Revelation 3:15
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15, 16) Neither cold nor hot.—The “heat” here is the glowing, fervent zeal and devotion which is commended and commanded elsewhere (Romans 12:11). It is not, however, the self-conscious, galvanised earnestness which, in days of senile pietism, passes for zeal. It is an earnestness which does not know itself earnest, being all too absorbed in its work. It is self-forgetful, and so self-sacrificing, rather than ambitious of self-sacrifice. It is, in short, kindled of God, and sustained by

converse with the Divine One (Luke 24:32), and restored by intercourse with Him (see Revelation 3:20; comp. 1John 4:15-20). The “cold” describes the state of those who are as yet untouched by the Gospel of Love. An intermediate state between these is the “lukewarm”; such are neither earnest for God nor utterly indifferent to religion. They are, perhaps, best described as those who take an interest in religion, but whose worship of their idol of good taste, or good form, leads them to regard enthusiasm as ill-bred, and disturbing; and who have never put themselves to any inconvenience, braved any reproach, or abandoned any comfort for Christ's sake, but hoped to keep well with the world, while they flattered themselves that they stood well with God; who were in danger of betraying their Master, Judas-like, with a kiss. With the denunciation of “lukewarmness” here we may compare the exhortation to greater ministerial earnestness addressed to Archippus (Colossians 4:17).

I would . . . .—The wish is not that they might grow cold rather than remain in this lukewarm state, it is more a regret that they are among those who are in a condition which is so liable to self-deception; such a state is “both to God displeasing and to His foes.” And this is expressed in startling language, “I am about (such is the force of the words) to spue thee . . . .”

Revelation

LAODICEA

Revelation 3:15; Revelation 3:19.

We learn from Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians that there was a very close connection between that Church and this at Laodicea. It is a probable conjecture that a certain Archippus, who is spoken of in the former Epistle, was the bishop or pastor of the Laodicean Church. And if, as seems not unlikely, the ‘angels’ of these Asiatic churches were the presiding officers of the same, then it is at least within the limits of possibility that the ‘angel of the Church at Laodicea,’ who received the letter, was Archippus.

The message that was sent to Archippus by Paul was this: ‘Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received of the Lord, that thou fulfill it.’ And if thirty years had passed, and then Archippus got this message: ‘Thou art neither cold nor hot,’ you have an example of how a little negligence in manifest duty on the part of a Christian man may gradually grow and spread, like a malignant cancer, until it has eaten all the life out of him, and left him a mere shell. The lesson is for us all.

But whether we see an individual application in these words or no, certainly the ‘angel of the church’ is spoken of in his character of a representative of the whole Church. So, then, this Laodicean community had no works. So far had declension gone that even Christ’s eye could see no sign of the operation of the religious principle in it; and all that He could say about it was, ‘thou art neither cold nor hot.’

It is very remarkable that the first and the last letters to the seven Churches deal with the same phase of religious declension, only that the one is in the germ and the other is fully developed. The Church of Ephesus had still works abundant, receiving and deserving the warm-hearted commendation of the Master, but they had ‘left their first love.’ The Church at Laodicea had no works, and in it the disease had sadly, and all but universally, spread.

Now then, dear friends, I intend, not in the way of rebuke, God knows, but in the way of earnest remonstrance and appeal to you professing Christians, to draw some lessons from these solemn words.

I. I pray you to look at that loving rebuke of the faithful Witness: ‘Thou art neither cold nor hot.’

"We are manifestly there in the region of emotion. The metaphor applies to feeling. We talk, for instance, about warmth of feeling, ardour of affection, fervour of love, and the like. And the opposite, cold, expresses obviously the absence of any glow of a true living emotion.

So, then, the persons thus described are Christian people {for their Christianity is presupposed}, with very little, though a little, warmth of affection and glow of Christian love and consecration.

Further, this defectiveness of Christian feeling is; accompanied with a large amount of self-complacency: - ‘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.’ Of course it is so. A numbed limb feels no pain. As cold increases the sensation of cold, and of everything else, goes away. And a sure mark of defective religious emotion is absolute unconsciousness on the man’s part that there is anything the matter with him. All of you that have no sense that the indictment applies to you, by the very fact show that it applies most especially and most tragically to you. Self-complacency diagnoses spiritual cold, and is an inevitable and a constantly accompanying symptom of a deficiency of religious emotion.

