I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, white garments so that you may be clothed and your shameful nakedness not exposed, and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:12) - had something to do with the planting of the Church there. And we can have no doubt but that the Church was once in a very flourishing condition. The Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians was intended, it is all but certain, as much for the Laodiceans as the Ephesians, if not more so. The high praise which we find in that letter is therefore to be regarded as given to Laodicea, which now, when St. John writes to it, is so sadly fallen. And in Colossians 2:1, 5, St. Paul speaks of them and of the "steadfastness" of their "faith in Christ" (cf. also Colossians 4:13-16). But a sad change had come over them, and the result is this letter before us now. Note -
I. THEIR CHARACTER AND CONDITION. They are charged with being "neither cold nor hot," but lukewarm. That is to say, that whilst there was not absolute denial of the faith and disregard of all Christ's claims, there yet was neither the fervent zeal, the devout spirit, nor the all-sacrificing love, springing from a vigorous faith, which would make a Church glow with holy fervour and sacred heat. And this half and half, neither one thing nor the other, condition is all too common amongst not a few who profess and call themselves Christians. How many Churches, and how many churchgoing people, may, and probably have, seen their portraitures in this sad letter to the Church at Laodicea! They cannot be said to be cold and so utterly disregardful of religion, or of Christian faith and custom; but as certainly they are not "hot," not filled with love and zeal and desire towards Christ, willing to do all, bear all, be all or anything or nothing, so only as the honour of his Name may be increased, and the boundaries of his kingdom enlarged. Christians are to be known by their ardour, and so tongues of fire came and rested upon their heads on the great Pentecostal day. But Laodicea and the like of her show nothing of this kind, nor will nor can they whilst they remain as they are. And the common run of men like to have it thus. Cold makes them shiver; heat scorches them, - they like neither; but to be moderately warm, tepid, or but little more; that is pleasant, is safe, is best every way, so men think. The cynic statesman's parting charge to one of his agents, "Surtout, point de zele," is, in fact, what the ordinary Christian vastly prefers for himself and for others. They confound zeal with eccentricity, fervour with wild and ill-considered schemes, earnestness with rant, enthusiasm with mere delirium and extravagance; and, under pretence of discountenancing these undesirable things, they desire neither for themselves nor for others that glow of Divine love in their souls which is desirable above all things else. They congratulate themselves upon being moderate, sober-minded people, and they pity the poor deluded enthusiasts, to whom it is a dreadful thing that sin and sorrow should prevail as they do, and who, therefore, are in the very forefront of the battle against them, Laodiceans think well and speak well of themselves, and other people credit them with what they say, and hence they are self-complacent and well satisfied, and wonder why anybody should doubt or differ from them. They do not hear the world's sneer or see its mocking look when their names are mentioned; still less do they hear the sighing of the sorrowful heart which yearns to see the Church of Christ rise up to her Lord's ideal and intent. But they go on saying and thinking that they are well to do, and have need of nothing. But their condition is abhorrent to the Lord; he cannot abide it, nauseates it, would rather far that they were either cold or hot; either extreme would be better than the sickening lukewarmness which now characterizes them. To such it was that the Lord said, "The publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." Whilst of the irreligious multitudes he only said, as he looked on them with compassion, "They are as sheep having no shepherd." Elijah said, "If Baal be God, serve him;" "better be hearty in his service than serving neither God nor Baal, as you now are." And experience confirms this seemingly strange preference which the Lord declares. We could understand that he would men were "hot" rather than "lukewarm;" but that he would rather that they were "cold" without religion altogether - than as they are, that seems a strange preference. But, as St. Paul says, "If a man think himself to be wise, let him become a fool that he may be wise;" by which he meant that a man who thinks himself wise when he is not, there is more hope of a fool becoming wise than he, for his self-conceit stands in his way. And so in the matter of a man's real conversion to God, he who knows he has no religion is more likely to be won than he who thinks he is religious and has need of "more" nothing. There is hope, therefore, for the cold than for the "lukewarm," and hence our Lord's preference. And this condition is one which drives the Lord away, chases him forth from his Church. Christ is represented, not as in the Church, but as outside, standing at the door, and knocking for admission. He has been driven out. He cannot stay either in that Church or in that heart which loves him with but half or less than half a love. We do not care to stay where we are not really welcome: we get away as soon as we can. And our Lord will not stay where the love which should welcome and cherish his presence is no longer there.
