Summary: The church at Laodicea holds great insight into the life of a 21st century church.
“The Hot and Cold Church”
July 16, 2006
Today we want to look at a passage that many people have heard messages on and talked about in church. We want to look today with different eyes. We want to get inside the ancient voices and look with a fresh perspective at the meaning of the text in the ancient world and also at what it means for us today.
In the book of Revelation, the apostle John speaks to seven churches in Asia Minor. These are communities of Christians that are dealing with persecution of the day from Rome and were struggling to find the right path of their lives and their communities in light of Jesus Christ.
Today we are going to focus on the church of Laodicea. Laodicea was a major city in the Lycus River Valley that sat between the Mediterranean region and Persia. It was on major trade routes that led people through the city and created incredible wealth.
Laodicea was known for several important things in the ancient world. It was, as we noted an important financial center. It was self-sufficient in its banking trade and was a place of incredible wealth. In fact, one ancient writer noted that when and earthquake destroyed many cities of the region in AD 17, the citizens of Laodicea refused to accept money from the Roman emperor to rebuild. Basically they told him we are financially secure and we don’t need your money. And, the city was rebuilt.
It was also noted for its soft black wool. It was a major producer of black cloaks and carpets and had a thriving textile industry. The people of Laodicea took great pride in their production of these products.
Also in Laodicea was an ancient medical school. The area was renowned for its production of Collyrium, a powder that produced a healing eye salve. These three things combined to make Laodicea a thriving city with all of the lures and desires of the ancient world at its fingertips.
With all of this going for it, Laodicea had a major problem. The water in the town was basically undrinkable. Unlike the towns around it, Laodicea was known for bad tasting and bad smelling water. It would literally make people sick.
Laodicea was watered from springs that flowed into one river in the valley. One spring came from the city of Hieropolis. Hieropolis in the ancient world was known mainly for its hot pools. They were considered medical marvels of the day that could heal and would bring rejuvenation to people who were tired or injured. These springs were fresh water springs that were powerful for their medicinal value.
The other source of water that flowed to Laodicea came from the city of Colosse. Colosse, as you may remember, was the city that Paul wrote to instruct the Christians on living out the Christina life. In Colosse, the water was cool and refreshing. It was crystal clear, wonderful for drinking in the dry arid climate and it was a source for the river that flowed to Laodicea.
With such great water at the source, you would think that Laodicea had wonderful and fresh water. Instead it had water that was neither hot nor cold. It was a lukewarm mixture of the hot water of Hieropolis and the cold water of Colosse. It also flowed across the valley and picked up minerals that made it almost undrinkable. So, for all it had going for it, Laodicea was a city with major water issues.
Water in scripture is used with incredible imagery. There are over 600 references to water. It is used in three main ways: as a cosmic force only God can control, as a source of life, and as a cleansing agent. Water is highly significant in the life of the ancient world because of the scarcity of it’s supply.
This becomes the backdrop for what we want to look at today. We want to look at the warning that John wrote to the people of Laodicea and see if it has any practical application for us as individuals and for us as a community of believers today.
"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ’I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.  Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.  Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.  To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."