And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things said the Amen, the faithful and true witness…
And unto the angel of the Church of the Laodiceans, etc. "Laodicea is in the south-west of Phrygia, on the river Lycus, not far from Colossae, lying between it and Philadelphia, destroyed by an earthquake A.D. , rebuilt by its wealthy citizens without the help of the state. This wealth (arising from the excellence of its wools) led to a self-satisfied, lukewarm state in spiritual things. In Colossians 4:16 it is mentioned. The Church in later times was flourishing, for one of the councils at which the canon of Scripture was determined was held in Laodicea in A.D. . Hardly a Christian is now to be found near its site" (Fausset). We have here certain solemn and significant facts concerning a corrupt Church, such a Church as that which was existing at this time in Laodicea.
I. ITS REAL CHARACTER WAS THOROUGHLY KNOWN. There was an eye that peered into its deepest depths, knew well its moral elements and temperature. He who thus looked into and through it is thus described.
1. He is "the Amen." This is the Hebrew word for "verily," or "truly " - a word of energetic assertion and familiar use. In Christ, we are told, "is Yea and Amen." He is positive and declarative Truth. What he predicates is true to reality; what he predicts will be realized, whether lamentable or otherwise.
2. He is "the faithful and true Witness." What is a true witness?
(1) One who has an absolute knowledge of the subject of which he affirms. And
(2) one who is absolutely above all temptation to misrepresent. Christ has no motive to deceive, no evil to dread, no good to gain.
3. He is "the Beginning of the creation of God." He seems not only to have been the First of the creation, but in some sense the Originator. He is the Beginning, the Continuance, and Purpose of all. This is a mystery unfathomed, perhaps fathomless. This is the transcendent Being who knew thoroughly this Laodicean Church, and who knows all Churches. "I know thy works" - know them in their hidden germs and ever-multiplying branches.
"Oh may these thoughts possess my breast,
Where'er I roam, where'er I rest;
Nor let my weaker passions dare
Consent to sin, for God is near."
II. ITS SPIRITUAL INDIFFERENTISM IS DIVINELY ABHORRENT. "I would thou wert cold or hot." Cold water is refreshing, hot water is sometimes pleasant, the tepid is always more or less sickening. Well does an old writer say, "Lukewarmness or indifference in religion is the worst temper in the world. If religion is a real thing, it is the most excellent thing, and therefore we should be in good earnest in it; if it is not a real thing, it is the vilest imposture, and we should be earnest against it. If religion is worth anything, it is worth everything; an indifference here is inexcusable."
1. Spiritual indifferentism is a most incongruous condition. All nature seems in earnest: seas and stars are on the gallop; plants and animals rush onward on the lines of decay or growth; the minds of all moral beings are flowing with more or less speed in one direction or another.
2. Spiritual indifferentism is a most incorrigible condition. Theoretical infidelity we may break down by argument, but moral indifferentism cannot be touched by logic. The spiritually indifferent man shouts out his Creed every Sunday, damns the atheist, and yet himself is "without God in the world." Truly such a state of mind must be abhorrent to him who demands that all should love him with their whole heart, soul, and strength. What an awful supposition that man can sicken and disgust the Infinite! "I will spue thee out of my mouth." Moral depravity nauseates the holy universe.
III. ITS SELF-DECEPTION IS TERRIBLY ALARMING. "Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods [have gotten riches], and have need of nothing; and knowest not, that thou art wretched [the wretched one], and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."
1. Look at the condition in which they fancied themselves. "I am rich, and increased with goods." They fancied themselves rich and independent. "Have need of nothing." They wished to be all this, and the wish is evermore the father to the thought. Ah me! it is by no means uncommon for men to fancy themselves to be what they are not. If you go into lunatic spheres there you may see dwarfs fancying themselves giants and illustrious heroes, paupers thinking they are millionaires, and poor beggars kings of the first order. But elsewhere I find in all the departments of human life that are considered to be sane, scenes scarcely less absurd.
2. Look at the condition in which they really are. "And knowest not that thou art wretched [the wretched one], and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." "Wretched," though they may dance and sing; pitiable, though lauded by princes, premiers, and peers; "blind," though the physical optics are sound; and "naked," though robed in splendour. Wretched, pitiable, blind, naked in soul: what a condition is this! what terrible self-deception! "The first and worst of all frauds," says Festus, "is to cheat one's sell All sin is easy after that."
IV. ITS MISERABLE CONDITION NEED NOT BE HOPELESS.
1. Recovery is freely offered. "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried [refined] in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment [garments]," etc. Is there irony here? How can the poor buy gold, become rich, procure white garments, and salve for the diseased eyes? No; there is no irony here. The blessings here offered require no outlay of material wealth. All is to be won by true faith, and all can believe. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come," etc.
2. Recovery is divinely urged. "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock." Here observe:
(1) Christ's attitude towards the soul. He does not come occasionally and depart. He "stands," implying his deep concern, his infinite condescension, and his wonderful patience. He waits to be gracious.
(2) Christ's action upon the soul. He stands not as a statue, but knocks - knocks at the door of intellect with truths, at the door of conscience with principles, at the door of love with transcendent charms.
(3) Christ's purpose with the soul. His mission is not to destroy, but to save it. "I will come in to him." The language implies:
(a) Inhabitation. "I will come in to him."
(b) Identification. "Sup with him, and he with me." Thus sinners are urged to deliver themselves from their miserable condition.
3. Recovery is divinely rewarded. "To him [he] that overcometh will I grant [I will give to him] to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set [sat] down with my Father in his throne." What are the thrones here? Are they some material seats in some radiant and remote part of the universe - the one provided for the Father and the other for the Son? The question is childish, sensuous, and unspiritual. What is the true throne of a human soul?
(1) It is the throne of an approving conscience. That mind alone can rest whose conscience applauds him, and that soul alone can feel exalted and dignified whose conscience chimes to him, "Well done."
(2) It is the throne of moral rule. He who subordinates the material to the spiritual, the animal to the intellectual, the intellectual to the moral, and the moral to God, occupies the true throne. He is king, and none other. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;