Are We Laodiceans?
Please read Revelation 3:14-20
Each time we read the Word, it is a great responsibility. The prophetic aspect of these chapters has often been considered, but my desire tonight is to consider the moral side of them. Each time I read this epistle, I feel searched. I reproach myself for my lukewarmness and I can feel the Word touching my conscience.
I feel disposed to say that we are all too often half-hearted. We look at various communities of christians and see that some are whole-hearted in their application to the truth they have. Often there is a lack of knowledge of Divine truth. They have a single eye for the gospel, although perhaps not much separation. How can those, who have received a whole treasury of truth, graciously recovered to us by God, be half-hearted? Alas, this is all too often the case. This epistle should stir us to a deeper conviction of our condition and the need for decided change for the better.
The letter is addressed to the angel of the assembly in Laodicea. The angel represents the responsible element: it is one of these seven stars which are in the right hand of the Lord and which give light (Rev. 1:16, 20). Thus the angel should be a light bearer. There are very few in the assembly who take this responsibility, yet are we not all responsible?
Week after week the Laodiceans gathered together to answer to Acts 2:42, breaking bread and participating in other outward features of an assembly.1 maybe there were some absent from time to time, and perhaps there were the regular late-comers, but outwardly there was a local assembly.
It is important to notice that the word 'Lao-dicea' means: 'the people's voice, or, rights.' We see that this letter deals with present-day circumstances, for we speak easily of 'my rights,' of 'women's rights,' 'justice for all,' etc. ... but what about the voice of the Lord? The essence of democracy is the will of the people but the desire of Christians should be, 'What is the will of the Lord that we may do it.' For instance, of we ask ourselves why are we here tonight? We will answer 'to meet the Lord,' but does He really find that in our hearts? Does everyone of us discern the Lord's voice? If we do not, then we experience a great loss. It is important to come to hear His voice. There should be a deep desire in our hearts to see His face and His person.
Verse 14: '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.'
The Lord presents Himself as the Amen, the faithful and true witness. Even if the majority are unfaithful, He is faithful. We should have been a faithful testimony to the new creation. If we look at the testimony we have given we must acknowledge that there are many failures. Looking at them we could be discouraged. Rather, let us look to the Lord; there are ample resources with Him! He is the solitary true One when all others have failed.
Verse 15: 'I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou were cold or hot.'
The Lord reads what is in our hearts and can say: 'I know,' even if we are ashamed to speak of our failure and departure to our husbands or wives, or tell our children. To Him it is as though all our deeds were publicly displayed on a wall. When a person is cold, you can see it; so also if he or she is hot in affection for Christ. But here we have to do with a terrible situation: the affections are divided. While we have such a treasury of truth at our disposal, how can we have a divided heart? What we imagine to be a secret, He knows, for nothing can be hidden from Him. Surely this letter touches our consciences.
The company here had some truth but they were unmoved by it. They were suffering an identity crisis. They had no firm convictions and no decided commitment to Christ, His cause or His interests in this world.
Verse 16: 'So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.'
The Lord puts His finger on their state according to His perfect knowledge, and tells the Laodiceans what it was. He knows about the liberties they take with His Word. The Lord is everything to the faithful ones in the Philadelphian assembly. In Laodicea there is truth but no conviction; they are lukewarm. The morality of the Laodiceans is found in every place. Their great universal message is MODERATION:
Not too good, not too bad;
not too right, not too wrong,
not too devoted, but not too indifferent,
not too evil, not too good,
not too divided, but not too united.
Don't be different nor extraordinary,
it makes no sense just be ordinary,
Not too real, not too false,
not too thirsty, not too satisfied,
the device of the Laodiceans is perfect niceness.
Not too plus, not too minus;
not too hot, not too cold!
They are not on the ship, nor on the quay, just in between.
They occupy the place of neutrality.
