LAODICEA—The Lukewarm Church
“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16)
Churches have doctrines--but they also have temperatures! If a church is alive, Jesus is present, and He is aware of them both. While doctrine is most important, other things factor in to our Lord’s analysis of a church’s condition. Laodicea didn’t seem to have a problem with their doctrine. Nor is there any mention of reprobates or unconverted people in their midst. Yet, Jesus was just as angry with these as He was with some of the other churches mentioned. He was ready to spew them out of His mouth. Why, because they were lukewarm!
Now, if we love our Lord and His church, we do not want to be lukewarm. So what does this mean? There is an obvious allusion to something that doesn’t sit well on the palate, something like lukewarm coffee, or lukewarm tea. These are not enjoyable or pleasant. To swallow them makes one nauseated. This was the spiritual condition of most of the members of Laodicea. They made Jesus nauseated. We say most, because Jesus later says that there were some there, a faithful few that He specially loved. That is the way that it is in most churches, there are a faithful few who are there for every meeting, every service. They are the backbone of the church. These rare, spiritually minded ones are the most ardent supporters, both by presence, and with their financial support. Were it not for these at Laodicea, all would be lukewarm, and Jesus would have spewed them out of His mouth long ago. Let their tribe increase. These are highly loved of Christ—any by every pastor.
Now, I could end this article at this point, and spiritual minded individuals could figure out what this lukewarmness is all about. They would be able to give specifics. But we believe there are those who need a few hints. So, the preacher must be specific. What would you see if you went to Laodicea this Sunday?
Well, to start off, there are a lot of people you would not see. They have their name on the church roster but they are only there when it is convenient. They have forgotten one of the ten, that Sunday is the Lord’s day, that it is a sin to ignore it. It is that special day that Christians honor the resurrection of the One who died for their sins. They have a lot of good excuses. Sometimes, they are visiting relatives; their children are involved in sports; or other things that are good for the family--better than God’s house and His word. It is a beautiful time to camp, and be in the outdoors with the family. Or it is deer season, the moon is right to fish, the mall has a special sale, or there is a tournament their friends expect them to participate in. They worked extra hard this week, and need some extra rest. This list could go on forever. But when they pray, they want Jesus front and center--immediately. What can we say to these? They are complacent, lukewarm, they take the church for granted, assume it will always be there for them. They have a lackadaisical spirit. Hopefully, that faithful few will be holding it down for them if they ever get serious.
There is yet more to see at Laodicea. If you visit them you will see some other things that our Lord was nauseated about. Some of these things are fairly typical, so typical that Laodicea had accepted them as the norm. They had become a tradition at Laodicea, such a tradition people would argue for them. You see their song service. Many people thought of that time as a gathering time rather than a part of the worship service. When they did arrive, they just sat there as if the faithful few were singing for their entertainment. They never opened the song book to just read the words. Some were chattering and talking while the faithful few were trying to lift their voices on high and make a joyful sound. This brought coldness, rather than a warm prelude for the message. When the message did come, the faithful few were opening their Bibles, taking notes, and rejoicing in truth. Yet, many at Laodicea were just sitting there, thinking of what they were going to do when they got home to their toys. Some were even asleep, very complacent.
Their pastor was present on Sunday morning, standing at the doorway to greet them. The faithful few acknowledged their thankfulness to be there, encouraged the good man, and told him they had prayed for him. But the lukewarm ones came in with their medical reports, and problems at the front door. Though their pastor was interested in their suffering, there was a better time and place for those things. By the time some of them finished with their medical reports, it was time to start the services, and the pastor couldn’t remember the difference between the blood thinner and the blood of Christ. Something was evident--it was all about them, not Him!
Behind the scenes, Jesus saw a lot at Laodicea. He looked at their checkbooks and what did He see? Why, they spent more money on cable, movie rentals, club dues, alcohol consumption, and entertainment than they did on the Lord and His house. Their gods were well supported, and comforted. Their time was also devoted to other gods. They seldom read God’s word, but bowed down habitually to the N.B.A., N.F.L., the soaps, Oprah, and Fox News. As Jesus listened to their prayers, they were all about them, seldom a word about the success of the His word, the conversion of sinners, or the brightness of His house.
Finally, Jesus saw another sad thing at Laodicea. There was no evangelism in their hearts. They never talked to anyone about Christ. Some of them had never brought a friend to church. Perhaps, Jesus thought they were ashamed of Him, His truth, or His house. If their pastor preached on any of the above things, they became very angry. They slowly began to dwindle down. By attrition their numbers decreased.
So, what is lukewarm? It is not hot or zealous for the Lord. It is not a cold ignorant state that could be brought to repentance. It is an uncaring, unconcerned, indifferent, attitude that can neither be convicted nor encouraged. Like something lukewarm, it has no feeling. That was the condition of Laodicea.
This church should cause us all to do some self examination for there is something in all of us that leans towards that posture. The reason I can say that is because the world tugs at us all, even the preacher. But I must remember, that was where I was before I confessed Christ as my savior, and became a member of the church. I do not want to go back. By God’s grace, I want to press onward. Laodicea is no longer there. How sad. How is it with you? Are you a lukewarm Laodicean? If so, follow our Lord’s counsel: “be zealous therefore, and repent.”