Sunday, 18 October 2020
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. Revelation 3:18
Jesus just said to those at Laodicea that they were “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” Now, to correct those deficiencies, He says, “I counsel you.” This is the first of the ironic ideas that will issue forth from the Lord. The church was quoted by Jesus in the previous verse as having said that they were in “need of nothing.” Jesus shows them that they were, in fact, in great need of His counsel.
Next, the Lord speaks more irony, saying, “to buy from Me.” One must question how someone who is poor could make a purchase, much less the things Jesus will lay out. But the thought takes the reader of the Bible back to the words of Isaiah –
“Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.” Isaiah 55:1
Some things can be bought “without money and without price,” meaning even someone who is “poor” could afford what is offered. But with what is such a purchase made? The Hebrew of Isaiah 55:1 is b’lo keseph u-b’lo mekhir – “in no silver and in no price.” The implication is that what is to be bought cannot be bought with money or a hire. Rather, it requires “everything that one has.” It takes the reader back to Matthew 13 –
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:44-46
There are some things that money cannot buy. Instead, they call for everything to be put forward. In this, Jesus is instructing those at Laodicea to put aside everything else and come to Him alone for salvation, not trusting in their own accomplishments, possessions, or goodness. He doesn’t want their stuff; He wants them. In this, they will buy “gold refined in the fire.”
The verb is a perfect participle, it is “gold having been refined ‘out of’ the fire.” The sense is that the gold is right out of the fire, shining and pure. It is free of any dross and imperfection. Jesus is equating a right relationship with Him in this. The purity of spiritual wealth is contrasted with the false wealth possessed by those at Laodicea. What they have is tainted and impure. What He offers is of the most precious quality. And, He says this offer to them is so “that you may be rich.”
They had claimed in the previous verse, “I am rich.” Jesus says it is otherwise. The cost of heaven is a coin of grace. Nothing else can pay the fee. But that grace must be received by faith, as Paul notes in Ephesians 2. They were trusting in self; Christ says, “Trust in Me.” He then tells them of something else they are to buy from Him saying, “and white garments.”
It has been noted that Laodicea was famous for rich black wool that was processed there. If true, it would make an ironic contrast to what has already been spoken of by Jesus to those at Sardis –
“You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments.” Revelation 3:4, 5
The garments offered by the Lord signify purity without any defilement. In other words, sinless perfection. Those at Laodicea, like all people, were sinners. Without the imputed righteousness of Christ, which comes by grace through faith, they could not enter into heaven and the presence of God. Christ offers them these white garments (as He says) so “that you may be clothed.”
The implication is that to Him, they were just like their first parents in the garden. He then says this explicitly with the words, “that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed.” Without the imputed righteousness of Christ, the sin of man is all that God sees. But being clothed in Christ, God only sees the sinless perfection of His Son.
The symbolism is hinted at even just after the giving of the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel. Immediately after that, the Lord gave the instructions concerning the building of an earthen altar. There it said –
“And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it. 26 Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.” Exodus 20:25, 26
The symbolism of hewing stones, and of walking up steps, is that of works. It is self-based righteousness. In this, the “nakedness,” meaning the sin of the offeror, would be exposed on the altar and the offering would be unacceptable. The sacrifice must be pure and undefiled, and no personal merit of the offeror could be included in the offering.
Jesus next says to those at Laodicea, “and anoint your eyes with eye salve.” The word translated as “eye salve,” kollourion, is found only here. It comes from a root signifying “to cling together,” or “glue.” Thus, it was a mixture held together as a small cake that was then applied to the eyes. One of the things Laodicea was famous for was the production of eye salve made from Phrygian powder mixed with oil. That is being used as an example of how to cure the blind state they were in. As Jesus says, “that you may see.”
The words are reflective of what occurred in John 9. There, Jesus made a mixture and applied it to the eyes of a blind man. In this, the man was healed. In verse 9:38, the man professed belief in Christ and worshipped Him. After this, the narrative says –
And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”
40 Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?”
41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains. John 9:39-41
Those at Laodicea thought they could see all things clearly, but they were blind to who Christ truly is. Only by faith in Christ can the spiritual eyes be opened and discern spiritual things. As Paul says in Ephesians 1:18, “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”
Life application: From time to time we need advice, and so we seek out a person we can trust – whether we know them personally or not. If we need financial advice, we will find a sound advisor for our money – “Mr. Kane, I’m facing bankruptcy…help!” If we need marital advice, we may talk to a pastor – “Pastor Bachman, my husband isn’t caring enough. What do I do?” And if we have had psychological trauma, we may go to a world-renowned psychologist – “Dr. Collins, I’m struggling with the memory of my car accident from a year ago…I don’t know what to do.” In the case of all spiritual matters, the advice comes directly from the Author of our existence – Jesus.
We don’t need to ask others for the answer to most spiritual matters because they are already given right in the pages of the Bible, including the cure for a spiritually lethargic or dead state. This verse in Revelation has been given to show those who are in that state how to correct it.
If you have trusted in your own deeds, your own wealth, your own righteousness, or anything else that stems from you for your salvation, you have placed your trust in the wrong place. Be freed of this attitude, take yourself out of the equation and come to Christ without any such thing. Give Him of yourself by giving Him your faith in His offering of grace. In this, you will be found pleasing to God.
Lord God, help us to take to heart the advice You have given us in Your word concerning how to be saved. It is not of ourselves, but solely through what You have done in the giving of Jesus. Help us to realize this, accept the offering by faith, and to be reconciled to You through the precious blood of Christ. And then, give us the opportunity and the desire to share this wonderful word of reconciliation with those we meet upon life’s path. To Your glory we pray. Amen.