This semester I’ve been studying hermeneutics, which is the interpretation of the Bible from the original context. One thing that I’ve learned through hermeneutics is that the whole Bible is connected. You cannot just take pieces of the Bible, scripture out of the context to support a theory that you wish to support. You have to look at scripture as a whole. One thing that I have already learned through hermeneutics is the misunderstanding of the verses in the Bible about the church of Laodicea. Through the blog post I’d also like to point out some similarities between the Church of Laodicea and the Church of the 21st Century.
“The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation says: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth.” (Revelation 3:14-16)
God is speaking through the writer, John, on the island of Patmos. Now looking at this from our perspective, and not the original audiences’ perspective, we could see these verses as a plea from God for the church at Laodicea to get off the fence post, to be either hot (on fire for Christ) or cold (completely against Christ). But if you take it back to the original context, we realize that hot water was for taking showers and cold water was for drinking. The towns around Laodicea were connected to natural springs of water, filling their needs for both hot and cold water. But, Laodicea was not. They had to import their water from towns of at least five miles away. So, when they actually brought the water back, it had been a couple days journey, turning the water neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. Also, from traveling, the water was filled with sediment. So because the water was neither hot nor cold, it was useless. You couldn’t use the imported water to shower, because it was filled with dirt and it was lukewarm, and it would probably make you sick, bathing in dirty water. Also, the people of Laodicea could not drink the water, because it was filled with dirt, also causing them to be sick.
Looking at that from a spiritual perspective, the church of Laodicea was no longer connected to the spring of life, Jesus Christ. In John 4, Jesus says to the woman at the well: “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever!<sup class="crossreference" value="(Q)”> In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.” (John 4:13-14) The Laodicean Church was trying to import their water, their spiritual water from their culture and from their own ideas, instead of from the all-knowing living God, who gives strength.
Just like the Laodicean church, our 21st century church for the most part, is disconnected from the living spring of Christ. We import our ideas from the world, even though Paul says in Romans 12:2-“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” We, as the church of the 21st century have allowed the world to shape our ideas of God, we have allowed the world to take God out of churches, and instead replace Him with a good works based faith, where morality reigns supreme, and our effort to be good, has replaced God’s grace and His death on the cross. “For you are saved by grace<sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”> through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). God’s salvation should not make us prideful, it should humble us and break us to our very core, where we can only get on our knees and thank an Almighty God for not giving us the just punishment that we deserve.
The church at Laodicea had also become self sufficient.
“Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see.” (Revelation 3:17-18).
The church of Laodicea had become sufficient on its wealth, and they didn’t even know that they were dying and poor, even though they had “material wealth.”
“Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.<sup class="crossreference" value="(P)”> But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven,<sup class="crossreference" value="(Q)”> where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).
The church of Laodicea was poor because they put their hope in things that would pass away, instead of putting their hope and trust in the never-ending love and reign of Jesus Christ.
Just like in our churches today and in our world, we value material things: cars, phones, money, that will all pass away. We value big churches and big numbers, over salvations. We talk about big theological debates, instead of sharing the words of God. Our pastor value fame and recognition, over Jesus Christ getting all the credit and recognition. 1 Corinthians 13:8 says: Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.”
Now that we, just like the Laodicean church, have been confronted with these things, what do we do?
“As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent.” (Revelation 3:19).
The reason for the rebuke both now and in the times of Laodicea, is because the fact that Jesus loves us. He only rebukes the people that He loves. Like a father or mother punish a child for disobedience, we have an Heavenly Father that calls us to repentance. We have wronged Father God. We have taken His name in vain, we have thrown Him out of our places of worship, we have done things on our own, and now it is time to repent, and come back to Him as the center of our churches.
The result of our repentance: “If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20).
If Christ came back into our churches, what would it look like? Salvations? Revivals? Growth once more? Christ is wanting to come back into His church, to bring the power behind the gospel, for He Himself is the gospel. The world needs more than our churches can give it. It needs Jesus. The world needs to see that there is such a thing as absolute truth and true love, stemming only from Jesus Christ. What a blessing it would be to see Christ in the midst of our churches again. Join with me to pray for our 21st century church, that we would heed the call of repentance and see God do a mighty work in our churches and lives, once more.