I am starting to do a study on this subject of "lukewarmness," a term bandied about often these days. The word lukewarm (chliaros) only occurs once in the NT, in the warning to the Laodiceans. This extremely rare usage does not permit much in the way of dogmatic understanding. It's also hard for me to determine what "hot" and "cold" mean, which are in contrast with "lukewarm." Jesus prefaces this warning with "I know your deeds," but he does that for most of the other churches too. It appears that this is an introductory remark, like "I can see what you're doing." It may be that "hot" means zealous, but maybe it means faithful, or joyful. And what does "cold" mean? If "lukewarm" means indifference, then does cold mean opposition or atheism? Or, lukewarm may suggest an imperceptible difference with one's spiritual environment. But the key seems to be in Jesus' explanation: "You say that you are rich." Laodicea was a banking center, very affluent. The people were self-reliant and perhaps materialistic. This has similarities to our culture. If someone is in a "lukewarm" congregation, it seems to me that the solution is not to change churches, but to get back to Jesus. Jesus' advice for lukewarm people is to (1) get faith, (2) repent to see clearly, and (3) abstain from sin and live righteously. What do you think? And can you steer me to a good commentary on Revelation -- especially on the letters to the churches? -- Alan Jacques (San Diego)

Good analysis! I agree. The specific sin of the Laodiceans was materialism. Materialism leads to lukewarmness, but even the lukewarm are (technically) still saved. Jesus says, "I am about to vomit you out of my mouth." This suggests there is still time--not that it would be prudent of the lukewarm to bank on it! If you have not read Ramsay's Letters to the Seven Churches, it is the classic work, and I think you will get a lot out of it.

What is lukewarmness, scripturally speaking?

A careful study of Revelation 3:14-22 will show that lukewarm Christians:
* Have lost their passion and fire.
* Are overconfident and complacent.
* Have been affected by materialism.
* Are still technically saved, though perilously close to being rejected by the Lord.
* Do not realize how close to the edge they have come.

It should also be said that lukewarmness cannot be measured in terms of minutes of daily Bible study, how loud one sings or shouts "amen," or how many non-believers one shares his faith with. These measures are, alas, too arbitrary, and vary dramatically with the individual. We must be very careful to use biblical terms in biblical ways, not going beyond what is written. We all have the responsibility to keep our spiritual fervor (Romans 12:11). May we never--as individuals or as congregations--slip into the cozy lukewarmness so often blasted in scripture by the prophets and Jesus Christ himself.

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