A city historically known for three things: Its abundant wealth, due to the city being the financial center of Asia; its textiles, due to their black sheep that produced the finest of black wool (described historically as "raven black"); and their medical industry, which produced medicines distributed worldwide - in particular, an eye salve (collyrium) repudiated to cure most eye problems.
Another thing Laodicea was famous for, though not positively, was their water supply. Water was transported along a 6-mile long aqueduct from the hot springs located in Hieropolis. As the hot water traveled along the aqueduct, it became lukewarm, and prone to bacterial infestation. If you drank the water without boiling it first, you'd throw up.
As we read through the book of Colossians, we see that Paul specifically said that he wanted the Laodiceans to read the epistle to the Colossians. He had apparently sent them a letter also, and wanted them to be exchanging:
Col. 4:16 And when this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.
Now the name "Laodicea" means "judgment, justice, rule of the people." This is a church that had forsaken Christ completely - it had become more like a club than a church - people-driven, no need for Jesus. Their sin was the opposite of the sin of the Nicolaitans - where the clergy was ruling the people - in this case, the people were ruling the clergy.
Although the American way of government is democracy, God has never instructed the church to be one. Biblically, when the crowd leads anything, it is right down the path to sin.
The way that God has established the church is that his sheep are cared for by shepherds. Pastors and elders who are tuned in to God's leading, and simply carrying out God's desire for His people.
I had a confrontation once with a man who thought that he should have more say in how the church was run, and what the church did and taught. I asked him if he'd ever seen a herd of sheep directing their shepherd where to eat, what to do, and how to do it. He said, "that doesn't apply here!" On the contrary, my job description from the Lord is to ...
1Pet. 5:2-4 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
The problem with the sheep directing the shepherd is that he becomes a hireling. Plus, there's an inherent problem with people choosing their teachers:
2Tim. 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths
That's the beauty of Calvary Chapel's biblical approach to church leadership. As the pastor, I'm free to be directed by the Lord, and not coerced into doing and teaching what I know isn't right because I'm afraid of losing my job.
Prov. 29:25 The fear of man brings a snare...
The only person that I need to fear is the Lord. Which is great, because...
Prov. 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom...
Laodicea had it backwards - and the result was a carnal club with a Christian sign outside. They never took a stand for holiness, righteousness, truth, or anything else. They lived in a state of perpetual compromise.
"Amen" is the Greek word "am-ANE" - it comes from the Hebrew "aw-MANE." Contrary to popular belief, "amen" does not mean "that's the end of my prayer now, God, thanks for listening." It actually means "absolutely, firmly, faithfully true." In the gospels, when we read Jesus saying "verily, verily", or "truly, truly", He is literally saying "amen, amen."
Jesus here is claiming the title, "The Amen." In other words, He is saying, "I'm the One who is absolutely, firmly, faithfully true."
As we've seen in all the letters, Jesus describes Himself with an attribute detailed in chapter one:
Rev. 1:5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness
His faithfulness stands in sharp contrast to the Laodiceans, who were anything but faithful.
Because of our language and culture, it is easy to misread the titles of Jesus given in the New Testament. The Bible says that He is "the beginning of the creation" (Rev 3:14), and "the first-born of all creation" (Col 1:15). This can lead us to believe that Jesus was the first thing that God created. But nothing could be further from the truth - He Himself is the Creator. As we read in John 1...
John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
So if Jesus Christ was created, then He would have had to have created Himself, for "apart from Him, nothing came into being that has come into being." So what does it mean that He is the "beginning of the creation?" That word "beginning" in the Greek is "ar-KHAY," and it means "the origin," "the source," or "that by which anything begins to be." He is not the first thing created - He is the origin, the source, of all creation.
Their lukewarmness speaks of being halfway in either direction - they're not hot enough to be hot, they're not cold enough to be cold. What does it mean to be "hot" or "cold" as a Christian?
The word Jesus uses for "hot" is "dzes-TOS," from which we derive our word "zest." It means someone that is boiling hot, or zealous. The disciples that Jesus met on the road to Emmaus said to one another,
Luke 24:32 ..."Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?"
Now the word He uses for cold is "psoo-CHROS." In those days, the word was used to describe someone that didn't care, who was completely indifferent to a situation. Jesus tells us that because of sin, many people will be in that state in the last days.
Matt. 24:12 "And because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold."
