Lessons from Laodicea on Transfiguration Sunday

 

 

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Lessons from Laodicea: The worldly materialistic church.

Revelation 3:14–22 (NIV84)

Dr Alex Tang

15 February 2015

 

 

Sermon summary

The Church in Laodicea prided themselves in their wealth, black wool, and healing eye salve. Jesus Christ exposed their delusion about their spiritual attitude, spiritual nakedness and spiritual blindness.

 

15 February 2015 is Transfiguration Sunday

Matthew 17:1–8 (NIV84)

The Transfiguration

17           After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

·        Spiritual attitude

·        Spiritual nakedness

·        Spiritual blindness

 

 

La·od·i·ce·a

To the Church in Laodicea

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

 

Lessons from the Seven Churches in Revelation series

Ephesus the church which was distracted from its first love

Smyrna the church which was persecuted

Pergamum the church which compromised

Thyatira the church which became corrupted

Sardis the church of the living dead

Philadelphia the church with the open door

Laodicea

 

 

Structure of Letter

1

Destination

3:14a

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

 

2

Description

3:14b

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.

 

3

Commendation

Absent

 

4

Rebuke

3:15-17

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

 

5

Exhortation

3:18-20

18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

 

6

Warning

Absent

 

7

Promise

3:21-22

21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

 

 

 

Destination (3:14a)

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

 

Laodicea is situated on the long spur of a hill between the narrow valleys of the small rivers Asopus and Caprus, which discharge their waters into the Lycus. The town was originally called Diospolis, "City of Zeus", and afterwards Rhodas. Under the Roman empire, Laodicea became one of the most important and flourishing commercial cities of Asia Minor, in which large money transactions and an extensive trade in black wool were carried on. It was on the cross road of two great trade routes. One was leading east from Ephesus and the Aegean Sea to the Anatolian plateau. The other is from Pergamum leading to the Mediterranean Sea in the South. Five of the cities that John wrote to was along this route (Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea). Its twin sister cities were Hierapolis in the north and Colossae to the east.

It was a very rich city. When it was completely destroyed by an earthquake, especially one that occurred during the reign of Emperor Nero (60 AD), the people declined imperial help but were able to rebuild using their own money. It became a centre of trade, literature and even have its own medical school and centre of healing that is famous for their eye ointment. The city minted its own coins, the inscriptions of which show evidence of the worship of Zeus, Æsculapius, Apollo, and the emperors.

There were a lot of Jews in the city. Antiochus the Great transported 2,000 Jewish families to Phrygia from Babylonia. Many of Laodicea's inhabitants were Jews, and Cicero records that Flaccus confiscated the considerable sum of 9 kilograms (20 lb) of gold which was being sent annually to Jerusalem for the Temple (Pro Flacco 28-68).

Laodicea received the gospel not from Paul but from his helper Epaphras during the time Paul was in Ephesus.  Epaphras, Tychicus (Tie-kih-kus), Onesimus, and Mark seem to have been the early messengers of the gospel there (Col 1:7; 4:7-15). Paul wrote the church there a letter during his first Roman imprisonment. No existing copy of that letter was found.

[Epaphras] A Colossian whom Paul describes as “beloved fellow servant,” “faithful minister of Christ,” “servant of Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:7; 4:12–13), and “fellow prisoner” (Phlm. 23). That his name appears at the head of the list in Philemon and that Paul calls him doúlos and sýndoulos, terms used for himself but infrequently of others, indicate Paul’s high regard for him. Epaphras founded the Colossian church (Col. 1:7), brought news of it to Paul (vv. 4–8), and bore responsibility for it and perhaps Laodicea and Hierapolis (4:13). His “earnest prayer” (agonizōmenos) for those churches is indicated by the same term used to describe Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane and Paul’s own struggles for the gospel (Col. 1:29).[1]

 

Description of Christ (3:14b)

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.

Amen is acknowledgement of what is valid and binding.