II. HOW CHRIST DEALS WITH THEM.
1. He reveals to them their true condition. And to make them more readily receive his revelation, he declares himself by a name which ensured that his testimony was and must be infallibly true. He tells of himself as "the Amen, the faithful and true Witness." Therefore they may be sure that he could not err and would not misstate what he, as the Son of God, "the Beginning of the creation of God," saw and knew, and now declared to them to be true. And so he tells them how it is with them, though they knew it not and kept saying the very reverse. Hence he tells the Church, "Thou art the wretched one and the pitiable one, and beggarly and blind and naked." Ah! what a revelation this! how it would startle and shock them! no doubt the Lord intended that it should. Their condition justified these words. They thought that they were certain of their Lord's approval. He tells them that no shivering criminal waiting in terror the judge's sentence was ever more really wretched than they. And that they thought as they did proved them "blind." And as those whom it was designed to degrade were stripped "naked" so as "shameful" were they in the sight of the Lord and of his angels.
2. And by thus revealing their true state, he rebukes and chastens them. What humiliation and distress and alarm must this revelation have caused! But next:
3. He counsels them what to do. He will not leave them thus, but points out the way of amendment. He bids them "buy of me." But if they were so poor, how could they buy? "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." This is the money wherewith they must buy. And when they have laid out this money, and have become possessors of what it will surely purchase, they will tell you, if you ask them, that even this money he gave them from whom they went to buy. And what is it they will get in exchange?
(1) "Gold tried in," etc. This is faith (cf. 1 Peter 1:7). "The trial of your faith, being much more precious than gold and silver." Oh, to be "rich in faith"! They are rich who have it.
(2) "White raiment that," etc. True righteousness of character, the holiness which becometh saints.
(3) "Eyesalve that," etc. The illuminating grace of the Holy Spirit. Such is the way of amendment: coming thus poor to the Lord, gaining faith, holiness, wisdom - so shall we rise up from the condition which the Lord cannot abide to that which he loves and will ever bless. Shall we not follow this counsel? He does not compel, but counsels. Let us also thus buy of him.
4. He waits for their repentance. "Behold, I stand at the door," etc. How true it is he desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he turn from his wickedness and live! What a picture this well-known and ever-to-be-loved verse presents! Our Lord, who died for us, standing there outside, seeking to enter in.
5. He encourages them to repent. See his promises.
(1) "I will sup with him, and he with me." Communion with himself. A piece of clay gave forth a sweet fragrance. It was asked whence it had such fragrance. It replied that it had long lain by the side of a sweet-smelling rose, and so it had become filled with its sweetness. So our claylike souls, if we be in communion with Christ, shall come to be as he. Ah, then, "open the door," and let your Lord in.
(2) He holds out to those who "overcome" the same reward as he had when he overcame - "to sit with me in my throne, even as I," etc. (ver. 21). It tells of the highest, holiest joys, of the everlasting kingdom of God. So would he lure them to himself. Shall he not succeed? "Behold, he stands at the door and knocks." - S.C.
Knowest not that thou art wretched.
I. First, let us think of the Church in Laodicea and listen to THEIR SAYING; it may prevent us from reaching such a height of pride as to speak as they did.
1. The spirit of self-congratulation expressed itself in a manner strikingly unanimous. It was the general, unanimous feeling, from the minister down to the latest convert, that they were a most wonderful Church. They were heartily at one in having a high estimate of themselves, and this helped to keep them together, and stirred them to attempt great things.
2. This saying of theirs was exceedingly boastful. The present was all right, the past was eminently satisfactory, and they had reached a point of all but absolute perfection, for they needed nothing.
