"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Debating Predestination, Election and the Will of God | Main | eBook Sale - NIV Application Commentary »

    I will spit you out of My mouth

    Pastor John, I see very plain statements in the Bible that show that Christ does not lose any of His true sheep. However, I am struggling to understand a passage in Revelation 3 where Christ says “because you are lukewarm... I will spit you out of My mouth.” Are you able to help me understand what these words mean?

    Thanks for your question. The phrase you quoted, lifted out of its context, has caused many to doubt the biblical doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. To correctly understand the verse in question, one has to see the broader context and know something of the historical background.

    Please allow me to illustrate. Suppose someone 300 years from now, comes across a letter written this year (2013) in which a mother writes, “After the Church service today, we all went to McDonalds and each of the kids had a happy meal.”

    Then let us imagine (hard as it may be to do so) that sometime between now and 300 years from now, all the McDonalds restaurants go out of business. I realize that might be a far fetched notion, but lets go along with it for a moment for the sake of illustration.

    Then, 300 years from now, someone who has never heard of the McDonalds restaurant chain looks at the words “we all went to McDonalds” and assumes that this meant a Scottish family (rather than a restaurant). They then assume that the phrase “each of the kids had a happy meal” meant that the kids were happy when they ate the food. We can almost laugh at such an interpretation knowing that it misses the mark completely. That is because here in the 21st Century, the words “McDonalds” and “happy meal” are almost universally understood to refer to a restaurant and a special sized meal for children (that includes a small toy for them to play with).

    The idea of McDonalds being a Scottish family and that the kids enjoyed their meal, is a possible interpretation, but that is not how these words would normally be understood in our early 21st Century context. It is far more likely that the intended meaning of the words are that the family went to a well known restaurant called McDonalds, and each of the kids had child sized meals which included toys for each child.

    I say all this because the words in Revelation chapter 3 had a context, that when known, make the passage easy to understand. However, when historical context is either unknown or ignored, we are likely to misinterpret the intended meaning of the text.

    The words you quote are taken from a passage in Revelation chapter 3 (v. 14-22) where the Lord Jesus, through His apostle John, is writing to the Church at Laodicea. The city of Laodicea was located in the Lycus River Valley and was an important commercial center in the first century. The local water supply was not adequate for the many residents of the city and so an underground aqueduct was built.

    Two cities were in close proximity to Laodicea and both of them had contrasting types of water. Hierapolis was well known for its hot springs, and Colosse was famous for its cold refreshing water that flowed from a mountain stream. There are great uses for hot water and cold water, however, Laodicea, with only its underground aqueduct, had only tepid (or lukewarm) water. Visitors unaccustomed to Laodicea tasting the water would immediately detest it and spit it out.

    In Christ's 33 years on earth, there is no record of Him traveling to the region in and around Laodicea. Touching His humanity, all we can say about His knowledge of the area can only be mere speculation. However, as the Ascended Christ and in His full deity, Christ knows all things and therefore can address the Laodicean Church with full knowledge of the geographical data. Christ used the historical situation known by all Laodiceans to describe the spiritual condition of the local Church there. The Church in Laodicea was neither cold (outwardly hostile to Christ) nor hot (zealous for Christ and His gospel), but were instead lukewarm – professing faith in Christ but were really hypocrites of the highest order, and certainly, not true disciples of Christ.

    Theologians have long made the distinction between the visible and invisible Church. The visible Church is the Church man sees. We see with our eyes all who make a profession of faith in Christ. The invisible Church is the Church that is seen only by God - His true sheep. The Lord knows the identity of His elect, even when we (because we do not see things as He does) are fooled. God, of course, is never fooled. "The Lord knows those who are His" (2 Tim. 2:19).

    We all know that not everyone who professes Christ, truly possess Christ. Many say they know Him, but Christ will say to many professors “depart from Me, I never knew you.” (Matt 7:21ff). Notice that! He does not say, “I knew you at one time but you blew it.” No, He says that He never knew them. There never was a time when Christ was united to them, savingly.

    When Christ says to such people, “I will spit you out of My mouth” He was speaking to a Church full of hypocrites. To use another Biblical expression, they honored Christ with their lips but their hearts were far from Him. Just as the Lord Jesus (in the Gospels) saved His harshest words for the religious hypocrites of His day (the Scribes and Pharisees), so the Lord will vomit such lukewarm members of the Church in Laodicea out of His mouth.

