Laodicean Church Falls Hard After 30 Years…
In Paul’s letter to the Colossian believers, Paul makes a point in his closing remarks to mention a church that was up and coming at the time. It was the church in Laodicea, which as you can see from the map, is on the road between Hierapolis to the north and Colossae to the south. It makes sense that Paul would mention this church in his letter to the Colossians. Here’s what he says.
Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.
And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea, (Colossians 4:15-16; KJV).
By the time, Paul wrote Colossians, the church in Laodicea was already somewhat established and growing. Apparently, the believers in Laodicea met at a man’s house by the name of Nymphas. This was the usual pattern in the first century, with believers meeting in people’s homes. The idea of “mega” churches as the world sees today was most definitely not a New Testament phenomenon.
Most conservative scholars believe that Paul wrote his letter to the Colossian believers around AD 60 or 62, somewhere in there. The apostle John wrote his letter we call Revelation around AD 95-96. Of course, there is great disagreement over this, but this is also the date that seems to make the most sense to me regarding when John penned Revelation and when he mentions the church at Laodicea (along with other churches).
What we’re talking about a difference of approximately 30 to 35 years since the rough beginning of the Laodicean church from Paul’s time to the point when John records the warnings of Jesus concerning this particular church. Thirty to thirty-five years is not really a long time at all.
While the beginnings of the church seemed to start off on solid ground, it is clear that just 30 or so years later, the church was in deep spiritual trouble. Yet, to see the church from the outside (or even from the inside) did not necessarily cause any concern for most. But let’s read what Jesus says about this church specifically as recorded by John in Revelation 3:14-21.
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;
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
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.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
In the above verses, we can clearly see that there is a problem because Jesus points it out. It is also very likely that the believers at the Laodicean church were not aware of any problem at all. They saw no need for change because they saw no problem. Remember, this is only three decades after Paul mentioned this specific church. While they seemed to be on their way spiritually speaking, something happened along the way that derailed them. If they continued on their present course, Jesus Himself would spit them out of His mouth.
From the time wrote somewhat encouraging words about the church and believers at Laodicea, to the writing of John’s letter, clearly something went terribly wrong with that church for Jesus Himself to commit such harsh words to pen and paper. What was the problem with the Laodicean church? According to the text above, they had several problems.
- they were lukewarm where Jesus and the gospel were concerned
- they had PLENTY and because of it, really had no worries and actually likely thought they were “blessed”
- they had yet to go through the fires of purification (persecution) which would have emotionally separated them from the cares of this world
- the church had gotten to a point where fellowship with Jesus was actually non-existent! He was standing on the OUTSIDE of that church knocking in the hopes that someone would let Him in for FELLOWSHIP
This is true of too many churches and Christians today. We wrongly assume because we have money to meet the budget or our myriad “programs” are running full-bore with excited, happy children and adults, then things must be going very well. We assume that since we are not lacking anything physically (money, food, etc.,), then obviously God has blessed us. Since He has blessed us, then there is nothing wrong with what we are doing.
Tell that to all the Christians throughout the world today who are suffering tremendous persecution – often to their deaths – because of being Christians. If we follow the logic through, then clearly, those Christians are not “blessed” because they are being persecuted.
In fact, there are way too many Christians who have it completely backwards. They pray for America’s “revival,” and why is that? It’s solely because they do not want to have to experience persecution. It is because they wrongly believe that persecution is a bad thing, yet it is clear from Paul’s letter to the Colossians alone that persecution is a very good thing for our spiritual growth in Christ. Americans hate the thought of discomfort. We do not want to have to take a stand for Jesus and be ridiculed, lose our jobs, or be physically attacked for our faith.
Because of this, we pray for America to “repent” and turn to God, which will not happen. Don’t get me wrong. I fully believe that many will continue to reach out to God and receive His salvation here in America. However, do I see a national repentance and revival coming to America? Absurd, since the Scriptures tell us pointedly that things will continue to grow worse and worse up to the time of Jesus’ Second Coming.
In spite of this, too many Christians are involved in political causes instead of the Great Commission. Politics comes and goes. Issues come and go. Leaders come and go. But the one thing that remains constant is a person’s need to hear, know, and receive the Gospel of grace. There will be no national repentance in America. It cannot happen and for those who hold out hope – based on some author’s “best-selling” book – I am frustrated that these people put more stock in a human author’s work than in the infallible truth of God’s Word.
The situation at Laodicea could happen to any church today. Just because a church appears to be “wealthy,” with a ton of programs for every age group and able to not only pay existing bills, but enter into building and expansion projects does not mean that God has spiritually blessed that particular church. Since too many churches today use marketing agencies to “grow” their church, it simply stands to reason that those marketing agencies would have some positive effect on the flow of income and people into many churches.
The question is what do they teach? What do they believe? Are the leaders of that church equipping the saints who attend? Do the saints who are being equipped understand their calling is to fulfill the Great Commission and are they doing that? Is that church – are those saints at that church – standing on the solid foundation of God’s Word or are they intermingling with the world, trying to woo the world by presenting the Gospel in a way that is non-offensive, in essence, presenting a Gospel that Paul and others would be completely unfamiliar with today?
It does not take long for any religious establishment to slide off its original, biblical foundation (if it started there), if people are not careful. The same of course, is true of individual Christians. It doesn’t take much to slide away and end up at a point where fellowship with God, even though that person is saved, has come to nothing. You wake up one day and realize (if God has mercy on you) that Jesus – the Author of your salvation – is standing on the outside of your heart, knocking to enter so that you and He can once again enjoy the fellowship that you once did.
In order for that to occur, you first have to disconnect yourself and your thinking from the world. You must be willing to start seeing things God’s way. You must realize that fellowship with God is entered into and maintained on His terms, not yours.
Are you willing to suffer for Him if He calls upon you to do it? That might include losing your job because you cannot do certain things expected of you. That may mean beginning to live a life that causes you to stand out because of your love for Him. Can you do it? Are you willing to do it?
But this is the real benefit of a church – a body of believers locally – who love the Lord. It means you and I are not alone. It means it’s not about programs or activities. It means that you have other people at that same church who can come alongside you to encourage, to pray, and even to help. This is one of the reasons why God in Christ created the Church.
Yet, too often today, the local church is little more than an entertainment complex where people go to “feel good” and “get excited” but those things do not create any solid evidence of spiritual maturity.
Are you like one of the believers in the Laodicean church? If so, you need to do what Jesus advised those in Laodicea to do. Stop believing that you’re blessed just because you have material things! Understand that growth in Christ (fellowship) that leads to maturity in Him is a road that is not necessarily comfortable. We are called to follow Him and He warned that just as the world hated Him, it would hate us (John 15:18). We don’t like to be hated, do we?
If everyone you know loves you, you are doing something wrong. It either means you’re not connected at all with the world (in order to fulfill the Great Commission), or you have so watered down Christianity that the people of the world see no difference between them and you.
What’s it going to be, Christian?
Entry filed under: christianity, eternity, Judaism, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation, second coming. Tags: colossians, Colossians 4, laodicea, laodicean church, revelation 3:20.