I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)I counsel thee to buy.—There is, perhaps, a touch of irony here. How could the poor and naked buy? But the irony has no sting, for the counsel but recalled the invitation of the prophet to buy “without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1).
Gold—i.e., golden coin, “tried,” or, fired out of fire, and so free from alloy or dross. Trench suggests that “gold” here stands for faith. Does not, however, the self-deceiving state of this Church rather point to love as the missing grace? The Laodiceans were as those who had many graces in appearance; they were not unlike one who had gifts, tongues, understanding, liberality, but lacked that fervent love without which all was as nothing (1Corinthians 13:1-3); or, to use Trench’s own image, they were lacking in the only grace accepted as currency in the kingdom of God.
“O merchantman at heaven’s mart for heavenly ware,
Love is the only coin which passes there.”
But the possession of this love would bring their zeal out of the tepid into the fervent state. Such love, pure and fervent, could only spring from God, who would shed abroad His love in their hearts (Romans 5:5).
White raiment.—The putting on of apparel and the stripping of it off were tokens of honour and humiliation. (See 2Samuel 10:1; Isa. 67:2,3; Hosea 2:3; Hosea 2:9; Zechariah 3:3-5; Revelation 16:15; Luke 15:22.) The wedding-feast was at hand. The unclad would then be put to shame (Matthew 22:11-13). Let them be prepared against this by putting on Christ (Colossians 3:10-14) and His righteousness (Philippians 3:9), that the shame of their nakedness do not appear—or, much better, be not made manifest.
Eyesalve.—They were blind; they were proud of their intellectual wealth; they boasted of their enlightenment. (Comp. Colossians 2:8.) Self-deceived, they thought, like the Pharisees, that they saw. (Comp. John 9:40-41.) Better would it be for them that they should receive the anointing of the Holy One (1John 2:20), which would teach them all things, and especially reveal to them their self-ignorance. This anointing might be painful, but “the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened” (such is the remarkably parallel thought in the Epistle to the Ephesians), and they would be enabled to see and appreciate things spiritual. (Comp. John 9:7; John 9:25; 1Corinthians 2:10-14; Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 5:19.)
Isaiah 59:6. - Revelation 3:18.
The force of these words of the prophet is very obvious. He has been pouring out swift, indignant denunciation on the evil-doers in Israel; and, says he, ‘they hatch cockatrice’s eggs and spin spiders’ webs,’ pointing, as I suppose, to the patient perseverance, worthy of a better cause, which bad men will exercise in working out their plans. Then with a flash of bitter irony, led on by his imagination to say more than he had meant, he adds this scathing parenthesis, as if he said, ‘Yes, they spin spiders’ webs, elaborate toil and creeping contrivance, and what comes of it all! The flimsy foul thing is swept away by God’s besom sooner or later. A web indeed! but they will never make a garment out of it. It looks like cloth, but it is useless.’ That is the old lesson that all sin is profitless and comes to nothing.
I venture to connect with that strongly figurative declaration of the essential futility of godless living, our second text, in which Jesus uses a similar figure to express one aspect of His gifts to the believing soul. He is ready to clothe it, so that ‘being clothed, it will not be found naked.’
I. Sin clothes no man even here.
Notice in passing what a hint there is of the toil and trouble that men are so willing to take in a wrong course. Hatching and spinning both suggest protracted, sedulous labour. And then the issue of it all is- nothing.
Take the plainest illustrations of this truth first-the breach of common laws of morality, the indulgence, for instance, in dissipation. A man gets a certain coarse delight out of it, but what does he get besides? A weakened body, a tyrannous craving, ruined prospects, oftenest poverty and shame, the loss of self-respect and love; of moral excellences, of tastes for what is better. He is not a beast, and he cannot live for pure animalism without injuring himself.
Then take actual breaches of human laws. How seldom these ‘pay,’ even in the lowest sense. Thieves are always poor. The same experience of futility dogs all coarse and palpable breaches of morality. It is always true that ‘He that breaketh a hedge, a serpent shall bite him.’
The reasons are not far to seek. This is, on the whole, God’s world, a world of retribution. Things are, on the whole, on the side of goodness. God is in the world, and that is an element not to be left out in the calculation. Society is on the side of goodness to a large extent. The constitution of a man’s own soul, which God made, works in the same direction. Young men who are trembling on the verge of youthful yieldings to passion, are tempted to fancy that they can sow sin and not reap suffering or harm. Would that they settled it in their thoughts that he who fires a fuse must expect an explosion!
But the same rule applies to every godless form of life. Take our Manchester temptation, money or success in business. Take ambition. Take culture, literary fame. Take love and friendship. What do they all come to, if godless? I do not point to the many failures, but suppose success: would that make you a happy man? If you won what you wanted, would it be enough? What ‘garments’ for your conscience, for your sense of sin, for your infinite longings would success in any godless course provide? You would have what you wanted, and what would it bring with it? Cares and troubles and swift satiety, and not seldom incapacity to enjoy what you had won with so much toil. If you gained the prize, you would find clinging to it something that you did not bargain for, and that took most of the dazzle away from it.
II. The rags are all stripped off some day.
Death is a becoming naked as to the body, and as to all the occupations that terminate with bodily life. It necessarily involves the loss of possessions, the cessation of activities, the stripping off of self-deceptions, and exposure to the gaze of the Judge, without defence. The godless soul will ‘be found naked’ and ashamed. All ‘works of darkness,’ laden with rich blossom or juicy fruit though they have seemed to be, will then be seen to be in tragic truth ‘fruitless.’ A life’s spinning and weaving, and not a rag to cover the toiler after all! Is that ‘productive labour’?
III. Christ will clothe you.
‘White raiment.’ Pure character. Covering before the Judge. Festal robe of Victory.
‘Buy’-how? By giving up self.
CHRIST’S COUNSEL TO A LUKEWARM CHURCH
Revelation 3:18After the scathing exposure of the religious condition of this Laodicean Church its members might have expected something sterner than ‘counsel.’ There is a world of love and pity, with a dash of irony, in the use of that softened expression. He does not willingly threaten, and He never scolds; but He rather speaks to men’s hearts and their reason, and comes to them as a friend, than addresses Himself to their fears.
Whether there be any truth or not in the old idea that these letters to the seven churches are so arranged as, when taken in sequence, to present a fore-glimpse of the successive conditions of the Church till the second coming of our Lord, it is at least a noteworthy fact that the last of them in order is the lowest in spiritual state. That church was ‘lukewarm’; neither cold ‘- untouched by the warmth of the Spirit of Christ at all - ‘nor hot’ - adequately inflamed thereby.
That is the worst sort of people to get at, and it is no want of charity to say that Laodicea is repeated in a thousand congregations, and that Laodiceans are prevalent in every congregation. All our Christian communities are hampered by a mass of loose adherents with no warmth of consecration, no glow of affection, no fervor of enthusiasm; and they bring down the temperature, as snow-covered mountains over which the wind blows make the thermometer drop on the plains. It is not for me to diagnose individual conditions, but it is for me to take note of widespread characteristics and strongly running currents; and it is for you to settle whether the characteristics are yours or not.
So I deal with Christ’s advice to a lukewarm church, and I hope to do it in the spirit of the Master who counseled, and neither scolded nor threatened.
I. Now I observe that the first need of the lukewarm church is to open its eyes to see facts.
I take it that the order in which the points of this counsel are given is not intended to be the order in which they are obeyed. I dare say there is no thought of sequence in the succession of the clauses. But if there is, I think that a little consideration will show us that that which comes last in mention is to be first in fulfilment.
Observe that the text falls into two distinct parts, and that the counsel to buy does not extend- need, and it is ordinarily read as if it did - to the last item in our Lord’s advice. These Laodiceans are bid to ‘buy of Him’ ‘gold’ and ‘raiment,’ but they are bid to use the ‘eye salve’ that they ‘may see.’ No doubt, whatever is meant by that ‘eye salve’ comes from Him, as does everything else. But my point is that these people are supposed already to possess it, and that they are bid to employ it. And, taking that point of view, I think we can come to the understanding of what is meant.
No doubt the exhortation, ‘anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see,’ may be so extended as to refer to the general condition of spiritual blindness which attaches to humanity, apart from the illuminating and sight-giving work of Jesus Christ. That true Light, which lighteneth every man that cometh into the world, has a threefold office as the result of all the parts of which there comes to our darkened eyes the vision of the things that are. He reveals the objects to see; He gives the light by which we see them; and He gives us eyes to see with. He shows us God, immortality, duty, men’s condition, men’s hopes, and He takes from us the cataract which obscures, the shortsightedness which prevents us from beholding things that are far off and the obliquity of vision which forbids us to look steadily and straight at the things .which it is worth our while to behold. ‘For judgment am I come into the world,’ said He, ‘that they which see not might see.’ And it is possible that the general illuminating influence of Christ’s mission and work, and especially the illuminating power of His Spirit dwelling in men’s spirits, may be included in the thoughts of the eye salve with which we are to anoint our eyes as, whence context seems to me rather to narrow the age of the meaning of this part of our Lord’s counsel. For these Laodiceans had the conceit of their own sufficing wealth, of their own prosperous religious condition, and were blind as bats to the real facts that they were miserable and poor and naked.’ Therefore our Lord says: Anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see - recognize your true state; do not live in this dream that you are satisfactorily united to Myself, when all the while the thread of connection is so slender that it is all but snapped. Behold Me as I am, and the things that I reveal to you as they are; and then you will see yourselves as you are.’
So, then, there comes out of this exhortation this thought, that a symptom constantly accompanying the lukewarm condition is absolute unconsciousness of it. In all regions the worse a man is the less he knows it. It is the good people that know themselves to be bad; the bad ones, when they think about themselves, conceit themselves to be good. It is the men in the van of the march that feel the prick of the impulse to press farther: the laggards are quite content to stop in the rear. The higher a man climbs, in any science, or in the practice of any virtue, the more clearly he sees the unsealed peaks above him. The frost-bitten limb is quite comfortable. It is when life begins to come back into it that it tingles and aches. And so these Laodiceans were like the Jewish hero of old, who prostituted his strength, and let them shear away his locks while his lazy head lay in the harlot’s lap: he went out ‘to shake himself’ as of old times, and knew not that the Spirit of God had departed from him. So, brethren, the man in this audience who most needs to be roused and startled into a sense of his tepid religionism is the man that least suspects the need, and would be most surprised if a more infallible and penetrating voice than mine were to come and say to him, ‘Thou - thou art the man.’ ‘Anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see’; and let the light, which Christ pours upon unseen things, pour itself revealing into your hearts, that you may no longer dream of yourselves as ‘rich, and increased with goods, and having need of nothing’; but may know that you are poor and blind and naked.
Another thought suggested by this part of the counsel is that the blind man must himself rub in the eye salve. Nobody else can do it for him. True! it comes, like every other good thing, from the Christ in the heavens; and, as I have already said, if we will attach specific meanings to every part of a metaphor, that ‘eye salve’ may be the influence of the Divine Spirit who convicts men of sin. But whatever it is, you have to apply it to your own eyes. Translate that into plain English, and it is just this, by the light of the knowledge of God and duty and human nature, which comes rushing in a flood of illumination from the central sun of Christ’s mission and character, test yourselves. Our forefathers made too much of self-examination as a Christian duty, and pursued it often for mistaken purposes. But this generation makes far too light of it. Whilst I would not say to anybody, ‘Poke into the dark places of your own hearts in order to find out whether you are Christian people or not,’ for that will only come to diffidence and despair, I would say, ‘Do not be a stranger to yourselves, but judge yourselves rigidly, by the standard of God’s Word, of Christ’s example, and in all your search, ask Him to give you that ‘candle of the Lord,’ which will shine into the dustiest corners and the darkest of our hearts, and reveal to us, if we truly wish it, all the cobwebs and unconsidered litter and rubbish, if not venomous creatures, that are gathered there. Apply the eye salve; it will be keen, it will bite; welcome the smart, and be sure that anything is good for you which takes away the veil that self-complacency casts over your true condition, and lets the light of God into the cellars and dark places of your souls.
II. The second need of the lukewarm church is the true wealth which Christ gives.
‘I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire.’ Now there may be many different ways of putting the thought that is conveyed here, but I think the deepest truth of human nature is that the only wealth for a man is the possession of God. And so instead of, as many commentators do, suggesting interpretations which seem to me to be inadequate, I think we go to the root of the matter when we find the meaning of the wealth which Christ counsels us to buy of Him in the possession of God Himself, who is our true treasure and durable riches.
That wealth alone makes us paupers truly rich. For there is nothing else that satisfies a man’s craving and supplies a man’s needs. ‘He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver, nor he that loveth abundance, with increase’; but if we have the gold of God, we are rich to all intents of bliss; and if we have Him not, if we are ‘for ever roaming with a hungry heart,’ and though we may have a large balance at our bankers, and much wealth in our coffers, and ‘houses full of silver and gold,’ we are poor indeed.
That wealth has immunity from all accidents. No possession is truly mine of which any outward contingency or circumstance can deprive me. But this wealth, the wealth of a heart enriched with the possession of God, whom it knows, loves, trusts, and obeys, this wealth is incorporated with a man’s very being, and enters into the substance of his nature; and so nothing can deprive him of it. That which moth or rust can corrupt; that which thieves can break through and steal; that which is at the mercy of the accidents of a commercial community or of the fluctuations of trade; that is no wealth for a man. Only something which passes into me, and becomes so interwoven with my being as is the dye with the wool, is truly wealth for me. And such wealth is God.
The only possession which we can take with us when our nerveless hands drop all other goods, and our hearts are untwined from all other loves, is this durable riches. ‘Shrouds have no pockets,’ as the grim proverb has it. But the man that has God for his portion carries all his riches with him into the darkness, whilst of the man that made creatures his treasure it is written: ‘His glory shall not descend after him.’ Therefore, dear brethren, let us all listen to that counsel, and buy of Jesus gold that is tried in the fire.
III. The third need of a lukewarm church is the raiment that Christ gives.
The wealth which He bids us buy of Him belongs mostly to our inward life; the raiment which He proffers us to wear, as is natural to the figure, applies mainly to our outward lives, and signifies the dress of our spirits as these are presented to the world.
I need not remind you of how frequently this metaphor is employed throughout the Scriptures, both in the Old and the New Testament - from the vision granted to one of the prophets, in which he saw the high priest standing before God, clothed in filthy garments, which were taken off him by angel hands, and he draped in pure and shining vestures - down to our Lord’s parable of the man that had not on the wedding garment; and Paul’s references to putting off and putting on the old and the new man with his deeds. Nor need I dwell upon the great frequency with which, in this book of the Revelation, the same figure occurs. But the sum and substance of the whole thing is just this, that we can get from Jesus Christ characters that are pure and radiant with the loveliness and the candour of His own perfect righteousness. Mark that here we are not bidden to put on the garment, but to take it from His hands. True, having taken it, we are to put it on, and that implies daily effort. So my text puts this counsel in its place in the whole perspective of a combined Christian truth, and suggests the combination of faith which receives, and of effort which puts on, the garment that Christ gives. No thread of it is woven in our own looms, nor have we the making of the vesture, but we have the wearing of it.
There is nothing in the world vainer than effort after righteousness which is not based on faith. There is nothing more abnormal and divergent from the true spirit of the New Testament than faith, so-called, which is not accompanied with daily effort. On the one hand we must be contented to receive; on the other hand we must be earnest to appropriate. ‘Buy of Me gold,’ and then we are rich. ‘Buy of Me raiment,’ and then - listen to the voice that says, Put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man of God created in righteousness and holiness of truth.’
IV. Lastly, all supply of these needs is to be bought.
‘Buy of Me.’ There is nothing in that counsel contradictory to the great truth that ‘the gift of God is eternal life.’ That buying is explained by the great gospel invitation, long centuries before the gospel - ‘Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, . . . buy, and eat, . . . without money and without price.’ It is explained by our Lord’s twin parables of the treasure hid in a field, which, when a man had found, he went and sold all that he had and bought the field; and of the pearl of great price which, when the merchantman searching had discovered, he went and sold all that he had that he might possess the one.
For what is all that we have? Self! and we have to give away self that we may buy the riches and the robes. The only thing that is needed is to get rid, once and for all, of that conceit that we have anything that we can offer as the equivalent for what we desire. He that has opened his eyes, and sees himself as he is, poor and naked, and so comes to sue in forma pauperis, and abandons all trust in self, he is the man who buys of Christ the gold and the vesture. If we will thus rightly estimate ourselves, and estimating ourselves, have not only the negative side of faith, which is self-distrust, but the positive, which is absolute reliance on Him, we shall not ask in vain. He counsels us to buy, and if we take His advice and come, saying, ‘Nothing in my hand I bring,’ He will not stultify Himself by refusing to give us what He has bid us ask. ‘What things were given to me; those I counted loss for Christ. Yea! doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.’ If we, with opened eyes, go to Him thus, we shall come away from Him enriched and clothed, and say, ‘My soul shall be joyful in my God, for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation; He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.’ 1 Peter 1:7. Gold here is emblematic of religion - as being the most precious of the metals, and the most valued by human beings. They professed to be rich, but were not; and he counsels them to obtain from him what would make them truly rich.
That thou mayest be rich - In the true and proper sense of the word. With true religion; with the favor and friendship of the Redeemer, they would have all that they really needed, and would never be in want.
That thou mayest be clothed - With the garments of salvation. This refers, also, to true religion, meaning that what the Redeemer furnishes will answer the same purpose in respect to the soul which clothing does in reference to the body. Of course it cannot be understood literally, nor should the language be pressed too closely, as if there was too strict a resemblance.
And that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear - We clothe the body as well for decency as for protection against cold, and storm, and heat. The soul is to be clothed that the "shame" of its sinfulness may not be exhibited, and that it may not be offensive and repellent in the sight.
And anoint thine eyes with eye-salve - In allusion to the fact that they were blind, Revelation 3:17. The word "eye-salve" - κολλούριον kollourion - occurs no where else in the New Testament. It is a diminutive from κολλύρα kollura - collyra - a coarse bread or cake, and means properly a small cake or cracknel. It is applied to eye-salve as resembling such a cake, and refers to a medicament prepared for sore or weak eyes. It was compounded of various substances supposed to have a healing quality. See Wetstein, in loco. The reference here is to a spiritual healing - meaning that, ill respect to their spiritual vision, what he would furnish would produce the same effect as the collyrium or eye-salve would in diseased eyes. The idea is, that the grace of the gospel enables people who were before blind to see clearly the character of God, the beauty of the way of salvation, the loveliness of the person and work of Christ, etc. See the notes on Ephesians 1:18.
of me—the source of "unsearchable riches" (Eph 3:8). Laodicea was a city of extensive money transactions [Cicero].
gold tried in, &c.—literally, "fired (and fresh) from the fire," that is, just fresh from the furnace which has proved its purity, and retaining its bright gloss. Sterling spiritual wealth, as contrasted with its counterfeit, in which Laodicea boasted itself. Having bought this gold she will be no longer poor (Re 3:17).
mayest be rich—Greek, "mayest be enriched."
white raiment—"garments." Laodicea's wools were famous. Christ offers infinitely whiter raiment. As "gold tried in the fire" expresses faith tested by fiery trials: so "white raiment," Christ's righteousness imputed to the believer in justification and imparted in sanctification.
appear—Greek, "be manifested," namely, at the last day, when everyone without the wedding garment shall be discovered. To strip one, is in the East the image of putting to open shame. So also to clothe one with fine apparel is the image of doing him honor. Man can discover his shame, God alone can cover it, so that his nakedness shall not be manifested at last (Col 3:10-14). Blessed is he whose sin is so covered. The hypocrite's shame may be manifested now; it must be so at last.
anoint … with eye-salve—The oldest manuscripts read, "(buy of Me) eye-salve (collyrium, a roll of ointment), to anoint thine eyes." Christ has for Laodicea an ointment far more precious than all the costly unguents of the East. The eye is here the conscience or inner light of the mind. According as it is sound and "single" (Greek, "haplous," "simple"), or otherwise, the man sees aright spiritually, or does not. The Holy Spirit's unction, like the ancient eye-salve's, first smarts with conviction of sin, then heals. He opens our eyes first to ourselves in our wretchedness, then to the Saviour in His preciousness. Trench notices that the most sunken churches of the seven, namely, Sardis and Laodicea, are the ones in which alone are specified no opponents from without, nor heresies from within. The Church owes much to God's overruling Providence which has made so often internal and external foes, in spite of themselves, to promote His cause by calling forth her energies in contending for the faith once delivered to the saints. Peace is dearly bought at the cost of spiritual stagnation, where there is not interest enough felt in religion to contend about it at all.Isaiah 55:1) without money and without price. It is not to be doubted, but that which is here propounded to be bought (that is, obtained, and procured by such ways and means as God hath directed) is Christ himself, with all his benefits, in whom there is a sufficient spiritual supply for all our spiritual wants; that which to the soul will answer whatever gold serveth the body for; and which to the soul answereth what clothing is to the body, viz. righteousness, wherein a soul may stand before God; and that which will answer what salves are to the body for the cure of its wounds, viz. consolation, and healing of all spiritual wounds and infirmities; in short, whatever thou hast need of, considered either as poor, wretched, and miserable, or as blind and naked.
to buy of me gold tried in the fire; by which is meant either a more pure and glorious state of the church, such as was in the former period, or greater; or a larger measure of light and knowledge in the Gospel, which is better than fine gold; or some particular graces, and a comfortable exercise of them, as fervent love and strong faith, which is much more precious than gold; or rather, all spiritual riches in general, which are in Christ, and are unsearchable, solid, substantial and satisfying; are lasting and durable, precious, excellent, and incorruptible: and the buying of this gold is not to be understood in a proper sense, by giving a valuable consideration for it, for no such is to be given, but in an improper sense; it is a buying without money and without price; Christ and his grace are given freely; Christ of whom it is to be had and of him only, does not sell it, but he gives it to those that come to him for it, and desire to have it, and are willing to part with all, so they may but enjoy it; for that it is to be understood in such a sense, is clear from the character of the persons who are advised to buy, who were poor, or beggars, Revelation 3:17; the end of it is,
that thou mayest be rich; for though this church was rich, yet not in spirituals; and though she was rich in her own conceit, yet not really so: persons are not to be accounted truly rich who have only this world's goods; none are rich but those who have an interest in Christ and his grace; and they who are poor in this world, and yet have grace, are really rich: the next thing advised to is,
and white raiment; that is, and buy white raiment, by which some understand the heavenly glory, robes of immortality, a being clothed upon with the house which is from heaven; this may be compared to raiment, for it is a glory, an immortality, an incorruption to be put on; and fitly enough to white raiment, for the purity and spotlessness of it; and being clothed with this, no nakedness, or shame of it will appear; and this is to be had from Christ, and in the same way as gold is to be bought of him; the design of this advice may be to quicken the desires of the church after heavenly things; though it rather seems to respect something suitable to her in this present state: wherefore others think that by it are meant good works, holiness of life and conversation; but these are never called white raiment, but even rags, yea, filthy ones, in the best; and whatever cover they may be from nakedness in the sight of men, they are no cover from it in the sight of God, nor do they preserve from shame and blushing: rather then by it is meant the righteousness of Christ, which may be compared to raiment; it is upon the saints, and is put upon them as such; it covers as a garment does, protects from injuries, keeps warm, beautifies and adorns, as raiment does; and it may be compared to white raiment for its purity and perfection; now this is to be bought of Christ, it is to be had of him, and is to be had of him freely, without money and without price; it is a free gift of grace; and even faith itself, which receives it, is the gift of God: the ends of giving this advice are,
that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; the soul may be naked when the body is well clothed; and notwithstanding a man's moral righteousness, he may not be clothed; they, and they only are clothed, who have on the righteousness of Christ; nakedness arises from want of, righteousness, which is only covered by the righteousness of Christ; and from hence also springs shame, which Christ's righteousness hides:
and anoint thine eyes with eye salve; by which may be meant the word of God, particularly the Gospel; and anointing with it is making use of it for the gaining of light and knowledge: all without this divine revelation are in darkness, and such who reject the authority of it go astray; the Scriptures are the only directory, and rule of faith and practice; the law is a means of enlightening persons to see their sin and misery, and the danger they are in; and the Gospel is a light, whereby is beheld the glory of Christ, of his person and office, of his grace and righteousness, and of salvation by him; and this is the Gospel of Christ, and is to be had of him freely, even the saving knowledge of it. The Jews have adopted the very Greek word here used into their language, and apply it to the law; says R. Chija (e), speaking of the law,
"Nyel tyrwlyq, "it is a salve for the eye", a plaster for a wound, &c. it is a salve for the eyes, as is written Psalm 19:8.
