Allen Raynor Weblog: “Laodicea; the Lukewarm Church” (Pt. 1)
(Sept. 10, 2019)
The church in our day and age has often been described as apathetic. I have read that description time and again and I have also heard it preached time and again. Apathy is defined as the “absence of passion, emotion, or excitement.” (Dictionary.com) We live in such a day as to where the world is largely indifferent/apathetic about the church and the church is largely indifferent/apathetic about itself. We could fairly well say the church is “lukewarm” (not hot; not cold)
In this upside-down day and age we live in, sports stadiums, restaurants, retail stores, and concert halls are full, and church auditoriums have lots of empty seats, Sunday School classrooms set empty, and volunteers are hard to find. The church, by and large, is complacent and comfortable. The church may desire more people, bigger offerings, and more programs, but it is rarely willing to totally sell-out to Christ, the Lord of the church, in order to see that happen. This is a day and age where people would rather work to “raise something up,” themselves than to “pray something down” from Heaven!
In Laodicea, the church was in their groove, they felt self-sufficient, and Christ was no longer a part of what they were doing. Christ is and always has been the “power” of the church. But in Laodicea, and in the modern church, it has been often proven, church can be done without Him. Paul wrote to Timothy warning him of the perilous times to come and the selfish desires and evil motives that would be prevalent. In the latter times, he said mankind would “Have a form of godliness but deny its power.” (2 Tim. 3:5) and from such people he was to turn away! Laodicea, indeed had a “form/appearance” of godliness, but there was no power because Christ was no longer really a part of what they did. Revelation 3:14-22 give Jesus’ sobering words to the Laodicean Church.
Laodicea was 45 miles southeast of Philadelphia and 90 miles east of Ephesus. It was a thriving city with banks, a textile (wool) industry, and medical school. The city was also known for its sparse water supply. All of these characteristics played into Christ’s various comments about the church.
Jesus is said to be “The Amen” (the true one). He is called “The Faithful and True Witness” and “The Beginning,” meaning He holds the “first” place or is the “ruler” of all of God’s creation. These words of description are things they should have already known about Jesus, and probably did; however, at the same time, they acted as though they did not; therefore, Jesus reminds them. When a football coach yells from the sideline “Block!” the players are not hearing of the need to block for the first time. They have, in fact, heard it many times, know the importance of blocking, but are just not doing it. Jesus is saying to the church at Laodicea “you already know this!” Just do it!
Christ’s words in vs. 15 are alluding to Laodicea’s water supply. It traveled several miles through an underground aqueduct before reaching the city. The water arrived foul, dirty, and tepid. It was not hot enough to relax in, like the hot springs of Hierapolis, nor was it cold and refreshing like the stream water at Colossae. Laodicea’s lukewarm water was in a useless condition! Yet, this is what Jesus compares the church to! Jesus tells them they would be better off cold or hot than lukewarm. Hot and cold water both have value; usages, etc. But lukewarm is never pleasing to the palate! In vs. 16, He says He will vomit them from His mouth! Interestingly enough, they thought they were ok! Jesus warned in Mat. 7:22-23 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” It was bad enough they were lukewarm, but even worse, they were self-deceived about it!
The city of Laodicea was wealthy, and like all people have the tendency to do, when they have the feeling of security that money brings, they stop trusting in and relying on God as they should. It is crystal clear in America that the wealthier our nation has become, the more we have cast God aside. In Laodicea, the attitudes of the church mirrored the attitude of the city itself. They were deeply prideful people, and prideful people don’t think they need your help, your advice, or much of anything from you. Pride leads people to think, I’m doing ok, and I don’t need you! We do need each other and we do need God.
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor