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Gracious Counsel to a Fallen Church

Author unknown

Published in thePresbyterian Standard, Issue No. 27, July-September 2002.

"Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see ."
– Revelation 3:17-18.

PROFESSORS of religion should endeavour to acquire correct views of themselves; then they will neither boast of their attainments, nor presumptuously depend upon imaginary possessions. The members of the Laodicean church, being ignorant of themselves, said they were rich, and increased with goods, and that they had need of nothing; but, in reality, they were "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Yet our Lord, in tender mercy, counselled them to buy of him gold tried in the fire, that they might be rich; and white raiment, that they might be clothed; and eye-salve, that they might see. This reminds us of Jehovah's compassion to backsliding Israel, when he said, with the tenderness of a father, "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim," Hos. xi.8.

1. Consider The Imaginary State of the Laodicean Church.

1. The angel or minister is addressed, but the people also are intended. It is well known that ανγελοδ, angel, is not a name of nature, but of office; and that it signifies a messenger. The angel, or minister, was the messenger of God to the people, when he preached the word of life; and he was the messenger of the people of God, when he offered up their prayers, and addressed him in their name. He is here addressed, because he was placed over the church as a guide and a governor; and, probably, because his state resembled that of the people under his care. But how awful is the state of a professing church, when both minister and people are sunk into a state of lukewarmness!

2. They imagined themselves to be both wealthy and independent. "Thou sayest, I am rich," in gifts and graces, in knowledge and holiness; and "increased with goods," including both worldly possessions, and spiritual treasures; "and have need of nothing," either from God or man; they were proud, vain, and selfsufficient. And has not this been the case with other churches, when outward prosperity has led them to careless formality? Here it may be proper to trace this state of mind up to its source; it begins generally in outward prosperity; that opens the way to sensual enjoyments, dress, and carnal company; then follow human praise and fulsome flattery; flattery produces pride and vanity; and pride and vanity produce boasting, self-confidence, and contempt for others.

3. Those persons who, like the Laodiceans, praise themselves are always to be suspected. It is an old and true saying, that 'self-praise is no commendation:' and every one will allow that boasting is hateful both to God and men. Therefore, whatever the Laodiceans said of themselves in that way, rendered them more odious, and amounted to nothing. Ahumble man dare not praise himself: he leaves that work to others, Prov. xxvii. 2.

The Apostles of our Lord durst not boast either of their gifts or graces, 2 Cor. x. 12; and boasters have always been the most worthless of men: instance Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. iv. 30; and Theudas, Acts v. 36; the heathen in their worst state, are called boasters, Rom. i. 30; and it is predicted of corrupt professing Christians, that they would be boasters, 2 Tim. iii. 2. 4. Awful effects follow boasting and selfsufficiency. Aboaster feeds his own pride and vanity; he who has no need of anything, will ask for nothing; and thus prayer is laid aside as a useless thing. On this plan, God is robbed of that praise which is due to his holy name; for who that praises himself, will praise the Lord? When we are confirmed in this dreadful state, sin predominates; our graces wither, fade, and die; the Spirit of God is quenched; and strong delusions are judicially sent, by an offended God, that we may believe a lie and be damned, 2 Thess. ii. 11,12.

2. Point Out The Real State of that Church

1. With all their boasting, they were in a wretched state. In the eyes of Jesus, their Judge, they were worthless and truly despicable; and this is the case with all empty, proud professors. Of all men in the world backsliders are the most wretched; the crown is fallen from their head; they are mean and contemptible, because they have sinned, Lam. v.16.

2. Like other sinners, they were miserable. Men who are destitute of religion, have no solid enjoyments; like Ephraim, they feed on the wind, and follow after the east wind, Hos. xii.1; and they are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, Isa. lvii. 20: they are miserable in life, and will be miserable in death, Jas.v. 1; yea, they will be miserable in the eternal world, Matt. xxi. 41.

3. While boasting of riches, they were poor. The wealth of this world does not make a man rich before God; and the unholy have neither any valuable possessions of grace here, nor any title or claim to glory hereafter. Some are rich in faith, Jas. ii. 5; and others in good works, 1 Tim. vi. 18; but they have neither the one nor the other; nor have they any treasure laid up in heaven, the place where the riches of a good man are deposited.

4. They were blind in spiritual things. Blindness denotes ignorance, Rom. xi. 25. Fallen professors do not see their sins; they do not see the state they are in before God; they do not see the ruin which is coming upon them, 1 Thess. v.2. Their former experience is nearly erased from their memory, for they have forgotten that they were once purged from their old sins, 2 Peter 1.9.

5. And they were naked before him, whose eyes see things as they are. The people of God are clothed with the garment of salvation, and covered with the robe of righteousness, Isa. lxi. 10; but wicked men are guilty of shameful actions, and wholly destitute of every thing which is calculated to adorn the human character. To be naked signifies to be stripped of innocency: thus Adam, when he sinned, was naked, Gen. iii. 10; and when Israel sinned in worshipping the golden calf, it is said, "the people were naked," Exodus xxxii. 25.

3. State The Gracious Counsel Of The Lord Jesus Christ

1. Our blessed Lord gave them good counsel. He was able to give them good counsel, for in him "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," Col. ii. 3 But how mild and gentle, how good and gracious are his words!

2. He advised them to buy of him gold tried in the fire, that they might be rich. But how were they to buy? We reply, in the language of the prophet, "without money and without price," Isa. lv. 1. "By gold tried in the fire," we may understand the true riches, spiritual and heavenly graces; and especially the faith which worketh by love, l Pet. i. 7. He is rich indeed, who has this faith; for all things are his, "whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come," l Cor. iii. 21, 22.

3. And white raiment, that the shame of their nakedness might not appear. This raiment implies Christian virtues, a holy life, or the righteousness of the saints, Rev. xix. 8; but let us not forget that Christ is made righteousness unto us, l Cor. i. 30. Sin is the shame of our nakedness, it is our only disgrace; but when our Lord makes us unblameable in holiness, it no longer appears either in our words or works, 1 Thess. iii. 13.

4. Jesus recommends them to anoint their eyes with eye-salve, that they might see. This eye-salve implies the Divine illuminations of the written word, the teachings of the Holy Spirit, and the instructions of the Christian ministry; and when the sight of man is cleared by these invaluable helps, he sees the truth as it is in Jesus, Psa. cxix. 105; l John ii.20; Eph. iv. 21. He sees his real state the remedy provided for him in Christ and the duties and privileges of pure and undefiled religion. He was in darkness, but is now in the light of the Lord: and now it is his principal care to walk as a child of the light, Eph. v. 8.

To conclude:

We learn, by this passage, that those who fall into the most awful and degraded state may be recovered by Christ; but then, they must believe his word, and follow his counsel. It will be found in the end, that those who reject the counsel of Divine wisdom, shall eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices, Prov. i. 24 31.