Recently a young lady from Kansas, Kavya Shivashnakar (which is hard for me to even say, much less spell) won the Scripps National Spelling Bee after spelling the word “Laodicean.”
Smart kid-especially in a day when we all rely heavily on spell checkers.
If you are not familiar with this word Laodicean it means to have have a “lack of concern for religion and politics.” (Merriam Webster). It is associated with the apathy and indifference of a church in the Bible that Christ confronts after he ascended into heaven.
I thought this spelling bee and young Kavya’s winning word was ironic!
It is reminder of the Bible text found in Revelation 3:14-22 where Jesus Christ says, “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.”
This is a staggering rebuke from God’s Son!
I recall the insightful warnings about this spiritual state proclaimed by men of God in our churches in the past when I was a young convert and they warned us that we should not allow material wealth, popularity and various successes to be a barometer for our spirituality. But I think it is much deeper than that-because you can be poor and still be lukewarm toward Christ.
The Bible also warns about apostasy and some believe that it is going to be typical of the “last days” in the “church” but it does not have to be because Laodicea and its ministry were called lukewarm two millenia ago. I am not going to focus on the eschatological settings of this scripture.
Are these persons Christians and their spiritual fire is smoldering and their spiritual life is at a low ebb? I am sure it does apply to that. As the LBC states, “And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God’s displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves, yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end.” (Matthew 26:70, 72, 74; Isaiah 64:5, 9; Ephesians 4:30; Psalms 51:10, 12; Psalms 32:3, 4; 2 Samuel 12:14; Luke 22:32, 61, 62).
Are these unsaved or lost people who only appear to be Christians? It can apply to them as well. They are described as the hypocrite or the one who is only a church goer and trusts in their own morality. Like the Laodiceans they do not know the danger they are in, for they soon perish in hell. “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isa. 33:14).
Let me attempt to paint a picture about the Laodicean condition.
If a woman cheats on her husband she may be married to him but her affections belong to someone else. She alienates her husband while still married to him because she is indifferent and cold to him and her heart belongs to another. He becomes resentful, suspicious and jealous.
This is what the Laodicean pastor and his church are guilty of: cheating on the Lord. That is why God says, “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you.” (Jer. 3:14). They are guilty of spiritual adultery because they want the security of being married to the Lord and be in bed with the world at the same time. God accuses them of spiritual adultery and says that anyone who is a friend of the world system is an enemy of God. (James 4:4). Like Israel they vex and they irritate and grieve his Holy Spirit and “he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.” (Isa. 63:10).
Some are you are incredulous at this statement: God turned out to be their enemy. How could an all loving God be at war with people?
God is a jealous God. I know Ophrah Winfrey does not like that (and she has a twisted understanding of that concept) but Christ has set his armies in array against the arrogance of those who defy his word! What kind of war are we speaking of? Jesus Christ says to lukewarm church people today that if they do not repent he will fight against them with the sword of his mouth (Rev. 2:16). What does he mean? Hosea answers that: “I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.” (Hosea 6:5NIV). Jesus Christ says that he will send the ministers of his Word, who preach the truth and they will come at you with the two-edged sword of his Word until you change your cheating ways!
How can you tell if you are lukewarm? Instead of going through a whole list describing what this person does, it can simply be summed up in one word-you do not have a whole hearted, passionate, devotion to God. Loving God with all your heart soul mind and strength is devotion (Deut 6:4-6). Lukewarmers do not have a strong regard, dedication and love for Christ and the things of God. They think they are devoted to God because they give some things to God. The read their Bible every once in a while and even pray. They attend church, give in the offering and may even be a small group leader. They say they have received Christ but they are not devoted in any sense but their relationship is much too casual with God. Like Ananias and Sapphira who “kept back part of the price” (Acts 5:2) when it came to serving God they hold back on their relationship with God. John MacArthur says, “They’re just hypocrites touched in someway by Christianity but not belonging to Christ. And there is something obnoxious about them. They nauseate Christ. They make Him sick.”
The Lukewarmer lives in a state the Bible calls a “divided heart.” (Hosea 10:2). James says that these people are guilty of being “double minded” which can mean “double souled” (James 1:8; 4: 8). The Bible says they are “double hearted” as well (Ps. 12:2). Thomas Manton says that the Hebrew term for double hearted is that they have “a heart and a heart.” They struggle between “two opinions” (1 Kings 18:21) and hobble like a crippled man with a cane at a crossroads, not sure of which road to take. Like ancient Israel, “They feared the Lord and served their own gods.” (1 Kings 17:33). Imagine that. They worship God on Sunday and bow low to their idols the other six day. Two minds, two hearts and two opinions and it seems like such a understatement to describe them as lukewarm, but not to Christ, it grieves him so he gets ill!
You must understand Lukewarmers are hard to catch because backsliding is not an overnight thing it is a slow drift away from God where the knot of the soul loosens its grasp on the cleat and the mooring to the shore of obedience (Heb. 2:1). They can still say the right things, go to church, give in the offering, even preach behind the pulpit but they make Christ nauseous. That is the difficulty. They may have a past with God so they feel that they have a present with God. But as the Bible says, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof…” (Eccl. 7:8).
