The Lukewarm Church: A Wake-Up Call to the Church
Study Posted on November 15, 2023
Focus Scripture: Revelation 3:14-22
Key Verse: Revelation 3:15-16
Table of Contents
2. From the One Who Is Divine
3. The Bleak Condition of the Laodicean Church
– Jesus sickened by the church of the Laodiceans
– How a church goes lukewarm
– Trusting in worldly riches
– Vomited out by Christ
4. Jesus’ Rebuke for the Church
Watch & Listen
The last two months of our studies have brought us to the last church out of the seven churches that Jesus had a message for – the church of the Laodiceans. We have seen different types of churches in this series: those that lack compassion and those that faced persecution; those with people that had begun to compromise their faith and a church filled with those that were dead in works. Out of the churches we have taken a look at, the church of the Laodiceans was in the worst shape.
From the One Who Is Divine
The letter to the church of the Laodiceans begins with the familiar greeting from Jesus to the angel (messenger) of the church. We will see Jesus announce Himself as: “the Amen”, “the Faithful and True Witness”, “the Beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14). Jesus, once again, is letting His authority be made known to another church so that there was no question as to who was behind the letter to the church.
This is the one place in scripture where we see Amen used as a proper noun. Do you know what amen means? We say it at the end of our prayers, right? You could think of amen meaning to “let it be done” or “let it be true”. Amen, we consider, to be finality. As we know, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6); He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last (Rev. 22:13).
Jesus stating that He is the Faithful and True Witness, once again, speaks to Jesus being the revealer of the divine truth. In John 8:12, Jesus said to the people, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
When speaking as the revealer of the divine truth, in John 12:49, Jesus said, “I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.” Jesus, you should understand, is the Faithful and True Witness to the kingdom of heaven and testified (gave witness) of the kingdom to the world.
Jesus being the Beginning of the creation of God does not speak of God creating Him. Let us remember, John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In John 1:14, we are told that the Word (God) became flesh and dwelt among us (mankind). So, again, in this greeting, Jesus was speaking of His divinity – His holiness and righteousness – and His sovereignty.
The Bleak Condition of the Laodicean Church
Now as we get into Jesus’ message to this church in Revelation 3:15, we will see Jesus say to the church, “I know your works.” This sounds very familiar as we have seen Jesus say this to the other six churches as well. However, we are going to see that Jesus’ message to this church is very different.
Jesus sickened by the church of the Laodiceans
Notice what Jesus says about the works of this church: “You are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth (Rev. 3:15-16).”
With every other church we have studied about, Jesus had good works He could commend of those churches. Yes, four of those churches had their struggles with either going bitter in compassion, beginning to compromise in faith, being corrupted in faith, or becoming dead in works. Though they had their struggles, none of those churches had reached the level of the Laodiceans because there was still some kind of good works present in those churches.
Just to remind you that while some of those churches were not in good shape, and that there was some good present: the church in Sardis had a few names that had not defiled their garments (Rev. 3:4). Both the churches in Thyatira and Pergamos, were commended for having good works that grew (Rev. 2:19) and for not denying Christ (Rev. 2:13).
Now, you may be wondering what’s so bad about being lukewarm? Have you ever had lukewarm water? Now, some of us may think of drinking water at room temperature as we would consider a lukewarm temperature of water to match room temperature. With that said, some of us drink room temperature because we can’t tolerate our water being too cold.
However, my thoughts on the lukewarm water that Jesus spoke of is water that has sat out for days and days. From my own personal experience, when water sits out long enough, it can start to smell pretty bad. Along those same lines, when water has sat out for a long period of time, it can develop a bad taste as well. Try leaving water sitting out for hours without touching and see how good it tastes and you will end up spitting it out in disgust.
Jesus, in digesting the church of the Laodiceans, said He wasn’t drinking water that was bad to the taste and had to be spewed out. Why was this church lukewarm? How does a church become lukewarm?
How a church goes lukewarm
Let’s compare this to the two churches we recently studied – the church in Sardis and Philadelphia. The church in Philadelphia was alive and active in its works. What made the church in Philadelphia alive and active? The church listened to the Holy Spirit and moved in the Spirit to bear holy and righteous fruit.
The church in Sardis was the opposite in that it had works but Jesus had not found their works perfect before God. As I said in that study, the fact that Jesus said their works were not perfect means that something was being done in Sardis.
A church that is lukewarm is a church that is sitting still; there is no fervor in faith nor even any bitterness in faith. The church of the Laodiceans had become lukewarm because it was a church that simply did not care to move one way or the other; it was a church that had become apathetic. Apathy: lack of feeling or emotion; a lack of interest or concern; impassiveness or indifference.
As I preached months ago – Is Your Heart on Fire For God – the church becoming more and more uncaring is very concerning to me. The Lord calls on the church to care for and to take great interest in the plight of others. Don’t you remember that Jesus commanded that we should love the Lord with our whole heart? In our love of the Lord, we are to move with compassion towards all of those around us as well (Matt. 22:36-39).