Then again, this deficiency of warmth is worse than absolute zero. ‘I would thou wert cold or hot.’ That is no spurt of impatience on the part of the ‘true Witness.’ It is for their sake that He would they were cold or hot. And why? Because there is no man more hopeless than a man on whom the power of Christianity has been brought to bear, and has failed in warming and quickening him. If you were cold, at absolute zero, there would be at least a possibility that when you were brought in contact with the warmth you might kindle. But you have been brought in contact with the warmth, and this is the effect. Then what is to be done with you? There is nothing more that can be brought to bear on your consciousness to make you anything higher or better than you are, than what you have already had in operation in your spiritual life. And if it has failed, all God’s armoury is empty, and He has shot His last bolt, and there is nothing more left. ‘I would thou wert cold or hot.’

Now, dear friends, is that our condition? I am obliged sadly to say that I believe it is to a fearful extent the condition of professing Christendom to-day. ‘Neither cold nor hot!’ Look at the standard of Christian life round about us. Let us look into our own hearts. Let us mark how wavering the line is between the Church and the world; how little upon our side of the line there is of conspicuous consecration and unworldliness; how entirely in regard of an enormous mass of professing Christians, the maxims that are common in the world are their maxims; and the sort of life that the world lives is the sort of life that they live. ‘Oh! thou that art named the House of Israel,’ as one of the old prophets wailed out, ‘is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? Are these His doings?’ And so I would say, look at your churches and mark their feebleness, the slow progress of the gospel among them, the low lives that the bulk of us professing Christians are living, and answer the question: Is that the operation of a Divine Spirit that comes to transform and to quicken everything into His own vivid and flaming life? or is it the operation of our own selfishness and worldliness, crushing down and hemming in the power that ought to sway us? Brethren! it is not for me to cast condemnation, but it is for each of us to ask ourselves the question: Do we not hear the voice of the ‘faithful and true Witness’ saying to us, ‘I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot’?

II. And now will you let me say a word next as to some of the plain causes of this lukewarmness of spiritual life?

Of course the tendency to it is in us all. Take a bar of iron out of the furnace on a winter day, and lay it down in the air, and there is nothing more wanted. Leave it there, and very soon the white heat will change into livid dullness, and then there will come a scale over it, and in a short time it will be as cold as the frosty atmosphere around it. And so there is always a refrigerating process acting upon us, which needs to be counteracted by continual contact with the fiery furnace of spiritual warmth, or else we are cooled down to the degree of cold around us. But besides this universally operating cause there are many others which affect us.

Laodicea was a great commercial city, an emporium of trade, which gives especial point and appropriateness to the loving counsel of the context. ‘I advise thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire.’ And Manchester life, with its anxieties, with its perplexities for many of you, with its diminished profits, and apparently diminishing trade, is a fearful foe to the warmth and reality of your Christian life. The cares of this world and the riches of this world are both amongst the thorns which choke the Word and make it unfruitful. I find fault with no man for the earnestness which he flings into his business, but I ask you to contrast this entire absorption of spirit, and the willing devotion of hours and strength to it, with the grudging, and the partial, and the transient devotion of ourselves to the religious life; and say whether the relative importance of the things seen and unseen is fairly represented by the relative amount of earnestness with which you and I pursue these respectively.

Then, again, the existence among us, or around us, of a certain widely diffused doubt as to the truths of Christianity is, illogically enough, a cause for diminished fervor on the part of the men that do not doubt them. That is foolish, and it is strange, but it is true. It is very hard for us, when so many people round about us are denying, or at least are questioning, the verities which we have been taught to believe, to keep the freshness and the fervor of our devotion to these; just as it is very difficult for a man to keep up the warmth of his body in the midst of some creeping mist that enwraps everything. So with us, the presence, in the atmosphere of doubt, depresses the vitality and the vigor of the Christian Church where it does not intensify its faith, and make it cleave more desperately to the things that are questioned. Beware, then, of unreasonably yielding so far to the influence of prevailing unbelief as to make you grasp with a slacker hand the thing which still you do not say that you doubt.