The thing that most people who I have heard comment on this passage is that they direct its message toward the church-but it is actually directed toward the angel of that church as the other prophecies to the seven churches of Asia. This does not refer to those spiritual beings who worship God in heaven above. This is another way of referring to the pastor of that church. This message is a direct communique from Christ to this lukewarm pastor and the ones of today.
Some believe this pastor to be Archippus the son of Philemon of whom Paul’s letter to Colosse found its way and was read in Laodicea (Col 4:16). Paul told him to, “Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it” (Col. 4:17). The Lukewarm Pastor of today needs to hear those words as well. You are supposed to be a man of the Word, a man of prayer not an activities director or pulpit psychiatrist. They are messengers so it must be implied that their message has become lukewarm, emetic or vomit inducing. Christ employs the language of the Older Covenant which says, “Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out.” (Lev. 20:22). He is about to remove this pastor from his place and he will remove the lukewarm pastor out of his position as well. God says that he will remove men who do not speak as his messengers-he will spue them out! Christ says, “You pastors who compromise with the world make me sick!”
Instead of giving all the theological ramifications of this passage let me relate it to you in another way: the state of lukewarmness is like a steaming bowl of soup that cools off or a cold glass of ice tea that melts and becomes room temperature. In the same way a person who professes to be a Christian Pastor has either cooled off or become “world temperature” in their heart. They no longer preach the word with zeal, pray with ardor, worship with passion, but are perfunctory in their duties. They will burnout at the church office and play the role of CEO and CFO but they are at a point where they do not know they have lost the sweet sense of Christ’s presence as the one who walks among the churches and all they can do is manufacture churchianity by media, music and motivational topics.
I am sure they were surprised at Laodicea when this sharp written rebuke came from Christ when all on the surface seemed to be going well. This means they had no spiritual faculty or sense to discern their true condition. They were deceived. The church was flourishing with people, the city was prospering but Christ saw their pastor and congregation as diseased, impoverished and pathetic despite their success and wealth (Rev 3:17). In fact, they could not discern their own spiritual state and Christ has to use this harsh language in order to open their eyes.
Like many in today’s church, Christ is sicknened at their lack of love for him he says that are not hot or, “fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” (Rom. 12:11) or “aglow and burning with the Spirit.” (AMP). They do not pray or seek God and do not have the fire of devotion in their lives (Song 8:6; Luke 24:32). They are not cold or they do not refresh the people of God being like a cold drink of water (1 Cor 6:18; 2 Cor. 7:13; 2 Tim 1:16; Phil. 1:7) and they are dried up wells and clouds without water (2 Pet 2:17; Jude 1:12).
We must also consider what many pastors today are unwilling to consider-that some of these folks who sit in their church, despite the morality, involvement in programs and positions in leadership are not saved. Some pastors, elders and ministers should be questioning their own salvation. John MacArthur says again, “”It is the sickening condition of thinking you are spiritually rich when you’re bankrupt, of thinking you are beautiful when you are wretched, of imagining you are to be envied when you are to be pitied, of believing you see clearly everything when you see nothing. You are stone blind…a feeling you are clothed in spiritual finery and you are stark naked.”
They need to start doing business with Christ! There is no other way. Like the foolish virgins they must go to those that sell and pray the door is not closed upon them and they are treated as unwelcome guests (Matt. 25:9-12). He wants to be their spiritual broker and make them invest in eternal gold for he says, “Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.” (Prov. 8:18). He sees them like Adam and Eve (Gen 3:21) and desires to clothe their nakedness as their tailor and give them a makeover for their shabby wardrobe and give them beautiful white raiment for their burned out religious ashes (Isa. 61:3). He wants to be their Great Physician to help with their poor eyesight and give them the balm of Gilead for a prescription for medicine that will help them see their true state correctly (Jer 8:22). A lukewarm person is oblivious and in a dense fog about their true state before God because they are so busy trafficking in the sinful flesh and the world system they do not not realize are broke, busted and disgusting spiritually.
Jesus warns, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Rev. 3:19). Jesus Christ tells them they better be zealous or very enthusiastic in their repentance because he is about to bring his board of education to their seat of understanding! They are lost if they do not repent-period. No repentance, no restoration. Those among that group who belong to him he will chasten, because he will only chastise his own children (Heb 12:6). They are in desperate need of Christ attentive correction.
Christ tells them that this letter is not just a writing but a knocking on the door of this church that is locked to him. His presence is not among Lukewarmers. They have form without godliness. In todays’ American Churchianity it seems image is everything but it does not fool Christ. He is not even a visitor. But he gives a final opportunity for them to turn from their worldliness. Christ says that there are those among them he loves. He is calling them out of their apostate starvation to enjoy a meal at the table of fellowship with him. Sit down with Christ today and start discussing your spiritual portfolio over a good meal.
How do you spell L-a-o-d-ic-e-a-n? Do not know how? Then you may want to try the word “I-c-h-a-b-o-d” because the glory departs from people who are not devoted and are lukewarm (1 Sam 4:21-22).