This had a background and a local meaning for the people in that day. Being down in the valley, they had difficulty getting water in Laodicea. The Laodiceans built an aqueduct to bring cold water down from the mountains. When it left the mountains, it was ice cold, but by the time it made that trip all the way down the mountains to Laodicea, it was lukewarm. And lukewarm water is not very good. Down in the valley where the Lycus River joins the Maeander River, there are hot springs. However, when they would take this hot water up to Laodicea, by the time it got there, it was no longer hot — it had become lukewarm water.

When the Lord Jesus said to the Laodicean church, “You are neither cold nor hot,” they knew exactly what He was talking about. They had been drinking lukewarm water for years. Water left the mountains ice cold, and it left the springs steaming hot, but when they got it, both were lukewarm, and it was sickening. The Lord Jesus said that this church was neither cold nor hot and He would spew it out of His mouth.

A cold church actually means a church that has denied every cardinal doctrine of the faith. It is given over to formality and is carrying on in active opposition to the Word of God and the gospel of Christ. You find today in liberalism that they are in active opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hot speaks of those with real spiritual fervor and passion like the Christians in Ephesus, although they were even then getting away from their best love. Oh, the Spirit of God had brought them to a high pitch in their personal relationship to Christ!

But the Laodicean church was neither hot nor cold — just lukewarm. Between those positions of hot and cold, you have this lukewarm state. I would say that this is a picture of many, many churches today in the great denominations that have departed from the faith. Many churches — both in and out of these denominations — attempt to maintain a middle-of-the-road position. They do not want to come out flatfootedly for the Word of God and for the great doctrines of the Christian faith. And at the same time, they do not want to be known as a liberal church. So they play footsie with both groups. I have broken fellowship with quite a few men who are extremists in both directions, some extreme fundamentalists and some extreme liberals. And many of these men attempt to play both sides of the street. That is a condition that is impossible. This is the thing that makes the Lord Jesus sick. He very frankly says that He will spew them out of His mouth.

To my judgment this middle-of-the-road position is the worst kind of hypocrisy there is.

In its beginning Protestantism assumed the position of believing all the great doctrines of the Christian faith. The creeds of all the great historic denominations are wonderful creeds. Who believes these wonderful creeds in our day? The churches have a form of godliness but are denying the power thereof. They have a name that they live, but they are dead. They are neither hot nor cold — they are lukewarm.

This is the condition of the church today, and unfortunately, it is the condition of a great many so-called fundamental, conservative churches. Thank God that there are many who do not come under this classification. But the thing that is absolutely startling and frightening and fearful is that He says, “I will spue thee out of my mouth.” In other words, “I will vomit you out of my mouth.” Does that sound to you like the church which He’s going to rapture, to whom He says, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (Joh 14:2,3)? I don’t think so. That is the church He draws to Himself, but here is a church He just vomits out because it is lukewarm. I am of the opinion that if He spoke to a lot of churches today, He would say, “You make Me sick at My stomach. You’re professed Christians. You say you love Me. You say it, but you don’t mean it.”

This is a heart-searching message for this hour because we are living in the time of the Laodicean church and of the Philadelphian church. Both of them are side by side, and there is a great bifurcation in Christianity today. It is not in denominations, and it is not Romanism and Protestantism. The great bifurcation consists of those who believe the Word of God and follow it, love it, obey it, and those who reject it. That is the line of division today.

by J. Vernon McGee