Summary: Laodicea: The Church of Nauseating Ineffectiveness
The Seven, part 15
Laodicea: The Church of Nauseating Ineffectiveness
September 8, 2013
We are on our last letter this week, the letter to the church of Laodicea, what I am calling the church of nauseating Ineffectiveness. Laodicea is a church whose affluence had blinded them to their spiritual ineffectiveness. They had drifted toward self sufficiency, becoming satisfied with what the world had to offer. Yet Jesus had not abandoned them, they were still a star in his hand. Jesus loves the church as tarnished as she is; he died for the church; he lives for the church; and he would never consider abandoning the church.
Laodicea was part of a cluster of three cities, along with Hieropolis and Colossae. The city had four distinctive features that help us understand the contents of this letter. First, was a thriving textile industry known for it's fabric and clothing. Second, was a medical college that was famous for it's phrygian powder that was made into eye salve and exported all over the Roman Empire. Third, it was a very affluent city. It was a center for banking, it had its own stadium and gym, heated and covered walkways, all of which were provided by funds donated by its citizens. Last, its water was lukewarm, rich in minerals giving it a fowl and nauseating taste. They could not fix the problem no matter how much money they threw at it.
Jesus identifies himself as the Amen, who is the faithful and true witness and the beginning of God's creation. Normally we think of amen as an affirmation of what is true as when we say amen after a particularly good point or truth we affirm or Jesus saying in the KJV bible, “verily verily I say unto you.” It means something is certain and true. Jesus, the amen, is then described as the faithful and true witness. These are the key words for the church in Laodicea. Jesus is the ultimate, definitive witness who faithfully witnessed to his Father to his own death. Last, Jesus describes himself as the beginning of God's creation, not speaking of the original creation but the new creation. As the sovereign Lord he has established the new covenant, making all things new and bringing history to it's appointed end in the new heaven and new earth. He created the church and is leading the church, God's people, to her glorious end.
'They are neither cold nor hot; he wished they were either cold or hot and because they are lukewarm be is about to vomit them out.' The traditional interpretation is that Jesus is saying they had a lukewarm faith. But why would God want them cold? How would the Laodiceans understand this metaphor? Hieropolis was known for its hot springs whose water was medicinal and Colossae was known for it's never ending supply of fresh and cold mountain water. Laodicea's water was lukewarm, filled with minerals, fowl tasting and so nauseating. So Laodicea was neither hot nor cold; neither medicinal nor refreshing; it was useless, ineffective, good for nothing. Their witness for Jesus was ineffective which was nauseating to Jesus so he is about to vomit them out. That is pretty strong words; what does he mean? Unless they repent they will meet him as the faithful and true judge. The warning(s) like this in the New Testament are to motivate genuine Christians to take Jesus seriously.