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The Message to Laodicea (Rev 3:14-22)

“Lukewarmness in the Church”

Introduction

All of the messages to the churches of Asia are extremely practical, but perhaps none fits the conditions in both Europe and in North America as does the message to Laodicea, the church that had become so lukewarm in its deceptive self-sufficiency. Regarding this condition, MacArthur has given us an accurate picture. He writes:

One of the remarkable sidelights in the staggering political changes in Eastern Europe is the fact of a vibrant Christianity that has emerged in the midst of the suffering, persecution, and atheism of these Communist dominated countries.

By contrast, in free Europe where there has been prosperity and democracy, the church is almost completely dead. The church has ceased to have any impact on the society. Atheism and humanism have taken over. Government and public policy is governed almost totally by philosophies that are antibiblical and even intolerant of the truth of Scripture.

If you look at the U.S., you find much the same thing. Government and the media, which affects the thinking of so much of America, are, for the most part, liberal and intolerant of Christianity. Leadership in both Europe and the U.S. are working for a one world government while the populace is preoccupied with their comfort and pleasure or the good life. The moral climate or condition of both free Europe and the U.S. is rotten to the core. According to a number of polls, if you compare the values, priorities, practices, and pursuits of professing Christians and non-Christians alike, you find very little difference on the whole.

Yet, much of free Europe and all of America owe their freedom, their prosperity, and blessings to the preaching of the Word of God, to the reformation in Europe, and to the ministries of men like the Wesleys, George Whitfield, and Jonathan Edwards in America.

What then is the problem? Is it freedom? Is it prosperity? No! But there are inherent dangers in both freedom and prosperity, subtle dangers.

It is more than a curiosity that the church has flourished behind the Iron Curtain while dying in the West. The reasons are clear. Lacking any visible external threat to our faith, many in the free world have lost any sense of the subtlety of the enemy and how he attacks. We have grown careless and apathetic. We have become concerned more with our own comfort and well-being than with the command of Christ that we should follow in His steps (1 Pet. 2:21).63

So, what’s the problem? People simply can’t stand prosperity. With freedom and prosperity come the temptation to trust in our blessings rather than in the Blessor. We become fat, comfortable, and self-sufficient. If we have plenty, we tend to think we have need of nothing. If we do not have enough, looking at the wealth around us, we tend to think that what we need is what others have—material blessings.

The problem is that men are putting their faith in the wrong thing, in their material world, in treasures on earth. Christ told us in no uncertain terms to do the opposite, to lay up treasures in heaven. Paul instructs us in 1 Tim 6:17-19:

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. {Instruct them} to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.

In other words, in the words of the Savior, we need to lay up heavenly treasures (Matt. 6:19f). Scripture warns us of this very problem over and over again.

God warned Israel in Deuteronomy 6:10f against forgetting the Lord as the source of their freedom and salvation. Nine times in Deuteronomy He tells them not to forget what the Lord had done for them and 15 times He tells them to remember the Lord and His deliverance.

The Lord Himself in the letter to the church at Laodicea warns and instructs us against the deadening and lukewarm effects of trusting in material wealth (the details of life) rather than pursuing a vital faith relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Laodicean church was a church that had lost its impact on the world because it had become occupied with the world and because it had left the Lord standing outside. Whether one believes in the idea that the seven churches of Asia portray seven historical stages the church would go through or not, certainly this church illustrates conditions of the church in the 20th century in a large portion of the world.

The City and the Assembly
(3:14a)

Laodicea was the chief city of Phrygia in the Lycus valley, strategically located where three highways converged. It was thereby a highly commercial and wealthy city. It was a city of wealthy bankers and financiers. The many millionaires combined to build theaters, a huge stadium, lavish public baths, and fabulous shopping centers. Sound familiar?

It should be obvious, but clearly, the American Mall, the big discount stores, and shopping centers define American culture in the ’80s and ’90s. The ‘80s has gone on record as the decade of consumerism and the ’90s has certainly continued the trend, even adding Internet shopping to the list. Consumerism is completely out of control.

