The Church of the Laodiceans

Today, I will eventually address the church of Laodicea which appears to represent the churches of the last days.  Before I do that, I want to explain why.  I’m currently in a spiritual battle over my beliefs—but most of all, the idea of one law for both Jew and Gentile.  Granted, this is a debatable issue for some people.  I see good points for both sides of the argument yet I’m in a place where taking my side of the debate is considered unacceptable.  Frankly, I can’t believe I’m being encouraged to give up my beliefs.  After all, I know few people who fit completely into the mold of each different Christian denomination they attend.  Only God knows how my situation will end.

First of all, I’m fully aware that some laws in the Old Testament were only for the priests, judges, men, or women.  Some were to be obeyed by everyone.  Some were for proper temple worship and others kept the temple from becoming defiled.  We must consider each to determine its applicability today.  They will all be applicable during Christ’s millennial reign (Ezekiel 44).   

Acts 15:5 says the following concerning the Gentiles, “But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”   

Acts 15:10-11 gives a response to this concern:  “Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”  It appears the crux of the issue was how Gentiles are saved.  Is it through ritual conversion to Judaism via circumcision and observance of the law (both written and oral) or faith in Christ?

What exactly was this yoke they were unable to bear?  Deuteronomy 30:11-12 says, “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.” (NIV)   If the law was not too difficult for His people, what would make it a yoke too difficult to bear?  This makes me think they were talking more about the legalistic observance of the law in order to be saved and/or the traditions of men.   

As we think about the yoke that the members of the Jerusalem council wanted the Gentiles to avoid, it’s important to remember what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30:  “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

What is Jesus’ yoke?  I think it’s His interpretation of Torah.

The Jerusalem council finally made a certain decision concerning the Gentiles in Acts 15:19-21:   “Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”   I believe the council settled on these issues to make sure the Gentiles avoided all suspicions of idolatry.  

The council that met in Jerusalem had to make their decision based on Deuteronomy 12:32-13:5.  In addition, it was assumed that anything beyond their decision could be learned in the synagogues every Sabbath.

Deuteronomy 12:32 – 13:5 says, “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.  13:1 “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’ — which you have not known — ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.”

To maintain the continuity of Scripture, this meant that the decision of the Jerusalem council could not change any laws that already pertained to the Gentiles.  Up to that point, there were some laws that were to be the same for both citizens (Jews) and foreigners (Gentiles).  Here are several examples:

  • Exodus 12:48-49:  “And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. 49 One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.” (See also Num. 9:14, and 1 Cor. 5:8).  This means Gentiles are free to observe Passover; however, males must be circumcised to do so.  In this situation, circumcision is not for ritual conversion to Judaism.
  • Exodus 20:10-11:  “but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”  Gentiles are to observe the Sabbath (Heb. 10:25).
  • Leviticus 16:29-30 says this concerning the Day of Atonements, “This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls [fast], and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you.”  Gentiles were to observe the Day of Atonements.
  • Leviticus 17:12:  “Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.’”  This was one of the four listed in the decision of the Jerusalem council.  By the way, Peter’s vision did not abolish the dietary laws (as written) but showed Peter that if God declared the Gentiles to be clean, they were (Acts 10:28-29).  As such it was acceptable for Jews to interact with Gentiles and share the gospel with them. 
  • Leviticus 18:26-27:  “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you.”  According to this verse, the Gentiles were to avoid all forms of sexual immorality.  This was another one of the four listed in the decision of the Jerusalem council.
  • Leviticus 22:21:  “And whoever [either citizen or foreigner] offers a sacrifice of a peace offering to the Lord, to fulfill his vow, or a freewill offering from the cattle or the sheep, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it.  Gentiles are free to offer themselves as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1-2).
  • Leviticus 24:22:  “You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the Lord your God.'”  Gentiles were not to commit trespasses against each other and they were to follow the same civil laws.
  • Numbers 15:14-16:  “And if a stranger dwells with you, or whoever is among you throughout your generations, and would present an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord, just as you do, so shall he do. 15 One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. 16 One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you.'”  Again, Gentiles are free to offer themselves as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1-2).
  • Ezekiel 44:9 says this concerning the Millennial temple:  “Thus says the Lord God: “No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart or uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter My sanctuary, including any foreigner who is among the children of Israel.”   Although physical circumcision was not part of the law given to Moses, it was given as an everlasting covenant to Abraham.  If the Gentiles plan to enter the Millennial temple, they eventually must be circumcised in the heart and in the flesh.
  • Please understand that Gentile foreigners lived in and among God’s people but some of them actually became citizens of the faith. 

When pastors and teachers teach that Gentiles only have to follow four commandments, they are eliminating the need to follow almost all of the 10 commandments whether they realize it or not.  They think they are only eliminating the need to observe a 7th day Sabbath, the Feasts of the Lord, and the Levitical Sacrifices but they are also eliminating the need to follow a ton of other commandments as well!