And there is another case, which I name with some hesitation, but which yet seems to me to be worthy of notice; and that is, the increasing degree to which Christian men are occupied with what we call, for want of a better name, secular things. The leaders in the political world, on both sides, in our great commercial cities, are usually professing Christians. I am the last man to find fault with any Christian man for casting himself, so far as his opportunities allow, into the current of political life, if he will take his Christianity with him, and if he will take care that he does not become a great deal more interested in elections, and in pulling the strings of a party, and in working for ‘the cause,’ than he is in working for his Master. I grudge the political world nothing that it gets of your strength, but I do grudge, for your sakes as well as for the Church’s sake, that so often the two forms of activity are supposed by professing Christians to be incompatible, and that therefore the more important is neglected, and the less important done. Suffer the word of exhortation.

And, in like manner, literature and art, and the ordinary objects of interest on the part of men who have no religion, are coming to absorb a great deal of our earnestness and our energy. I would not withdraw one iota of the culture that now prevails largely in the Christian Church. All that I plead for, dear brethren, is this, ‘Ye are the salt of the earth.’ Go where you like, and fling yourselves into all manner of interests and occupations, only carry your Master with you. And remember that if you are not salting the world, the world is putrefying you.

There I think you have some, though it be imperfect, account of the causes which operate to lower the temperature of the Christian Church in general, and of this Christian Church, and of you as individual members of it.

III. Now, further, note the loving call here to deepened earnestness.

‘Be zealous, therefore.’ The word translated, and rightly translated, zealous means literally boiling with heat. It is an exhortation to fervor. Now there is no worse thing in all this world than for a man to try to work up emotion, nothing which is so sure, sooner or later, to come to mischief, sure to breed hypocrisy and all manner of evil. If there be anything that is worse than trying to work up emotion, it is attempting to pretend it. So when our Master here says to us, ‘Be zealous, therefore,’ we must remember that zeal in a man ought to be a consequence of knowledge; and that, seeing that we are reasonable creatures, intended to be guided by our understandings, it is an upsetting of the whole constitution of a man’s nature if his heart works independently of his head. And the only way in which we can safely and wholesomely increase our zeal is by increasing our grasp of the truths which feed it.

Thus the exhortation, ‘Be zealous,’ if we come to analyze it, and to look into its basis, is this - Lay hold upon, and meditate upon, the great truths that will make your heart glow. Notice that this exhortation is a consequence, ‘Be zealous, therefore,’ and repent. Therefore, and what precedes? A whole series of considerations - such as these: ‘I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire . . . and white raiment . . . and anoint thine eyes with eye salve.’ It is to say, lay hold of the truth that Christ possesses a full store of all that you can want. Meditate on that great truth and it will kindle a flame of desire and of fruition in your hearts. ‘Be zealous, therefore.’ And again, ‘As many as I love I rebuke and chasten.’ ‘Be zealous, therefore.’ That is to say, grasp the great thought of the loving Christ, all whose dealings, even when His voice assumes severity, and His hand comes armed with a rod, are the outcome and manifestation of His love; and sink into that love, and that will make your hearts glow. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.’ ‘Be zealous, therefore.’ Think of the earnest, patient, long-suffering appeal which the Master makes, bearing with all our weaknesses and our shortcomings, and not suffering His gentle hand to be turned away, though the door has been so long barred and bolted in His face. And let these sweet thoughts of a Christ that gives everything, of a Christ all whose dealings are love, of a Christ who pleads with us through the barred door, and tries to get at us through the obstacles which ourselves have fastened against Him, let them draw us to Him, and kindle and keep alight-a brighter flame of consecration and of devotion in our hearts to Him. ‘Be zealous.’ Feed upon the great truths of the Gospel which kindles zeal.

Brethren, the utmost warmth is reasonable in religion. If Christianity be true, there is no measure of ardor or of consecration which is beyond the reasonable requirements of the case. We are told that ‘a sober standard of feeling in matters of religion’ is the great thing to aim at. So I say. But I would differ, perhaps, with the people that are fond of saying so, in my definition of sobriety. A sober standard is a standard of feeling in which the feeling does not outrun the facts on which it is built. Enthusiasm is disproportionate or ignorant feeling; warmth without light. A sober, reasonable feeling is the emotion which is correspondent to the truths that evoke it. And will any man tell me that any amount of earnestness, of flaming consecration, of fiery zeal, is in advance of the great truths that Christ loves me, and has given Himself for me?

IV. And now, lastly, observe the merciful call to a new beginning: ‘Repent.’

There must be a lowly consciousness of sin, a clear vision of my past shortcomings, an abhorrence of these, and, joined with that, a resolute act of mind and heart beginning a new course, a change of purpose and of the current of my being.