I was in the north part of Dallas not long ago and was amazed at the number of shopping centers, restaurants, strip malls, and huge enclosed malls. But it’s like this all over America, especially in the big cities. There is a concentration of buyers, sellers, and products; jammed parking lots and crushing crowds with millions of dollars being spent by people buying things they don’t need with money most of them don’t have.

Americans spend more than 30 percent of their income on luxury items, compared to less than 10 percent just forty years ago. Statistics on personal consumption published by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reveal that Americans’ spending on recreation rose from 42.7 billion in 1970 to 246.8 billion in 1988—a 477 percent increase!

Consumer Credit outstanding in America went from 167 billion in 1975 to nearly 660 billion in 1988. That’s a whopping 295 percent increase!64

In 60 A.D. Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake. Being highly resourceful and self-sufficient, the people restored their own city rather than receive a government loan from Rome. That was very commendable and a far cry from what we find today in America. It demonstrated a self-sufficient attitude that would have detrimental spiritual results if carried over into their relationship with the Lord.

In addition to being a banking center, it was a manufacturing center for woolen garments and medicinal eye salve, powders and tabloids (3:17-18).

They did have one inadequacy, however—their water supply. Laodicea received its water through an aqueduct coming from a spring four miles to the south. The waters of neighboring Hierapolis, however, were famous as hot springs and would have provided a contrast with the tepid aqueduct water in Laodicea. By contrast also there was Colossae which had ice cold springs, but nothing like this was known in Laodicea.

Certainly, this church illustrates and speaks to the church in our time, our modern period of materialism, consumerism, self-sufficiency, do-your-own-thing kind of independence and individualism, religiosity, and apostasy.

The Christ, the Author and Answer
(3:14b)

Again, as with the previous letters, this one begins with a part of the description of the Savior as given in chapter one. So our attention is focused on the person of the risen Lord Jesus and how He alone is the answer and solution.

“The Amen.” Amen is the Greek amhn from the Hebrew A^m^n. A^m^n is from a root meaning “to be firm, stable, sure, established, and trustworthy.” It is used in Isaiah 65:16 of God as “the God of truth,” literally, “the God of Amen.”

The word was used to acknowledge and emphasize what was valid, sure and true, or important and significant. It is used in the Old Testament as a liturgical formula in which a congregation or individual accepts both the validity of an oath or curse and its consequences (Num. 5:22; Deut. 27:15ff.; Neh. 5:13; Jer. 11:5). Twenty five times, always in the gospel of John, John records the Lord’s use of this word, amhn, translated as, “truly truly, I say to you.” Here in Revelation 3:14, the “amen” is explained with the words, “the Faithful and True Witness.”

“Amen” also connoted the idea of finality or the last word; is used of our Lord as the True One, the last word and final authority in each individual’s life as well as for the entire world. As used of Christ, it points to Him as the end, the finality and certainty of all things. With Him one needs no substitutes, no subtractions or additions. With Jesus Christ there is no further search needed for truth for in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). Thus, every promise He makes is true and every woe He pronounces shall come to pass.

“The Faithful and True Witness.” As mentioned, this clause defines the word “amen.” But it is especially designed to contrast Christ’s statement of verses 15 and 16 with the statement of the Laodiceans about themselves in verse 17. As the “Faithful and True Witness,” He stripped them and so also us of all our false appearances and pretentiousness, rationalizations and excuses. It stresses the need in each of us for honest examination followed by an honest to God confession that demonstrates a genuine desire for a change of life. It would further teach us the need to be in His Word which reveals our true condition (Heb. 4:12). The Lord said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

“The beginning and the creation of God.” The word “beginning” is the Greek word arch meaning (a) first in time or (b) first in place, cause, or origin. The point is Jesus Christ is the origin, the cause, the Creator of all things (John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Rev. 1:8; 21:6). He is the Creator of this earth, now fallen under the curse of sin through rebellion to Him. But He is also the Creator of the coming kingdom and the eternal state of a new heavens and earth in which dwells perfect righteousness (cf. Isa. 65:17f).

