70 myths on losing salvation (7): Spat out for being lukewarm.

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Myth 7: Jesus will spew you out of his mouth if you are neither hot or cold.

Please bear with me for this long article. It is necessary to explain background. Do read till the end and I guarantee you, you will be blessed.

Recently I found an interesting blog which states that we can lose our salvation in 70 ways. For the complete list of the 70 “ways”, kindly refer to:https://hischarisisenough.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/70-ways-of-losing-your-salvation-1-stop-believing-luke-813/ 

You will find links to the rest of the myths at the end of this article. Please refer to them after your finish this  article.

Today we will deal with myth No. 7 and I am rather mouthful (pun itended).

Dear friends, this is perhaps the most famous of the misquoted verses. Many have argued if you become a luke warm Christian, Jesus will spit you out of his mouth. Let’s look at the passage.

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Dear friends, what I really want to point out doesn’t really appear in the NIV. I want to show you the Young’s Literal Translation of this passage. I want to do that because Young’s translation is literal meaning it is the closest to the Greek. Let me reproduce the same:

14 `And to the messenger of the assembly of the Laodiceans write: These things saith the Amen, the witness — the faithful and true — the chief of the creation of God;

15 I have known thy works, that neither cold art thou nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot.

16 So — because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit thee out of my mouth;

17 because thou sayest — I am rich, and have grown rich, and have need of nothing, and hast not known that thou art the wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked,

18 I counsel thee to buy from me gold fired by fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white garments that thou mayest be arrayed, and the shame of thy nakedness may not be manifest, and with eye-salve anoint thine eyes, that thou mayest see.”

If you read very carefully, Jesus is saying they are neither hot or cold because of their works. In other words, it is their works that has made them neither hot or cold.

If you read the text very carefully being hot or cold has nothing to do with being pew warmers or being a superficial Christian. Let me explain from a Paul Ellis article. But I want you to keep in mind this. Jesus was referring to their “works” that made them luke-warm. But first what is luke-warmness? Paul Ellis in his wonderful blog “Escape to Reality” tells us “What does it mean to say a church is lukewarm? What does it mean to be spit out of Jesus’ mouth? What does it mean to be wretched and pitiful, blind and naked? In this series I will look at each of these questions in turn.

What does it mean to be lukewarm? Many commentators define lukewarmness in terms of apathy or lack of zeal. They say it’s better to be on fire for God or coldly opposed to him than be half-hearted in the middle. This interpretation has become so widely known that even among sinners the term lukewarm has become synonymous with apathy and complacency.

But there are at least three problems with interpreting this scripture in terms of zeal.

 

Problem 1: Zeal is a subjective term

What is hot to you will be lukewarm to someone else
. You might think that you are “on fire” for God. You may say, “I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I have.” Then you meet someone who is fasting four times a week and giving 20% away. Compared to them you look like a casual believer. After all, you’re only doing half as much as them. You begin to wonder, “Am I doing enough? Will Jesus spit me out?”

I’ve heard preachers use Revelations 3:16 to condemn Christians who have become, in their eyes, complacent and lackadaisical. It’s funny, but when preachers say this, they usually define “hot” in terms of whatever level of zeal they happen to be living at. It’s an amazing coincidence.

No matter how zealous or enthusiastic you may be, there will always be someone more zealous who makes you look lukewarm by comparison. The only appropriate response is one of competitive insecurity. And that leads to the second problem with this interpretation.

 

Problem 2: Zeal implies God’s acceptance of us is based on our performance

The lukewarmness of the Laodicean had put them in danger of being “spit out” or rejected by the Lord. This begs the question, what makes us acceptable to God? Is it our zeal?

Usually when people preach on this text, zeal is defined in terms of things we should do, or rather things we aren’t doing enough of. And we sit there and nod our heads because, yes, we could be doing a lot more of all those good things.

But think about this for a second. Since when did we buy into the idea that our performance makes us acceptable to God? This is just self-righteousness in disguise. You can tell that by looking at the fruit. What if you did fast twice a week and give 10% away and then you met a believer who didn’t fast or tithe at all? Pride would swell up inside. You might think, “I’m no Billy Graham, but compared to this person I’m hot, hot, hot!”

Yeah, that impresses God.

Religion deals in relatives and leads people to say, “I’m basically a good person,” or, “I may not be perfect, but I’m above average.” But God deals in absolutes. You’re either in the kingdom or you’re not. You’re either a sheep or a goat, wheat or weeds, a sinner or a saint. Defining lukewarmness in terms of our performance gets people thinking that there is some middle ground when it comes to our acceptance. But there is no middle ground.