Repentance is sorrow for the past, blended with a resolve to paste down the old leaf and begin a new writing on a new page. Christian men have need of these fresh beginnings, and of new repentance, even as the patriarch when he came up from Egypt went to the place where ‘he builded the altar at the first and then offered sacrifice. Do not you be ashamed, Christian men and women, if you have been living low and inconsistent Christian lives in the past, to make a new beginning and to break with that past. There was never any great outburst of life in a Christian Church which was not preceded by a lowly penitence. And there is never any penitence worth naming which is not preceded by a recognition, glad, rapturous, confident as self-consciousness, of Christ’s great and infinite love to me.

Oh! if there is one thing that we want more than another to-day, it is that the fiery Spirit shall come and baptize all the churches, and us as individual members of them. What was it that finished the infidelity of the last century? Was it Paley and Butler, with their demonstrations and their books? No! it was John Wesley and Whitefield. Here is a solution, full of microscopic germs that will putrefy. Expose it to heat, raise the temperature, and you will kill all the > germs, so that you may keep it for a hundred years, and there will be no putrefaction in it. Get the temperature of the Church up, and all the evils that are eating out its life will shrivel and drop to the bottom dead. They cannot live in the heat; cold is their region. So, dear brethren, let us get near to Christ’s love until the light of it shines in our own faces. Let us get near to Christ’s love until, like coal laid upon the fire, its fervors penetrate into our substance and change even our blackness into ruddy flame. Let us get nearer to the love, and then, though the world may laugh and say, ‘He hath a devil and is mad,’ they that see more clearly will say of us: ‘The zeal of Thine house hath eaten him up,’ and the Father will say even concerning us: ‘This is My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.’

3:14-22 Laodicea was the last and worst of the seven churches of Asia. Here our Lord Jesus styles himself, The Amen; one steady and unchangeable in all his purposes and promises. If religion is worth anything, it is worth every thing. Christ expects men should be in earnest. How many professors of gospel doctrine are neither hot nor cold; except as they are indifferent in needful matters, and hot and fiery in disputes about things of lesser moment! A severe punishment is threatened. They would give a false opinion of Christianity, as if it were an unholy religion; while others would conclude it could afford no real satisfaction, otherwise its professors would not have been heartless in it, or so ready to seek pleasure or happiness from the world. One cause of this indifference and inconsistency in religion is, self-conceit and self-delusion; Because thou sayest. What a difference between their thoughts of themselves, and the thoughts Christ had of them! How careful should we be not to cheat our owns souls! There are many in hell, who once thought themselves far in the way to heaven. Let us beg of God that we may not be left to flatter and deceive ourselves. Professors grow proud, as they become carnal and formal. Their state was wretched in itself. They were poor; really poor, when they said and thought they were rich. They could not see their state, nor their way, nor their danger, yet they thought they saw it. They had not the garment of justification, nor sanctification: they were exposed to sin and shame; their rags that would defile them. They were naked, without house or harbour, for they were without God, in whom alone the soul of man can find rest and safety. Good counsel was given by Christ to this sinful people. Happy those who take his counsel, for all others must perish in their sins. Christ lets them know where they might have true riches, and how they might have them. Some things must be parted with, but nothing valuable; and it is only to make room for receiving true riches. Part with sin and self-confidence, that you may be filled with his hidden treasure. They must receive from Christ the white raiment he purchased and provided for them; his own imputed righteousness for justification, and the garments of holiness and sanctification. Let them give themselves up to his word and Spirit, and their eyes shall be opened to see their way and their end. Let us examine ourselves by the rule of his word, and pray earnestly for the teaching of his Holy Spirit, to take away our pride, prejudices, and worldly lusts. Sinners ought to take the rebukes of God's word and rod, as tokens of his love to their souls. Christ stood without; knocking, by the dealings of his providence, the warnings and teaching of his word, and the influences of his Spirit. Christ still graciously, by his word and Spirit, comes to the door of the hearts of sinners. Those who open to him shall enjoy his presence. If what he finds would make but a poor feast, what he brings will supply a rich one. He will give fresh supplies of graces and comforts. In the conclusion is a promise to the overcoming believer. Christ himself had temptations and conflicts; he overcame them all, and was more than a conqueror. Those made like to Christ in his trials, shall be made like to him in glory. All is closed with the general demand of attention. And these counsels, while suited to the churches to which they were addressed, are deeply interesting to all men.I know thy works - notes on Revelation 2:2.

