Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Christ delivers a message to those who are Christian in name only. Being neither zealous for good works nor orthodox in their doctrine, they are lukewarm and sickening to Christ.

George Barna makes a living through surveys. What makes him unique is that his surveys are on exclusively Christian topics. Although he does poll populations at large, he also does polling on those who profess to be Christian. For millennia, there have been standard benchmarks of orthodoxy. Yet, as George Barna has discovered, many in western culture have no problem identifying as Christians yet reject almost all the biblical markers that define what a Christian is.

Sadly, there are many people in churches, even entire congregations, who are lost. They may be sincere, zealous, and outwardly religious, but they reject the gospel truth. They have all the rich New Covenant teaching about Christ’s life, death, and resurrection contained in Bibles they neither believe nor obey. Paul described them as those “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power,” and then wisely counseled believers to “avoid such people as these” (2 Tim. 3:5).

The church at Laodicea represents such apostate churches as have existed throughout history. It is the last and worst of the seven churches addressed by our Lord. (7 Churches slide)The downward spiral that began at Ephesus, and continued through Pergamum, Thyatira, and Sardis, reached the bottom at Laodicea. Even at Sardis there were some true believers left; as far as can be determined, the church at Laodicea was a totally unregenerate, false church. It has the grim distinction of being the only one of the seven for whom Christ has no positive word of commendation. Due to the drastic nature of the situation at Laodicea, this is also the most threatening of the seven letters. The state of the church in Laodicea was one of self-satisfaction and complacency. (Gregg, S. (1997). Revelation, four views: a parallel commentary (p. 78). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.)

Christ delivers a message to those who are Christian in name only. Being neither zealous for good works nor orthodox in their doctrine, they are lukewarm and sickening to Christ. Presenting these characteristics with the Church in Laodicea, we see Christ’s rejection to lukewarm professed Christianity. He presents this condemnation through 1) The Church, City & Correspondent (Revelation 3:14), 2) The Concern (Revelation 3:15–17), 3) The Command, & the Counsel (Revelation 3:18–22).

Christ presents a condemnation to lukewarm professed Christianity through:

1) The Church, City & Correspondent (Revelation 3:14)

Revelation 3:14 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. (ESV)

Like the previous 6 letters, Jesus directs His message to the angel, or messenger to the Church in Laodicea. The New Testament does not record anything about the founding of the Church at Laodicea. Like most of the other six churches, it was likely established during Paul’s ministry at Ephesus (Acts 19:10). Paul did not found it, since when he wrote Colossians some years later he still had not visited Laodicea (Col. 2:1). Since Paul’s coworker Epaphras founded the church in nearby Colossae (Col. 1:6–7), he may well have founded the Laodicean church as well. Some have suggested that Archippus, Philemon’s son (Philem. 2), was its pastor (cf. Col. 4:17), since the fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions names Archippus as the bishop of Laodicea (vii, 46).

(City Slide): The City of Laodicea (modern Eski-hisar, “the old fortress”) was one of a triad of cities (with Colossae and Hierapolis) in the Lycus valley, about one hundred miles east of Ephesus, Laodicea was the southeasternmost of the seven cities, about forty miles from Philadelphia. Its sister cities were Colossae, about ten miles to the east, and Hierapolis, about six miles to the north. (Mountain slide) Located on a plateau several hundred feet high, Laodicea was geographically nearly impregnable (Aqueduct slide) but 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. The aqueducts that could easily be blocked or diverted by besieging forces. Shown here are the remains of water pipes excavated at ancient Laodicea. With the coming of the Pax Romana (peace under Rome’s rule), Laodicea prospered. It was strategically located at the junction of two important roads: the east-west road leading from Ephesus into the interior, and the north-south road from Pergamum to the Mediterranean Sea. That location made it an important commercial city. That the first-century B.C. Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero cashed his letters of credit there reveals Laodicea to have been a strategic banking center. So wealthy did Laodicea become that it paid for its own reconstruction after a devastating earthquake in A. D. 60, rejecting offers of financial aid from Rome. The city was also famous for the soft, black wool it produced. The wool was made into clothes and woven into carpets, both much sought after. (Medical coin)Laodicea was also an important center of ancient medicine. The nearby temple of the Phrygian god Men Karou had an important medical school associated with it. That school was most famous for an eye salve that it had developed, which was exported all over the Greco-Roman world. As a sign that medicine was practiced in the city, two Asclepius Vipers were depicted. They are connected to the god Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing. All three industries, finance, wool, and the production of eye salve, come into play in this letter to the Laodicean church. (Main Street Slide) Shown here is the main street of the city which was flanked on both sides by columns. Only a few of these have been restored (Duvall, J. S. (2014). Revelation. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (p. 78). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.).

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