3. They were sincere in this glorying. When they said it they were not consciously boasting, for the text says, "And thou knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." They did not know the truth. How readily do we believe a lie when it fosters in us a high opinion of ourselves.
4. But now see what was their actual state: they were altogether mistaken. These intelligent persons, these wealthy persons, these instructed persons did not know themselves, and that is the grossest kind of ignorance. You remember the Tay Bridge disaster. There is no doubt whatever that the bridge was not fitted for its position, its ordinary strain was all it could bear; but nobody thought so. Undoubtedly the engineers reckoned it would stand any test to which it might be put, and therefore there was no attention given to it to make it any stronger and to provide against sudden disaster; and consequently when a specially fierce hurricane was out one night it swept it all away. That is just the picture of many a Church and many a man, because he is thought to be so pious, and the Church is thought to be so correct and vigorous, therefore no attempt is made for improvement, no special prayer, no cries to heaven.
II. OUR LORD'S BLESSED COUNSEL.
1. Note how He begins: "I counsel thee to buy." Is not that singular advice? Just now He said that they were "wretched" and "poor." How can they buy? Surely it suggests to us at once those blessed free grace terms which are only to be met with in the market of Divine love: "Yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price."
2. But next, what does He say? "I counsel thee to buy of Me." Ah, they had been dealing with one another: they had been bartering amongst themselves. One brother had brought this talent, another that, and they had grown rich, as they thought, by a mutual commerce. "Now," says Christ, "compare yourselves with yourselves no longer: give up seeking of man, and buy of Me." It is the very foundation of grace — to be willing to buy of Christ.
3. Now see the goods which He describes. "I counsel thee to buy of Me" — what? Everything. It is true that only three wants of these people are here mentioned, but they are inclusive of all needs.
4. The counsel of the Lord is not only that we buy of Him everything, but that we buy the best of everything of Him. Gold is the most precious metal, but He would have them buy the best of it, "gold tried in the fire"; gold that will endure all further tests, having survived that of fire. Remember the raiment too, for that is of the best; our Lord calls it "white raiment." That is a pure colour, a holy colour, a royal colour. We put on the Lord Jesus as our joy, our glory, our righteousness. And as to the eyesalve, it is the best possible one, for Jesus says, "Anoint thine eyes with eyesalve that thou mayest see."
5. All this is the counsel of Christ, and the counsel of Christ to a people that were proud and self-conceited.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. Culross, D. D.)I. THE OPINION WHICH THE LAODICEANS HELD OF THEMSELVES. "Thou sayest." It is not likely that the words which follow were spoken. The saying was in a cherished thought — not in a thought that comes in, if I may so speak, at one door of the spirit and passes out at another, but a thought that a man makes at home in his mind. He who speaks to the Laodiceans, hears this speaking; though the speaking be only thinking, He hears it; though only in feeling, He hears it. Oh, what a different thing life would be, if lived out under the eye of God, from what it now is as lived out under the eye of men! But, mark, every Church presents itself in a particular form to Jesus Christ. Every Church by its worship and communion and fellowship and work is, according to this text, saying something perpetually into the very ear of God. Now these people said, "I am rich" — rich not in material wealth, though that most likely was true. And they said, "I am increased with goods": that is, I am become wealthy. There is a force in the word that gives the idea of their having gained this spiritual treasure by their own exertions, so that it was to their credit to have been thus spiritually rich. "And have need of nothing"; that is, they were perfectly satisfied. You see there is a sort of climax here: rich — become rich — having need of nothing. First the fact of wealth is stated, then the means by which it was obtained is indicated, and then the result. But now, what does all this mean in plain language? Christ intends to say to these people, that they were self-conceited and self-sufficient. The men who are great in their own eyes are men who have very little to do with God, and very little to do with the works of God; and the Christians and the Churches that are great in their own eyes are Christians and Churches that cannot be much in communion with Christ.