That thou art neither cold nor hot - The word "cold" here would seem to denote the state where there was no pretension to religion; where everything was utterly lifeless and dead. The language is obviously figurative, but it is such as is often employed, when we speak of one as being cold toward another, as having a cold or icy heart, etc. The word "hot" would denote, of course, the opposite - warm and zealous in their love and service. The very words that we are constrained to use when speaking on this subject - such words as ardent (that is, hot or burning); fervid (that is, very hot, burning, boiling) - show how necessary it is to use such words, and how common it is. The state indicated here, therefore, would be that in which there was a profession of religion, but no warm-hearted piety; in which there was not, on the one hand, open and honest opposition to him, and, on the other, such warm-hearted and honest love as he had a right to look for among his professed friends; in which there was a profession of that religion which ought to warm the heart with love, and fill the soul with zeal in the cause of the Redeemer; but where the only result, in fact, was deadness and indifference to him and his cause. Among those who made no profession he had reason to expect nothing but coldness; among those who made a profession he had a right to expect the glow of a warm affection; but he found nothing but indifference.

I would thou wert cold or hot - That is, I would prefer either of those states to what now exists. Anything better than this condition, where love is professed, but where it does not exist; where vows have been assumed which are not fulfilled. Why he would prefer that they should be "hot" is clear enough; but why would he prefer a state of utter coldness - a state where there was no profession of real love? To this question the following answers may be given:

(1) Such a state of open and professed coldness or indifference is more honest. There is no disguise; no concealment; no pretence. We know where one in this state "may be found"; we know with whom we are dealing; we know what to expect. Sad as the state is, it is at least honest; and we are so made that we all prefer such a character to one where professions are made which are never to be realized - to a state of insincerity and hypocrisy.

(2) such a state is more honorable. It is a more elevated condition of mind, and marks a higher character. Of a man who is false to his engagements, who makes professions and promises never to be realized, we can make nothing. There is essential meanness in such a character, and there is nothing in it which we can respect. But in the character of the man who is openly and avowedly opposed to anything; who takes his stand, and is earnest and zealous in his course, though it be wrong, there are traits which may be, under a better direction, elements of true greatness and magnanimity. In the character of Saul of Tarsus there were always the elements of true greatness; in that of Judas Iscariot there were never. The one was capable of becoming one of the noblest men that has ever lived on the earth; the other, even under the personal teaching of the Redeemer for years, was nothing but a traitor - a man of essential meanness.

(3) there is more hope of conversion and salvation in such a case. There could always have been a ground of hope that Saul would be converted and saved, even when "breathing out threatening and slaughter"; of Judas, when numbered among the professed disciples of the Saviour, there was no hope. The most hopeless of all persons, in regard to salvation, are those who are members of the church without any true religion; who have made a profession without any evidence of personal piety; who are content with a name to live. This is so, because:

(a) the essential character of anyone who will allow himself to do this is eminently unfavorable to true religion. There is a lack of that thorough honesty and sincerity which is so necessary for true conversion to God. He who is content to profess to be what he really is not, is riot a man on whom the truths of Christianity are likely to make an impression.

(b) Such a mall never applies the truth to himself. Truth that is addressed to impenitent sinners he does not apply to himself, of course; for he does not rank himself in that class of persons. Truth addressed to hypocrites he will not apply to himself; for no one, however insincere and hollow he may be, chooses to act on the presumption that he is himself a hypocrite, or so as to leave others to suppose that he regards himself as such. The means of grace adapted to save a sinner, as such, he will not use; for he is in the church, and chooses to regard himself as safe. Efforts made to reclaim him he will resist; for he will regard it as proof of a meddlesome spirit, and an uncharitable judging in others, if they consider him to be anything different from what he professes to be. What right have they to go back of his profession, and assume that he is insincere? As a consequence, there are probably fewer persons by far converted of those who come into the church without any religion, than of any other class of persons of similar number; and the most hopeless of all conditions, in respect to conversion and salvation, is when one enters the church deceived.

(c) It may be presumed that, for these reasons, God himself will make less direct effort to convert and save such persons. As there are fewer appeals that can be brought to bear on them; as there is less in their character that is noble, and that can be depended on in promoting the salvation of a soul; and as there is special guilt in hypocrisy, it may be presumed that God will more frequently leave such persons to their chosen course, than he will those who make no professions of religion. Comp, Psalm 109:17-18; Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 14:11; Isaiah 1:15; Hosea 4:17.

