Note on Our Attitude to Laodicea.





As a huge Laodicea rises around us, composed of Churches which still preach a Divine Christ, but which grow more full of worldliness every year, what is to be our attitude towards it?  This is a question of extraordinary practical importance; and it is a question to which we have an answer of the most exquisite decisiveness.  We have the actual example, in heart and word, of our Lord Himself, in a letter addressed to Laodicea, and therefore to all Laodiceans of all time.  Here we can set our feet on rock.  What Jesus felt, we ought to feel: what He said, we ought to say; what He wrote, we ought to write; His whole attitude should be our whole attitude.  It is a priceless discovery.  The Lord presents Himself as the Faithful and True Witness, the Amen to all that God has said: what a joy if we too, by grace, can succeed in being “faithful and true witnesses,” lisping the very accents of Christ, and “amens” confirming all that God would have us be and say to the Laodicea of the End.


Our Lord first addresses it as a real church:- “to the angel of the church in Laodicea” (Rev. 3: 14).  Laodicea, was an actually existing assembly, for Paul had already addressed a letter “to the Laodiceans (Col. 4: 16); and John is commanded by our Lord (Rev. 1: 11) to transmit this letter also.  As a sevenfold completion of the whole Church, all seven are vital, all are alive; and so of all seven we are bidden to “hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.”  The Laodicean assembly was, therefore, a body of [regenerate] believers: in all seven the Lord recognises their “works,” so assuming a foundation of saving faith: the Gospel, therefore, He never presents to any of the seven: John sees Laodicea’s lampstand in the Holy of holies (Rev. 1: 11, 12).  Nor is the Angel himself less recognized by the Lcrd.  It was still the Apostolic age when “the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers” (Acts 20: 28): the appointment of a wolf in sheep’s clothing was thus impossible; nor, if an unconverted man, would our Lord have confirmed him in office, leaving him not only undismissed, but (so far as the possession of the angelship is concerned) unrebuked.  The Laodicean Angel is one of the seven stars held in the grasp of Christ and shining in the spiritual darkness.  The easy and Superficial solution of an acute church problem - namely, that sin in a soul disproves its second birth, and that Laodicea is no church at all - is not Christ’s solution: this is the most wonderful letter to a backslider ever written.


Now our Lord at once makes a rapid and exceedingly grave diagnosis.  So far from dilating on the Church’s magnificent standing in election and grace; or emphasizing our position of privilege as Body or Bride; or comforting them with the imminence of their coming glory at the Advent:- He says,- “Thou art neither cold nor hot; thou art lukewarm.”  A corpse is cold; a healthy living man is warm: this Angel is alive, but abnormal, because he is .chilled.  Judged by his works he was neither frigid nor at boiling heat: it is the believer who is without enthusiasm” (Dr. Swete).  What makes it the more remarkable is that some regard Paul’s lost Epistle to Laodicea as the Epistle to the Ephesians; and both Colossians (in which the lost Letter is named, and which Paul directs shall be read at Laodicea) and Ephesians deal with the splendid position of the Church in Christ.  Thirty years before, when Paul wrote, it was safe to write thus to Laodicea: on the contrary, to a church on the sharp down-grade a far more solemn word is necessary - a word so sharp, so weighted with judgment, that it is rarely ever commented upon:- “Toward thee [the Gentile Church], GOD’S goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise THOU ALSO SHALT BE CUT OFF” (Romans 11: 22).  So to a Church in which not one gross sensual sin is named; a Church highly esteemed by the State; and a Church wholly ignorant of her rapidly approaching doom, the LORD says, “Because thou art lukewarm, I will” - I am “about to,” a word reserved to the Millennial Age - “SPEW THEE OUT OF MY MOUTH.”


There is now revealed to us the counsel needed by such a church, such counsel as that given by the Faithful and True Witness:- “I COUNSEL thee.”  First, our counsel must be based on an unswerving analysis of the facts.  The facts are these:- great wealth, in endowments, sustentation funds, vast popular contributions; a self-complacency which wholly denies deep departure from Christ, and which imagines that it has His approval; unkeenness, springing from an attempt to make the best of both worlds; poverty of faith; blindness to the signs of the times nakedness of good works - a shame which must some day be exposed; and, worst of all, CHRIST OUTSIDE.  An almost cruel analysis is essential, because the root of the trouble is self-complacency; and no ignorance is so dangerous as ignorance of our ignorance.  Thou KNOWEST NOT that thou art blind.”  Nothing short of a revelation of the facts can shock a Laodicean out of his deadly slumber.  As an overcomer’s sanctity is saved by the unpopularity of the truths he has to proclaim, so Laodicea’s cure is the knife; and our LORD’S words are not the exposure of a detective, but the surgery of a physician; though, if unheeded, they may pass into the summary of the judge, and the writ of the executioner.