II. THEIR REAL CONDITION, AS DESCRIBED BY ONE WHO KNEW IT WELL. "And knowest not that thou art wretched" — literally, "that thou art the wretched on" — the wretched one out of these Asiatic Churches — the wretched one in all the Churches of Christ. The Laodicean Church thought itself to be the great one; and, to correct them, Christ is represented as saying, "and knowest not that thou art the wretched one." A slave to vanity and to delusion, this Church was verily the wretched and the pitiable one, a true object for compassion.
III. THE COUNSEL. It is just the same with a man who professes to cultivate his mind, to increase his knowledge, and to add to his information — so soon as he begins to rest in what he has gained, and to call it wealth, and to feel rich in it, so soon he arrests his progress in getting to himself the treasures of information and of knowledge. This counsel, I say again, is offered to those who assume and assert that they do not need it. But what is here meant by the word "buy"? — "I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire." The word "buy" here does not mean to give an equivalent, but to part with this self-sufficiency, and to part with it for something valuable. We often see God bring a conceited man down to no faith at all in order to lift him up to the position of a true believer. What Christ suggests to these people is this, that they shall part with their self-conceit and with their self-sufficiency. By this "gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich," we may understand sterling godliness as opposed to "the form of godliness without the power." Of what use is a sham Christian? Of what benefit is an unreal Church? Things are precious only as they be true and thorough and entire. "And white raiment that thou mayest be clothed," etc. Put into plain language, this simply means, get what is really valuable; put on what is really fair and true; and try to see things by a proper and spiritual discernment to be derived from above just aa they really are.
(Bp. S. Wilberforce.)
I. THAT THERE ARE MULTITUDES OF SUCH SELF-DECEIVERS AMONG PROFESSORS.
II. THE GROUNDS AND CAUSES OF THIS SELF-DECEIT AMONG PROFESSORS.
1. The natural deceitfulness of the heart, than which nothing is more treacherous and false (Jeremiah 17:9).
2. Satan is a chief conspirator in this treacherous design.
3. The common works found in unregenerate souls deceive many, who cannot distinguish them from the special works of the Spirit in God's elect (Hebrews 6:4).
4. To add no more, this strengthens self-deceit exceedingly in many, viz., their observations of and comparing themselves with others. Use 1 shall be for caution to professors. Before I tell you what use you should make of it, I must tell you what use you may not make of it.(1) Do not make this use of it — to conclude from what hath been said, that all professors are but a pack of hypocrites.(2) Do not make this use of it — that assurance must needs be impossible, because so many professors are found to be self-deceivers.(3) Do not make this use of it — to conceal or hide the truths or graces of God, or refuse to profess or confess them before men, because many professors deceive themselves and others also by a vain profession. Use
2. Surely you cannot improve this point to a better purpose than from it to take warning, and look to yourselves, that you be not of that number who deceive themselves in their profession.
(John Flavel.)I. THE UNCONVERTED SINNER'S ESTIMATE OF HIS OWN CONDITION.
1. "I am rich." The word "rich" is here used in its most extended meaning, as descriptive of the possession of that which is of great value. "I am rich." I possess much; and what I possess is well worth having. If the unconverted sinner has money, he is proud of it. He looks upon it as a great portion. But many of the unconverted have no money to be proud of. That circumstance, however, does not prevent them from finding out that they are rich. Perhaps they have respectable family connections, or they have a goodly personal appearance, or they possess superior talents. In any such case, the mind fastens with special complacency upon the circumstance, and feels all the satisfaction attendant upon the consciousness of being rich.
2. "And increased with goods." These words embody an additional conceit of the unconverted man. He is rich, and his wealth is not in the course of decay; on the contrary, it is rising in its amount, it is accumulating fast. If he is a .young man, he, peradventure, rejoices in the rapid growth and extensive range of his literary and scientific and professional acquirements, and his heart bounds within him as the strong hope arises of approaching distinction and fame. See, again, that man who has left behind him the gay period of youth, and has arrived at the years of maturity and wisdom. He is no longer what he once was. The fire of passion is moderated, and the greaser immoralities of early life are abandoned. From being a person of no character, he is become a person of good character. He is a prudent, a well-behaved, an honourable citizen.