To the Laodiceans He's saying, "If you were hot, then I could use you. If you were cold, then I could work on you. But because you're lukewarm, I can't do anything with you. And that makes Me sick to My stomach." This was a very real picture to the Laodiceans, who continually suffered the same sickness because their water supply was lukewarm.
Being the financial center of Asia, the Laodicean church had a lot of rich Christians in it. People in the textile industry making clothes, and those who were in the business of manufacturing eye medicine. Their attitude was, "Hey, when you've got money, you don't need anything."
The problem with being rich is that most worldly problems go away if you just throw money at them. And that keeps a man from being dependent on God for deliverance. You know the story of the Israelites - time and again, when things were going smooth, when times were good, they drifted away from reliance on the Lord. Getting to that place where we're right with God is not a matter necessarily of becoming financially poor, but becoming spiritually poor. Jesus taught us,
Matt. 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
It doesn't matter how much or how little money we have - we must be poor in spirit. What does that mean? It means to realize "that I have nothing, am nothing, and can do nothing, and have need of all things. Poverty of spirit is a consciousness of my emptiness... It issues from the painful discovery that all my righteousnesses are as filthy rags. It follows the awakening that my best performances are unacceptable." (Pink)
When a man realizes it is impossible to be perfect before God, he will appeal to the mercy and grace of God. And the Lord has said:
Deut. 4:29 "...From there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul."
In Luke 18 there is a parable of two men: one who was rich in spirit, and one who was poor in spirit:
Luke 18:10-14 Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, 'God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are poor in Spirit. But the Laodiceans thought that they were rich, and didn't need anything. "Because of that," Jesus says, "you are poor, blind, and naked."Jesus is saying, "you may have money, but you're poor. You may have eye salve, but you're blind. You may have clothes, but you're naked." They needed to become spiritually poor.
Jesus advises them to buy gold from Him. Where can you do this? The spiritual market that trades in treasures of heaven. Jesus taught,
Luke 12:31-34 "But seek for His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
The apostle Paul told us the works that would turn into rewards after passing through the fire were the gold, silver, and precious stones were what we've built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said that even with all of those fine clothes produced in Laodicea, they were naked. Not physically naked, but spiritually. They were not clothed with the righteousness of Christ, they had not put aside the old man. Remember that after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit,
Gen. 3:7 ...The eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
They were naked, and instead of turning to the Lord, they tried to cover their nakedness by the works of their hands. But they were still naked. Since the Laodiceans are in the same boat - their sin has exposed their nakedness - He advises them to buy white garments from Him.
What are the white garments? The Bible often illustrates a person's character or condition with clothing. White clothing indicates a person without sin. Their nakedness is covered up with sinlessness. Remember, He Himself was dressed in radiant white back in chapter one. How can we get that white clothing of sinlessness and righteousness? He told the church in Sardis,
Rev. 3:5 "He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments..."
Overcoming the world by faith in Jesus Christ. He was calling them to faith - to be clothed in white.
Funny that this city known for its ability to cure eye problems contained a church that was blind. Blind to their own spiritual condition. Jesus is saying, "Look, your Laodicean eye salve isn't going to heal your spiritual blindness. You need to buy My eye salve to anoint your eyes." What is His eye salve? Mud. In John 9, Jesus encountered a blind man. To heal Him,
John 9:6 ...He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes,
Water from Jesus's mouth - symbolizing the Word of God, mixed in with earth - symbolizing man, who was created from the earth - was the cure for the man's blindness. How can you purchase eye salve from Jesus? Let the water of the Word get on you and mix into you, straight from the mouth of Jesus.
John 9:11 He answered, "The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, 'Go to Siloam, and wash'; so I went away and washed, and I received sight."
We need the water of the Word of God to heal our spiritual blindness.
Those who He loves, He disciplines. He's telling them, "Look, you guys are in the worst state of any church - you've grown lukewarm, you're blind, you've not been clothed with My righteousness - but I still love you and earnestly desire that you repent. Therefore, I must bring this discipline." Quoting Proverbs 3, the writer of Hebrews said,
Hebr. 12:5-11 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES." It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
God disciplines us because He loves us. And the idea of discipline is to bring repentance. He says, "Okay, I've disciplined you, now get zealous, hot, fired up for Me again. Turn away from your sin."
Whether we are using this as an invitation to the lost, or to address a church in the condition of Laodicea, notice where Jesus is standing - outside. This is a terrible place for any individual or church to have Jesus kept - outside. Is Jesus outside of you this morning? Jesus is standing outside waiting for you to let Him in. Will you?