Introduction: This morning we’re in Colossians 4.13-16; Revelation 1.9-22; and 3.14-22; So, we’re done with Colossians. I thoroughly enjoyed going through Colossians. Pray for me and our church as I make plans for our next study. Sometimes, it can feel overwhelming.
Context: This is the 7th and final letter to the 7 Churches in Asia Minor from the Apostle, John. Some folks view this letter in light of the other 7 letters as presented in dispensations. The term is Premillennial Dispensationalism. The idea is that each of these letters represents time periods in Church History. For example, the first letter represents the church from 30-100 AD. A time of struggle and growth. The 2nd church represents the time period of 100-300 AD – a time of severe persecution. Etc.
Just FYI, I am not a dispensationalist. I see this letter written to a real church with real problems. That is how I will approach it this morning.
Read: Revelation 1.9-20; 3.14-22
Focus: Christ reproves this church (Laodicea) for relying on itself (17a) and thinking that it was doing so well because it was doing so well by worldly standards. His reproof was based on the reality that they were in bad shape (17b) and needed to rely on Him and not themselves and their ‘success’.
Need: We need to evaluate ourselves and insure that we’re not relying on ourselves in any way; but, rather relying totally on Christ. We need to observe the churches in the Lycus Valley when they started and how they ended up. Likewise, each church must not rely on its laurels, but rather continually seek to humble itself, totally relying on Christ.
History: of Laodicea; Hierapolis – 6 miles north; Colossae – 10 miles East/Southeast; looking from Laodicea Eastward and slightly south toward Colossae, the mountains rise in the distance to some 8,000 ft. These three cities were located in the Lycus Valley on the Lycus River in what is modern day Turkey. In those days, it was the region of Phrygia.
- Hierapolis was famous for its hot springs – famous for medicinal purposes.
- Colossae had cool springs to feed it’s city on the river.
- Archeological evidence indicates that Laodicea received its water via a remarkable aqueduct system made of stone pipes. It was hot at the source, but would cool as it flowed some six miles to Laodicea, being lukewarm when it got to the city. The problem is that the water contained a “calcium carbonate content’ that resulted in the water being impure and emetic – thus it made them sick to their stomachs, and even caused vomiting.
We know very little to nothing of the church in Hierapolis; she is referenced in Col. 4.13, as is the church at Laodicea; we also know whose house they met in; & that they get another letter that Paul wrote. rd 4.13-16; A couple of interesting historical facts about Laodicea:
- In Roman times, Laodicea was the wealthiest city in Phrygia. Their financial independence was renown; the region was hit by earthquakes from time to time; and in particular, there was an earthquake the decimated the city in 60 AD, when Nero was emperor; Nero had, what we would call “a stimulus package” that would help them rebuild their city, but according to Tacitus, they accepted none of it, choosing to take care of things themselves; And they were successful at rebuilding their city without Govt. Assistance.
- This particular area in the Lycus Valley was fertile and with rich soil, producing a wonderful agricultural economy; they also had a type of ‘black sheep’ that grazed in the area and produced beautiful, black wool used in making garments.
Ill.: rd Bruce: pg 8; his relation to Bruce Demarest;
- There was a banking system in Laodicea which was second to none. The Roman Statesman and Philosopher, Cicero, wrote of cashing his treasury bills there.
- Laodicea was also famous for its Medical School. It boasted of famous teachers and produced special ointments for medicinal purposes. Most specifically, this school produced an ointment of spices for the ears and a salve for the eyes.
Some of this History is probably review for some of you. But, I wanted to give a brief history, and acknowledge some of their successes because, as you’ll see, it applies to our text in multiple ways. It also gives us an understanding of the pride these people had.
t.s.: For Convenience, I’ve divided my message up into two main points this morning. As we look at this letter, we see how Jesus confronts the Laodiceans for their Self-Reliance and then calls them to abandon that and begin to rely on their Savior.
I. Relying on One’s Self (3.15-17)
exp.: Rd v 14-16; I know your works; let me just say that ‘works’ in themselves will always be insufficient in and of themselves! They give a sense of satisfaction that is simply momentary. I hear Jesus saying to them: You’re just like the putrid water that comes to you through your fancy aqueduct, and so you sicken me. But what is it that sickens Him?
