Summary: The last in a series of seven. This is an expository, alliterated sermon with practical application based on the letter to Laodicea in Revelation. PowerPoint is avialable if you e-mail me.
YOU’VE GOT MAIL: LAODICEA
Scott Bayles, preacher
First Christian Church, Rosiclare, IL
Finally, at the end of a long route, about forty-five miles southeast of Philadelphia, was the city of Laodicea. Laodicea was the wealthiest and the worst of the seven cities to whom Jesus wrote. Forget saving the best for last—Jesus did just the opposite. The downward spiral that began at Ephesus and continued through Pergamum, Thyatira, and Sardis reached rock bottom at Laodicea. Even the church at Sardis, which Jesus called spiritually dead, had some true believers left. But as far as I can tell, the church at Laodicea was a totally unregenerate, counterfeit church.
Jesus has absolutely nothing positive to say in this letter—nothing. Rather, this is by far the most condemning and critical of the seven letters to the churches of Asia. Makes you want to just jump right into it, doesn’t it? Well, let’s hear what Jesus had to say:
“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.” (Revelation 3:14-22 (NIV)
Before we get into Jesus’ criticism of this church, let’s begin one last time with Christ’s credentials.
Jesus opens this letter, once again, with three key phrases identifying himself and the authority he has to be writing this letter.
First, Jesus refers to himself as “the Amen” (vs. 14). This is actually the only place in the Bible that the word amen is used as a title. The word amen means more than just “that’s the end of our prayer.” It actually means “so be it” or “let it be done.” It was an affirmation of something true and binding. So when Jesus says that he is “the Amen,” he’s not saying, “I’m the punctuation at the conclusion of a prayer.” Rather, he’s saying that he is the one who sees things through, who is true, certain, firm and unchanging. More than that, it reminds us that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises and the answer to every prayer. Paul told the Corinthians: “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’ And through Christ, our ‘Amen’ (which means ‘Yes’) ascends to God for his glory” (2 Corinthians 1:20 NLT).
Secondly, Jesus calls himself “the faithful and true witness” (vs. 14). This phrase really supports the previous one. Once again, Jesus is saying that he can be counted on. If he says something, claims something or promises something, you can know it’s true. He is completely trustworthy, perfectly accurate, and his testimony is always reliable. Jesus Christ is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
Finally, Jesus says that he is “the Beginning of the creation of God” (vs. 14 NKJV). This translation has been a little misleading for people. When translated like this, as it is in the NJKV, it sounds as if Jesus is saying that he was the first thing God created—thus, the “beginning of God’s creation.” If that were true, then Jesus isn’t really eternal at all and, therefore, couldn’t be truly equal with God the Father. But that isn’t what Jesus is saying here. The Good News Bible actually gives us a better translation: “the origin of all that God has created” (vs. 14 TEV). The God’s Word Translation puts it this way: “the source of God’s creation” (vs. 14 GWT). Jesus is reiterating what John said of him way back in John 1: “He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:2-3 NIV).