As with the world today and many, many believers, Laodicea was occupied with and trusting in the things of this fallen creation that is now passing away and slated for destruction. They were trusting in the details of this life rather than in the Creator and in heavenly treasures.

Their priorities and security lay in temporal things rather than in the eternal and in the Creator Himself (Matt. 6:19f; 1 Tim. 6:17-19). Perhaps, like much of Christianity today, their hope and faith was in a responsive Christ who is supposed to satisfy His people by quickly granting them ease and comfort. It is a Christianity that wants heaven or millennial conditions now in this present fallen world under Satan’s control. But that is not the message of the Bible and certainly not the message of Revelation.

The message of Revelation is about a continuing struggle with evil both in the church age (Rev. 2-3) and in the Tribulation to come (Rev. 6-19). It’s a struggle that will only get worse and worse and will not end until it is brought to an end by the personal return of the Lord.

The hope of the church and the biblical message that enables people to weather life’s storms and grow through them is gratitude for what happened at the cross of Christ combined with a passionate confidence in what will yet take place at His blessed coming. Surely, the only source of real stability in this present (a kind of stability that does not require the character-weakening mechanism of denial nor the demand for comfort) is a deep thankfulness for the past work of the Savior combined with a confident expectation for the future glories promised by Christ.

The Church and its Affairs
(3:15-22)

The Condemnation and Admonition (15-17)

Please note that in this church there was no commendation. This church is condemned because it is neither hot nor cold, but simply lukewarm. What does this teach us?

“I know your deeds.” As before, the Lord begins with a solemn reminder of His knowledge of the true condition of our lives. Since His witness is true and He is the Amen (the final word) it is as foolish for us to run and hide, as it was for Adam and Eve. We should never run or hide from his witness to us through the Word, or from the disciplines He brings into our lives. Why? Well, not only does denial dishonor the Lord and bring with it serious consequences to our fellowship with Him (see vs. 20) and our ability to grow up spiritually, but sooner or later we are going to have to face the Lord for the way we have lived and used or abused His grace.

Rom. 14:11-12 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every Tongue shall give praise to God.” So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.

“Hot” is zestos, a word which means “boiling hot.” It is found in Rom. 12:11 where we are first warned against “lagging behind in diligence,” but also exhorted to be “fervent (zestos) in spirit, serving the Lord,” an obvious cause and effect relationship. It refers to spiritual fervor, zest, zealousness for the things of Jesus Christ. Our word zest comes from this word.

“Cold.” Christ says “I would that you were either cold or hot.” Why cold? Why is cold preferred to lukewarm?

First, there may be an allusion to Colossae which had cold springs. The point is that cold water is refreshing, it provides refreshment for the weary, and hot water has a healing or soothing effect upon the sick or on aching and sore joints and muscles. But Laodicea had neither; in fact, it was nauseating.

Note our Savior’s comment at the end of verse 16. “I will spit you out of My mouth.” The translation “spit” of the NASB or NIV, or “spue” of the KJV, are not really strong enough. The Greek word here is emew which means, “to vomit.” There is another word, ptuw that means “to spit” that John could have used if that is what he meant.65 From the standpoint of their ministry they provided neither refreshment nor healing, they could only cause nausea. In other words, they were useless to the Lord and His purposes for the church in the world. Remember Matthew 10:42 and the cup of cold water given in the name of Christ. They were even useless for that.

Second, when a person is cold and feels its bitterness, he is more apt to seek warmth or refuge from the cold and flee to Jesus Christ for his needs. But if one is lukewarm he becomes more difficult to reach because he feels comfortable and self-sufficient (3:17b).

“I would.” This is the Greek ofelon, a fixed form used to express an unattainable wish. It’s equivalent to “would that, I wish.” It assumes the nature of an interjection where one wishes that a thing had happened, but has not and probably will not. They had become thoroughly hardened and indifferent to Christ through the deceitful riches of the world and their sin (cf. Heb. 3:7f).

