A reader asks for an explanation of Revelation 3:20—"Behold, I stand at the door and knock ..."—a text often cited in support of free will and resistible grace. This is part of God’s word to the church of Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22) which we shall examine first.
Christ describes the Laodiceans as neither cold nor hot but lukewarm (15-16). At first reading we might think that this church could have been better ("hot") and could have been worse ("cold"). However, the Lord says, "I would thou wert cold or hot" (15). Thus it is worse to be lukewarm than to be cold. How could this be if it is simply speaking of a church’s "spiritual temperature?" The church here is described not simply with regard to its temperature but with regard to its temperature as a drink. A hot cup of tea or coffee is refreshing as is a cold glass of lemonade or milk, but a swig of lukewarm tea or milk is repulsive. We spit it out. Christ said of the Laodiceans, "because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth" (16).
But what did He find so disgusting and offensive about the Laodiceans? "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing" (17). Laodicea was a market town at the confluence of two rivers and at the intersection of three important roads. It was the site of a civil court and a famous medical school, and was "noted for its banking and for its manufacture of clothing from the local black wool" (Leon Morris). Whether because of the church’s (presumed) material wealth or the flattering preaching of its minister(s) or something else, the church wrongly evaluated her spiritual condition. She thought she was "rich" and therefore had "need of nothing" (17). Christ found her pride highly repulsive and threatened to spew her out of his mouth as one would a lukewarm drink.
He tells the church her real condition: "thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (17). As "the wretched one" she is in need of mercy ("miserable") for she lacks spiritual wealth ("poor"), understanding ("blind") and clothing ("naked"). Of course, this describes all Christians according to their old sinful nature, but the Laodiceans did not see and confess this. Instead, the church said that she was "rich ... and had need of nothing" and thus she "[knew] not" her misery (17).
Throughout the NT age, congregations in various lands are well characterized by the strengths and weaknesses of the seven churches in, what is now, western Turkey (Rev. 2-3). Does a church faithfully, fearlessly and consistently teach the total depravity of man including the utter wretchedness of the believer according to his old man (Rom. 7:24)? Do the members truly believe in total depravity so that they confess it in their prayers, worship and evangelism? Or do the members think that they are good people, certainly no worse than, and probably a lot better than, their neighbors? "We are very comfortable and God must be pleased with us." But they are utter strangers to heartfelt confession of their wicked thoughts and nature. This is a lukewarm, "Laodicean" church, the sort of church Christ spews out of His mouth.
- Volume: 9
- Issue: 10
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851