It is interesting to note how many of the changes that occurred in churches throughout history have been caused by changes happening in contemporary society. Apparently, this was also the case with the church at Laodicea.
The city of Laodicea became a very wealthy city during the Roman period. Its economic prosperity and social distinction affected the attitude of its citizens to such a degree that in the year 60 A.D., when the city was destroyed by a great earthquake, the people rejected a subsidy from the Roman government for the reconstruction of the city. Therefore, evidently in Revelation 3:15 the church of Laodicea had already abandoned its vision for the “things above”, and not only accepted some things from the world, but also adopted similar attitudes to their society. “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:17).
|Ruins of the city of Laodicea (bibleplaces.com)|
Characteristics of the church at Laodicea
Nakedness. A person who lacks clothing not only exposes his body to the elements, but also provokes moral impurity in others. He who uncovers his body in this manner, either lost his mind or lost his shame. Likewise, a church that fails to cover itself with the raiment Christ offers her (v. 18) exposes itself to the adverse effects of the “Prince of the air”, and is in danger of falling into spiritual infidelity.
Blindness. Second Corinthians 4:4 says that the “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” Romans 2:19-23 implies that he who considers himself a guide of the blind, but does the same things they do, is blind also. Therefore, blindness describes people who are unbelieving or hypocritical, or both. The hypocrite builds with his mouth, and demolishes with his hands. On Sundays he shows great zeal and fervor in praising God, and in the things of God, but through the week he lives like any other worldling. We must open our eyes, and listen to the voice that says, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14).
Poor. A person who is poor lacks food, clothing, shelter, and protection. Likewise, a church that is poor does not provide enough spiritual food for its members, does not cover the shame of its sins through discipline, and does not protect its members from the dangers of the world for not judging error. A church that goes into a frenzy to implement fascinating programs, trying to attract people to Christ, not through preaching, but through methods that appeal to the senses, such as Contemporary Christian Music (or “Christian” Rock), or theatrical presentations, is truly poor.
Miserable. First Corinthians 15:9 uses this same word when it says: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” A church that does not seek “first the kingdom of God” in its activities, and does not “seek those things which are above”, is miserable. When a church focuses on the things of this world, whose fate is destruction by fire, its members lose spiritual fervor, and live like those who do not believe in a glorious future in the New Earth. Members begin to love the world more than God, and the cares of this world choke the Word of God in their hearts. They give themselves up to materialism and vain activities. But, brothers and sisters, “we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:13-14).
Wretched. This word speaks of a church that is afflicted with burdens and problems. It is possible, as a result of following the world so close, the church at Laodicea suffered the consequences of society’s way of life. It is possible that some members of this church lived in disobedience to Bible principles. That is a great burden to bear. The author of Hebrews admonishes us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Conceited. The church at Laodicea possessed an independent and conceited spirit that prevented it from accepting help, thinking it was rich, but who in truth, was poor. A church that does not listen to advice or reproof is conceited, and heads for destruction. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” And Proverbs 15:22 explains that “without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.” “Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).
Lukewarm. A lukewarm church is one that possesses elements of heat and cold. Romans 12:11 says we are to serve the Lord “fervent in spirit”. The word “fervent” in this context means we are to be “boiling” in our spiritual life. We must reach this “boiling” point or fervor in our daily life, so that when we come to a church service to offer our sacrifices of praise and worship to God, our offerings may be genuine offerings. We cannot live cold-hearted during the week, and expect to praise and worship the Lord with fervor on Sunday. The most effective church is the church that is fervent in obeying the Word of God in daily life.
Maybe the church at Laodicea displayed a form of fervor. Maybe they met very frequently, sang with enthusiasm, and said “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!” often, but when faced with other situations in life, they acted like unbelievers. What does the Bible say? “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). God does not ask us to quit offering sacrifices, but wants us to be fervent in our Christian walk so that these offerings can be acceptable to him.
Solutions for a Lukewarm Church
1. “Buy of me gold tried in fire”. Let us ask God to purify us as gold, and give us a genuine heart. Let us ask him to purify us from all evil motives and impurity from the world, so that we may be effective instruments in the Kingdom of God.
2. “Buy of me…white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed”. “Be clothed with humility” says 1 Peter 5:5. We must clothe ourselves with the mindset Christ had when He became a man, and died for us. Let us buy white raiment from the Lord today so that we may be part of the great multitude of Revelation 7:9, and worship God forever dressed in white, “not having spot, or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:27).
3. “Anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see”. The Bible tells us that some people can’t see simply because “they have closed” their eyes, so that they should “not understand with their heart”, “should be converted”, and Christ “should heal them” (Matthew 13:15). What can we do in order to be able to see? Let us purify our hearts, because only “the pure in heart…shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Let us believe and trust in the Lord, because “if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God” (John 11:40). Let us “follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see God” (Hebrews 12:14).
4. “Be zealous therefore, and repent”. Here the Lord commands her to be zealous; to have fervour for God’s righteousness, and repent from all the things the Lord had shown her. Every church that desires to restore her spiritual lukewarmness must recognize her disobedience, without excuses, abandoning all the things that caused her nakedness, blindness, poverty, misery, wretchedness, and conceit.
Brothers and sisters, today the city of Laodicea is nothing more than a heap of abandoned ruins. May this not be the fate of our churches. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:22).