“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; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 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 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. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 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. 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. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:14-22).
It is interesting that verse 20 of our text, “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”, is often quoted in reference to the lost. The intended meaning is that Christ is knocking on their hearts asking to come in. But such an interpretation is a gross misapplication of Scripture.
To the church
These words of Christ are spoken to the church of the Laodiceans, one of the seven mentioned in the Book of Revelation, which was located in Asia Minor. The members of this church, along with the others, were Christians who were washed in the blood of Christ, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:6). Though they were saved, they were in a deplorable spiritual condition; therefore the Lord reprimanded them for their lukewarmness, shallowness and ungodliness. They were hot towards sin but cold towards God.
Such lukewarmness is in evidence in the majority of churches in our land today. Few Christians have the conviction to openly acknowledge the Lord but have no difficulty living like the world. Some are frightened to stand up and be counted alongside true followers of Christ. They are like those in John 12:42-43 who they “believed on him … they did not confess him” lest they were thought off as fanatics who should be avoided. They also “loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” Therefore they were lukewarm in their service and love toward the Lord. Such shallow faith makes the Lord sick!
Only a return to zealousness can remedy this, but it must begin with a willingness to receive the rebuke and chastisement God deals out. A lack of repentance at this stage inhibits the work of the Holy Spirit, so no matter how much the Lord may love us, we will be useless to Him without purity and zeal. Like John the Baptist we can be a “burning and shining light” for Christ in our community (John 5:35). Those who are on fire for the Lord have dedicated themselves to glorifying Him in this world.
We must see that our text is not directed to the unsaved but to those who profess to be Christians. If we will accept it, there is something of the Laodicean spirit in all of us. How often we fail to live according to God’s standards and do not persevere in our service to Him! How quickly we find ourselves “departing” from what we have been taught (1 Timothy 4:1) and even “falling away” from the path of righteousness and faith (2 Thessalonians 2:3). The only people that can depart and fall away are those who were once standing in Christ. This is exactly the situation the Laodicean church found itself in, but remember that it was the individual members who were at fault. Each had the choice to serve the Lord or not. If they refused to follow the Lord then they would suffer the consequences and find themselves cast out into outer darkness. Three times Jesus states that “the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness” where they will spend eternity “weeping and gnashing [their] teeth” (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30). Yet He promises that if any one hears His voice then communion can be restored.
Jesus instructed the members of the church to repent, return and be revived. He counsels them to “buy” the precious riches only He can give. This reveals that though salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, it is costly to live for Christ. The truth may be free, but it is not cheap. We cannot learn spiritual truth if we are lazy and without zeal, for it must be bought from the Lord through dedication. “Buy the truth and sell it not” (Proverbs 23:23). To buy this “gold tried in the fire” we must give up our own thoughts, beliefs and ways that are contrary to the truth and exercise faith in believing and obeying the word of God. Therefore we must be “doers” rather than just “hearers” (James 1:22). In every aspect of our daily lives we ought to adorn “the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Titus 2:10). Such truth will enrich our lives and affect others too.
Notice that the Laodicean church had to become clothed in “white raiment” again, for they had spoiled their garments through sin. In fact sin had made them naked and impoverished. No one can enter the Kingdom without the robe of righteousness Christ gives. “And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:11-14). They were spiritually blind and heading towards damnation. Sadly they were calling others to follow them there. “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14). They needed to be healed and have their eyes opened. “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:17-18).
So we see in this text that Christ is not standing at the door of unregenerate people pleading to come into their lives; instead He is knocking on the church’s door. This reveals that the very ones He redeemed have shoved Him out and bolted the door. The church is guilty of keeping Him out so that they can practice their sin without receiving a rebuke. Jesus once asked, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Lukewarmness is remedied by unquestioning loyalty and obedience to God and His word. It is foolishness for a church, and the individual members of it, to be lukewarm in their service to Christ. He will not permit any of His children to get away with disobedience and outright rebellion. Nevertheless, He still calls each one of us into a deeper and fuller relationship with Him.