Laodicea: A Devotional on The Lukewarm Church
Amy Flattery, Director of Center for Holy Lands Studies
Laodicea’s mentioned five times in the New Testament, mostly in the Book of Colossians. Paul mentioned a deep connection between the church here with the church of Colossae, so much so that Paul asked that the letter to the Colossians be traded for the letter sent to the Laodiceans after they read it as it was applicable to both churches.
We know Paul also sent a letter to the Laodiceans, but as far as we know it has been lost. However, many scholars propose with convincing evidence that the letter commonly identified as “To the Ephesians” could be the missing letter to the Laodiceans. We are not sure if Paul visited Laodicea as he traveled through the region, but his mention of “all who have not met me personally” in Colossians 2 seems to imply that he did not visit this church in Laodicea.
The final reference we have to Laodicea is in the New Testament in the Book of Revelation, chapter 3. The letter to the Laodiceans does not mention anything positive regarding the church. The letter only rebukes them for their lukewarm nature and their pride: “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:15–17, NLT).
The mention of lukewarm would have spoken clearly to this church. The city of Laodicea had a system that brought water into the city by aqueducts from several locations. One system brought in hot water and the other delivered cold. When the two combined, the result was lukewarm water that was filled with calcium deposits. The lukewarm water was unusable, undrinkable, and useless. It was no wonder Christ referred to this church as lukewarm. It would have certainly caught their attention.
How do you feel about the statement lukewarm? It is an unpleasant state. It is a state of indifference showing a lack of interest or concern. They were showing indifferent toward God. In the Book of Revelation, the church here was admonished because they thought they had all they needed, but they had forgotten the One who provides. Chapter 3, verse 19 says, “I correct and discipline everyone I love so be diligent and turn from your indifference” (NLT).
What can we learn from the letter to the church in Laodicea? In essence, we are to be passionate for God at all times. A half-hearted effort is no effort at all. Are you lukewarm? If so, what discipline do you need to incorporate to become fully dedicated to the Lord?
We are loved by God. He is neither hot nor cold in relation to us, so in all sincerity I encourage you to not be one who is half-hearted in your relationship with God. Be fully diligent and devoted in your relationship, just as the church in Laodicea was encouraged to be. I will close with the final verses in the letter to this church: “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches” (Revelation 3:20–22, NLT).