Faithful and true witness shows the trustworthiness of Christ compared to the Laodicean church

Ruler of God’s creation is linked to Paul’s great Christological passage in Col.1:15 where Christ is the beginning (v.18) and firstborn over all creation (v.15)

 

Commendation (nil)

Rebuke (3:15-17)

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

The water that was piped to Laodicea was rich with calcium which over time would cause the pipes to clog.  The engineers designed the aqueduct with vents covered with stones that could be removed periodically for cleaning.

Laodicea’s spiritual works are described as neither cold nor hot (3:15-16). This may refer to the water supply available in Laodicea and two nearby cities, Hierapolis and Colossae. Hierapolis was the site of hot, spa-like waters, used for medicinal purposes. Nearby Colossae was known for its cold and pure drinking water. But the waters of Laodicea were considered nauseous and undrinkable, not useful for any meaningful purpose. Like the city’s water supply, the church is useless in its service to the Lord, and Christ is about to spit it from his mouth.

The church does not show forth the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit. The metaphor of the water supply says not so much that the church is half-hearted, but that its works are barren of God’s power. The church reflected human ways and aspirations, not Christ’s. It was far from the living water it desperately needed from him (John 4:10-14; 7:38-39).

 

Exhortation (3:18-20)

18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

 

Laodicea prided themselves on three things: their wealth, an extensive textile industry, and a popular eye salve that was exported around the world.

 

v.18

Buy gold refined in fire

rich

not wretched, pitiful, poor (v17b)

Right spiritual attitude

 

white clothes

cover your shameful nakedness (contrast with the black wool)

Righteousness of Christ

 

 

salve to put on your eyes

you can see

Right spiritual seeing

 

Christ is the refiner of the human soul, which he purifies as the refiner does gold (Malachi 3:3).

Malachi 3:3 (NIV84)

3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness,

What needed refining was Laodicea’s faith so that it would become genuine (1 Peter 1:7).

1 Peter 1:7 (NIV84)

7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Laodicea also needed white clothes to cover its spiritual nakedness (3:18). White garments are used as a symbol of righteousness throughout Revelation (3:4, 5; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9, 13-14; 19:14). They also represent the proper apparel to wear at important festivities. The church cannot gain the righteousness of Christ through its own effort. The white garments are spoken of as given to the saints (6:11; 19:8). They are made white by being washed in the justifying blood of the Lamb (7:14). Without the white garments of righteousness, the church is spiritually naked. Nakedness is a symbol of spiritual shame and worthlessness (Ezekiel 16:35; 2 Corinthians 5:3).

The Laodicean church was spiritually blind. Its members thought they could see – thought that they were rich and without any needs. But Christ counseled them to apply a spiritual eye-salve so that they could see how far they had fallen. They needed to be zealous and repent (3:19).

v.19

I rebuke and discipline

be earnest, and repent

 

I stand at the door and knock

hears my voice and opens the door

I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

 

“The Laodicean condition describes the spiritual lukewarmness and worldliness that will prevail in the professing church of Christ at the end of the age. Rich, cultured, religiously ritualistic-this church will have become so self-satisfied and worldly as to have ostracised Christ completely. He is represented prophetically as standing on the outside knocking for admission (Rev 3:20). No longer is He admitted by the corporate body, but stands outside extending an invitation to individuals. The awful spiritual condition, so utterly abhorrent to God, calls forth one of the boldest figures used in the NT. "So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth" (3:16; cf. 2 Tim 3:1-8 for the spiritual and moral conditions at the end of the church age).”

M.F.U.  (From The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

Holman Hunt’s famous painting The Light of the World.

The Light of the World (Manchester Art Gallery) source: Wiki

The Light of the World (1853–54) is an allegorical painting by William Holman Hunt representing the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door, illustrating Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me". According to Hunt: "I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good Subject." The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing "the obstinately shut mind".

http://biltrix.com/2012/04/14/behold-i-stand-at-the-door-and-knock-william-holman-hunts-light-of-the-world/

William Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World (above) is so popular. When we see this painting we know immediately that our own story is found here upon the canvas.

Hunt presents us with the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on an “overgrown and long unopened door”—is it the door of our own heart and our mind?