15. neither cold—The antithesis to "hot," literally, "boiling" ("fervent," Ac 18:25; Ro 12:11; compare So 8:6; Lu 24:32), requires that "cold" should here mean more than negatively cold; it is rather, positively icy cold: having never yet been warmed. The Laodiceans were in spiritual things cold comparatively, but not cold as the world outside, and as those who had never belonged to the Church. The lukewarm state, if it be the transitional stage to a warmer, is a desirable state (for a little religion, if real, is better than none); but most fatal when, as here, an abiding condition, for it is mistaken for a safe state (Re 3:17). This accounts for Christ's desiring that they were cold rather than lukewarm. For then there would not be the same "danger of mixed motive and disregarded principle" [Alford]. Also, there is more hope of the "cold," that is, those who are of the world, and not yet warmed by the Gospel call; for, when called, they may become hot and fervent Christians: such did the once-cold publicans, Zaccheus and Matthew, become. But the lukewarm has been brought within reach of the holy fire, without being heated by it into fervor: having religion enough to lull the conscience in false security, but not religion enough to save the soul: as Demas, 2Ti 4:10. Such were the halters between two opinions in Israel (1Ki 18:21; compare 2Ki 17:41; Mt 6:24). I know thy works; I know and observe thy behaviour, thy ministerial function.

That thou art neither cold nor hot; thou art neither openly profane and grossly scandalous, like heathens, or such as make no profession; nor yet hast thou any true zeal or warmth, either for the faith once delivered to the saints, or in love to God, seen in keeping his commandments, having the power and efficacy of godliness, teaching thee to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, Titus 2:12. Thou hast a form of godliness, but deniest the life and power thereof.

I would thou wert cold or hot: we must not think Christ wisheth any persons cold absolutely, but comparatively, intimating to us, that the condition of a downright atheist, or profane person, is more hopeful than that of a close, formal hypocrite: the latter is in the road to hell as well as the other, and no more pleaseth God than the other. It is better not to have known the truth, than knowing it, to live contrary to it, Luke 12:48 2 Peter 2:21. Commonly such men also are proud, and self-conceited, having something to stop the mouth of their natural conscience, harder to be convinced of their evil state, Matthew 21:32,33.

I know thy works,.... Which were far from being perfect, and not so good as those of the former church:

that thou art neither cold nor hot; she was not "cold", or without spiritual life, at least in many of her members, as all men by nature are, and carnal professors be; she was alive, but not lively: nor was she wholly without spiritual affections and love; to God, and Christ, to his people, ways, truths, and ordinances; she had love, but the fervency of it was abated: nor was she without spiritual breathings and desires altogether, as dead men are; or without the light and knowledge of the Gospel, and a profession of it, and yet she was not "hot"; her love to God and Christ, and the saints, was not ardent and flaming; it was not like coals of fire, that give most vehement flame, which many waters cannot quench the had not fervency of spirit in the service of the Lord; nor was she zealous for the truths of the Gospel, and for the ordinances of it, and for the house of God and its discipline; nor did she warmly oppose all sin, and every error and false way,

I would thou wert cold or hot; which must be understood, not absolutely, but comparatively; and not that it was an indifferent thing to Christ whether she was one or the other; but he alludes to what is natural among men, it being generally more agreeable to have anything entirely hot, or entirely cold, than to be neither; and so uses this phrase to show his detestation of lukewarmness, and that it is better to be ignorant, and not a professor of religion, than to be a vain and carnal one; Christ desires not simply that she might be cold, but that she might be sensible of her need of spiritual heat and fervency.