 

Problem 3: Jesus says we’re better off cold

Most people agree that it’s better to be hot than lukewarm, but Jesus said it’s also better to be cold. Either hot or cold is good. But if Jesus was referring to enthusiasm, why would he say it’s better to have none that some? If Jesus was referring to the things we do for him, why would he say it’s better to do nothing than something? This doesn’t make any sense.

Some have defined “cold” as meaning “being opposed to God” or “rejecting the truth outright.” If so, why would Jesus say, “I wish you were hot or cold”? Why would Jesus want anyone to reject the truth of the gospel? That doesn’t make sense either.

Lukewarmness is not about human zeal

People who preach zeal are essentially saying, “be good for Jesus.” Well it’s good to be good but our goodness never makes us acceptable to a holy and perfect God.Apart from him we are all tarnished by sin, we are all unworthy. Most believers accept that God’s grace makes the sinner righteous, yet they don’t believe his grace also makes the Christian righteous! It’s as if God helps the sinner all the way to the cross and then leaves the new Christian to make it the rest of the way on his own. This dumb idea has been floating around since the time of the Galatians:

“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Gal 3:1-3)

The Message Bible translates the last verse this way:

“Only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God.” (Gal 3:3)

The Contemporary English Version puts it like this, “How can you be so stupid?” while Darby’s translation wonders, “Are ye so senseless?”

So there you have it. The Bible says those who preach human effort are crazy, foolish, stupid and senseless. Whether we are saved or unsaved, our self-righteous acts can never make us acceptable to God.

You might say, “It’s not about works, it’s about attitude. God looks at the heart.” But Jesus did not say to the Laodiceans, “I know your heart.” He said, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.” There was clearly something they were doing that made them lukewarm and unacceptable. So what was it?

 

Lukewarmness is about mixing stuff

When Jesus says he would prefer that we are hot or cold rather than lukewarm, most people automatically think of a thermometer: cold and hot temperatures are good, but being stuck in the middle is bad. As we have seen this is a poor metaphor because there is no middle ground with God. But lukewarmness can also refer to mixing things. When you mix cold with hot you get lukewarm.

Now what are two good things in the Bible that, if you mix them together, you end up with something bad? Here’s a hint – what were the Galatians mixing together? Answer: law and grace.

We all know that the grace of God is good, but what about the law?

“The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.” (Rom 7:12)

Why is the law good? Because it leads us to Christ that we might be justified by faith (Gal 3:24). The law was written on tablets of cold stone. The law has no power to make you righteous and good, but if you are honest, it will reveal your need for a Savior:

“Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.” (Rom 7:13)

The law – which is good – brings despair, condemnation and guilt, and leads us to Christ. God’s grace – which is very good – brings hope, justification and freedom through Jesus Christ. But these two good things cannot be mixed together. If you try to mix law with grace you’ll end up with the benefits of neither.

How do you dilute the power of the law? By lowering God’s holy standards to attainable levels of human performance.

How do you negate the unmerited favor of God? By trying to earn it through observing the commandments and other acts self-righteousness.

The Laodicean’s problem was not that they were complacent, but that they were trying to attain through human effort that which only God can do. Their problem was far more serious than a poor attitude. They were trying to make themselves righteous.

 

Good and bad zeal

It is good to be enthusiastic for Jesus. But there is good zeal and bad zeal. Look at what Paul said of the Jews:

“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” (Rms 10:2-4)

Bad zeal is what you get when you try to establish your own righteousness instead of submitting to God’s righteousness. Good zeal is what you get when you know that Christ has set you free from the demands of the law and given you his righteousness. When you apprehend what Jesus has done for you, you will be as enthusiastic as a freed prisoner! You will run like a cripple with new legs, like a blind man with new eyes!

Jesus did not suffer and die on the cross to give us a chance to compete for God’s approval. He died to make us righteous. If Christians are apathetic today it’s probably because they’re tired of trying to stir up carnal zeal. They are weary of being told they are not praying enough, reading enough, witnessing enough, giving enough. No matter how much they do, it is never enough. The unfinished work of the law always demands more.

What will set Christians free is the revelation that Jesus has done it all. His was a one-time sacrifice for all the sins of the world. Not only did Jesus die for us but he lives for us, he keeps us, and he intercedes for us. As you begin to understand the significance this, it will set you free like never before.”

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Thanks for being patient here. I know asking you to read a long article and thereafter to read some more is telling. But bear with me a little more.

Remember earlier I said it was their “works” that made them luke-warm. Paul Ellis had already explained luke-warmness is mixing grace and human effort (law) to be saved. Notice it is their works which made them like that.