Throughout New Testament scripture, you will see where writers like Paul encouraged sincere believers to move with compassion. To the church in Rome, Paul wrote, “Therefore let us pursue the things which makes for peace and the things by which one may edify (uplift) another (Rom. 14:19).” Those who were of the church of Laodicea did not care to move in such a manner to edify others. The sad part, as we will see, is that the people of Laodicea had the capabilities of moving to help others prosper in the world but they did not move to do so.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul mentioned the church of the Laodiceans as he desired that the letter to the Colossians be read aloud (Col. 4:16). Why did he want Colossians to be read aloud in Laodicea? Well, Paul’s letter to the Colossians covered subjects like not being carnal but rather living as a child of God by putting on love.
In Colossians, Paul wrote, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth … Above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection (Col. 3:1-2, 14).” For Paul to want these things to be read aloud in the church of the Laodiceans spoke to the ongoing condition that was present in the church of the Laodiceans.
Trusting in worldly riches
The problem that was behind the church being lukewarm is shared with us in Revelation 3:17. We will see that Jesus spoke of how those who were of the church of Laodicea would say, “[I] have need of nothing.”
Those who were of this church had obtained many possessions. You see, the city of Laodicea sat on a prominent trade route which connected it to Colossae, Hierapolis, and Ephesus – cities we see Paul speak of in his letter to the Colossians. So, the city had great wealth as well and many of the remaining ruins give credence to the wealth it had obtained.
Because they had great wealth and lived by their wealth, this was a people that put their trust in their wealth more than they did anything else, which even includes God. How could you consider yourself to be a child of God but put your trust in wealth over the Lord? That sounds very conflicting considering that true believers ought to be putting their trust in the Lord first.
To live in such a manner where one trust in worldly riches over the Lord would be living carnally (worldly) rather than in sincere faith. What is very concerning about this is how many professed believers choose to live carnally rather than spiritually. In 2 Timothy 3:1-4, Paul wrote to Timothy about how perilous times would come where people would be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of the Lord.
Paul also wrote that the day would come would people would not endure sound doctrine but raise up for themselves teachers that will scratch their itching ears (2 Tim. 4:3-4). You and I live during a day where people are overly selfish, overly greedy, and filled with lust and covetousness. We live at a time where rather than heeding the divine truth, people rather be led into wickedness by heeding the voice of blatant liars. The frightening part about all of this is that there are many who profess to believe in God that are part of the crowd that follow the words of blatant deceivers.
Vomited out by Christ
Those who move in such a manner need to heed the warning from Jesus because they are one of those who are of the church of the Laodiceans today. Do not make lightly of Jesus speaking to vomiting lukewarm “believers” out of His mouth.
Very early in His ministering years, Jesus taught the disciples in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 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!’” This is the moment where lukewarm believers are spewed out of Jesus’ mouth.
This is very frightening because there are many who go out and profess to be of faith but have no works to shows their faith is sincere. To be very clear about this, it is not enough to say you believe. It is not enough to join a church, be baptized, go to church every Sunday, and go to bible study every Wednesday. You must actually move by faith; you must move with compassion in your heart as you love the Lord and your neighbor. If you aren’t moving in sincere faith, then you are just like those who were of Laodicea.
Jesus described those of this church as wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked, spiritually speaking (Rev. 3:17). The people of this church may have had great wealth in the world but they were in spiritual poverty. The wretchedness of this church left not only a bad taste in the mouth of Jesus but made His stomach go sour; they would be spewed out Jesus’ mouth. Do you think Jesus would be able to consume you and your works or would He vomit you out of His mouth?
Jesus’ Rebuke for the Church
Jesus, in His rebuke of the church of the Laodiceans, desired for those of this church to put away their love and trust for the riches of this world; He desired for them to stop living carnally and to love Him.
Jesus said, “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see (Rev. 3:18).” Their trust in worldly riches had blinded them from the Lord and now Jesus was telling them to repent – make corrections in the way they were going.
The anointing of eyes with eye salve certainly would certainly remind us how often Jesus healed those that were physically blind. In fact, Jesus healing the physically blind was the miracle Jesus performed more than any other. Giving sight to the physically blind is a miracle that speaks to how desires and will give sight to those who are spiritually blind.
In John’s gospel, after healing a blind man, Jesus said to the blind man, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind (John 9:39).” Jesus, as the light of the world, came to reveal the divine truth so that none of us walk in the darkness of sin. Jesus, with this message, shined a light on a major issue in Laodicea, and a major issue that believers are facing today when it comes to one’s infatuation with worldly living.
Jesus said, “ As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent (Rev. 3:19).” Had Jesus given up on this church yet? No, not yet. Jesus’ rebuke, as it always is, was a show of mercy. Rebuke, we must remember, is a warning to let one know that they are doing wrong, and includes corrections for one to be able to make corrections.
The rebuke of God should always be heeded. God’s mercy should not be taken lightly. All people should live in repentance! Repentance, to be clear, is not forgiveness; it is living in a manner of correction. God calls on you to repent today because He has not given up on you.
Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (Rev. 3:20-21).”
Those who were of this church, they had time to get right. If they made the proper corrections, Jesus would dine with them and dwell in fellowship with them. However, if they chose to continue to live carnally, Jesus said He would vomit them out of His mouths. As Paul said in Romans 1:28, “even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.”
So, the choice all people have to make today is whether we will live for the Lord or will we choose to live carnally? If you choose to become lukewarm in your heart, you must understand that will not be pleasant to the Lord. God is only pleased by those who have a fervor for Him.