{12} I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

(12) The proposition of reproof is in this verse, and in Re 3:16 a threat while in Re 3:17 a confirmation declares the same. To faith and repentance in Re 3:18,19 a conditional promise is added in Re 3:20.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 3:15-16. Οἰδα σου τὰ ἔργα, ὅτι, κ.τ.λ. Cf. Revelation 3:1; Revelation 3:8. The works, i.e., the entire life as it comes into manifestation, show that the church is “neither cold nor hot,” but “lukewarm.” The rabbinical expression כינינים, “the intermediates,”[1567] has only a very indefinite resemblance to this passage. Every explanation referring to the general sphere of psychology and ethics is unsatisfactory, as the question here is with regard to the relations of the church to its Lord.[1568] It is plain that the ΖΕΣΤΌς[1569] is an actual believer, who with ardent love cleaves only to his Lord, and therefore asks for none else.[1570] Such “heat” Paul, e.g., records in Php 3:8 sqq. In contrast with such a ΖΕΣΤΌς, the ΨΥΧΡΌς can only be one who is “beyond all influence of the Divine Spirit, as unbelievers, the heathen;”[1571] but such contrast is inapplicable here, where such persons are addressed, to whom divine things and the workings of the Holy Ghost are actually not entirely foreign. This, Hengstenb. has correctly felt, but incorrectly applied, when he first explains the “coldness” very indefinitely as “selfishness,” but then—with reference to the wish ὌΦΕΛΟΝ, Κ.Τ.Λ.—understands such coldness “as is combined with the painful consciousness that one is cold, and with the heartfelt desire to become warm.” This is entirely against the context. Rather the “coldness” in direct and absolute opposition to “hot,” unconditional love to the Lord, is to be regarded as hostility and opposition. Thus Saul was “cold” as long as he persecuted the Lord. But since as from Saul a Paul, and from one that is cold, one that is hot can be made more readily than from one that is lukewarm,[1572] the wish ὌΦΕΛΟΝ, Κ.Τ.Λ., is therefore justified.[1573]

Concerning ὌΦΕΛΟΝ as a particle, and combined with the imp., cf. 2 Corinthians 11:1.[1574]

ΟὝΤΩς. Cf. Romans 1:15. It is noted that the relation is not in fact of such a kind as has just been wished, but rather as is stated by the accusation, which also here in explanation of the ΟὝΤΩς is expressly repeated, so that the reason for the threatening is completely established: ΜΈΛΛΩ ΣΕ ἘΜΈΣΑΙ, Κ.Τ.Λ.

ΧΛΙΑΡΌς
. The definite, positive expression for the ΟὔΤΕ ΨΥΧΡῸς ΟὔΤΕ ΖΕΣΤΌς designates the indecision and incompleteness of the relation to the Lord, where he is neither entirely rejected nor entirely received,—a position which cannot exist[1575] without inner sordidness, indolence, and self-deception.[1576] See, in general, Matthew 6:24; Matthew 12:30; 1 John 2:15; Jam 4:4.

The threatened ἘΜΈΣΑΙ ἘΚ Τ. ΣΤΟΜ. Μ. is stated in accordance with the idea of the ΧΛΙΑΡΌς, because lukewamness provokes nausea. By the ΜΈΛΛΩ, the Lord refers to his judgment which is already approaching; he is already just about coming, and then rejecting this church opposing him, for it may be that it will yet first obey his call to repentance (Revelation 3:20). While Revelation 2:5, Revelation 16:21, Revelation 3:3, declare the indubitable judgment in the future with respect to the case, there expressly designated, of not being converted, the ΜΈΛΛΩ[1577] here leaves the possibility open that the judgment may be averted, although the condition for it is expressly stated first in Revelation 3:20.[1578]

[1567] “There are three classes of men: for there are either the perfectly righteous, or the perfectly godless, or the intermediary.” Sohar. Gen., p. 83; in Schöttg.

[1568] Cf. Hengstenb. So Eichh., Heinr.: “Of uncertain disposition, and altogether of doubtful mind;” “without character.” C. a Lap., “Who vacillate between virtues and vices.” Cf. N. de Lyra, Calov., etc.

[1569] Romans 12:11.

[1570] Cf. Aret., De Wette, Hengstenb., Ebrard.

[1571] De Wette. Cf. Grot., Beng., Ebrard.

[1572] The opinion derived from physics, that what is lukewarm becomes warm more rapidly than what is cold, should never have been expressed if considerations of what is reasonable were taken into the account.

[1573] Grot., Beng., De Wette, etc.

[1574] See Meyer on the passage. Winer, p. 283.

[1575] Cf. De Wette.

[1576] Cf. Revelation 3:17.

[1577] Cf. ver 2.

[1578] Cf. Beng., etc.

