The Laodicean Message
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
We saw in our last study that we have been deceived, so that while we think we are rich and have acquired wealth and have need of nothing, the True Witness shatters our false security by telling us that we do not know and thats the big problem, we do not realize that we are really wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. Terrible.
But thank God, folks, the True Witness does not stop there. Thank God that our situation is not hopeless. As we turn to Revelation 3:18, which is what we will cover in this study, we will discover that the True Witness would like to give us hope for our situation. So there is a hope. In fact, Christ offers a complete remedy for our three-fold problem. Lets look at verse 18 and then I will show you what the remedy is in connection with verse 17. Having told us our problem in verse 17, that we are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked, Jesus goes on and says in verse 18:
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
I counsel you, I advise you to buy of me:
In other words, for our poverty and wretchedness, Christ offers us gold tried by fire that we may be rich. For our miserable nakedness, He offers us white raiment that we might be clothed, that our nakedness not appear in the judgment especially. Then, for our blindness, He offers us eyesalve. So there are three remedies for our three-fold condition. But I want you to look at one word here, it is very important. This precious, heavenly merchandise is not free. You have to buy them. Please notice verse 18:
I counsel you to buy....
There is a price that has to be paid. Now normally, when you look at these things, what they signify the gold tried in the fire, and the white clothes, and the eyesalve when you look at these things in Scripture, you will discover that they are free gifts of God. Then why does God say to Laodicea, You must buy? Well, folks, they are free gifts only to those who are poor in spirit. But to people who are self-righteous like the Jews were, it is not free. Let me give you a text and show you how God addressed Israel. Turn your Bibles to Isaiah 55. This was the prophet that God was using to try to bring the people out of their Laodicean condition. You see the Jews had a problem that was similar to ours. Their problem was self-righteousness. Isaiah 55:1. This is the typical cry of a salesman in a market place:
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Now, it doesnt make sense, it seems to be a contradiction, you buy, but without money. So if its without money, the question is: What is the price?
First of all, we need to understand the word, buy as it is used here. In fact, its the same meaning as we use it in our everyday terminology. The word buy means to exchange something that you have for something that you want. Thats the basic meaning. In the days of the Bible, they would often exchange goods. If I had too much corn growing in my garden, I would take it to the market and exchange it for wheat. That is buying.
Let us say youre in the mall and pass a shoe shop and you see a lovely pair of shoes and it is $150. And you say, Boy, thats expensive, but I like it. And you stand there and you say, Should I get it? You see, you have $150, which is yours, which you earned through hard work, but the question is, Should I give this up for a pair of shoes? That is buying. The word, buying is exchanging.
Now Laodicea does have something that is very, very valuable to her. It is the basis of our pride, even our denominational pride is based on that, and that is our righteousness. I want to give you an illustration: I was holding a lay-workers seminar there in Ethiopia. And it was a long seminar, it was three weeks. These were lay-farmers most of the lay people there are farmers, peasant farmers and certain times of the year, like I suppose in winter here, they do not have much work to do. So they have free time and we used to pull them in and give them some good Bible studies, and this was a three-week course. At the end of the second week, I got a telephone call from the Union Headquarters telling me that there was a leader of the church from the General Conference, from the Sabbath School Department, Could you please step down and let him have the lay people for three days since theyre already there?
So I thought, Sure, no problem. And he was trying to explain to them how to increase the Sabbath School offering. Now in Ethiopia they collect offerings with a bag connected to a stick, and they put it out because people sit very close together, its crowded. And he said, Thats the worse thing to do, because you can put your hand in and pretend you are giving, and give nothing. Or you can put your hand in and take out money and nobody will know. What you need is an open plate. And it must have no felt on it, an open plate that makes a noise, so people can hear whether youre giving copper or silver. And the deacons who collect the money must be the first ones to give, and they must show the people what theyre giving to set a good example. I guarantee you, the Sabbath School offering will increase.
One of our dear sisters, a student at the University of Haile Selasie it was closed down because of the Marxist Revolution she stood up and said, Elder, with all due respect to you, what you are teaching us sounds very much like the flesh. If we have the love of Christ, we will give. The other lay-people said, Amen.
Of course, that made him annoyed, and he said to them, Are you trying to tell me that you know the gospel and I dont?
She said, No, but it doesnt sound right to us.
Well, he went and reported this problem to the president of the college, and the president of the college said, Well, maybe what you are teaching is contradicting what Pastor Sequeira is teaching, so you need to see him!
