Christs Address to the Decaying Church
by William Nicholson, 1862
"Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Revelation 3:20
This language was addressed to the Church at Laodicea, then in a
declining state. It was situated in the southern part of Phrygia, about forty miles from Ephesus, and not far from Colosse. It was once a large and flourishing city; but it has been destroyed by earthquakes. The place is abandoned, and now lies in solitary ruins.
I. The State of the Church at Laodicea.It was a state of declension and lukewarmness.
A state of,
1. Lukewarmness. "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth!" Revelation 3:15-16
The word cold implies the absence of religion — a state where everything is lifeless and dead.
The word hot denotes the opposite, warm, zealous, and fervent in religious services — constrained by the love of Christ.
To be neither cold nor hot denotes a profession of religion, but no warm-hearted piety. This is a state in which there is no decided hostility to Christ and his cause, nor such warm-hearted and honest love as he had a right to expect. From those who profess not his name, he expects nothing but coldness. But from those professing it, he has a right to expect the glow of a warm affection; but he often finds nothing but indifference.
Therefore Christ says, "I wish that you were cold or hot." I would prefer either of these states, to that of lukewarmness. Better be decided one way or the other, and develop your true character — than profess love me, when you do not. It would be more honest — it would be more honorable — it would be better for the Church — it would be better for yourself. For if your love was ardent, you would be right and happy. And if you had no love at all, but cold, you would not be deceiving yourself; and as a lost sinner you might more easily be brought to repentance.
The most hopeless of all people, in regard to salvation, are those who are members of the Church without any true religion.
2. Vain confidence. "You say: I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing." Revelation 3:17
While the Church at Laodicea had declined in numbers and spirituality — their spiritual pride and self-confidence had proportionably increased. Perhaps they reckoned themselves superior to others, as possessed of spiritual gifts, etc. See 1 Corinthians 4:8-10; 5:2. They preferred themselves to others, and being proud in spirit instead of poor in spirit, they resembled the Pharisee, who boasted that he was "rich and increased in goods." Luke 18:10-14.
3. A state of abject wretchedness, and ignorance of that state. "But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked!" Thus while they were glorying in themselves, the eye of Omniscience had inspected them, and the Hand of truth had recorded their character as one of extreme wretchedness and peril.
Self-righteousness renders a person utterly incapable of faith in Christ. This delusion took place because they were "blind," they had only that "knowledge that puffs up."
The original expressions are very emphatic, preceded by the definite article:
"You are the wretched one," an outcast and perishing.
"You are the miserable one;" the object of pity and deep commiseration (so it might be translated), and liable to be miserable forever.
"You are the poor one;" with all your pretensions to piety, you have not religion enough to meet your trials, your afflictions, your death.
"You are the blind one," having no just views of yourself as a sinner, nor of the character of God, nor of the way of salvation.
"You are the naked one," without the garment of salvation, no vital interest in the finished work of Christ.
4. A state of imminent peril. "I will vomit you out of my mouth!" verse 16. Christ will not dwell in a Church so characterized. He withdraws from it. "Ichabod," is written on its doors — "The glory is departed." Though he may for a season "stand at the door," he will not dwell with the lukewarm, the proud and self-sufficient. Unless they repent, and become more "fervent in spirit," and look away from themselves to Christ, he will finally reject them, even as a man, whose stomach nauseates, will vomit it out of his mouth with loathing and disgust.
II. Christ Compassionated The Church At Laodicea.
He desires the repentance and happiness of his backsliding or declining people. He is willing to return to the Church; for "he stands at the door and knocks."
He stands therewith an important mandate: "Be zealous and repent," verse 19 The gracious design of his providential and gracious dealings is to induce this. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." All is done in love.
He stands at the door . . .
with the wisest counsels,
with the richest blessings,
and with the noblest design.
He counsels them to buy from him; that is, to accept on his own terms, the riches of his grace, without money, etc. Isaiah 55:1, etc.
"Gold tried in the fire," even that precious grace and faith which survived the hottest fires of persecution, etc., and which will enrich for eternity!
"White clothing." Being naked, it is needed. Put on the robes of salvation: believe, and be justified, etc.
"Anoint your eyes," etc. Examine yourselves by the word of God, and crave the teaching of the Holy Spirit, that heavenly unction which renders the most ignorant wise unto salvation.
Christ is most gracious, earnest, and patient, in seeking for the revival of decaying churches. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock!"
It implies great love and condescension. The offended, the expelled One, sues for re-admittance.
It implies earnestness and importunity. He knocks at the door of the heart. To recover from wretchedness and woe, to save a soul from death — he knocks at the door of the heart for admittance. Sometimes he knocks . . .
by the law,
by alarms of conscience,
by his ministers, who warn and admonish,
by his providence,
by the fearful end of false professors,
by his judgments upon fallen Churches.
It implies patience and long-suffering. "He stands." This sheds luster upon the character of the Redeemer, being a merciful as well as a faithful High Priest, and adds to his manifestive glory as the supreme Jehovah.
Moses kindled into anger at the rebellion of Israel. Jonah does "well to be angry," and Zechariah says in haste, "I will not feed you; that which dies let it die." But Christ stands at the door, and knocks again and again. Hosea 11:8.
III. Compliance With the Will of Christ, Will Produce the Happiest Results.
Compliance — that is,
if convinced of their lukewarm, pharisaic pride, wretched and perishing condition;
if they repent, confess their sins, and believe in the Mediator;
if they hear his voice so as to be warned and persuaded;
if they open the door, being influenced by the quickening and renovating influence of the Spirit of God;
if they discover their own nakedness and wretchedness, and perceive and covet the superlative excellencies of the grace of Christ, constraining them to say, "Begone, all idols, from my heart; only Christ shall dwell there by faith."
The happiest results — the state is reversed.
The Divine presence in the heart.
Intimate communion: "I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" — denoting intimacy and friendship. The idea is, that between the Savior and the revived soul there would be perfect friendship and the most delightful and endearing communion. They should feast on the rich and abundant provisions of his grace.