they were neither cold nor hot but rather in the middle—lukewarm. While Jesus was “the faithful and true witness” (Revelation 3:14), their faith was wavering and questionable.
The saints in Laodicea would have interpreted the term lukewarm based on their cultural context. The nearby city of Colossae had cold, refreshing water. On the other side of their city was the town of Hierapolis, which was known for its hot springs. And because Laodicea sat between these two cities, the water that ran through it was lukewarm.
As you can imagine, lukewarm water isn’t ideal for drinking or bathing. Colossae had cold water to refresh the people on hot days. Hierapolis had hot water, which is great for bathing and purifying items. Lukewarm water, like lukewarm coffee, is good only for unsettling your stomach. Jesus told the Laodiceans that like their lukewarm water, their lukewarm faith was sterile and useless.
Jesus told the saints in Laodicea that their wealth and possessions were the reasons for their lukewarm faith. Because of financial success and an abundance of material goods, the church assumed they were in good standing with God. As a result, they grew comfortable and complacent.
But Jesus didn’t let the church get away with a complacent attitude. He set the record straight, telling the Laodiceans they were “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). Remember, Jesus’ assessment is completely accurate. Whether or not they liked it, Jesus was right because He’s faithful and true. And at that moment they weren’t measuring up.
Believers shouldn’t be lulled to sleep by success. We shouldn’t measure our lives by our wealth. Even churches shouldn’t be measured by the size of their budgets, buildings, or congregations. All success, both personal and congregational, should be measured by the effectiveness of consistent love for God, disciple making, preaching of the gospel, compassionate ministry, and total reliance on Jesus for everything we have and need.
Jesus tells us here to buy what we need from Him:
I advise you to buy from me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see. (Revelation 3:18)
Jesus has purchased on the cross all that’s good, right, and necessary for us to have abundant, fruitful life in Him. As He taught His disciples:
What will it benefit someone if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will anyone give in exchange for his life? (Matthew 16:26)
Excerpted from D. A. Horton, Letters of the Revelation Bible Study. © 2017 Lifeway Press. Used by permission.
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