Summary: The analysis of Christ's message to Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22 shows us that a church may be comfortable but Christless.
We are currently in a series of messages titled, “Christ’s Message to the Seven Churches,” that is based on the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation.
In Revelation 1 the resurrected and glorified Christ revealed himself to his Apostle John, and told him to write letters to seven churches in Asia. Today, we shall examine the seventh of those letters, and learn about Christ’s message to his church in Laodicea.
Let’s read Christ’s message to Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22:
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ” (Revelation 3:14-22)
I ran a marathon once in which the water used was from an iceberg that had been hauled in from the south pole! The water tasted terrible, and most of the people who drank the water during the race struggled with diarrhea throughout the race!
Good drinking water is essential for running marathons, and for life itself. The issue of good drinking water plays a role in Christ’s message to the church in Laodicea.
The analysis of Christ’s message to Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22 shows us that a church may be comfortable but Christless.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Address (3:14a)
2. The Description (3:14b-c)
3. The Commendation
4. The Complaint (3:15, 17)
5. The Warning (3:16)
6. The Command (3:18-20)
7. The Promise (3:21)
8. The Appeal (3:22)
I. The Address (3:14a)
First, let’s look at the address.
Christ said in verse 14a, “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write. . . .” The letter was addressed to the angel, which also means “messenger.” In context of the letters, I take it to mean that each letter was addressed to the pastor of the church.
John Stott described the city of Laodicea as follows:
Laodicea was renowned for its prosperity. Situated in a fertile valley at the junction of several important trade routes, it had amassed considerable wealth. So opulent were its citizens that, when the earthquake of A. D. 60 devastated the whole region, the city was promptly rebuilt without any appeal to the Roman senate for the customary subsidy. The local inhabitants were proud of their city as a mercantile banking center. They could boast of its famous medical school connected with the temple of Aesculapius “whose physicians prepared the Phrygian powder for the cure of ophthalmia,” which was described by Aristotle. Particularly well-known was their manufacture of cloth, garments, and carpets from the valuable wool of the local sheep, which William Ramsay says was “soft in texture and glossy black in color.”
The people of Laodicea were extremely comfortable. They were involved in banking, clothing, and medicine for treating eyes.
Commentator Grant Osborne notes that there were only two drawbacks to the city of Laodicea:
First, like Philadelphia it lay in a region prone to earthquakes. One in A. D. 60 virtually destroyed the city, but unlike Philadelphia (and Hierapolis), Laodicea wanted no financial aid from Rome. Instead, the wealthy citizens rebuilt their city. Second, it had no water supply. They had to pipe in water from Denizli, six miles south, via an aqueduct that left the city vulnerable to weather and enemies.
II. The Description (3:14b-c)
Second, notice the description.
Christ said in verse 14b, “The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.” G. K. Beale says the following about Christ’s description of himself, “The self-description of Christ in this final letter emphasizes more explicitly than in 3:7 his role as a ‘faithful witness,’ first mentioned in 1:5. The three descriptions ‘the Amen, the faithful and true’ are not distinct but generally overlap in meaning to underline the idea of Jesus’ faithfulness in testifying to his Father during his earthly ministry and his continuing as such a witness.”