Verse 18: "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined by fire that you may be rich, and white garments that you may be clothed and that the shame of your nakedness may not be manifested, and eyesalve to anoint your eyes that you may see."
"I counsel you." Although the condition is so bad, Christ still thinks that there is the possibility of rescue. Corporately speaking, to be spewed out is the inevitable outcome, but here the Lord is exhorting individuals and hoping for the individuals to turn to Him. It is not a rebuke, a scorning, or an excommunication, but a counseling. The Lord Jesus can command them, but He would rather counsel them and deal with them in grace. He is counseling them for their own good. If they are willing to hear their Lord’s word, their condition will not be hopeless. Such counseling for such believers under such circumstance makes us marvel at the Lord’s endurance and gentleness. If He deals with us in this way, should we not deal with our brothers in the same way, even though they may have fallen into a Laodicean stubbornness?
"To buy from Me." An outward Christ cannot heal inward disease. It is not how much one boasts about, but how much one has received from Him. These persons have almost forsaken Christ completely. Now the Lord wants them to know that He is the source of their revival. Although they are saved, they have not looked to Christ for this source. Hence, they have none of this matter. If they are willing to seek Christ afresh, their flesh and the world will lose their power.
"To buy from Me." Since they are so rich, the Lord no longer says to them that He will give freely. Strictly speaking, no believer can receive these things without a price. What is to "buy"? To buy is to exchange something for a price. Salvation is free; it is the gift of God and is bought without silver or gold (Isa. 55:1). This means that we do not have to pay a ransom. The Lord is not speaking here to the sinners or the unsaved ones. (Of course, for the church in the age typified by Laodicea, the Lord can be counseling the nominal believers also.) Here the Lord is speaking to those who are His. They should pay the price to buy what the Lord will give to them. Those who shop must buy. All who will not pay a price will not receive. All those who will not relinquish what they treasure today will not receive anything. The Lord will not give anything freely; He wants to exchange. Only if you give to the Lord what you have will He give to you what He has. Oh Laodicean believers, never think that you can preserve your Laodicean riches while receiving freely from the Lord the things mentioned here. If you do, you will become more Laodicean. If believers will not hand over all their Laodicean riches to Christ, He will not give to them what He promises here.
What they should buy are three things. First is "gold refined by fire." If they are willing to buy the gold of Christ, they will be turned immediately from poverty to riches. If they are willing to exchange their riches with the Lord, they will lose the deceitful mammon and will gain the real thing. What they have is, of course, merely money produced by their self-righteous filthy garments, which cannot withstand fire. Only the Lord has the gold refined by fire. If they are willing to give up their riches before men, they will be rich before God (Luke 12:33).
What is the significance of "gold refined by fire" here? Gold in the Bible symbolizes God’s holiness, but here it does not mention gold only, but "gold refined by fire." Hence, it must mean something else. Gold refined by fire means a faith that has been proved. "So that the proving of your faith, much more precious than of gold which perishes though it is proved by fire, may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:7). For this reason James told us, "Did not God choose the poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which He promised to those who love Him?" (James 2:5). Only those who are truly poor in the world will be rich in faith, for only they can possibly be proved and can demonstrate the riches of their faith through this proving.
The faith spoken of here is not the initial faith with which we believe in the Lord; Laodicea has that faith already. The faith spoken of here is the faith with which the believers suffer for the Lord. This is what the Lord Jesus was referring to when He spoke of gold refined by fire. The Lord desires to see His people give up everything practically to follow Him and to suffer for Him. The Lord desires to see His people lose their scum in the furnace of suffering and shine and sparkle in the day of His appearing. The Laodicean believers should not have any hope for rapture or reigning. But if some among them would forsake everything to suffer for the Lord, so that their faith would become rich through their trials and they would turn from backsliding, the Lord will make them regain their lost rapture (with reference to Peter’s word) and kingdom (with reference to James’ word). May we have more faith to go through the sufferings!
"And white garments that you may be clothed and that the shame of your nakedness may not be manifested." This is the second thing that they should buy. This, of course, refers to the goodness and righteousness of the saints’ conduct. These white garments are not the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, because the Laodicean believers have that already. The white garments here refer to the righteousness practiced by the believers in their living after they have believed in the Lord and received God’s righteousness. This is clearly pointed out to us by the Holy Spirit. Revelation 19:8 says, "And it was given to her that she should be clothed in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints." The righteousness of the worldly people and the righteousness of the believers are two different things. The righteousness lived out by the believers is based on the righteousness they received from God, while the worldly people are practicing something merely according to the power of the flesh. This fact is related to the last point covered. Although they have put on the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, their faith is still not too living. This is why the Lord first counsels them to buy the living faith, to remove all filth, and to labor with love. They are still naked and shameful spiritually because they lack the practice. They are the fruitless trees. This is why the Lord charges them to draw near to Him, so that they may have good works through His grace and bear fruit of justification by faith.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 05: The Christian (3), Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)