What does it mean to be lukewarm? Verse 17 expresses what Christ means by lukewarmness. It refers to Christians who are indifferent or apathetic because they are self-sufficient and self-satisfied. Christians who are trusting in themselves and their wealth or what they thought their wealth could buy them. Note their threefold claim:

(1) “I am rich”—they had an over abundance of material blessings, but by this statement, it shows they were proud and trusting in that richness as though wealth had the power to give them security and happiness.

(2) “… and have become wealthy”—they continued to add to their wealth. Not only was wealth a sign of security, happiness, and success, but the truth is, it never really satisfies and people want more. I can’t remember who it was that said this, though I know he was a very famous wealthy man, but when asked how much is enough, the millionaire replied with one word, “more.”

(3) “… and have need of nothing”—They were so well off they thought they needed help from neither man nor God. They had bought into the satanic delusion that money can buy anything. They didn’t need to trust God. They could simply go out and buy whatever they needed or desired. There was no need to wait on the Lord, no need to put Him first.

They sought their security in their talents, abilities, human resources, and financial wealth. They thought they were protected from all dangers, were insulated from all problems, and immune to every kind of tragedy.

These are the kind of people who thought they deserved special treatment: first class accommodations, the finest clothes, the best of everything. Their real God was comfort and pleasure.

The problem was that they sought their happiness in things and their security in their wealth. As a result they neglected the Lord and biblical values. They neglected real service or ministry to others.

America has more churches per capita than any other country. Our currency reads, “In God We Trust.” But according to recent statistics, there is very little difference between the lifestyles of Christians and non-Christians. The moral degeneracy of our nation in its attitudes, values, and beliefs is everywhere obvious. The crime rate, substance abuse, the divorce rate, abuse of women and children, the secularism, rise of the occult, the new age movement, and many other signs make it clear this country is in critical condition regardless of its Christian heritage and its many churches.

We are the wealthiest nation in the world with more churches, more Bibles, Christian literature, and Christian schools than any other nation in the world, yet, we are losing the battle.

Why isn’t the church more effective in the world today? Is the problem simply with the world? Is it too stubborn and too blind to listen? Or could part of the problem be with us? Have we, because of our materialism and in spite of our religiosity, excluded the Savior? Have we literally shut Him out of our lives so He can no longer flesh out His life in ours to impart His vision, His character and values into ours?

What’s the cure for the American church? What do we need to do? In the verses that follow, we have the Lord’s counsel and advice along with His promises and rewards.

The saddest thing about the Laodicean church (and that which characterizes America today) is not just the Lord’s statement about their condition as “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,” but the words that preceded this indictment, “and you do not know that you are …” How sad to be this numb and blind! Let’s note the description:

“Wretched” is the Greek word (talaipwros) which comes from the word talai meaning “to bear, undergo” and another word (pwros) which means “hard, callous.” I don’t want to make too much of this because etymology (the derivation of words) is the not the primary basis for understanding words, usage is. But perhaps the use of this word suggests that they were wretched in the sense that they were bearing severe calluses on their soul, hardened against the truth.

“Miserable” means “pitiable.” It describes one in such a state that he becomes the object of extreme pity, like a beggar. The real pity is that they were like a drunk in the cold, they could not feel their condition.

“Poor” is “beggarly.” This word referred to one who begs for crumbs trying to fill his hunger or craving. Those who try to find happiness and security in the details of life are like beggars trying to exist on crumbs while, as we see in verse 20, Christ stands at the door inviting us to come in out of the cold and dine with Him in fellowship.

“Blind” They were without spiritual insight or discernment. They were walking in darkness. Their eyes were bad and so their whole body was full of darkness (Matt. 6:23). Here was the crux of their problem; it was spiritual blindness, poor spiritual insight or a lack of biblical perspective or vision. Here is something we must not ignore. The problem of seeking happiness in the treasures of the world is at heart, an eyesight problem, a problem of blindness or poor spiritual eyesight (Matt. 6:19-23).

