Vol. 12 No. 7 July 2010
What criteria do many people use when it comes to “choosing a church”? For some, size, special programs, location and facilities are the most important qualities they consider. Questions like “What will this church do for me? What does this group offer our children? What does this congregation provide for our needs?” are raised. Looking for a church home has become much like shopping for a new car.
Certainly, the above concerns can have a place for consideration in determining a church home. However, there is something else that needs to be considered, something that should be considered before anything else. While felt needs take priority for many people’s search for a church, if we accept Scripture to be authoritative, truth must be one’s first and foremost concern. While many people place subjective feelings above objective truth, God doesn’t. It does matter what an individual believes, and what a church teaches and practices.
Scripture tells us there is one faith, not many, which saves (Ephesians 4:5), which was delivered once for all (Jude 3). Scripture also reveals there is one church that Christ established, not many (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4). Before anything else is considered, one should ask if a local congregation of the body of Christ, in doctrine and practice, seeks to be what Scripture teaches, what Scripture commends it to be. It is, after all, the Lord’s church.
There is no denying that Christians should be friendly, loving and caring. We should seek to strengthen and encourage each other. We should be genuine and sincere in practicing our faith, showing no partiality in our fellowship together or love for each other. However, no criterion is more important than that of truth. Scripture does offer a pattern, and reveals what is to be characteristic of the Lord’s church. Paul reminded Timothy, “But if I should be delayed, I have written so that you will know how people ought to act in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). We must be reminded of this as well. In considering a church home, remember truth.
Revelation 3:15-16 reads, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” This was written to the church at Laodicea. This also means, of course, that Jesus knows each of us individually inside out (Hebrews 4:13). The whole of our lives lie openly before him; nothing remains hidden. The Lord gave an evaluation of the congregation at Laodicea. The church was neither hot nor cold. Trench says that the Lord is expressing deep regret at this condition. Jesus is not saying that He wished that they had never come under the influence of the Gospel, but rather He is giving emphasis to His disappointment to their lukewarmness, over their lack of zeal and concern about spiritual matters.
Notice verse 16. “So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth.” Lukewarm (chliaros, one of the various forms of chlio) means, “to become warm, liquefy, melt” (Thayer). Here the word is used metaphorically to express a condition that produced nausea. A beverage that is hot or cold could be refreshing; but a drink that is tepid and lukewarm produces only nausea and vomiting (Leviticus 18:28; 20:22). The Lord was saying, “Your half-hearted, hypocritical lives make me sick.” He charges that they are neither cold (Psuchros) nor hot (zostos – boiling). They were attempting to make a deadly compromise. There can be no real commitment to Jesus if a person decides to remain cold at the same time. A.T. Robertson said, “There is no real Christianity without enthusiasm.” Christ must mean more to us than the world. He must be our everything. Being lukewarm and being a Christian is a contradiction in terms.
Revelation 3:16-17 is a picture of what Jesus thought of a self-sufficient congregation. The Lord uses biting sarcasm in this verse. In John 2:17, Jesus quoted Psalm 69:9: “Zeal for thy house hath eaten me up.” Zeal, Jesus said is consuming me. Is zeal for His cause consuming you and me? What is your spiritual temperature? Are you hot, cold or lukewarm? God demands that His people be zealous, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord (Titus 2:14). “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” or “careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:8); “learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful” (Titus 3:14). It is good for Christians to be characterized by zeal. However, our zeal must be properly directed. This principle is clearly demonstrated in Romans 10:1-4. Paul wrote of the Jews, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my supplication to God for them; that they might be saved; For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” Zeal must be properly channeled and guided by Scripture.