Robert E. Surgenor
During our stay in Laodicea we have become quite educated through conversations with those who call themselves Christians. They seemingly were not too interested in the Scriptures nor in the Person that they were gathering to professedly remember. They constantly talked to us about their achievements and profitable investments. Various carefully planned programs connected with the gathering occupied their mind and of course the flesh-prompting sales advertised at the various shopping centers. As we gather with the crowd in the hall, their minds are on the colors and styles of their finery. The Lords supper commences and the robot-like motions of the brethren begin. The prayers are old and stale, reminding us of an old worn-out tape player with only one tape to play. We are uncomfortable. The letter continues to be read. It is inspired and from the One who looked upon them with pity.
THE JUDGMENT OF THE LORD
"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 spew (vomit) thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:15-17).
There are three notable things indicated. (1) He describes their general condition, "neither cold nor hot." (2) He describes the church as it thinks it is, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." (3) He reveals to them what they actually are! "Thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." I wonder how many assemblies today fit the description of this church ?
Regarding the city itself, Blaiklock writes, "A society which lives in constant knowledge of its military helplessness develops characteristics of pliability and irresolution. Such a character can produce the kindlier virtues of tolerance and broad-mindedness, but in the face of evil is also likely to engender weakness and a reprehensible spirit of compromise. Such, for good or ill, was the character Laodicea produced. There was no challenge in Laodicea from Jew or pagan, or if the challenge was there, the church did not accept it." The environment of Laodicea drastically affected the Christians and was unblushingly reflected in their behavior. They were prosperous, polished, proud and powerless. Their complacency and indifference was appalling. The discernment of the Lord relative to this lukewarm church produced disgust. Thus He says "I will vomit thee out of My mouth." In the lukewarm bathing pools six miles north in Hieropolis, folks at times would get water into their mouth. The water in those bathing pools being saturated with sodium carbonate was distasteful, causing them to spew it out of their mouths. It was a familiar sight to the Laodiceans and the Lord uses such words to shock them out of their complacency into a realization of their spiritual condition.
The boastful spirit of the city had found its way into the assembly and Christ exposes them to their own estimation of themselves. They considered themselves rich and increased with goods. How unlike the Lord of Whom it was said concerning His sojourn, "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor (destitute)" (2 Cor. 8:9). They were still to be considered pilgrims, but the day of our Lords pilgrimage was over and He in the glory was the truly rich One. This was made known to them in the years past, as Paul states. "For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:1-3). Christ has the true and lasting treasures! The assembly thought that they knew everything. The problem was that their eyesight rose no higher than the ceiling! They may have been rich in this worlds goods, but in reality they were far from being rich in eternal things. Oh the looks on the faces in the circle as these unvarnished words are read. "Thou art wretched." The only other time this word is employed is in Romans 7:24, "O wretched man that I am!" They are distressed, crushed with a burden of wealth. They thought that their wealth carried them, when actually it was crushing them. Are we not warned that "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim. 6:10)? Hoarding money for the very love of it. Making it the end of life rather than the support of life. As another has aptly put it, "There is no kind of evil that the craving for wealth may not originate, once its roots become planted in the soil of the heart." Laodicea was on dangerous ground!
The next expression betrays the tender nurse-like sympathy of our Lords heart towards them. Thou art "miserable." Again, like the word wretched, this word "miserable" is only found in one other scripture. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (1 Cor. 15:19). The force of the word is, "to be pitied." There is not anger burning in our beloved Lords bosom, but rather pity. He pitied them, because in reality they were poor (destitute), they had no treasure in heaven. The word can be used "to cringe as a beggar."
One is reminded of our Lords words many years previous to our visit. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:19-21). Ask yourself, where is your treasure? Where is your heart? Remember Gods lament regarding Israels closing testimony? "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings" (Mal. 3:8). How different in Israels beginning. Moses had to restrain the people for bringing material for the tabernacle "for the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much" (Ex. 36:7). At Israels beginning they were willing-hearted, wise-hearted, and liberal-hearted. At Israels close, they were unwilling, ignorant, and stingy. How is it with us? Are we honoring the Lord with our substance?
Giving to the Lord accomplishes many things. (1) It ensures our blessing. "Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine" (Prov. 3:9,10). (2) It betrays my appreciation. "What shall I render unto the LORD for all His benefits toward me?" (Ps. 116:12). (3) It proves the sincerity of my love. "In a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality...I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love" (2 Cor. 8:2,8). (4) It encourages the hearts of others. "For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God" (2 Cor. 9:12). (5) As already expressed, it lays up for the giver, treasure in heaven. Brother, sister, are you poor, or, are you rich?
The Lord proceeds. Thou art "blind and naked." What a deplorable condition! Peter speaks of blindness. "But he that lacketh these things (virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charity) is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins" (1 Pet. 1:9). He lives for the present rather than the future. He is occupied with material things to the neglect of the spiritual. He lacks discernment of true spiritual values. He is BLIND! He has forgotten his purging. The truth of his redemption has lost its grip on his soul. He is flirting with the very sins that caused the Lords death. Every economy seems to end in blindness. The last of the judges (Samson, Eli) ended in blindness! The last of the kings (Zedekiah), ended in blindness! The last of the Pharisees (Jn.19:39-41), ended in blindness! The last of the churches - ends in blindness! Poor naked church, absent of the graces of Christ! The Lord beheld their shame (Rev. 16:15). How deplorable! How shameful! How sickening! How sobering! How sad!
There is a stillness in the hall. How could it be otherwise, after such words being read? There are variegated looks in the circle; some of disgust, some of embarrassment, some of shame, some of shock, some of insult, some of concern, some of sorrow, some of anger. My dear brother and sister, when the corrective word of the Lord comes in power into your heart, what is your reaction? Measure yourself right now. Are you a Philadelphian saint, or, are you a Laodicean Christian? I fear in my own soul that I have a tendency towards the latter, rather than towards the former. How about you? Let us linger here for our Lord is about to reveal Himself as their investment Consultant - how they can become rich. That should interest you, should it not? Thank you for bearing with me through all these soul-searching and self-condemning words. Hopefully next month (D.V.) we shall meet again and if not here, we shall meet in the land that is fairer than day.