Compare Psalm 119:11-14, 99-105; 19:10; Proverbs 16:16 and note there the results of good eyesight or spiritual illumination.

In Revelation 3:17, Christ, as the True and Faithful Witness, describes the condition to which they were blind and totally insensitive because of their lukewarmness, a condition caused in part by their failure to desire (1 Pet. 2:2), know and respond to the Word (1 Thess. 2:13).

Further, the Lord says they were:

“Naked” is the Greek word gumnos from which we get our word gymnasium. It meant (a) to be totally without clothes, or (b) to be poorly clothed, dressed in rags. Though they were rich, and manufactured and wore expensive clothing, and though they made eye salve, they were, spiritually speaking, in pitiful condition.

Application:

For the unbeliever, or the mere professing Christian, this means to be without the righteousness of Christ. All our religious or moral good works, if we are without Christ, are but filthy rags (Isa. 64:6).

For the believer, this means to be without the fruit of the Spirit, the genuine character of Christ. It means hypocritical Christianity.

Satan and the world wants us to think that the good life is what we all want and need. People watch shows like “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” and game shows where people win large amounts of money. They follow the lotteries and think, “Wow, if only I could have that kind of luck.” The implication is that money buys the good life, but not so. There is no “good life” to be purchased for any amount of money.

Materialism is a destructive pathology. Statistics indicate the more money you have the more likely you are to commit suicide. Actuarial figures reveal life expectancy decreases as income increases. Money adds to stress and that in turn takes years off one’s life. One study shows that money also intensifies moral decline and family disintegration. Marital infidelity and divorce rates rise with income levels. Money cannot buy happiness.66

The Counsel or Advice (18-19)

“I advise you.” This word, sumbouleuw, means “to give counsel” or “to take counsel together.” This reminds us (or should) that the whole of the Word is the counsel of God setting forth the will of God. So He calls us to come and take counsel together with Him (Isa. 1:18). What is the Lord’s counsel or advice?

“Buy from Me.” How can you buy from Christ what is only given through faith? (cf. Rev. 21:6; 22:17). The answer is given for us in Isaiah 55:1-3.

1 Ho. Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. 3 Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, According to the faithful mercies shown to David.

“Buy” stands for the concept of acquire or gain. No one can actually buy these things from Christ. He only uses these words as a medium to carry their thoughts from the material world and material wealth to the spiritual world and the need of spiritual wealth that can only be received by faith. Also note the concept of the source. They can be bought only from Christ.

Note what it is that can be bought or acquired. “Gold.” Here the Lord counsels the church to turn to Him for true riches. Gold here is a picture of faith produced by God’s own Word by which men bring the spiritual riches of Christ into their lives (cf. 1 Pet. 1:7; Rom. 10:17; 5:1).

“White raiment.” Again we would divide this into two categories: (a) For the unbeliever, this refers to the righteousness of Christ which is imputed to the believer at the point of faith in Christ (Rev. 3:5; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9f). (b) For the believer it would refer to the experiential righteousness, the fruit of the Spirit. Acts of righteousness from living in the Word and walking in fellowship by abiding in Christ (John 15; Rev. 3:4; 19:8; Gal. 5:22-23).

“Eye salve.” Since this obviously has to do with spiritual sight, this most likely refers to the person and work of the Holy Spirit as God’s anointing who anoints our eyes to discern His Word (John 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:14-16).

We need to remember that these letters are written to the church, to believers in Christ. There could have been unbelievers in their midst, but unbelievers are really not a part of the church. Christ is addressing believers here and says, “those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.” He loves them and promises to reprove and discipline them to bring them out of their self sufficiency and into the sufficiency of His life. This could require severe testing, pain and heartache to bring them (or any believer in this state) to a point of personal need and dependency upon the Lord (Heb. 12:5-15).

In view of this, they are warned to become zealous and to repent of their ways. In other words, repent in order to stop the discipline before it begins.

“Be zealous” is a present imperative which commands a continual state. This is maintained by using our divine operating assets, the Word, the filling of the Holy Spirit, prayer, etc.