'between two stools.' This may be pleasing to the natural man, but if it will lead inevitably to a fall! The Lord does not want this condition. He died for each one of us. He did good for my soul. I deserved nothing, but He gave me grace upon grace. What should we do to answer to the Lord's desire that we may be conformed to His will? When shall we start to walk with Him? Tomorrow? No! straightaway! and with hearts which are decided. Renouncing all neutrality, we must be valiant for the truth, scrupulously maintaining what is right and accepting no compromise in respect of the truth of God. We have to maintain what is true, and to decline compromise. Many Christians who refused compromise have been persecuted as martyrs. Will we trample under foot their martyrdom? Will we hold as of little importance the truths for which they died?
A whole ecclesiastical system has been built up on neutrality to the truth, with lamentable indifference to Christ's deepest glories. For the sake of personal comfort and ease many go on with what is contrary to God's Word. It seems that the Laodiceans had as their principle: 'a little of what you like will do you good,' even if it is not according to the holy Word of God. No, the Lord wants us to be totally for Him. The seven churches of Revelation received various reproaches. There is nothing so contemptuous, not even to Thyatira. There it was immorality, clericalism and ecclesiastical corruption. In Sardis: 'Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.' But here the rebuke is: 'I will spue thee out of my mouth,' for lukewarmness is terrible. It is the corruption of the best that is the worst of corruptions. This fills the Lord with disgust and utter loathing. Does this condition also fill us with horror? If so, this demonstrates to our soul that we have heard His voice. But if not it shows that we are completely permeated with the Laodicean spirit. Those who believe on the Lord will never be cast away. Is it therefore consistent that we manifest in any way the features of those who will be rejected in Laodicea?
Verse 17: '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 am rich,' what a danger! James 2:5 tells us, 'God hath chosen the poor of this world rich in faith ...' This is a great matter for concern in Europe, for our wealth does not help us to live near to the Lord. There are so many good things: food, clothes, houses, but are they the only things which occupy our hearts? The Laodiceans had heard the truth, and God's Word told them they were poor and were nothing. But it did not profit them, not being mixed with faith. They rejected God's testimony and regarded their own estimation as the only valid assessment of themselves.
Many amongst us are in danger of thinking that everything is all right. But the Lord is speaking to us in this letter and we have to bow our heads in shame but then lift our eyes towards the divine light. He is God. He will not forsake us, for He is faithful and He offers us a remedy. It would be foolish not to accept it. Imagine a drowning man in the middle of the ocean refusing rescue because he thinks he can swim the 2000 miles which separate him from the coast. We have to accept the Lord's remedy. It is the last hour says John, and now it is the last minutes of the last hour. If we have the character of Laodicea, it is time to take heed to His Word.
The Laodiceans are most wretched and miserable. No other church bore this character. The Lord thinks the contrary of what they were thinking. Life is difficult for a blind person walking with a white stick. But spiritual blindness is far more dreadful. Samson, the last judge, was blind, as was Zedekiah, the last king. They both knew that they were blind. Laodicea is so blind that she does not even notice it! Her condition is desperate.
Verses 18, 19: '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.'
These are fine verses. The Lord hasn't given them up yet. He is concerned with them, and offers a five-fold remedy. How different to us. What counsel! What gracious patience! His rebuke demonstrates His strong unfailing love for His own.
1. The gold which has passed through the fire of judgment is offered freely. It suggests divine excellence, His glory, His righteousness. To Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel says: 'Thou art this head of gold' (Dan. 2:38). For too long we have been satisfied with mediocrity and the Lord wants the best for us. He desires to give us what is most excellent. Do you want riches which will last for eternity?
2. The white raiment reminds us of the righteousnesses of the saints. In everyday life it is important to be clothed. We live in a world where lack of modesty prevails. On a practical note are we properly attired in our daily life? Here the matter goes much further. But it is an important issue in a world where men and, in this connection more particularly women, have no shame. Unless we explain to our children what modesty is then they will be seriously hindered so far as the bringing of the gospel to them is concerned. They will not understand the gospel for the sinner if there is no concept of shame.