or else the illumination of the Spirit is meant, by which the eyes of the understanding being enlightened, men see themselves, the impurity of their hearts and nature, the imperfection of their righteousness, their impotency to all that is spiritually good, and that they are lost and undone in themselves; and by which they see Christ and salvation by him, that it is in him, and in no other, and that it is full and suitable, and for the chief of sinners, and that it is all of free grace, and that they have an interest in it; by this they have light into the doctrines of the Gospel, and have some glimpse of the glories of another world; and this is to be had of Christ, who gives his Spirit freely, and an understanding to know spiritual things: and the end of the advice is,
that thou mayest see; who, notwithstanding the conceit she had of herself, was blind; persons may have much human prudence, much knowledge in things moral, yea, in things evangelical, notionally, and yet be blind as to true spiritual light and experience; they only see spiritually and savingly who have the Spirit of God,I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Revelation 3:18. The counsel is conveyed in the dialect of the local situation. ἀγοράσαι in the poor man’s market (Isaiah 55:1, cf. Matthew 6:19-20), significant words as addressed to the financial centre of the district. “From me,” is emphatic; the real life is due to man’s relation with Christ, not to independent efforts upon his own part. Local Christians needed to be made sensitive to their need of Christ; in Laodicea evidently, as in Bunyan’s Mansoul, Mr. Desires-awake dwelt in a very mean cottage. “Refined” = genuine and fresh, as opposed to counterfeit and traditional (cf. Plato, Rep. iii. 413 e, 416 e). For παιδεία wrought upon the people of God by a divine Davidic king whose words are πεπυρωμένα ὑπὲρ χρυσίον τίμιον, see Ps. Sol. 17:47, 48.—ἱμάτια. Laodicea was a famous manufacturing centre, whose trade largely consisted of tunics and cloth for garments. The allusion is (cf. below, on Revelation 3:20 and Revelation 16:15) to careless Christians caught off their guard by the suddenness of the second advent. κολλούριον or κολλύριον (cf. the account of a blind soldier’s cure by a god [Aesculapius?] who bade him κολλύριον συντρῖψαι, Dittenberger’s Sylloge Inscript. Graec. 807, 15 f.), an eye-salve for tender eyes: an allusion to the “Phrygian powder” used by oculists of the famous medical school at Laodicea (C. B. P. i. 52). To the Christian Jesus supplies that enlightenment which the Jews found in the law (Psalm 19:8); “uerba legis corona sunt capitis, collyrium oculis” (Tract. Siphra fol. 143, 2); “uerba legis corona sunt capitis, torques collo, collyrium oculis” (Vajikra R., fol. 156, 1). True self-knowledge can be gained only by the help of Christ, i.e., in the present case mediated by Christian prophecy. Like Victor., Lightfoot (Colossians, p. 44) interprets this allusion by the light of Ephesians 1:8, Colossians 1:27, as a rebuke to the vaunted intellectual resources of the Church; but there is no need thus to narrow the reference. It is to be observed that John does not threaten Laodicea with the loss of material wealth (cf. Pirke Aboth, cited above on Revelation 2:9) in order to have her spiritual life revived.18. I counsel thee] “There is deep irony in this word. One who has need of nothing, yet needs counsel on the vital points of self-preservation.”
to buy] Cf. Isaiah 55:1 : the counsel to a poor beggar to buy is of course meaningless, unless he can buy “without money and without price,” or, as the Hebrew of that passage more literally means, “for (what is) not money and for (what is) not a price.” Thus the word is not a mere synonym for “receive:” the sense is, “Thou hast nothing to give, but thou must give all that thou hast” (Matthew 13:44; Matthew 13:46). The nothingness of human merit is a reason against exalting self, but not a reason for sparing self: the Lord does not bid us say, “We are unprofitable servants: we cannot and need not do what it is our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10.)
gold tried in the fire] Right in sense, though “fresh burnt from the fire” would be perhaps more literal: cf. Revelation 1:15, where the same participle is used as here. The meaning of the “gold” is defined in the next words: it stands for spiritual “riches” of any sort.
white raiment] As in Revelation 3:4-5.
that the shame &c.] Cf. Revelation 16:15.