“Repent” is an aorist imperative which means don’t delay, do it now, but it also looks at action designed to arrest a condition, the condition of lukewarm self-sufficiency.

The verb is metanoew, “to change the mind.” It is equivalent to confession of the past or the present with a view to a change in the future.

The Call and Invitation (20)

Christ is represented in relation to the church locally and universally in that these letters have application locally and universally. But this appeal has special application to the individual for the church is made up of individuals. Note the words “if anyone hears.” A condition can exist in the life of a believer which necessitates inviting Christ to come in for personal fellowship. But this is not the way this passage is often used and understood.

This passage is often used in presenting the gospel and in offering salvation to a lost sinner. Such a view is based on two assumptions: (a) that the Laodiceans, or at least some of them, were indeed lost, and (b) that the Greek text eiseleusomai pros means “come into.” Both of these assumptions have little evidence to support them.

Wallace writes:

With reference to the first assumption, that those in the Laodicean church were not believers, note that in the preceding verse, the resurrected Lord declares, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.” Here filevw is used for “love”—a term that is never used of God/Jesus loving unbelievers in the NT. (Indeed, it would be impossible for God to have this kind of love for an unbeliever, for it routinely speaks of enjoyment and fellowship. ajgapavw, rather, is the verb used of God’s love for unbelievers [cf. John 3:16], for it frequently, if not normally, speaks of commitment and, when used with God/Jesus as the subject, the idea is often of an unconditional love.) This filevw must be applied to the Laodiceans here, for the verse concludes, “Be zealous, therefore, and repent.” The inferential ou (“therefore”) connects the two parts of the verse, indicating that the Laodiceans are to repent because Christ loves (filevw) them!

The second assumption is that eijseleuvsomai pros means “come into.” Such an assumption is based on a less than careful reading of the English text. The ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, for example, all correctly renders it “come in to.” (Note the space between the prepositions.) The idea of “come into” would be expressed with eijs as the independent preposition and would suggest a penetration into the person (thus, spawning the idea of entering into one’s heart). However, spatially pros means toward, not into. In all eight instances of eijsevrcomai pros in the NT, the meaning is “come in toward/before a person” (i.e., enter a building, house, etc., so as to be in the presence of someone), never penetration into the person himself/herself. In some instances, such a view would not only be absurd, but inappropriate (cf. Mark 6:25; 15:43; Luke 1:28; Acts 10:3; 11:3; 16:40; 17:2; 28:8).67

“I stand” is in the perfect tense which points to action completed with continuing results and marks out the loving patience of the Lord and His desire for our fellowship.

“Knock” is in the present tense which looks at continuous action. What gracious condescension that the Creator—God—Savior would seek our fellowship. The Lord stands, knocks and speaks. His speech is an invitation for men to open up the doors of their hearts and to invite Christ in for fellowship.

“I will dine with him and he with Me.” Dine is a Greek word which referred to the main meal of the day—a real feast. This Greek word, deipnew, was used not only of the chief meal of the day—a full course dinner—but of the meal which was the occasion for hospitality and fellowship. At this meal, however, He is the host. It is He who sets the table and we are His guests dining on that which He has provided.

We can perhaps make application for the lost, for those without Christ, but we must be ever so careful in how we do this. Unbelievers are not saved by asking Jesus to come into their lives. Unbelievers can only invite Christ into their lives as personal Savior by faith in the person and work of Christ (John 1:12; 3:16, 36). Christ comes in through the ministry of the Spirit of God by believing in Jesus Christ as to both His person and work as the only means of salvation, not by simply asking Christ to come in. This means believing in Christ as the Son of God, the God-man who died on the cross as God’s substitute and payment for one’s own sin, and believing that God raised Him from the dead, the proof of His person and work (Rom. 10:9).

Actually, this passage is addressed to the church—to believers. This is a call to fellowship with the Savior. As an invitation to Christians, it’s a call to repent, as commanded in verse 19. It is a call for confession of one’s sins with a renewal of mind and heart to continue to draw upon the glorious life of Christ daily through walking by the Spirit and living in the Word. It means abiding in Christ, the vine (John 15:1-7; 1 John 1:7-10; Eph. 4:20-24; 5:14-18; Rom. 8:1-16).