3. "And have need of nothing." In these words we are presented with the unconverted man's climax. The prosperity of his state has arrived at the superlative degree.
II. THE UNCONVERTED SINNER'S REAL STATE.
1. "He is wretched." Consider the original state of mankind. Think of its enjoyments, its privileges, its honours, its prospects. What a happy condition! and how wretched the condition which has succeeded! They might be free, but instead of that they are slaves to Satan, to the world, to their own lusts. They might be noble princes; but, alas! they are disgraced outcasts from the Divine favour. They might be kings and priests unto God; but they are doomed criminals, the branded victims of coming vengeance. Surely they are in a wretched condition; they have the Almighty Potentate of heaven and earth for their foe.
2. "Miserable." It is intimated here, that when the mind comes to the consideration of the state of the unconverted, the appropriate emotion is pity. The thraldom they are held in calls for pity; the forfeiture they have incurred, the doom they have provoked, the self-deception they are practising, the false security they are indulging, the infatuation they are exemplifying, demand our pity.
3. "Poor." If the tattered garment around the body be recognised as the symbol of poverty surely we have the symbol of a deeper poverty when the soul is enveloped in the unclean rags of self-righteousness!
4. "Blind." Sinai overhangs him, but he heeds not the frowning mountain. One fairer than the sons of men, and chief among ten thousand, appears to him; but he evinces no sense of His attractions. The deformities of sin do not hinder him from embracing it. Though it be the noon-day of the Gospel, he gropes as one in darkness. The road which he travels is marked for his warning, as the way to everlasting misery and ruin, but he slackens not his pace. Can it be, then, that he sees? Would beauty have no power to draw a man, deformity none to repel him, or dangers to dismay him, unless he were blind?
5. "Naked." This completes the picture of an unconverted state. The unconverted are naked in a two-fold respect — in that they want the garment of justification, and likewise the garment of sanctification.
III. SOME INFERENCES DESCRIPTIVE OF THE UNCONVERTED MAN'S ERROR.
1. It is a great error. It is just as great an error as possibly can be. It is not, for example, the error of the man who says it is an hour before noon, or an hour after noon, when it is actually just noon; but it is the error of him who declares it is midnight while he stands under the blaze of the meridian sun.
2. It is a surprising error. It is surprising from its very grossness. Man is so prone to err that the occurrence of small mistakes excites no astonishment; on the contrary, we look for it. But it is startling to find men calling bitter sweet, emptiness abundance, disgrace honour, and misery comfort and happiness. The error in question is the more extraordinary, when it is considered that there are such ample means of getting at the truth.
3. It is a pernicious error. Death is the consequence of adhering to this error — death in its most appalling form — the eternal ruin of body and soul.
4. It is an error which, by human means, is incorrigible. We say not that its correction is beyond the power of God.
(C. A. Bartol.)
Homilist.I. MORAL WEALTH IS MOST FOREIGN TO THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS. In morals, the richer a man thinks himself to be, the poorer he is. Pharisaic souls are in utter destitution.
II. MORAL WEALTH IS THE GREAT WANT OF HUMANITY. Men, whatever else they possess, are abject without it.
1. It is the only wealth that is intrinsically valuable.
2. The only wealth that enriches the man.
3. The only wealth that procures an honourable status in being.
4. The only wealth that secures a true and lasting interest in the universe.
III. MORAL WEALTH IS TO BE OBTAINED ONLY IN CONNECTION WITH CHRIST. Jesus has "the gold," "the white garment," "the eyesalve," the "unsearchable riches."
IV. MORAL WEALTH MUST BE OBTAINED BY PURCHASE. "Buy of Me." You must give up something for it — ease, self-righteousness, prejudices, worldly gain and pleasures. You must sell that you have.
