VERSES FIFTEEN AND SIXTEEN
Verses 15-16: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to spew you out of My mouth."
"I know your works." As the Lord has spoken to the other churches, in the same way He is now speaking to Laodicea. This is the proof. Actually it is the only proof. Our works are only a manifestation of the real condition. To know the condition of an individual or a church, all we have to do is to consider the works. Of course, this does not mean that we are able to discern, for we do not know the private secrets between our brothers and the Lord. It is wrong for one to criticize. But the Lord knows all our works. As such He knows the real situation. Now He is proving the real condition of Laodicea by its works.
"You are neither cold nor hot." They are not in one of the two categories; they are sitting exactly in between them. A corpse is cold, and a living person is hot. These ones are not cold. Hence, they are not dead in sin; they have been enlivened by the life of God. However, they are not hot either. They have departed from the first love. Their condition is somewhat abnormal. They are living, yet they have "caught a cold." The world is a freezing cold enclave, and the air there is forever wintry. When they take the risk to take their place there, it is inevitable that they will catch a cold. If believers hope that the world will not try them like a furnace, they have to expect the world to freeze them like an ice house. Under such circumstances, all light and heat will naturally and gradually be put out. If the humanity and glory of Christ is enough to stir up our first love, surely it can rekindle our love for Him. Many times our faith is only the totality of a few dozen doctrines; it is not a living person. When that happens, our heart becomes cold. This is the condition of the Laodiceans’ past and present. The root of the illness is an indifference toward Christ. No matter how scriptural and interesting a doctrine is, it will not make a man burning. Only by drawing near to Christ and consecrating one’s whole heart to Him will there be the burning of love. What we believe in is not some doctrines, but Christ. He is living and is a person. All those who have received Him should have a personal fellowship with Him and a personal affection for Him. But what a pity that although many have believed in the doctrine of redemption and substitution, they have never contacted Christ! Even for one who has truly received Him, if he does not preserve his heart to be absolute for Christ, he will see himself more like Laodicea day by day. The heart is the root of all problems. If the heart is not for Christ, everything will be in vain. The heart must be hot for Christ. Only this will please the Lord. We can be very well-versed in the Bible. We can work with vigor. We can be upright outwardly. Yet at the same time we can be without the affection and love that the Lord is after. Spiritual knowledge is precious. But how many believers have a heart for pursuing spiritual knowledge, yet have no heart for pursuing Christ Himself? The Lord is very unhappy about believers of this kind, who seem to be hot but are not hot, and who seem to be cold but are not cold.
This is the way of man’s compromise. It is not a peril that comes from ignorance but the result of hearing and understanding the truth and then tossing back and forth between taking and opposing it. People of this kind do not like the truth for they know that if they truly obey it, their sacrifice and price will be too great! The flesh will no longer have its place. The world will have to go completely. Unintentional ignorance should be tolerated by us, but a reluctance to keep the truth is another matter. It is what the Lord hates the most.
This attitude of both obeying and rejecting is not something that an honest believer has. Only those who have heard the truth but who are afraid of the cross are like this. God’s truth invariably is a test to man’s heart. It always opposes the existence of the flesh. It is not a matter of learning something in a detached way. The truth will test us and will destroy all fleshly intentions. If a sheep is not sick, not only will it be able to identify the voices of strangers, but it will be able to hear the voice of the shepherd. But those sheep who are lost and who have followed others will be confused and will not be able to distinguish the familiar voices. The reason Laodicea had fallen into this state is that it had rejected the testimony of the church before it. The rejection of the special truth of Philadelphia will cause one to be Laodicea. There the Lord revealed Himself and told everyone who had a heart for Him that if they would consider His name to be above every name on earth, He would give to them a new name in glory. All spiritual love and all the work that the Lord has wrought in us will shine more glorious in heaven. The Lord was encouraging them to do their best to suffer for Him and to fully obey His word. However, Laodicea was lukewarm. Since it was not completely cold, the Lord exhorted it. They were really not honest, but the Lord would not allow them to remain the same. Either they had to repent, or they would be rejected. The Lord indeed hates to see one being filled with the truth yet not being moved by it a bit. As long as their heart would be a little bit honest, although they might not know anything, they would still be able to enjoy all the love and grace of the Lord. The anointing mentioned in 1 John 2, which comes from the Holy One and which teaches men all things, is not given to the "fathers" but to the "little children" (1 John 2:28). As long as we are honest with Christ, we will surely know what is not of Christ. Hence, even the youngest saint who has a pure heart will be able to differentiate between right and wrong. On the contrary, the old theologians will be lost in endless genealogies. What the Lord desires the most is the youthful, "honeymoon" heart. What power there is and what freshness one feels in such a heart! The Lord condemns the mind that is filled with frigid doctrines but has no fellowship with Christ. The only thing to fear in the house of God is too many older sons (Luke 15:25). There is no fear of the return of more prodigals.
"I wish that you were cold or hot." The most difficult kind of people to deal with are those who do not love the Lord aggressively nor oppose the Lord vigorously. If they are burning in spirit, the Lord will gladly call them His friends. If they are cold, the Lord will leave them in their worldly condition. But now they are standing in a neutral position. How should one deal with them? How should they be ranked? The Lord cannot call them real friends because of their coldness. Yet their hotness makes it impossible for the Lord to call them enemies. Those who have fallen down to zero like Sardis can have the warning of the Lord’s coming, and those who have reached the boiling point like Philadelphia can also be comforted by the Lord’s coming. Yet, how shall one deal with the lukewarm ones?
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 05: The Christian (3), Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)