November 27, 2011

Monday after the First Sunday in Advent

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 1, 3, Isaiah 1:1-9, Mark 1:1-13
Evening - Ps. 4, 8, Is. 1:10-20, Rev. 3:14-22

Commentary
Revelation 3:14-22

Laodicea is the seventh church addressed in Revelation, and it is best known for being lukewarm (3:16). Many modern readers believe this refers to a lack of devotion, as though the church is neither possessed of a burning devotion to Christ, nor totally devoid of devotion, but this raises the question of why Christ would rather them be hot or cold than lukewarm. Surely He is not saying no devotion is better than lukewarm devotion? Instead of this very popular view, our Lord probably compares the church to the hot and cold springs for which the area was known. Believed to have medicinal benefits, water from them was drinkable very hot or very cold, but nauseating when lukewarm, causing people seeking cures to spit them out. So the meaning of "lukewarm" is that the church of Laodicea is like the run off from the hot and cold springs after it has lost its heat or cold. In contemporary language, they are completely lost. Therefore the Lord will spit them out.

The cause of their lukewarmness is their attachment to the things of the world, which causes them to neglect Christ. They are "increased with goods" and believe they "have need of nothing" (3:17). In reality they are spiritually poor and in desperate need of the true wealth that can only be received by grace through faith (3:18). They need the eyes of their souls to be anointed with medicine so they can see Christ and be saved. Thus, our Lord urges them to repent (3:19).

We are now brought to the well known words of verse 20, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." It must be noted that the words are addressed to the Church rather than the world, and that their call is to those who consider themselves Christians. The call is to examine their lives and hearts to see if they are truly Christians as defined in Scripture rather than as defined by their own ideas of what a Christian is. This kind of self examination is critical to the Church, for we must always compare what we believe and teach to Scripture, lest we, too, become lukewarm.

Verses 20-22 tell of the blessings of those who "open the door" to Christ, and remain faithful to Him through temptation and tribulation. Like each previous letter, the one to Laodicea ends with the invitation to hear what the Lord is saying to the churches. It is important to remember that the persecution which has put John in prison on Patmos and taken Antipas to a martyr's death is going to increase in scope and severity. The churches will not be able to persevere through it if they are preoccupied with wealth, heresy, or division. These things will entice the heart away from Christ, and, if faced with the choice of giving up their faith in Christ or their lives, they will give up Christ. So Christ is calling them to a single minded faith that will see them through the trial and bring them safely to heaven. This is the purpose and meaning of the letters to the seven churches.

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