1. They are spiritually poverty-stricken. The spiritual wealth consisting of appreciation of the Divine promises, close communion with God, and the glorious visions of hope and faith, is altogether lacking. The wealth of sympathy and helpfulness, the wealth of energy for Christ and His salvation, has no representation in them.
2. They are spiritually naked. The grateful sense of indebtedness to a gracious Saviour, melting the soul and humbling it before Him, has never been felt.
3. They are spiritually blind. That is why they do not detect their nakedness. That is why they do not know their coin is all spurious and their wealth but poverty.
I counsel thee to buy of Me. —2 Corinthians 8:1-5) concerning the Churches of Macedonia. They were marked by "deep poverty," but that poverty was conjoined with "abundance of joy" — the joy of the Holy Ghost, which had never failed them since they embraced the gospel; that joy of theirs was "gold." Again, even in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality; that liberality of theirs was "gold." Again, there was the outflow of love to their suffering brethren in Christ at a distance; they were willing to contribute to their help, even beyond their power: that love was "gold." A Church that is rich in these things is rich indeed. Besides being poor, the Laodiceans were naked. So He invites them to make application to Him, and promises to give "white raiment," etc. This represents and symbolises the saintliness of life in which saintliness of heart expresses itself. As the dress clothes the body, and answers to its form and size, so a saintly life is the garb, as it were, and expression of a holy heart. The "well-doing" in which we are not to be "weary" is not the mere doing of what is "good," but of what is "beautiful"; and beauty of living is the outward of heartbeauty, as a smile is the outward of heart-cheer. Besides being poor and naked, they were blind; answering to the prophet's description of "the blind people who have eyes," or like those men who appealed to Jesus with the question, "Are we blind also?" Now we must settle it in our hearts that we can find what we need only in Christ, and nowhere else. "Buy," He says, "of Me." We must not merely look away from man, we must also look away from ourselves to Him. There is a peculiar and very delightful emotion produced in the mind by fine scenery; almost every one, I suppose, knows what it is. You sit in a room which commands one of the finest views in the country. Your face, however, as it happens, is turned away from the window. You shut your eyes and strive to call up the peculiar emotion to which I have referred. Of course you fail. All the striving in the world would be in vain. What, then? Rise from your chair, open your eyes, step to the window, gaze forth upon the scene outspread before you, and let it produce its own effect upon your mind. In like manner, in religion, we shall not succeed in getting the right feeling by our trying and striving, we must look out of ourselves to Christ.
(J. Culross, D. D.)
I. THE COUNSEL JESUS GIVES.
1. Jesus counsels us what we are to believe. The faculty of belief is as certainly possessed by man as is the faculty of vision; the one is a physical and the other a mental power, but both are possessed by us, and both are to be exercised. Jesus says, "I counsel thee what to believe." To believe in God, in His perfections, His power, wisdom, justice, grace, mercy, truth, love. In His providence and care over you, to believe in such a way as that we shall revere, obey, and love God. To believe in Jesus — "Ye believe in God, believe also in Me" — that I am what the prophets said I should be, the true Messiah. Believe in the fulness of My love, the sufficiency of My atoning work, My ability and willingness to pardon and cleanse, and in the absolute and unchanging truthfulness of all My words. Believe in the Holy Ghost; in His convincing, converting, renewing, sustaining, and sanctifying energy. Believe in the duties pertaining to personal life and godliness as I have revealed them.
2. I have met with not a few young folks who have been sadly perplexed with the question as to what they shall be. One has solved it by saying, "I shall be a great merchant; my ships shall sail on many seas, and my servants and warehouses shall be exceedingly numerous." Another has said, "Science shall be my study." A third has said, "I will be a physician, and I will try to relieve the poor of their maladies." To all such the Heavenly Counsellor comes, and He does not say to such, "How mistaken you all are, you must all change your decisions." Oh no, but He counsels the farmer as he sows to sow goodness, that when the reaping time comes he may reap the same. To the philosopher He counsels the study of the wisdom which is from on high, and which is full of good works; and to the merchant He says, "Let goodness be the article in which you shall always trade; let it store your warehouses, fill the holds of your ships, and govern all your transactions." To all the Heavenly Counsellor says, "Be good; have a good heart, a good conscience, a good intention, a good life."
