Have you ever been in a situation where you were ashamed to be identified with your family – esp. your dad, your mom – or friends? Sometimes it is the way around, were moms and dads are quite uncomfortable with their children. For example when the kids get a tantrum (esp. in the grocery store when it is your turn to pay the cashier and everybody is looking at you).
On a more serious note: Have you ever been ashamed of your faith – of Jesus? Maybe you have been ashamed of being identified with those “weird” Christians in High School or the ones the media is portraying. Or think about Peter who denies Jesus (by the way he is not the only disciple – where are all the other ones?) fearing for his very own life.
Let us take that even a step further: Have you ever thought/felt that you really don’t need Jesus? That life is going fairly well without Him too? Maybe because of lack of concern or maybe because you are financially so independent or are physically strong. Today and the following weeks we want to take a look at a passage where a church had troubles – big time! – with her identity in Christ.
Our identity in Christ cannot be watered down or neglected in a society where being a Christian is not a hip thing. We need to be distinguished from society and not just blend in! The letters to the churches in Asia – found in Revelation 2-3 – are very much talking to us today. Harrington says it well (quoted in Grant R. Osborne, Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2002], 106-07):
The messages peg Revelation firmly to our world. It is a word of hope addressed to people who need hope, people who may falter. The messages, like so much of the New Testament, bring us encouragement. There never has been a perfect Christian community. Christians have been faithful and heroic, and they have been frail and vacillating. It is not enough for us to find comfort in the word to Philadelphia; we must also hearken to the word to Laodicea.
And to this church of Laodicea we will turn (Rev 3:14-22). The passage of 3:14-22 is placed in a row of letters (7 in total!). Each letter can be roughly divided into seven points: (1) Command to write; (2) Christ’s self-description as a derivation of the description in ch. 1; (3) Praise of the church’s good works; (4) Charge against some sin; (5) Exhortation to repent; (6) Exhortation to listen; and (7) Promise for those who overcome.
Interesting in our passage is that the third point (“Praise”) is missing!
Each letter ends with the promise of eternal life with Christ – this is the main point in each letter (we will get back to this by the end of this series).
Structure of our passage (Craig R. Koester, “The Message to Laodicea and the Problem of its Local Context: A Study of the Imagery in Rev 3.14-22,” 49.3  411):
A. Sovereignty: Christ is the faithful witness and ruler of God’s creation.
B. Dining: Christ will spit the lukewarm out of his mouth.
C. Prosperity: They think they are wealthy but are poor, blind, and naked.
C’. Prosperity: They are to obtain gold, eye salve, and clothing from Christ.
B’. Dining: Christ will eat with those who open the door to him.
A’. Sovereignty: Christ’s faithful followers will share a place on Christ’s throne.
The main purpose of each letter is to address practical issues in the churches; these are found in all churches (thus each letter ends with “hear what the Spirit says to the churches”).
Two questions we need to ask are (cf. Osborne, 105): (1) How does the situation fit our church? (2) What can we learn from it? That is; how can we minimize the weakness of the Laodicean church?
This is just the introductory post for the passage in Revelation 3:14-22. Next post will deal specifically with the church’s weakness, her struggles, and Christ’s offer of renewal and strength!