I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot.

Revelation 3:15


God will speak to us if we read and study and obey the Word of God! But when He does speak, we should speak back to Him in prayer and devotion. Otherwise, we are among the Christians who are mired down right where we are.

Many in our congregations have grown older and yet are not one inch farther up the mountain than on that day when the sun first arose on them in conversion. In fact, some are not even as far advanced along the way with God as they were a few years ago.

If these things are true, I can only conclude that there are “common” Christians, men and women who no longer hear the Lord speaking to them as they should.

Can they really think that this halfway Christian life is the best that we can know?

In the face of what Christ offers us, how can we settle for so little?

It is a tragedy of our time that so many are settling for less than the Lord is willing to give!


Dear Lord, sometimes my spiritual life seems like a world-class roller-coaster ride! I want to keep growing in my relationship with You, Lord.[1]

Since there was nothing for which to commend this unregenerate church, Christ launched directly into His concerns. Deeds always reveal people’s true spiritual state, as indicated by the Lord’s words “you will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16; cf. Rom. 2:6–8). Though salvation is wholly by God’s grace through faith alone, deeds confirm or deny the presence of genuine salvation (James 2:14ff.). The omniscient Lord Jesus Christ knew the Laodiceans’ deeds and that they indicated an unregenerate church.

Christ rebuked them for being neither cold nor hot but lukewarm. His metaphorical language is drawn from Laodicea’s water supply. Because it traveled several miles through an underground aqueduct before reaching the city, the water arrived foul, dirty, and tepid. It was not hot enough to relax and restore, like the hot springs at Hierapolis. Nor was it cold and refreshing, like the stream water at Colossae. Laodicea’s lukewarm water was in a useless condition.

Comparing its spiritual state to the city’s foul, tepid water, Christ gave the Laodicean church a powerful, shocking rebuke: because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Some churches make the Lord weep, others make Him angry; the Laodicean church made Him sick.

Hot people are those who are spiritually alive and possess the fervency of a transformed life. The spiritually cold, on the other hand, are best understood as those who reject Jesus Christ. The gospel leaves them unmoved; it evokes in them no spiritual response. They have no interest in Christ, His Word, or His church. And they make no pretense about it; they are not hypocrites.

The lukewarm fit into neither category. They are not genuinely saved, yet they do not openly reject the gospel. They attend church and claim to know the Lord. Like the Pharisees, they are content to practice a self-righteous religion; they are hypocrites playing games. The Lord Jesus Christ described such people in Matthew 7:22–23: “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” The lukewarm are like the unbelieving Jews of whom Paul lamented, “For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge” (Rom. 10:2). They are those who “[hold] to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Tim. 3:5). Such obnoxious hypocrisy nauseates Christ.

These smug, self-righteous hypocrites are far more difficult to reach with the gospel than cold-hearted rejecters. The latter may at least be shown that they are lost. But those who self-righteously think that they are saved are often protective of their religious feelings and unwilling to recognize their real condition. They are not cold enough to feel the bitter sting of their sin. Consequently, there is no one further from the truth than the one who makes an idle profession but never experiences genuine saving faith. No one is harder to reach for Christ than a false Christian. Jesus’ paralleling critique of the self-righteous, self-deceived Pharisees and Sadducees was that “the tax collectors and prostitutes [would] get into the kingdom of God before [them]” (Matt. 21:31).

Unfortunately, such lukewarm churches are common today, making the letter to the Laodiceans especially relevant. As John R. W. Stott notes,

Perhaps none of the seven letters is more appropriate to the twentieth-century church than this. It describes vividly the respectable, sentimental, nominal, skin-deep religiosity which is so widespread among us today. Our Christianity is flabby and anaemic. We appear to have taken a lukewarm bath of religion. (What Christ Thinks of the Church [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980], 116)[2]

15–16 Sadly, the speaker’s knowledge reveals an unqualified condemnation of the Laodicean church. The verdict is the exact opposite of the church’s own evaluation and expectations. Their deeds were “neither cold nor hot.” The expression “cold nor hot” may refer to their lack of zeal (v. 19) or their uselessness, for Christ says, “I wish you were either one or the other!” (lit., “either cold or hot”). There is good reason why we should not try to take both of these words as though Christ meant, “I wish you were either spiritually cold [i.e., unsaved or hostile] or spiritually hot [i.e., alive and fervent]!” In the first place, it is inconceivable that Christ would wish that people were spiritually cold, or unsaved and hostile. Furthermore, the application of “hot” and “cold” to spiritual temperature, though familiar to us, would have been completely foreign to first-century Christians. The two adjectives in “neither hot nor cold” should be understood together as equivalent to “lukewarmness” (v. 16)—i.e., they were useless to Christ because they were complacent, self satisfied, and indifferent to the real issues of faith in him and of discipleship.

Since the city of Hierapolis, seven miles north of Laodicea, had famous “hot springs,” it may be that similar springs were located south of Laodicea and affected the temperature of the water supply. “I am about to spit [emesai, vomit, GK 1840] you out of my mouth” seems to allude to the lukewarm water. “Cold” could refer to the useful cool water located at Colossae, fewer than ten miles away. “Hot” would remind the Laodiceans of the beneficial “hot springs” to the north of Hierapolis. Yet Laodicea, for all its wealth, had an insipid water supply—one that induced vomiting! Christ detests a Laodicean attitude of compromise, one that seeks easy accommodation and peace at any cost. With such a condition, he must deal harshly. To be a Christian means to be useful to Christ.[3]

[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1999). Revelation 1–11 (pp. 136–137). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Johnson, A. F. (2006). Revelation. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 636). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


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