“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” (Rev 3: 14b – 18).
I think we would all agree that lukewarm Christianity is not what the world needs right now.
Jesus, the One who is faithful and true had hard words to share to the believers in Laodicea. He was literally sick of their spiritual condition; He was about to vomit them out of His mouth! Their perception of themselves had no grounding in reality. They were not rich as they thought, they were poor and naked. This must have been a very confronting letter to receive.
The Lord counselled them to ‘buy’ three things: gold to become spiritually rich, white clothes to cover their shame and salve to cure blind eyes.
What was the gold that Jesus was referring to? Those receiving Peter’s first letter were told that they “may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire” (1 Pet 3: 6 – 7).
God places a high value on our faith and like a precious metal stripped of impurities in a hot oven, faith can also be purified through life’s furnaces – trials, griefs, and suffering. The trouble is, we would rather avoid pain and trouble if we can. Wealth can make us comfortable and when we are no longer dependent on the Lord for our needs, we have no reason to express faith. Our spiritual state then has zero impact on the world around us. We are neither hot nor cold.
When that happens, the Lord counsels us to buy gold, just as He did the Laodiceans. To embrace the trials and challenges that come, because through them our faith will burn bright again.
What might it mean to buy white clothes? In the same letter, Peter exhorts his readers to “clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because “God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble” (1 Pet 5: 5).
When the cross of Jesus reveals our sin and shame, it can only be covered by humble repentance and faith. The Christian journey begins with humility, but it must continue that way too. If our new, white clothes of salvation become tarnished with unconfessed sin or a return to old habits, we are no longer an effective witness to unsaved family and friends. Neither hot nor cold.
The Lord counsels us to wear with pride the garments purchased by His suffering, shining white clothes which stand out in the crowd.
What was meant by putting salve on the eyes? This likely refers to a treatment to affect the Laodiceans’ spiritual condition. They were blind to the Lord’s assessment of their lives and souls: Faith that was weak and a walk with God that was compromised.
The only salve that will work here is a prayer for the Lord to open blind eyes, an acknowledgement of our self-righteousness and self-seeking lifestyles.
“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 that person, and they with me.” (Rev 3: 19 – 20)
Jesus stands at a metaphorical door and knocks. Will our hearts let Him in? Will we stay comfortable with the door closed, or will we repent and allow Him to lead us into real faith? Humble faith. Hot faith. Pure faith.