If we look only to the New Testament to determine what commandments to follow, there are plenty to consider.  But wait, certainly no one can deny that all of the teachings of Jesus and His disciples were based on the Torah that was originally given to God’s people.  I guess the Gentiles can’t follow those either since Jesus originally came to the lost sheep of Israel…  Certainly, this kind of foolish thinking leads to lawlessness!

Many will quote Matthew 22:37-40:  “Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment.  39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Were these commands only intended for the lost sheep of Israel?  Are we to think that Gentiles can come up with their own rules on how to live their lives and to love God and man?  Shall Gentiles discard everything else previously given to God’s people?  To do so is foolishness.

Some suggest another interpretation — that the recommendations of the Jerusalem council made sure that Gentiles had really severed ties with idolatry and that they were able to learn and obey the law without all of the burdensome oral interpretations of the law weighing them down. 

No matter how we look at this, the original law instructed God’s people how to properly love Him and their neighbor as themselves.  Any time anyone obeys God’s commandments, it should be out of love for God and not as a means to earn salvation.  To do so would result in a legalistic observance of the law which God is not pleased with.  I truly believe that to only obey these four commandments and no others can only result in lawlessness (Torahlessness). 

I have asked myself concerning this debate whether there were any patterns making it acceptable for the Gentiles to reject the Feasts of the Lord, the Sabbath, dietary laws (as they are written), and other commandments found in the Old Testament.  I could not find any.  This is what I see:

  • A large mixed multitude of Hebrews and Gentiles came out of Egypt but only the righteous remnant which remained after the incident at Baal of Peor entered the Promised Land.  This is the most important pattern concerning this issue.
  • Rahab and Ruth were examples of Gentiles who chose to accept the God of Israel as their God and to obey His law.
  • In Paul’s day, Gentile believers were lured by those of the Circumcision to be circumcised and follow the law (and traditions of men?).  This group thought that to become a believer in the Messiah, it was necessary for Gentiles to be ritually converted to Judaism first (Acts 15:5).  This sort of ritual conversion began during the second temple period and is still required of those who convert to Talmudic Judaism today.  Paul taught that salvation was a result of faith in Christ (Acts 15:11).
  • In Revelation, all believers are commanded to come out of Babylon the Great.  Revelation 14:12 says, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” 

Revelation 22:14-15 says, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”  This verse does not specify “those who do His commandments” as Jews or Gentiles but I consider it to apply to both.

Second John 6 says, “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.”   When was “the beginning” and what commandments are being referred to in this verse?  I think this verse is referring to the original law of God given on Mount Sinai.  Demonstrating love to God by obeying His commandments is not bondage; however, obeying God’s commandment in a legalistic fashion in order to earn salvation is.

Matt 7:21-23:  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’   Can we truly say this verse only applies to Jews and not Gentiles?

It’s clear that walking according to God’s commandments is important.  All of the commandments given in the New Testament were based on something from the Old Testament. 

Finally, let’s turn our attention to Revelation 3:14-19:  “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:  15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.  16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.  17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked —   18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 

Jesus said that He knew of the works of the Laodiceans.  Some people consider works to be good deeds but others consider them to be obeying the commandments.  Why are the Laodiceans neither hot nor cold?  Is it because their lives are a mixture of their own version of what is right and wrong, their own interpretation of love (tolerance; political correctness), and possibly only a few of God’s commandments? 

What is even worse is the Laodiceans don’t even realize the true nature of their condition!

God counseled the Laodiceans to buy from Him:

  • Gold that is pure because it has been refined in the fire so they could have true riches.
  • White garments
  • Eye salve to anoint their eyes with so they could see.

What are these things?  Let’s see if the following verses give us any insight:

Gold:

  • Psalms 19:9-10:  “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold;”
  • Psalms 119:72-73:  “The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.”
  • Psalms 119:127-128:  “Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold, and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.”
  • God gave us His commandments to show us what is impure.  As we obey them and as we go through various trials in our lives, God purifies us.

White garments:

  • Psalms 132:9:  “Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, And let Your saints shout for joy.”  We are not to be clothed in self-righteousness by observing laws we create for ourselves – this is still lawlessness. 
  • Isaiah 61:10:  “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”   We are not to obey God’s laws in order to be saved because obedience with the wrong motive does not produce the righteousness of God.
  • Revelation 7:13-15:  “One of the elders asked me, “These people dressed in white robes — who are they, and where are they from?” 14 “Sir,” I answered, “you know.” Then he told me, “These are the people who have come out of the Great Persecution. They have washed their robes and made them white with the blood of the Lamb.”  The martyrs of the faith obviously trusted in the atonement of Jesus’ blood for salvation instead of the works of the law.

Eye salve:

  • Matthew 13:13:  “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’”  People who can’t see or hear spiritual things are allowed to remain in their condition.  The eye salve they need is repentance = to stop committing lawlessness and to obey the laws of God.

What happens when a person trusts in Christ for salvation?  He’s grafted into the olive tree of Israel.  He becomes a citizen of the faith and is expected to obey the law out of love for God.

Gal 3:26-29 says, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Revelation 3:22 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”‘”

Remember Revelation 22:14-15 says, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”

Where will you be – inside or outside the gate?

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