Laodicea: The Lukewarm Church

5 Min Read

The name Laodicea means judging the people. The city was built by Antiochus II and named in honor of his wife Laodice. This church covers the period of church history from about the mid 19th century right up to the second coming of Jesus. It is the period of time when Jesus as High Priest is ministering as our advocate during the judgment taking place in the heavenly sanctuary.

Interestingly the name Laodicea can also be interpreted to mean “ a just people” or “a justified people”. This, too, is in line with the work of judgment and advocacy Jesus is engaged in at present. It is Jesus who justifies us before God through His grace and by His blood. His blood is the means through which he justifies us, his grace is the source, and faith is the method through which we receive it and experience it.

We give evidence of this power working in our lives through our works which is evidence of a heart and life that have been transformed by His Spirit.

Jesus found nothing to commend the Laodiceans about. That is both sad and a little alarming. They are the final church, the church that stands in the very shadow of his return to earth in glory, and yet there is nothing positive to say about them or their spiritual condition. It makes you wonder about Jesus’ questions about whether or not he would find faith on the earth at his return.

There is much to reprove, however. Jesus tells the Laodiceans that they are poor, naked, blind, miserable, and wretched. Unfortunately, though this is their true condition, they seem to possess all the outward trappings that suggest the exact opposite of that. Even worse is the fact that they actually believe that they are better off than they actually are.

They think they are rich and increased with goods but the truth is they are self-deceived and spiraling towards spiritual bankruptcy. The church may be theologically sound and firmly rooted in scripture but it seems as though their intellectual knowledge has not yielded genuine transformation of heart or even a genuine relationship with Jesus,

It is a church that has become comfortable with the status quo, institutionalized and lacking that fervent grassroots zeal that was so characteristic of the Philadelphian period. Whereas Philadelphia was driven by a desire to see people’s lives transformed by the gospel Laodicea seems to be driven by a desire to get comfortable and have a long nap.

And yet, though the church seems to be in a deplorable condition Jesus has not given up on them. Perhaps this is the most reassuring thing about this entire message; Jesus tries hard to reach his people, even when it seems they are teetering on the brink of ruin.

He counsels them to buy three things from him; gold tried in the fire, eye-salve, and a new robe.

Gold is a symbol of faith in the Bible. By offering the Laodiceans gold Jesus is telling them that they need to renew their faith and deepen their experience with Him. The only way they can achieve this is by coming to Him and asking for it.

He then tells them to buy eye-salve; they’re blind and they need to see. They need to see Him, they need to see themselves, they need to understand their true condition. Jesus gives them the opportunity to come to Him for a solution. They can’t fix their blindness on their own, only Jesus can open their eyes and help them to see.

Finally, he offers them a new robe to cover their nakedness. The thing is Laodicea was a lot like the emperor who tried on his new clothes. They were naked and yet didn’t grasp the concept. Jesus was offering them a new robe, one that could cover their nakedness. His own righteousness, which could remove the stains of their sinfulness and slothfulness.

Even though the problems inherent in the church at Laodicea seem insurmountable the church is not lost. There is still potential for them to be saved and brought back from the abyss they are teetering on the brink of.

What Laodicea needs is to acknowledge her weakness and to look to Jesus as the only source of help.

Commenting on true transformation Ellen White says “When the soul surrenders itself to Christ, a new power takes possession of the new heart. A change is wrought that man can never accomplish for himself. It is a supernatural work, bringing a supernatural element into human nature. The soul which is yielded to Christ becomes His own fortress, which He holds in a revolted world, and He intends that no authority shall be known in it but His own. A soul thus kept in possession by the heavenly agencies is impregnable to the assaults of Satan.”

Even though Jesus offers no words of commendation to the church of Laodicea he does offer them a promise.

He informs them that He stands at the door of their hearts, knocking, pleading with them to let Him come in so He can spend time with them, transform them, and nurture a genuine relationship with them.

To those who overcome Jesus promises a place on His own throne beside His father. It is a powerful promise, considering the condition the church is in. What Jesus is offering the overcomer is a chance to share His glory.

Of all the spiritual maladies that a person can contract the most dangerous is self-deception; a sense that we are better off than we actually are. It’s easy to lie to ourselves, and as sinners, we do it all the time. This is why we need God’s word so that we can understand our true condition.

The issue isn’t whether what Jesus is revealing to us about our spiritual condition is accurate or not; He’s God, we can be sure that he’s right. The question is are we willing to accept it and let Him come into our lives and do something about it?

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