and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve] Read and eyesalve to anoint thine eyes. Collyrium was the common dressing for weak eyes, and could be applied by a barber (see Horace’s Satires, passim), but perhaps hardly by the patient himself.Revelation 3:18. Συμβουλεύω, I give counsel) But if the Superior Being in the meantime lays aside His power, that very fact may possibly be the mark of a mind the more estranged, as if the servant is rebuked by his Lord, and the Lord says, I advise you to take heed to yourself. We give advice even to friends, but not while we rebuke them.—ἡ αἰσχύνη) The Hebrew ערוה is sometimes rendered in the Septuagint by αἰσχύνη.—κολλούριον) namely ἀγοράσαι, to buy, for the purpose of anointing. [This is the last thing. Riches with clothing precede.—V. g.] Celsus speaks at largo on eye-salve.Verse 18. - I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; gold refined by the fire (Revised Version). It is doubtful whether ver. 17 should be connected with ver. 18 or with ver. 16 - whether the self-satisfied condition of the Church is given as the reason why "I will spue thee out of my mouth," or as the reason why "I counsel thee to buy of me." The Revised Version follows the Authorized Version in connecting yore. 17 and 18; and this view is supported by Alford, Bengel, Dusterdieck, Ebrard. But Trench prefers the other view. The Authorized Version seems correct, for the reason why "I will spue thee" is given in ver. 16, and another separate reason would probably (though not certainly) not be added. Though St. Paul (Colossians 2:3) had pointed out to the Laodiceans (see on the epistle generally, vers. 14-22; and el. Colossians 4:16) where "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," they had not heeded the lesson, and now Christ once more counsels them to obtain true riches from the proper source. They are to buy from me; the emphasis being laid on me, in contradistinction to their trust in themselves. They are poor (ver. 17), and must therefore obtain gold refined by the fire - gold superior to that on the possession of which they so prided themselves, that they may indeed be rich. To buy this gold by giving something of equal value in exchange, they were truly unable. Yet it was to be bought, and would entail the sacrifice of something which, though perhaps dear to them, would be nothing in comparison with the return they would obtain. Note the Revised Version rendering may become rich, repeating and enforcing the fact of their present destitution. And white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed. Laodicea is said to have been famous for the raven blackness of the wool which was prepared and dyed there. This, perhaps, explains the point of the reproof contained in these words. "Notwithstanding thy trust in the excellence of the apparel for which thou aft famous, thou art yet naked (ver. 17), and needest clothing; that clothing can be obtained only from me, and is far superior to that of which thou boastest, since it is white, the emblem of all that is purest and best; not black, like your own, which is a type of darkness, the darkness of ignorance and sin. Mine is indeed the garment of righteousness, the marriage garment with which thou mayest enter the presence of thy King." And that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear. The nakedness will certainly be made apparent at some time. If it be persistently overlooked or ignored now, it will be made more glaring in the future, when God turns upon it the brightness of his presence. In the Revised Version "appear" is even more emphatically rendered "be made manifest" (φανερωθῇ). "Stripping," in the Bible, is commonly used to denote putting to shame: Hanun cut off the garments of David's servants (2 Samuel 10:4); the King of Assyria was to lead away the Egyptians naked and barefoot (Isaiah 20:4; see also Revelation 16:15); while supplying with clothes, or an additional quantity of clothes, was intended to show honour: thus Pharaoh arrayed Joseph in vestures of fine linen (Genesis 41:42); Joseph gave Benjamin five changes of raiment (Genesis 45:22; see also Esther 6:9; Ezekiel 16:10; Daniel 5:29; Zechariah 3:4; Luke 15:22). And anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. This is, of course, a reference in the "blindness" of ver. 17, of which the Laodiceans were ignorant. "Eyesalve" is κολλούριον ( ξολλψριυμ, perhaps so called because made up in the shape of a cake of bread - collyra. We cannot but think, in connexion with this passage, of the miracle of the healing of the blind man by the anointing of his eyes by our Lord - a miracle witnessed and related by St. John (John 9.). The subsequent incidents and discourse, too, forcibly illustrate the state of the Laodiceans, so much like that of the Pharisees, to whom were addressed the words, "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin; but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth" (see on ver. 15).
With a certain irony. Though He might command, yet He advises those who are, in their own estimation, supplied with everything.
Compare Isaiah 4:1; Matthew 13:44, Matthew 13:46. Those who think themselves rich, and yet have just been called beggars by the Lord, are advised by Him to buy. The irony, however, covers a sincere and gracious invitation. The goods of Christ are freely given, yet they have their price - renunciation of self and of the world.
Often of gold money or ornaments. So 1 Peter 1:18; Acts 3:6; 1 Peter 3:3. Also of native gold and gold which has been smelted and wrought (Hebrews 9:4). There may very properly be a reference to the extensive money transactions of Laodicea.
Tried in the fire (πεπυρωμένον ἐκ πορὸς)
The verb means to burn, to be on fire: in the perfect passive, as here, kindled, made to glow; thence melted by fire, and so refined. Rev., refined by, fire. By fire is, literally, out of the fire (ἐκ; see on Revelation 2:7).
Rev., garments. See on Revelation 3:4.
Mayest be clothed (περιβάλῃ)
Rev., more literally, mayest clothe thyself. See on Revelation 3:5.
Do not appear (μὴ φανερωθῇ)
Rev., more literally, be not made manifest. See on John 21:1. Stripping and exposure is a frequent method of putting to open shame. See 2 Samuel 10:4; Isaiah 20:4; Isaiah 47:2-3; Ezekiel 16:37. Compare also Matthew 22:11-13; Colossians 3:10-14.
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