The word lukewarm, by itself, means to be; not ardent; not zealous; cool; indifferent. That definition is where I start my understanding about lukewarmness. The word “lukewarm” appears only once in scripture. It appears in a letter that Jesus was audibly giving to the apostle John to deliver unto the angel of church of the Laodiceans.
Revelation 3:14-19, “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”
When my wife and I were first married, I quickly learned that not everyone wanted the air conditioner turned as low as I wanted it. My wife was cold natured. For the longest time I believed that thermostat was broken. I did not realize that every time I got up to turn it down she turned the thermostat back up. What caused us to get up? I was hot and she was cold. Neither of us were lukewarm. We were not comfortable. Our discomfort guided us to action. If we had been lukewarm, we would not have been zealous enough to change the thermostat. Lukewarm is a picture of apathy. Not only does being lukewarm mean that we are not zealous, it holds the connotation that we are blindly living in ungodly contentment. The Laodicean church believed that they were “rich and increased with goods.” Their minds were deceived into thinking that they had reached such a prosperous state that they had no need for God. They had become self righteous and blind to their sin. They were stagnant and content in sin.
In calling them lukewarm, Jesus was also calling them unfit to drink. The Laodiceans water came from a hot spring that flowed from Hierapolis. The water in Hierapolis was hot and suitable to drink. The water became refreshingly cool as it made it farther south, past Laodicea, into Colossae. Yet those same springs that brought refreshing water to both Hierapolis and Colossae were lukewarm and unfit to drink as they reached Laodicea. This is why Christ gave the chilling warning that, if they didn’t repent, they would be spewed from His mouth.
A lukewarm condition comes in many different forms:
- We can be blind to our own sinfulness and content therein.
- We can be living a godly life but unaware of our self-righteous attitude that has created contentment within our own righteousness.
- We can forget our need of God in our everyday lives and feel content within our worldly riches.
- We can be treating worship service as just being part of our week and not putting it as the climax of lives as it should be.
- We can be serving God half hearted. Unaware that God not only sees the outward but sees the intentions, motivation, and energy we put forth.
Lukewarmness always starts with contentment apart from completeness in Christ. Anytime we find contentment in ourselves or any worldly thing it hinders our visual and mental reliance on God. Anytime we stand stagnant in our service to God, we become lukewarm. This is why Peter exhorts us to grow in grace and knowledge. We should never be content with our own personal service. Always remember, it is stagnant water that stinks.
Being lukewarm is a very dangerous state of being. Jesus’ warning was that if they did not change, they would be spewed, vomited, out of his mouth. This does not mean that they would lose their salvation. This teaches that lukewarmness sickens and disgusts Jesus enough to retain his intimate fellowship from us.
Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:13 mirror this; “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”
Jesus does give us three remedies to cure this problem.
- “buy of me gold tried in the fire,” Self sacrifice for godly things; specifically, the word of God.
- “buy of me……. white raiment” Depart from sin and wear only godliness.
- “anoint thine eyes with eyesalve” Heal your eyes to see your own unrighteousness and need of Christ.
If our actions sicken our savior, we should repent. The only way to survive lukewarmness is action, empowered and driven by a loving and longsuffering God.
Originally published February 2014