The questions then beckons what are the works that will make you righteous? Hold on, Simon. “Are you saying that there is a work that saves you?”, you ask. “I thought we are saved by grace!” Hold your horses, even James says we are saved by works. I know, I know, by this time you think I have become a law preacher.

Note here, James quoted Abraham and Rahab as examples. But they are examples of people not under the Law of Moses. Abraham existed before the law and Rahab was a Gentile who was never under the Law. Abraham was asked by God to kill his son and Rahab lied. Hardly good examples for obedience to the Law.

But the question beckons why did Abraham agree to sacrifice his son? Why did Rahab lied to keep the spies saved? That is the million dollar question. The answer is simple. It was Abraham and Rahab’s faith that gave them confidence to do what they did. It was faith that produced the work. It was not their human righteousness that produced the work. It was their faith in God that produced the work.

Hence how do you “work” for Jesus in such a way that is not luke-warm. The answer lays in a discourse the Jews and Jesus is John 6. See the following:

27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Notice something interesting the Jews asked Jesus what are the works (plural) that God requires. Jesus answered there is one work! (singular).

Dear friends, what the passage is actually teaching in Revelation 3 is this your many “works” is not what God wants. He wants your only “work”. That “work” He is looking for is your belief. Your belief is “work” to Him and it will result in works. Just like Abraham and Rahab your faith will produce works because of your faith in Christ. Just like Abraham and Rahab, your works will not be produced by your effort; it flows from the Holy Spirit’s effort. That is why there is a difference between New Covenant and Old Covenant obedience. New Covenant obedience is called the obedience of faith. The only “work” that matters to God is “faith in His Son”.

If you come to Him with your effort and your “self righteous” works, He will not accept it. Now note what He mentioned at the end to the church. “21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”

The issue here is the same, how do you overcome?

1 John 5:5  Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

Again by Believing!!! Dear friend, have you overcome the world? If you have believe in Jesus you ALREADY OVERCAME and you ARE ALREADY an OVERCOMER!

So does that mean Jesus is going to spew believers of the mix gospel out? NO! Look at what He says thereafter. “19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

He stills wants to be with you. Jesus wants to spew out the self-righteousness in you so that he can remove the hypocrisy from you. He patiently knocks and wait to remove your self-righteousness from you so that He can dine with you. Let me repeat He WANTS TO DINE WITH YOU! HE STILL LOVES YOU! If that is so, do you still think you have lost your salvation?

That’s myth No. 7

Here are the rest.

For myth No. 2, please go to: https://hischarisisenough.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/70-myths-about-losing-salvation-myth-no-2-hardening-your-heart-hebrews-312-13-3/

 

For myth No. 3, 20 and 50 please refer to:https://hischarisisenough.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/70-myths-about-losing-salvation-myth-3-and-20-you-can-lose-your-salvation-if-you-shrink-back-and-when-you-sin-willfully-3/

 

For myth No: 4 please refer to:https://hischarisisenough.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/70-myths-on-losing-salvation-4-doctrine-of-demons-3/

 

For myth No: 5 please see:https://hischarisisenough.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/70-myths-on-losing-salvation-5-turning-away-to-satan-1-tim-515-2-2/

 

For myth No. 6: https://hischarisisenough.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/70-myths-on-losing-salvation-shipwrecking-your-faith-2/

I hope you are really blessed. 

8 Comments

  1. i didn’t realized that we can be better cold too!

    i honestly believe im not the only one who heard
    preachers say you gotta be red hot for Jesus

    wow.. i also though of lukewarm means comfort.
    the flesh loves to bath in lukewarm water.

    – grace and peace

  2. Thank you for your blog. Are these verses more descriptive than prescriptive and only apply to the Laodicean church? (Even though we can certainly learn from this example).

  3. Hi this is absolutely Great Stuff !! Like probably many other believers I always knew there must be another explanation to some of those “obscure passages”in the Bible for the simple reason that if interpreted in the “Classical” way they would be in contrast with the rest of the many verses in scripture that give us Assurance of our Salvation in Jesus Beause of What Jesus Did and not us!! A Heartfelt Please carry on the good work!

      1. Your blog was the only i could find to answer this question. Just a month ago I thought all my life that works = salvation comming from the SDA church and felt God was unattainable. Thank you for this and God bless you!

  4. Thank you! I have struggled so much with these verses that can be a bit confusing on a surface level. I’ve looked up many commentaries, but this is the only one to adequately address the issue that God wouldn’t prefer us to be cold (i.e., wicked), as so many interpret this passage. I feel much more secure in my faith now. Thank you again!

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