- I grew up hearing that Christ was sickened by a ‘half-hearted’ commitment; Christ is demanding here an unwavering, or undying commitment (hot) or a complete turning away (cold).
- A newer, more recent interpretation is also that the terms hot and cold and lukewarm represent the waters from the other towns – Hierapolis and Colossae. Whereas the cold referred to as totally abandoning Christ, here the cold is beneficial. I wish that you were beneficial to me, but you’re not!
- So what is it? Jesus says in verse 15, I know your works. So, it must have something to do with the work they were doing as a congregation.
Ill.: GK Beale believes that all of the works listed in the previous churches’ letters deal with their witness. And so, that must be the ‘work’ Jesus is talking about (their witness). He says, here’s what you think: rd v 17a;
- You’re rich
- You have prospered
- You need nothing
But the reality is (rd 17b) that you’re:
- Wretched – appears one other time; Rom 7.24; who can save me?
- Pitiable – also appears one other time; 1 Cor 15.19;
Consider from WEBS: (Source unknown)
- If there is no Hell, then there is no punishment for sin, and
- if there is no punishment for sin, then God is not just and
- if God is not just, then we do not need a Savior, and
- if we don’t need a Savior, then Jesus died in vain and
- if Jesus died in vain then He was a fool and we of all men are to be pitied because we have placed our faith in someone who was not who He said He was and did not do what He said He could do and did not come for the reason He claimed to have come and cannot give us what He said He could give us.
I get the idea that someone who plays the game of Christianity is no better off than the fool who is to be pitied because he’s wasted his life.
- Poor – worthless; Gal 4.9; going back to slavery!
- Blind – No surprises here; τυφλὸς; I was blind, but now I see;
- Naked – nothing surprising here: exposed, open, nothing to cover with;
ill.: we see this ‘ultimate sign of being in sin’ back in Gen 3; I’m amazed that Gen 1-2 we see them ‘uncovered’ and yet it was all ok;
app.: Our minds struggle with how it was originally designed – in their purity; but in their sinful state, we see they needed to be covered; that’s the picture here of how we appear in reality before God when we chose our own self-reliance. We are like the emperor who had no clothes!
t.s.: But Christ calls them to no longer rely on their own self sufficiency and, instead, to
II. Relying on One’s Savior (3.18-20)
exp.: Look at his titles in v 14; These self-descriptions of Jesus are here to declare his faithfulness; you can trust him;
- Perfect Faithfulness; You can trust him! He offers:
- Perfect Counsel (v 18)
- Gold – so you can be rich; not relying on your own finances7
- Clothes – so that you won’t be naked; white vs. black wool
- Medicine – So that you can see! Not that ointment you produce, real healing!
- Perfect Provision – ‘from me’; your provision is lacking, mine is perfect.
- Perfect Love – (v 19) displayed in discipline & reproof; we understand this, as we teach our children, as we discipline (disciple) our children
- Perfect Relationship (v 20);
- He initiates
- But you got to respond!
- Perfect Counsel (v 18)
Conclusion: I want to give you a chance to respond today – as a church and as individuals. Invitation to come to Christ.
- Self-Perception is critical in determining Self-Reliance. That is, How do you see yourself as an individual and as a church? Listen, I want to be proud of Tarpley. I want to have a sense of pride in my walk. I do! I want to hold my head high at the mention of this congregation. I want you to do the same. But, in that same breath, I want my pride to stem from our walk with Christ. these people saw themselves as perfectly sufficient to meet their own needs.
Humility is a difficult trait to master. False humility reaps its own rewards which neither satisfy the soul nor the Master. It is different than humiliation, which comes when pride is the trait behind the actions.
- Be careful when measuring success and blessing. Neither of these is truly visible with the naked eye. Don’t confuse beauty of facilities and numerical growth as blessings and success. And by all means, don’t measure your success by the earthly standards set when comparing yourself with other communities of faith. What you have in savings doesn’t mark your success or failure.