3. This Heavenly Counsellor tells us also what we are to do. Activity, under His advice, is always to characterise us. The Lord Jesus knows as no one else the great evils of idleness, and how such evils must afflict and torment all who are slothful; and so against this sin He plainly counsels us. In the cultivation of inward holiness and in the development of righteous principles, in the hope of winning souls for heaven and God, work.
II. CHRIST'S COUNSELS ARE ALL AND ALWAYS GOLDEN. So that not any mixture can be detected; they have all passed through, and been stamped in, the minting house of heaven. But how shall we know that these counsels are all golden?
1. In the first place, because of their genuineness. It matters not the test through which we put them, or the analysis they are subjected to; not all the testing in the world can either detect the least impurity or make them more genuine than they are. Who, I should like to know, seeks the good of every man, woman, boy, and girl, as Jesus does? And whose counsel when adopted has resulted in such untold good to millions of our fellow creatures as His? Yes, look at it how, when, and where you may, ring it as you please, weigh it, measure it, or bring any other test you please to bear upon the counsel offered by Jesus, and its genuineness will be made the more evident.
2. Because of the value of His counsels. All genuine things are not so valuable as gold; a violet is a genuine violet, but we don't part with gold for violets. The paper on which I am writing is genuine paper, but it is not of the value of gold. The counsel Jesus gives is not only as valuable, but more so than gold. Do you ask what the advice Jesus gives will procure? It will procure for us the favour of God, the approval of angels, and the esteem of all good men. It will procure for us peace within and purity without, enable us to live soberly, righteously, and godly here, and then to sit down in the kingdom of God above and to go no more out.
3. Like gold, they must be searched for. The name of the mine is "the Bible," the implements with which we are to work are prayer, patience, and faith. By knee work and ceaseless industry they will be amply recompensed.
4. Because, like gold, they are to be used. Some people who keep a shop hang up His counsels in their parlours and drawing-rooms; it would be better if they would use them in their business. Some look at them when they put on their Sunday clothes, and then say adieu to them when Sabbath attire is laid away. Better if they would walk and move and live in the same all the week through. Then, like gold, if we use Christ's counsels aright, they will increase more and more.
III. NO ONE IS ENTITLED TO EXPECT THIS GOLDEN COUNSEL FOR NOTHING. Men do not part with gold on such terms, nor does Jesus part with His counsels thus, and so He says, "I counsel thee to buy."
1. We are to obtain this counsel in the first place by giving up all our sins. What an exchange I It is dross of the worst for gold of the very best kind. If a man were to come and offer gold and crowns, titles and lands, for old rags and bones, I feel sure there would not be many left in all the houses put together; and yet, whilst Jesus offers the gold of heaven if we will only forsake our evil ways and come to Him, how few are really eager to make the exchange.
2. Then in a sense we purchase the gold of heaven by using aright the quantity already given. It is by use the two talents become five, and the five talents ten. If we walk in the light already given, however faint and feeble it may be, it will conduct us to greater clearness and to more perfect vision.
