Bible Questions? Revelation

What does it mean to be a lukewarm Christian (Rev 3:15-16)?

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We have often heard the term “lukewarm Christian” used in church, and we have a vague understanding of what it means. Let us look at scripture to get a complete understanding of its meaning and to self-examine our relationship with Jesus, measuring if we are hot, cold, or lukewarm?

One of the most popular passages referencing a lukewarm Christian is in Revelation 3:15-16, where Jesus addresses the Laodicean church, saying: “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

In this passage, the Laodiceans were neither hot nor cold concerning God. Instead, they were lukewarm. Many Christians interpret this passage to say that the members of the Laodicean church were somewhere in the middle in terms of their faith, meaning they were not on fire for God nor spiritually dead, so God is displeased with them. In other words, they were still Christians, except they were not very good at it. Is this an accurate interpretation, or is their condition much worse? Let’s find out.

The Laodiceans understood the analogy Jesus was presenting them. Their drinking water came through an aqueduct from a spring six miles to the south, and when it arrived, it was disgustingly lukewarm. The water they received was not like the water at the hot springs where it originated, where people used to bathe in, nor was it cold for the purpose of drinking. Instead, it was lukewarm and good for nothing. So, Jesus says, “I will spit you out of my mouth”. In other wordsthey were good for nothing, and they sickened Jesus.  

The signs of a lukewarm Christian is that:

  • God is only a source to escape from the penalty of sin, but they still love living in their sin
  • they attend church and worship God as a religious activity, but their actions do not show the fruits of a transformed life
  • they don’t enjoy praying or spending time in the presence of God and glorifying Him in everything they do
  • they don’t share their faith
  • their eyes are set on the things of this world
  • they don’t have much time for God
  • no one knows that they are Christ-followers
  • and many more.

In contrast, a true follower of Christ will either be hot or cold. Again, some may equate “hot” as being a follower of Christ and “cold” as a follower of the world. Jesus is not saying that at all; instead, He is saying that being either hot or cold is useful. That is why Revelation 3:15 says,“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!“. Someone who is either hot or cold is someone who is useful for the kingdom of God. They love God; they love doing His work with the joy of the Lord and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform their lives as they shine the light of Jesus to the world. Jesus says in Matthew 7:16-17, “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.” 

Lukewarm individuals are not saved. This is in contrast to popular belief that lukewarmness is just a Christian who is not growing in the Lord – although Christian, they love some of the world too. Friends, you are either in or out. There are no two ways about it. You are either hot or cold, both being useful for something, or you are lukewarm and useless. We know this is the case because Jesus is standing outside the church when He speaks to them, and He is knocking at the door. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Are you a “lukewarm” Christian, or do you attend a lukewarm church? Or, on the other hand, are you either hot or cold for God? Being an actual Christian means we love the Lord and seek to follow Jesus Christ and His teachings as given in the Bible. It does not mean that we are perfect, but we progress through the process of sanctification in our lives. Just because someone fails along this journey or find it harder than others does not make them a non-Christian. Their desire and humbleness before Christ to do His will is the heart of a true Christian. In contrast, if you admit you are a Christian but do not have the conviction of your sins, do not walk in faith, love the ways of the world, and do not go to church, or hunger and thirst after the ways of God, then you may be a false convert and are lukewarm.

Friends, take serious consideration in examining your walk and your heart condition with the Lord. Do you love God? May He not be outside of you or your church, rather that He may be the treasure of your heart. Amen!

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