Over time an individual or a church can become ineffective in their walk with the Lord. This is what happened to the church in Laodicea in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 3:15-16, Jesus says to them:
15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”
The faith of the church in Laodicea had become lukewarm. Jesus wishes that they would be hot or cold, just not lukewarm. I have heard this passage taught that “hot” represents a faith that is passionately living for God, while “cold” represents the faith of those who, in reality, do not have faith, or have let their faith die. Following this logic, “lukewarm” would mean someone who has a faith somewhere in between. Even though the general idea of this interpretation is good, I don’t believe that this is what is meant by Jesus in this passage. The reason why I think this is because Jesus says that he would be just as pleased with cold as with hot. Surely Jesus would not be pleased with people who have no faith at all! So, what is Jesus trying to say?
Hierapolis and Colossae are the closest neighboring cities to Laodicea. Hierapolis was known for its hot springs that rose from the center of the city. The water was rich in minerals and was said to have medicinal value. On the other hand, Colossae was situated on the Lycus River, a significant source of cold, fresh water for the entire city.
So what about Laodicea? It has been well documented that Laodicea was not near any water source at all. Instead, it had to bring its own water from fresh water springs that were six miles south of the city. The Laodiceans created a system of stone pipes that carried the water six miles until it reached the city. The water would arrive dirty and tepid.
I believe that this background information gives us insight into what Jesus is saying in the above passage. Both Hierapolis (which had hot water) and Colossae (which had cold water) had at their disposal, useful water for its community. Laodicea had dirty, lukewarm water.
I believe Jesus is encouraging the church in Laodicea to not allow their faith to become like their water…impure, tepid, and practically useless. If their faith continues in this state, Jesus will do to them what many of the Laodiceans do the water they take to drink from those stone pipes. “I will spit you out of my mouth.”