The president came and told me about it, even some of the lay people came and told me what had happened. You see, I wasnt there, I had just stepped out and was letting him teach them. Well, Ill tell you, he didnt come to me and so the last day, the third day, I said to my wife, Lets invite him for supper, maybe in our home we can open up the subject.
So we did invite him and he didnt open up the subject, so I did. I wanted to clarify the issue. He wanted to rebuke me, but he did not do it directly so he did it through another man. He was telling me how terrible this man was, and, of course, the man was Morris Vendon. He said, This man has all the young people in his hands, but what does he do with these incentives? He makes mockery out of them.
I turned around to him and said, Maybe Morris Vendon is right.
Then he made a statement to me, which reflects very much on what we are studying, he said to me, Are you saying to me that I have to give up 45 years of successful ministry for the Righteousness of Christ?
I said, That is what it may cost you.
Folks, it is not easy when you have had tremendous success in the Christian life to give it up for the Righteousness of Christ; its very expensive. I want to give you an example. Please turn to Philippians 3. You see, the thing is this, the more success you have, the harder it is. And I want to turn to a man who was very successful, because what God is saying to Laodicea, You must give up your self-righteousness which you think has made you rich, you must give it up, in exchange for My Righteousness.
Before we look at Philippians 3, let me read a couple of statements from the pen of Ellen G. White to give you a background:
The people of God are represented in the message to the Laodiceans as in a position of carnal (which is another word for fleshly) security. They are at ease, believing themselves to be in an exalted condition of spiritual attainment. [3T 252]
I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen (The angel of the Lord showed Ellen G. White in vision that there would be a shaking in this church) and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans....
What is the counsel? To buy from Me these three things.
...This will have its affect on the heart of the receiver and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony, they will rise up against it and this will cause a shaking among Gods people. [1T 181]
It happened in 1888, it will happen today, folks. Then the next statement, which is related to this same issue, Testimonies to Ministers, pages 64-65 (remember, theyre the angels of Laodicea):
They (referring to ministers) are not willing to be deprived of the garment of their own self-righteousness. (We worked hard for this; why should we give it up?) They are not willing to exchange (which is another word for buying) their own righteousness, which is unrighteousness, for the righteousness of Christ, which is pure unadulterated truth.
Which is not I, but Christ no mixture of self in it.
So please remember this is the issue. Now I want to turn to this example, and that is Philippians 3. If there was anyone in the Jewish church, which was famous for self-righteousness, who had a claim to a wonderful success, it was Paul before his conversion. And in verse 4, 5, and 6 He puts in a nutshell what he had attained, number one by birth, number two as a Pharisee, and by performance. Verse 6:
...As for zeal, persecuting the church...
Regarding zeal for God (thats what he means), I persecuted the church.
In other words, I was on fire for you, God, and when I persecuted the church, I was not doing it in rebellion towards You, in my mind I was serving You.
As for legalistic righteousness, [I was] faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
He was willing to give up all his success for Christs righteousness. And that is buying. He goes on to say in verse 8:
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things...
Please notice, it does involve suffering, it does hurt our pride, individually, and denominationally. But it says clearly (verses 8-9):
I consider them rubbish [dung or refuse], that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law [i.e., the works of the law], but that which is through faith in Christ the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
Please notice there are two righteousnesses in verse 9: (1) his righteousness, which he had attained by much effort and tremendous success, and (2) Gods righteousness, which is yours by faith alone. He had to give up one for the other. This, folks, is the price. It is a costly price. As our brother said in Ethiopia, Do you want me to give up 45 years of successful ministry?
Yes folks, God wants you to give up everything. He wants us to give up our opinion about ourselves, He wants us to give up all that we thought was profit, because it was not, and we must turn to Christ as our Righteousness, both in terms of justification and also sanctification. We must be clear: the 1888 message did not preach only justification as the Righteousness of Christ. Both. The formula for Justification, the formula for Sanctification is the same: Not I, but Christ. That is the expensive price. So Ive spent some time on the word buy because thats the key word in Revelation 3:18.
Are you willing to give up your self-opinion, and all the success that has given you (stars in your crown)? Are you willing to give it up for the Righteousness of Christ? That is the price we have to pay.
This folks, is what will produce the shaking, and there will be some who will not be willing to give up, especially those who have had success. And Ill tell you about the people who have had success: normally theyre people with very strong wills. You see, people with strong wills have a tremendous success. I dont know how many of you have attended a Five-Day Non-Smoking program. You will notice that people with strong wills have more success than those who have weak wills. Very often it is these strong-willed people who give you a hard time in committee meetings. And they give you a very hard time in discipline committees. They come down hard upon people. They say, Look, I had no problem with this. I was a heavy smoker and I gave it up; it was nothing. Why are these people having such a problem?