The Comfort and Assurance (21)

Not only does He promise to come into the life of the one who invites Him (vs. 21), but again special blessing is promised to the believer who overcomes. He is promised the privilege of sitting with Christ on His throne. This means the privilege and right to share in Christ’s authority and rule in the millennium and eternal future.

But note the basis of this: “as I also overcame and sat down.” The real victory over death, sin and Satan was accomplished by Christ in His life, death and resurrection. Because of His sinless life and perfect obedience to the Father’s plan—even the death of the cross—He overcame sin, Satan and death and was granted the right and authority as the God-man to sit with the Father until operation footstool, until he makes His enemies the footstool for His feet (Phil. 2:5-11; Heb. 1:3, 13).

But by our union and identification with Him in His person and work, and through our faithfulness in the conflict as we draw upon His life as the source of ours, we get to share in His reign as a reward for faithful service. This is truly amazing because, whenever we do overcome in the battles of life, it is always through Him.

The Challenge or Appeal (22)

Verse 22 ends the letter to Laodicea and also concludes these two chapters and the letters to the seven churches by the appeal to hear. It is an appeal which each time is made to all the churches because all seven letters are vital to us all.

The great lesson concerns a church that is religious, but basically useless. It is a church that has excluded Christ from their fellowship in selfish, materialistic, self-dependence. It is a church where Christ stands on the outside, excluded by the church’s apathy to His Word, a Word which convicts, enlightens, warms and softens hearts, and makes people productive. Thus, the call is to hear, to open our ears.

Like Laodicea, the church today is lukewarm. Am I? Are you? We have seen what it means to be lukewarm and how we are to deal with lukewarmness. We have also seen its causes and cure. Do we have ears to hear this message as the Lord challenges us in this passage? Are we blind to the effects of our own forms of greed?

Conclusion

Think for a moment about Madison Avenue with all its advertising techniques. They are designed for the financial gain of the advertisers, not that of the buyer. Regardless of their claims such as, “you need a break today,” or whatever the alleged benefit of the product, it is really without much concern for the welfare of people other than they want to keep our business. It is exploitative, manipulative, and designed by greed to play on the weaknesses of the public. The goal is to get us to buy what we can’t afford, what we do not need, with money we often don’t have. And many times it is either harmful or wrong according to biblical standards. Advertisers often seeks to reach the most vulnerable in society and intentionally market products that are both addictive and destructive.

But this greed-driven behavior is not exclusive to the world. We find it in the church among God’s people too, but often we are too blind to see it. Think of how often greed, laying treasures on the earth, and desires for the good life negatively affect the body of Christ:

(1) Think of how it tarnishes the testimony of Christ when business professionals compromise integrity and biblical values to cut a less than honorable deal.

(2) Think of how greed shreds families when parents devote their best energies to dreams of the “good life” leaving little strength or time for caring for the spiritual well being of their family.

(3) Think of how greed injures the church and ministry for the same reasons because people are so engulfed in the pursuit of position, power, praise, prestige, and pleasure that there is neither time nor energy to devote themselves to the Word, to ministry, or to liberal giving.

We are not exempt from the consequences of our own forms of greed. It litters the landscape around us with victims of our self-centered drives.68


63 John MacArthur, “Masterpiece,” May/June, p. 2.

64 MacArthur, p. 2.

65 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, translated by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, University of Chicago Press, electronic version (under emew).

66 MacArthur, p. 2.

67 Daniel B. Wallace, Th.M, Ph.D., Associate Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, Scripture Twisting, The Biblical Studies Foundation web site at www.bible.org. (Note: for our non-Greek readers, I have transliterated the Greek words used by Wallace in the article on the BSF site.)

68 J. M. Stowell, “Moody Monthly,” May, 1990, p. 4.

Related Topics: Soteriology (Salvation)