Now what exactly is the counsel based by our Lord upon this absolutely faithful and true diagnosis?  I counsel thee to BUY OF ME.”  An outside Christ cannot heal an inside disease.  It is not dragooning, or scolding, or excommunicating, but counsel; and the counsel is an appeal again to receive Christ, when all the worldliness and carnality and compromise will melt away.  Barter, O fallen Church, the world for the graces:- gold, rich in faith; white linen, the righteousnesses of saints; and eyesalve - the illuminations of the Holy Ghost.  “As many as I love, I reprove and chasten: be zealous therefore - that is, because I love you enough to rebuke you - “and repent.”  As a French writer says:- “The essence of true love is not its tenderness, but its strength, its power of endurance, its purity, its self-renunciation.”  We learn a good deal about Laodicea in this letter; but we learn a great deal more about Jesus Christ.


For we now arrive at what must ever be the supremely difficult thing to do.  Our Lord, by the revelation of His heart, reveals what our heart-attitude is to be.  As many as I LOVE” - the Greek is ‘love dearly’: this, utterance puts beyond all doubt that Laodicea is regenerate -  I reprove and chasten”; for “if we are without chastening, ye are BASTARDS and not sons (Heb. 12: 8): the rebuke and chastisement prove the sonship.  Since Christ’s love has not yet left Laodicea, neither must ours.  Now this is our extreme difficulty, as it was to Christ, and our fearful test.  For the recoil from Laodicea’s worldliness was so intense in the Lord Himself that it produced nausea; and exactly in proportion as we have the mind of Christ, so shall we also feel the deep loathing which made Him say,- “Because thou art lukewarm, I will spew thee out of My mouth.  The nausea created by gross worldliness in believers can be overpowering.  Nevertheless, the diagnosis, the counsel, the rebuke, the warning-beneath it all runs an undertone of the deepest tenderness: Christ is grieved, and dishonoured, and nauseated, and expelled, but He still loves; AND THE APPEAL OF LOVE REACHES WHERE NOTHING ELSE WILL REACH.  It is most remarkable that only to the best Church and the worst does Christ name His love: to Philadelphia, that she may not slacken; and to Laodicea, that she may not despair.  For myself I would utterly despair of the standard set by our Lord were it not for the promise self-infolding heights of un-imaginable grace:- “ASK, AND IT SHALL BE GIVEN YOU” (Matt. 7: 7).


Our Lord closes most remarkably.  He presents Himself, standing on the very threshold of the Second Advent, as to a Bride who is between sleeping and waking, and who is unwilling to open to her returning Bridegroom.  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock”; for His command sixty years before had been,- “that when He cometh and knocketh, they may open unto Him IMMEDIATELY” (Luke 12: 36).  We are never to acquiesce in any church’s worldliness or sloth, but are to stand knocking, even though, like Christ, we may have to stand outside the organized churches, in deep concern and undying patience.  But it is still more wonderful than that.  He that overcometh, I will give to Him to sit down with Me in MY THRONE” that is, not God’s throne, which no man is ever invited to share, but our Lord’s Messianic, Millennial throne: “he that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”  Our Lord’s last word to an organized church on earth is a vision of Messiah’s Throne, and the possibility of a backslider yet sharing it: wonderful thought!  The offer of the Throne, with its condition, an overcoming sanctity, is to be pressed increasingly.on Laodicea as the end approaches.  It is most startling.  Follow your Lord’s counsel, O Laodicean Angel, and you will yet step into the front ranks of glory!  We are to shew perfect grace up to the very end; we are to despair of none; we are to offer the highest thrones (on their conditions) to the most worldly believers; we are to have mercy upon what, after all, may be in many an unconscious ignorance; we are constantly to cry out for the sake of  him that hath ears,’ buried deep in slumberous Laodicea.  Ours is to be an attitude of perpetual hopefulness concerning exceptional disciples and exceptional assemblies; for grace is like forked lightning - we never know where it will strike.  Two centuries after this (A.D. 303-313), in Eumenia, a neighbouring city to Laodicea, which shared her reputation for lukewarmness, the whole body of believers, herded by soldiers into the church, and refusing apostasy, were burned to a man, “calling upon the God over all.”  Many shall be last that are first, AND FIRST THAT ARE LAST” (Matt. 19: 30).