3. He desires to heal their broken and distorted view. How many are blind to the precious present truth of Christianity. Tell them of some facet of Scripture truth and they mock, and perhaps they even say 'that's not in the Bible!' Alas how many times are such expressions uttered. Christ's heart is stirred with deepest pity in respect of these poor blind ones.
Verse 19: 'As many as I love': Christ loves us to the end, whatever condition we may be found in, and this love is not emotional and weak, but strong. He dearly loves His own. He demonstrates His love in rebuking and chastening. If I think that I am wiser than God, then I will not chasten my children. An earthly father may reject his children, but Christ does not forsake us.
4. 'Be zealous therefore and repent.' To be zealous is the antithesis of lukewarmness. There must be fervour in the things of Christ. How much self-interest has filled our lives to the decided neglect of the Lord's interests. We have rather amused ourselves than mused upon the glories of our Lord. Here we are exhorted to be diligent in our Christian life. But also to be diligent in clearing ourselves of our neglect of the one who has watched over us with constant care.
5. God does not ask us to do anything new but to repent. It is not a pleasant thing to return and repent. In fact there is nothing so irksome to a self-complacent spirit as this. If there are some Laodicean traits to be found in us, let us go to the Lord and repent. This verse is the Lord's voice for the present time. May we hear it.
Verse 20: 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me'.
This verse is often used in preaching the gospel, but it is especially for believers. The Lord is outside, while the Laodiceans think they have Him in their midst according to Matthew 18:20! But Laodicea's condition is so bad that the Lord is obliged to be outside. Her blindness means she does not realise that He is outside. How serious, how solemn a circumstance! Yet even here we see the Lord's tender patience and long-suffering. He is obliged to knock for admission. He is knocking, and in spite of the greatest departure and indifference to what is due to Christ, there is hope.
The call is to the individual. Will you heed it? Will you be one to enjoy communion with the Lord Jesus and to enter into His thoughts with appreciation, understanding them because you have read His Word and spent time in prayer with Him? This was the secret in the past among those who walked with God. It is still possible to have communion with the Lord, even at this late hour and time of breakdown. He offers you this opportunity in the figure of a supper, the last meal towards the end of the day. Will you respond to this?
The Lord does not ask us to walk alone but, 'with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart' (2 Tim. 2:22). Things are difficult in the testimony and we can be discouraged. But though there be but a few walking in the narrow path, yet it will be possible to express fellowship together with an adequate witness to the fact. It will be our duty to seek such out. May the Lord grant us this grace in the last moments of the Christian testimony on earth.
Verse 21: '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'.
The more we let the Lord in, the more we will be overcomers. He offers the overcomer a prize, His own reward. Then the world will know that the Father loves us as He Has loved Him (John 17:23). The Lord has given us a responsibility to stand for His dominical rights, just before His return. He has not given this privilege to William Farel, to Jean Calvin, or to John Nelson Darby, but to us. We have this responsibility. The testimony rests on our shoulders until His return. Those who preached the Word in the last century rightly waited for the Lord to come. Is our conduct, our life, characterised by this expectation? He is coming and we will see Him. His recompense is with Him, but there is more: 'to sit with Him in my throne.' Our reward is Himself, to be with Him for ever.
Verse 22: 'He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.'
A blind person has no eyes to see. A deaf person cannot use his ears. God speaks to those who have their five spiritual senses, which function by faith. Are our ears open to His voice? In the Old Testament we find written: 'Hear O Israel,' and in the New: 'Hear what the Spirit saith.' His only desire is that Christ might be glorified. Shall we heed His voice today?
E. N. C.
1 It has since been suggested to me that the prayer meeting had probably ceased at Laodicea, because they had need of nothing and therefore had nothing to pray for.