    He addresses this same exact group (the Church of Laodicea) just a few verses later when He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20) Christ stood outside the Church and through the means of this letter, was knocking on the door. There was not a single true believer in the Laodicean Church, and yet, as Dr. John MacArthur stated, "If one member would recognize his spiritual bankrupcy and respond in saving faith, He would enter the church." A full explanation of Revelation 3:20 can be found here.

    The verse you quote has nothing to do with a true believer losing salvation. It is in fact a word to a Church that seemed to have everything, naturally speaking, but spiritually was completely destitute - poor, blind and naked. That is why Christ exhorts them, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (v. 18, 19)

    Now you know something of the background, read through the passage again and see if the meaning now becomes clear:

    14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

    15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

    - Revelation 3:14-22

    I hope that helps. God bless,

    John S

    Posted by John Samson on April 29, 2013 02:50 AM


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    I'm here to learn and am not being argumentative but this still doesn't make sense to me. If he was talking to unbelievers then he would not say, "19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent."

    The bible clearly says if you are disciplined then you are one of his, if you are not then you are a bastard. So going by Christ's words we can see the church of Laodicea belonged to him.

    Is there any other way to explain the issue I've brought up? Thanks!

    I can't agree there are no saved people in this church. After all, Christ addresses them as a church. The threat that He will spit such worldly believers out of His mouth is better understood as a final correction leading to the "sin unto death." Christ is presently interceding for the Church as our great High Priest. His intercession has nothing to do with the issue of our settled eternal salvation, but everything to do with our sanctification. Failure to respond to this extreme warning will cause Him to no longer pray for these individual unrepentant Laodacians. Their names will not pass His praying lips and they will soon wither and die physically. They will "suffer loss of reward" at the Judgement seat of Christ but never loss of salvation which is always a gift.

    I am in the disagreement category. When considering other passages related to wickedness, repentance, faithfulness, grace, etc, losing salvation is the wrong way to look at it. The best approach to salvation does not equate to a guarantee to the Lord's Kingdom. Please correct me if I am wrong. In other words, salvation is a free gift that can never be stripped. However, if on is not of God (believer) and walks a sinful life, does not 2 Chron 7:14 apply to this person?

    and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

    If you do not turn and do not repent, how can you be forgiven?

    There are other passages that support then need for repentance, and turn from wickedness to achieve eternal life. I tell my kids, the gift is yous and cannot be taken away. I simply will not allow you to open it if you disobey me. Messing up is OK kids, daddy even messes up once in awhile.

    I push hard in this topic as many lukewarm Christians believe God's laws are optional, and by the grace of God, I will walk through God's gates. Acceptance of lukewarmness is the greatest deception placed upon the church and it is my view, most Christians will perish.

    I agree with this post, but that verse that you mentioned still applies to people who are born again. You can be ' on fire' for god (doing what he says, loving others, etc), or cold ( doing what you want, having sex, sinning), but if you are lukewarm (praising god and calling yourself a Christian and having sex before marriage and sinning) then God doesn't appreciate that at all, and if you don't repent then that REALLY isn't good which is why he says "I will spit you out of my mouth" as well. Does that make sense?

    I agree to your teaching of correct context. If one is born of water and Spirit they are sealed until the day of glorification. Christ seals them and preserves them. There are those who think they are Christian but are really goats. There are only two type of people the Bible speaks of. The sinner and the forgiven sinner. And yes, God does discipline us when we are in sin while we are saved. He has to chastise us because when we sin while we are His adopted children He can't allow us to continue. The Holy Spirit not only convicts us of wrong doing to get us to repent and turn back to God, but He also convinces us that we are children of God and we should crucify our flesh as we walk in Spirit.

    It seems we have to do a lot of mental stretching to decide these people were never saved in the first place. Jesus refers to them as a church, and salvation is reserved for those who submit themselves to Christ and are "added" to the church. See Acts 2 and forward. The author speaks as if this church was filled with people who were members but not really members. I understand that they are hypocrites and counterfeit Christians a plenty, but lets at least get it right that church membership is reserved for people who have made a decision for Christ, are baptized and added to the body. Yes, I think believers have great security but this passage IN CONTEXT still sounds like a dire warning to lazy Christians who think they "have it made in the shade" just because they once professed Christ are are going to church. Remember that Jesus also said he would "remove the lampstand" of the churches that didn't repent. Explain that one for me. It makes sense to me that Jesus is warning apostate churches of the need to wake up or they'll be in trouble.