Revelation 3:15. The moral nausea roused by tepid religion. It is best to be warm, and energetic; but even a frank repudiation of religion is at least more promising from an ethical standpoint (Arist. Nik. Eth. vii. 2–10) than a half-and-half attachment, complacently oblivious of any shortcoming. The outsider may be convinced and won over; there is hope of him, for he is under no illusion as to his real relation to the faith. But what can be done with people who are nominal Christians, unable to recognise that they need repentance and that Jesus is really outside their lives (Revelation 3:20)? Cf. Dante’s Inferno, iii. 30 f. For such homely metaphors and their effectiveness, compare the criticism of Longinus in περὶ ὕψους (xxxi.): “Sometimes a plain expression like this tells more forcibly than elegant language; being drawn from common life, it is at once recognised, whilst its very familiarity renders it all the more convincing”. The spirit of the verse resembles that which pervaded Christ’s denunciation of the religious authorities in his day for their ὑπόκρισις, and his more hopeful expectations with regard to the harlots and taxgatherers (Ecce Homo, ch. xiii.); the former condition of religious life was to Jesus a sickening feature in the situation. Just as spiritual death, in the case of the Sardis Christians, meant a lost vitality, so in the case of Laodicea lukewarmness implies that a condition of religious warmth once existed. “He who was never fervent can never be lukewarm.” In his analysis of this state (Growth in Holiness, ch. xxv.), Faber points out not only that its correlative is a serene unconsciousness and unconcern (cf. Revelation 3:17 b), but that one symptom is a complacent attention to what has been achieved (cf. 17 a) rather than sensitiveness to what is left undone, with “a quiet intentional appreciation of other things over God” (cf. Revelation 3:20), which is all the more mischievous that it is not open wickedness.

15. neither cold nor hot] Neither untouched by spiritual life, dead and cold, as an unregenerate heathen would be, nor “fervent (lit. boiling—a cognate word to that here used) in spirit” (Romans 12:11). We might naturally speak (perhaps the Lord does, Matthew 24:12) of those as “cold” who were such as the Laodiceans were, and of course here something more is meant: but that further meaning can hardly be being “actively opposed” to the Gospel, but only being utterly unaffected by it.

I would thou wert cold or hot] For the sentiment that it would be better even to be “cold,” cf. 2 Peter 2:21; though there the apostasy described is no doubt more deadly than here. But according to the Greek proverb (Ar. Eth. VII. ii. 10) of a man who sins against his conscience, “When water chokes, what are you to wash it down with?” You can instruct and convince a man who has either low or perverse views of duty, but what can you do to one whom sound views do not make to act rightly? And similarly an unbeliever can be converted and regenerated, but what can be done for him in whom faith does not work by love?

Verse 15. - I know thy works; and because they are not what they should be (vers. 16, 17), I give thee this admonition, which is nevertheless a warning and a token of my love (ver. 19). That thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. The lukewarmness of which the Epistle complains was produced by a fallacious sense of security, begotten of ease and prosperity. In truth those "secure," without care, had become the careless ones. Active opposition may well be a less deadly evil than careless ease. The persecution of a St. Paul may be diverted into the zeal of an apostle; but how can any active good be got from that which is utterly stagnant and without motive power? The man who, by wilful action, increases a disease, may repent of his deed, and try to recover from the danger to which he has exposed himself; but he who lives on in careless ignorance of the existence of the malady can never improve himself until he has awoke to a full knowledge of his own state. Some understand "cold" to mean "untouched by the power of grace," and "lukewarm" to denote those who, having received the grace of God, had not allowed it full scope in bringing forth works meet for repentance (Matthew 3:8). And just as there was more hope of the real conversion of the "cold" publicans and harlots, who "went into heaven" (Matthew 21:31) before the self-satisfied, "lukewarm" Pharisees, so there is more hope of an unconverted sinner than of him who, having once been roused to a sense of God's will, has relapsed into a state of self satisfied indolence and carelessness. The sentence is not a wish that the Laodiceans should become hot or cold; it is a regret that they had not been one or the other. Our Lord is not wishing that any of them may become cold, but regretting that, when he comes to review their conduct and to pronounce judgment, many of them cannot even plead that they "knew not the way of righteousness," but belong to that worse class, "which after they had known it, turned from the holy commandment delivered unto them (2 Peter 2:21; see also John 9:41). Revelation 3:15Cold (ψυχρός)

Attached to the world and actively opposed to the Church. "This," as Alford remarks, "as well as the opposite state of spiritual fervor, would be an intelligible and plainly-marked condition; at all events free from the danger of mixed motive and disregarded principle which belongs to the lukewarm state: inasmuch as a man in earnest, be he right or wrong, is ever a better man than one professing what he does not feel."

Hot (ζεστός)

From ζέω to boil or seethe. See on fervent, Acts 18:25.

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