Why did Jesus Christ express such concern toward those He called “lukewarm”? Why did He say He would rather they be “cold.”
The young man’s attitude and approach to Jesus Christ was not childlike! Jesus had just taken little children up in His arms, and blessed them. Jesus said, “Of such is the kingdom of God,” then reiterated, “Whosoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Luke 18:16-17).
The young ruler, holder of substantial prestige and honor, sought from Christ that final ingredient that would, in like manner qualify him for God’s Kingdom. With a guise of humility, he admitted to keeping the Ten Commandments “from my youth.” He was quick to point out his good points and seemed desirous of knowing if there might be anything else he should be doing – if any such thing remained. He didn’t expect the answer he received.
His cloak of humility slipped a bit when he approached Jesus with a salutation of subtle flattery: “Good Teacher what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (v. 18.)
Jesus reacted: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is God (v. 19).
When Jesus heard the profession of righteousness, He reminded the young man that in spite of all his marvelous accomplishments, “you still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and come follow Me” (v. 22).
Typically, unchildlike, the young man received the admonition sorrowfully and went away for he was very rich. Or he thought he was (v 23).
This young man professed a desire to live righteously, but his fruits did not bear out the profession. He asked what he might do to prove his intentions, but when Christ’s reply did not meet his approval, he walked away.
He was guilty of bearing false witness!
James was inspired to write: “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). The young man wanted the Kingdom of God, but he did not wish to relinquish his positions and possessions. He wanted to have his cake and eat it too. He had forgotten Jesus’ words as revealed in Luke 14: “If anyone come to Me and does not hate (love less by comparison) his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (v. 26). The young ruler was not willing to forsake all in order to be Jesus Christ’s disciple.
In an admonition to the future Laodicean Church, Jesus said: “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” (Rev. 3:15-16). Jesus is telling any with such an attitude, in essence, “I wish you would be hot, but if you will not be hot, I would rather have you be cold.
If we as Christians are hot, we will be all the way into – pulsating with, excited with, breathing, eating, and sleeping this way of life. We will have arms locked around the tree of life – Christ being the trunk or vine, and we are the branches where we may be dressed and nourished by the Father, the vinedresser (John 15:1-6).
If we are lukewarm, we will be slowly simmering to death. We will be lacking real warmth of feeling of enthusiasm (the word enthusiasm comes from the root en and theos, literally meaning “God in you”). We will have little involvement. We will be just barely there.
The person who continues to be lukewarm right up until Jesus Christ’s return simply will not make it into God’s Kingdom. The person who is hot, on the other hand will literally burst into eternity as a member of the Family of God.
But what about being cold? Why would Christ rather we be cold than lukewarm? Christ answers that for us in I Corth. 5:1-5 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you and you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
The person who is hot is all the way in God’s Church. The person who is cold is all the way out of God’s Church, but may yet be saved through the crucible of life in Satan’s world. He may come to real repentance before the return of Jesus Christ and experience that marvelous change into the God Family in the twinkling of an eye at Jesus’ coming. The flesh may be destroyed, but the spirit will be relegated to eternal death.
But what about the lukewarm person? Jesus said: “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth, because you say, I am rich and have become wealthy and have need of nothing and do not know that you are wretched and miserable, poor, blind and naked (Rev. 3:16-17). Christ reminded them that they only thought they were rich, when in reality their spiritual poverty was made obvious by their conduct. They professed to be something that they were not.
If we say we are Christians, we will be living as Jesus Christ does. We will walk as He walked, in absolute harmony with God the Father in everything pertinent to this way of life. We will willingly abide by the rulings and teachings of the Body of Christ, into which we have been mercifully added. We will be truly rich in obedience, loyalty, involvement, faithfulness and commitment. We will be seeking correction in prayer and Bible study and we will accept that correction as life-saving without any attempt at self-justification.
The Laodicean attitude talks back! Christ remarked, “Because you say” (v. 17). Self justification! You don’t understand this is why I do it this way. Self justification, whether we are right or wrong reveals an attitude that is less than child-like.
