Seventh in a series
Located 600 miles from Jerusalem and 300 miles from Athens, Laodicea was a wealthy commercial center. It was known for its medical care and banking industries. They were resilient, secure and self-confident. They had all they needed, except clean water. The city received its water from Hierapolis or Colossae. The water was so bad that many visitors to the city would become sick from the water’s poor quality.
The hearers would have a clear picture what Jesus was speaking about when they were told in Revelation 3:15-16: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
This harsh word of correction was given because of the self-sufficient, over confident and even ignorant culture in the church of Laodicea.
The culture of the city had influenced the church instead of the church influencing the culture in the city. They were rich and it led them to self-sufficiency. They were dependent upon their ability instead of Christ’s ability.
They were accomplished, and it led them to overconfidence. When an earthquake struck in A.D. 60, the city rebuilt itself without any outside assistance. They ultimately were ignorant toward the spiritual realities of life.
This would have been a stinging rebuke to the church. They had stopped growing spiritually. They had become like worthless water that should be spit out!
But the situation was not hopeless. Jesus still made Himself available to them. He confronted their self-sufficiency, overconfidence, and ignorance by reminding them of the better offer.
What was the better offer? Himself.
(v. 18) Gold refined by fire – Jesus is speaking of genuine gold rather than fool’s gold. Genuine gold is revealed in the fire! The genuine gold is the righteous character of Christ that He has made available to us through repentance and faith.
(v. 18) Garments of His righteousness – Fine clothing was a symbol of honor in the ancient world. Jesus is telling the church that they are walking around impressed with themselves, but the clothing He offers will qualify them spiritually for all eternity because He will clothe them in His righteousness.
(v. 18) Spiritual restoration – This medical community was known for an eye salve called “Phrygian Powder.” Jesus was offering them spiritual restoration so that they could see their true condition before God.
(v. 19) Love – Jesus is offering them His love if they will repent. The church is undeserving of Christ’s love, but He is willing to offer His love when they repent and return. Just like Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira and Sardis, Laodicea is called to repent!
(v. 20-22) Fellowship – Jesus desires fellowship with the church in Laodicea. He desires to know them intimately, but is relegated outside the door until it is opened. He’s waiting to see if they respond to His offer. He will reward their acceptance with His presence.
As we prepare our hearts for this Pastors’ Conference, let’s evaluate our hearts to see if we, like Laodicea, are in need of some fresh water, free from self-sufficiency, overconfidence or even ignorance. May God be patient with us as we discover again the Living Water of His riches, righteousness, restoration, love and fellowship.
Ephesus: Have we lost our first love?
Smyrna: The poor church that was rich
Pergamum: No compromises
Thyatira: a call to church discipline
Sardis: Be watchful
Philadelphia: finish the race
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article is part of a series on the theme of the 2018 North Carolina Pastors’ Conference, “7 Churches of Revelation.” This year’s event will occur Nov. 4-5 in conjunction with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting. Visit ncpastorsconference.org for more information. John Mark Harrison is lead pastor of Apex Baptist Church. Each column in the series is written by a different N.C. leader and refers to one of the seven churches in Revelation.)