    Since I can't find a button to edit once a comment is posted, here's a quick addendum to what I posted above. It was my intention to say "THERE ARE hypocrites and counterfeits a plenty," not "they are."

    Dear Pastor John, while it is true that this passage, like all passages, should be interpreted within its historical context, I totally disagree with your submission because it is neither accurately historical not consistent with the context of the visions.

    1. While it is generally believed that Jesus, in his messages to the seven churches, speaks primarily to the congregations, it is not so. The Lord rather directs his message to each church primarily at the angel of the church, who clearly is overseeing the congregation with authority.

    It is an individual first, then the congregation next. The Lord switches between singular and plural second person pronouns to distinguish when he means something for the angel from when he means something for the congregation. This is not evident in modern English because the pronoun is the same. The KJV helps to show this readily. Perhaps the most obvious place this is shown is in the following:

    But unto YOU I say, and unto THE REST in Thyatira... Rev 2:24

    So, the charge in this passage is directed exclusively to the angel, nothing for the congregation.

    2. Given the above, it is more evident that the angel of the church in question is a believer. Remember, all the angels are said to be stars in Jesus' hands. A non-believer has no such place in Christ.

    3. To spit out something from one's mouth was a figure for rejection. What the Lord was saying was that this individual had gone so far astray that he was close to being rejected by Christ. He probably professed still but his works were largely inconsistent with his profession.

    4. Just like some other commentator noted, Jesus spoke to him like a believer that needed discipline rather than as an unbeliever. By saying that it was because he loved him that this what why he was chastening him, the Lord confirms clearly that he is his. His exhortation was for him to "Be zealous". That is not what the Lord would say to an unbeliever. An unbeliever would be asked to believe and commit, but no, Jesus says "be zealous". There is no doubt this person is Christian that had become slothful in the faith probably due to worldly riches and fame.

    In summary, this passage is proof that a believer can revert and be in danger of losing his salvation.

    Salvation is a gift, but it can be neglected and renounced. It is not a forced gift. It is to be received and retained. If we fail to retain, it will not make it less a gift.

    God bless

    This post blessed my soul!

    Hello Pastor John! I just came across this post because I was searching for an answer to a question of mine which is...How would a believer know when God has indeed spued him/her out of His mouth? I read the entire post of the original question of the person wanting clarity of Rev 3:14, The answer was thouroul and explained extremely well, but reading further q/a, I don't feel I got the answer to the question I originally sought out to get. Hopefully you can help. Thank you in advance.

    Hello Pastor John! I just came across this post because I was searching for an answer to a question of mine which is...How would a believer know when God has indeed spued him/her out of His mouth? I read the entire post of the original question of the person wanting clarity of Rev 3:14, The answer was thouroul and explained extremely well, but reading further q/a, I don't feel I got the answer to the question I originally sought out to get. Hopefully you can help. Thank you in advance.

    God chose us before the foundation of the world so we could be In Christ. This means once chosen, YOU CANNOT LOSE SALVATION EVER. That is, unless you believe God can be wrong somehow. He will see our salvation until the end. It is Him who works in us for his good pleasure.

    There is, however, our part as we must be inclined to do as the Spirit guides us. If we reject the guidance of Christ (grieve it) then yes, he will spit us out. Grace is a gift and not something we work towards and something we need to do on our own merit to keep. The brethren at Laodicea were in fact ALL saved however, they squandered their spiritual inheritance (grace) in place of worldly desires.

    Yes, Jesus would spit them out (no longer deal with them through the Spirit), but at no time does Jesus say these people were eternally lost. Sitting with Jesus on His throne is reserved to those who follow Jesus just like he promised the Apostles. It is these that will be given priority in the New Earth and New Heavens. They are given the highest rewards by Christ.

    In fact, the Church at Laodicea was loved by Christ at some previous point, meaning, they held an approved standing before Him. Now, they were wavering in their worship of Him. They were grieving Him i.e. the Spirit.

    Christians have to be careful not to interject an interpretation that clearly does not square with the rest of scripture. And in this case, it's crystal clear, Christ loved this Church at some point in the past, and was now asking they pick up that zeal they once had before.

    God bless.

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