Brackish water is no good for drinking. A church with a brackish testimony is good for even less. A church like that actually makes the Lord sick.
A True Savior Presents Himself to a Faithless Church
Jesus introduces Himself to Laodicea as “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” (v. 14). Why introduce Himself to this congregation in this way? “The Amen” is the only place in Scripture that describes Christ in this way. It is a transliteration of the Hebrew for “truth,” “affirmation, “certainty” and speaks to Christ’s character. The Lord further stresses this aspect of Himself by also adding that He is the “faithful and true witness,” both of which speak to the character of His Word. He brings these things out to church of Laodicea because it was a false church. It is the only one of the seven churches that received no words of commendation from Christ. Even the dying church at Sardis still had believers in it. But Laodicea, for all its apparent wealth, was wholly dead. The last descriptor Christ gives of Himself is a little ambiguous in our English translation: “the beginning of the creation of God.” That wording seems to imply that Christ is God’s first created being. The Greek is much clearer. The word translated “beginning” is the Greek word archē and in this context is best understood as “source” (or architect). So, Jesus is saying: “[I am] the source of the creation of God.” Jesus makes this assertion about Himself to counter the heresy that had entered this church, the same one that had corrupted the nearby church of Colossae. That heresy was a form of Gnosticism that taught that Jesus was a created being, one of a series of emanations from God [MacArthur, John F.. Revelation 1-11 MacArthur New Testament Commentary (MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series) (p. 134). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition]. Every corrupt church, every heresy can trace its root problem back to its understanding of Christ. Laodicea was no different. It had become an unregenerate church because it believed in an unbiblical Christ. We do not have the luxury of worshipping a Christ of our own imaginations. The only saving Christ is the Christ of the Bible.
A Sickening Testimony
The city of Laodicea itself was a wealthy one. In A.D. 60 when an earthquake devastated the city, it was able to pay for its own repairs, even refusing offers of financial aid from Rome. Laodicea boasted three major industries: wool manufacture, banking, and the production of a well-known eye salve.
In His rebuke of the church, Jesus wastes no time in telling them that He finds them sickeningly lukewarm:
(15) I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
(16) So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will [spew] thee out of my mouth.
Although Laodicea sat in a strategic location high on a plateau, its great weakness was its water supply. All the water for the city had to come to it by way of aqueducts. By the time the water reached the city it was dirty and lukewarm, unfit for immediate use. The Laodiceans understood well Jesus’s illustration when He told them he would spew them out of His mouth. “Some churches make the Lord weep, others make Him angry; the Laodicean church made Him sick.” [MacArthur, John F.. Revelation 1-11 MacArthur New Testament Commentary (MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series) (p. 136). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.]
Stand up and be SOMETHING!
Jesus said He would have preferred the Laodiceans to be cold or hot. Hot would have been a faithful church with a vibrant and clear testimony, like the church at Philadelphia. Cold would have been a people openly hostile to the cause of Christ, like Paul before he was saved. But why would the Lord have preferred a hostile group over a lukewarm one? Is it because there is something inherently good in a hostile message? No, but there are some admirable characteristics in a hostile messenger. At least someone like that is willing to be something. A person like that is willing to take a stand of some kind and is not shy about it. The Lord can actually work with someone like that (as He did with Paul). What made the Laodicean church so sickening was its lack of character. It did not fervently serve the Lord and neither did it outright reject Him. It had a “form of religion,” that sent a tepid, muddy message to the community it served. The Lord has no use for Christians with an anemic testimony and no use for a “nothing” church.