The door has no handle on the outside and therefore can be only opened from within, illustrating that we are free to keep the door of our heart locked, leaving the Divine Guest on the doorstep,  or, if we choose,  free to let him enter into our life.

Jesus approaches the door like a gentleman; we can tell he is not going to beat it down, nor show any anger, nor pass through the locked door as he did after his Resurrection when he visited his disciples in the Upper Room. He does not want to impose himself against or will. On the contrary, his knocking will be a gentle tap and the invitation he makes, should we choose to listen, will be reminiscent of Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if you hear my voice and open, I will come, and we will sit side by side, and share a meal together. ”

Nonetheless, while a gentleman, Jesus is still an imposing figure and there is no doubt who is in charge. He wears two crowns upon his head: The crown of glory and the crown of thorns, now in bloom.

Jesus takes up the whole center of the painting, his solidity and mass stressing that he is alive for ever more, firmly and substantially waiting for the stirring of our sleeping soul. He may knock gently but he will also knock persistently. We can’t help but notice a sorrowful expression on Jesus’ face. How long will he have to knock? Is he knocking in vain?

It is only after noticing Jesus and the locked door that our attention is drawn to the secondary elements of the painting: The brambles, the bat, and the lantern.

Detail: Brambles

The brambles represent vice and sloth which have taken over the unkempt garden of virtue because of neglect. Flittering around in the darkness, above the door, is a bat, a natural symbol of darkness, of ruin, evil, and neglect. Fruit has fallen to the ground and lies uncared for and unattended. Yet Jesus towers over the brambles and the bat, and one feels that with a simple invitation he will crush them underfoot effortlessly, “All things are under his feet” (Hebrews 2:8). Perhaps it is his presence which has quietly kept the fruit from rotting.

Making the painting a night scene allows Hunt to use Christ’s lamp as the primary source of light. Whether it is symbolic of the light of conscience, the light of the Word, or the light of the Church, it is Christ who holds it, and the way in which the cords of the lamp are twisted around his wrist shows the unity between the light and Christ: All three emanate from him

Detail: Lantern

The lamp’s rays fall gently upon the door, the weeds, and the fruit. If the door was opened there is no doubt that the light would be “a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105), and the owner would hear “the night is far spent; the day is at

 

Warning (absent)

Promise (3:21-22)

21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

 

Lessons

Invest in gold refined by fire

        right spiritual attitude

        righteousness from God

        right spiritual seeing

 

Right spiritual attitude

Detachment from worldly things to attachment to Treasure in Heaven

 

Treasure in heaven

Matthew 19:16–30 (NIV84)

The Rich Young Man

16 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”

18 “Which ones?” the man inquired.

Jesus replied, “ ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

 

Matthew 6:20 (NIV84)

20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

 

St Francis of Assisi

“For it is in giving that we receive”

Francis' father was Pietro di Bernardone, a prosperous silk merchant. Francis lived the high-spirited life typical of a wealthy young man, even fighting as a soldier for Assisi. While going off to war in 1204, Francis had a vision that directed him back to Assisi, where he lost his taste for his worldly life. On a pilgrimage to Rome, he joined the poor in begging at St. Peter's Basilica. The experience moved him to live in poverty. Francis returned home, began preaching on the streets, and soon amassed a following. His Order was authorized by Pope Innocent III in 1210. He then founded the Order of Poor Clares, which became an enclosed religious order for women, as well as the Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance (commonly called the Third Order). In 1224, he received the stigmata, making him the first recorded person to bear the wounds of Christ's Passion. (Wiki)

 

Righteousness from God

Communion from nakedness and shame to clothed with righteousness

 

Right spiritual seeing

Perceiving/mindfulness from materialism to Kingdom of God

 

Summary verse: Matthew 6:19–24 (NIV84)

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (detachment and attachment)

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (perceiving and mindfulness)

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (communion with righteousness of God). Soli Deo Gloria


 

[1] Thurston, B., 2000. Epaphras D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers, & A. B. Beck, eds. Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible, p.410.

 

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