Even the patriarch Job said: “If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me. If I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse (Job 9:20).
The lukewarm, professing Christian will feel comfortable justifying his less than total commitment. He will find fault and criticize the status quo.
The book of Malachi chronicles that lukewarm attitude for our admonition. The people ask, “In what way have we defiled You,” trying to justify giving less than the best in sacrifice (Mal. 1:7)?
In verses 12-14 God replies: “You profane it, in that ye say, the table of the Lord is polluted; (defiled) and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. Ye said also, behold what a weariness it is! And ye have snuffed (sneered) at it, saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn (stolen), and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering; should I accept this of your hand? Said the Lord. But cursed be the deceiver which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, said the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.”
Our profession at baptism was to go all the way. We said, by words and actions, that we wanted God to teach us His ways. We had supposedly counted the cost. We were, at least briefly, child-like. We were at that time hot.
Subsequent reading through the book of Malachi shows that the people had an argumentive attitude regarding the marriage relationship (chapter 2) and financial obligations (chapter 3). In each case there is an attitude of being neither all the way involved in this way of life nor, on the other hand all the way out.
Rather, there is a desire to maintain an attitude that could be phrased this way: “Isn’t it better that I have a little involvement than none at all? Isn’t it better to have at least a façade of righteousness – attending services most of the time, sending at least some money (even if not a full tithe), allowing self to succumb to drunkenness of gluttony occasionally , picking and choosing those areas of Christianity in which I feel comfortable?” Jesus Christ emphatically says that is not so: “I would thou wert cold or hot,” not in-between. Not lukewarm.
How serious is it? Jesus says to those who are lukewarm that He will spew them out, or vomit them up. In other words, Lukewarmness sickens the very stomach of our Savior.
It takes faith and courage to live God’s way of life, Jesus inspired, “Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him” (Heb. 10:38). And in verses 26-27 of the same chapter, He reminds, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”
How does a person become lukewarm? Jesus refers to “those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.” (II Peter 2:10). They argue. They justify! They are quick to talk back to the authority of Almighty God. And they are truly bearing false witness! Professing to be Christians – followers of Christ, their conduct totally violates the nature of that Christ.
The Guidebook to our profession exhorts: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says I know Him and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (I John 2:3-6). If we walk in the way that Jesus Christ wants us to choose, we will be hot.
We have to prove the dramatic existence of the creating God Family. The world and the universe around us will have been revealed to us as the manifestation of the works of a Creator, Designer, Lawgiver, Sustainer, Orchestrator, Life-giver and Responder to the needs of the creation.
We will know and know that we know the veracity of the Word of God, as revealed in the pages of the Bible. We will have poured over and ingested its life-giving words of instruction. We will have proved the faithfulness of God, incorporating into our lives His very word.
Being lukewarm destroys character. Being less than total in our commitment allows for pretense, spiritual game-playing, and bears false witness. In other words, breaks the commandments of God.
“I am the Lord your God,” thunders the Creator. “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:2-3). Peter said, inspired by Christ, “For by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage” (II Peter 2:19). Anything less than total commitment produces a double-minded person, and no one can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24).
If we violate the First Commandment, we become guilty of breaking the remaining nine (James 2:10). We take the name of God by professing to be Christians, but it is in vain, or without basis, if we live contrarily. It all has to do with obedience and commitment. No commandment is excluded from violation if we are lukewarm, self-justifying and hypocritical in our profession of faith.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 1:9). God has begun a good work in us and His desire is for us to make it into His Kingdom (Phil. 1:6).
Why, then, if Jesus’ desire is for us to make it, would that same Jesus express so graphically that He would rather we be cold than lukewarm? Let Christ answer that question:
“And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons, My sons, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou are rebuked of Him For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are you bastards and not sons”.
Jesus Christ asks us to choose life. He knows that unless we are totally committed, we will be lukewarm, and if we are lukewarm, we will not attain to that life, eternal life in the Family of God. He would rather we be hot or cold, because He loves us.