I. Now, I observe that the first need of the lukewarm Church Is TO OPEN ITS EYES TO SEE FACTS. Observe that the text falls into two distinct parts, and that the counsel to buy does not extend — though it is ordinarily read as if it did — to the last item in our Lord's advice. These Laodiceans are bid to "buy of" Him "gold" and "raiment," but they are bid to use the "eyesalve" that they "may see." No doubt, whatever is meant by that "eyesalve" comes from Him, as does everything else. But my point is that these people are supposed already to possess it, and that they are bid to employ it. No doubt the exhortation, "anoint thine eyes with eyesalve that thou mayest see," may be so extended as to refer to the general condition of spiritual blindness which attaches to humanity, apart from the illuminating and sight-giving work of Jesus Christ. That true Light, which lighteneth every man that cometh into the world, has a three-fold office as the result of all the parts of which there comes to our darkened eyes the vision of the things that are. He reveals the objects to see; He gives the light by which we see them; and He gives us eyes to see with. "Behold Me as I am, and the things that I reveal to you as they are; and then you will see yourselves as you are." So, then, there comes out of this exhortation this thought, that a symptom constantly accompanying the lukewarm condition is absolute unconsciousness of it. In all regions the worse a man is the less he knows it. It is the good people that know themselves to be bad; the bad ones, when they think about themselves, conceit themselves to be good. The higher a man climbs in any science, or in the practice of any virtue, the more clearly he sees the unscaled peaks above him. The frost-bitten limb is quite comfortable. Another thought suggested by this part of the counsel is that the blind man must himself rub in the eyesalve. Nobody else can do it for him. True! It comes like every other good thing, from the Christ in the heavens; and, as I have already said, if we will attach specific meanings to every part of a metaphor, that "eyesalve" may be the influence of the Divine Spirit who convicts men of sin. But whatever it is you have to apply it to your own eyes. Our forefathers made too much of self-examination as a Christian duty, and pursued it often for mistaken purposes. But this generation makes far too light of it. Apply the eyesalve; it will be keen, it will bite; welcome the smart, and be sure that anything is good for you which takes away the veil that self-complacency casts over your true condition, and lets the light of God into the cellars and dark places of your souls.
II. The second need of the lukewarm Church IS THE TRUE WEALTH WHICH CHRIST GIVES. "I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire." Now, there may be many different ways of putting the thought that is conveyed here, but I think the deepest truth of human nature is that the only wealth for a man is the possession of God. That wealth alone makes us paupers truly rich. For there is nothing else that satisfies a man's craving, and supplies a man's needs. That wealth has immunity from all accidents. No possession is truly mine of which any outward contingency or circumstance can deprive me. But this wealth, the wealth of a heart enriched with the possession of God, whom it knows, loves, trusts, and obeys, this wealth is incorporated with a man's very being, and enters into the substance of his nature; and so nothing can deprive him of it. The only possession which we can take with us when our nerveless hands drop all other good, and our hearts are untwined from all other loves, is this durable riches.
III. The third need of a lukewarm Church is THE RAIMENT — THAT CHRIST GIVES. The wealth which He bids us buy of Him belongs mostly to our inward life; the raiment which He proffers us to wear, as is natural to the figure, applies mainly to our outward lives, and signifies the dress of our spirits as these are presented to the world. I need not remind you of how frequently this metaphor is employed throughout the Scripture. There is nothing in the world valuer than effort after righteousness which is not based on faith. "Buy of Me raiment," and then, listen to the voice which says, "Put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man of God created in righteousness and holiness of truth."
IV. Lastly, ALL SUPPLY OF THESE NEEDS IS TO BE BOUGHT. "Buy of Me." There is nothing in that counsel contradictory to the great truth, that "the gift of God is eternal life."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Gold tried in the fireI. A PRECIOUS COMMODITY.
1. Gold represents the blessed Saviour, for He is the most excellent of beings.
2. Gold represents the gospel, for it is the most excellent of systems.
3. Gold represents the Christian graces, for they are the most permanent of treasures. Faith, hope, and love have a power to bless beyond this world's wealth.
II. THIS PRECIOUS COMMODITY TRIED. Even philosophy itself has confessed that the gold of the gospel alone will sustain in the final conflict.
III. THIS TRIED AND PRECIOUS COMMODITY IS OFFERED FOR ACCEPTANCE It is strange but true that men reject salvation because it is freely offered. Pride resents the humbling conditions. Self-will tramples beneath its feet offered mercy.
IV. THE GLORIOUS CONSEQUENCE OF ACCEPTING. Soul riches are the true abiding wealth.
(W. Burrows, B. A.)
(J. Owen, D. D.)
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