Well, folks, all our success is filthy rags. In other words, what we think is very valuable to us, which is self-righteousness, please remember, in Gods eyes it is filthy rags. And if you want a text, look at Isaiah 64:6. Isaiah was talking to a people who had a similar problem. Let me read it to you:
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Please notice that by nature we are unclean and, because of that, all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.
So remember, in Gods eyes our righteousness is as filthy rags. Now I want to turn back to Revelation 3:18 and examine those three items, the three items of merchandise from heaven that are offered to Laodicea if she is only willing to buy or to exchange.
The first is gold tried by fire.
What is this gold tried by fire? What is it? I want you to turn to 1 Peter and lets get a clue. 1 Peter 1:7, because here we have a clue from the Bible. Lets read verse 6 also to get the whole impact:
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
Are you being discouraged by all kinds of trials? Peter is trying to give you some comfort. Verse 7:
These have come so that your faith of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
The words, gold refined by fire, in the Hebrew thinking, in the Old Testament, is simply purified faith, faith that has been purified. And in the New Testament, that faith that has been purified is known as the faith of Jesus Christ, because the faith of Jesus was purified.
You remember in Gethsemane, if you read Mark 14:32 onwards, three times Jesus prayed to His Father, Father, please remove the cup, nevertheless not My will but Thine. He did not allow self to have any part in His ministry. And every dross of self was crucified in the life of Christ. Now when we first accept Christ our faith is egocentric. In other words, we accept Christ because were either afraid of punishment or because we want to go to heaven. Thats the normal basis of accepting Christ. But what Christ wants to do is to purify this faith from its egocentric motivation. He wants us to have what Paul says in Galatians 5:6. He wants us to have faith which is motivated by love. And thats the process, thats the growth that He wants us to have.
I would like to read at this time three or four statements by Ellen G. White which are dealing with this:
Faith and love are golden treasures, elements that are greatly wanting among Gods people....
Dont we have faith? Yes, we have faith, but it is ego-centric faith. We must give this up for the faith that is of Christ, the faith that is motivated by love, the selfish faith for Christs faith.
...Unbelief is closing their eyes so that they are ignorant of their true condition. The True Witness does describe their blindness. [3T 255]
The gold tried in the fire is faith which works by love. (Which is a quotation from Galatians 5:6.) Only this can bring us into harmony with God. We may be active, we may do much work, but without love, such love as dwelt in the heart of Christ, we can never be numbered with the family of heaven. [COL 158]
In other words, we can never reflect the character of Christ. So there has to be a growth here. Now please remember, we must be careful when we read this that we dont read in the context of Justification. Shes talking here in terms of the evidence of Justification which must be reflected more and more, the life of Christ.
The gold here recommended as being tried in the fire is faith and love. It makes the heart rich for it has been purged until it is pure and the more it is tested the more brilliant is its lustre.
Please notice, it is faith that has been purged. Purged of what? Of self.
Love to God is the very foundation of religion. To engage in His service merely from hope of reward or fear of punishment (which is the basis of self-righteousness) would avail nothing.
These are statements that clearly point out that gold tried in the fire is faith which worketh by love. So that is what Christ is offering us. He says, I want to offer you My faith, which is motivated by love, rather than your faith which is egocentric.
The second item that Hes offering us is white clothes (or raiment in some translations). What is white raiment? The Righteousness of Christ. Imputed or imparted? Both! Let me give you a couple of texts; let me first of all give you the imputed Righteousness of Christ, i.e., it is imputed righteousness which qualifies us for heaven. Please remember that. It is not imputed Righteousness plus imparted Righteousness that qualifies for heaven. Imputed Righteousness is what qualifies us for heaven. Turn to Romans 9, and please remember that imputed Righteousness is something that is done outside of us, what was accomplished in the holy history of Christ. Romans 9:30 up to the end. And I want you to look at something here that is very much linked with the Laodicean message. Remember what He says in Revelation 3:18?
I counsel you to buy from me ... white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness....
Please keep that in mind as we look at Romans 9:30:
What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith...
So heres the Gentiles which sought righteousness by faith. Verse 31:
...but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.
So here are two groups of people. The Gentiles accepted Christ as their Righteousness; the Jews tried it by keeping the law. Two different methods, old and new covenants. Who succeeded and who failed? The Gentiles succeeded and the Jews failed. Why did they fail? Verse 32:
Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.
And that is something that we must keep in mind. What Paul is saying here is that there can be no mixture of Christ our Righteousness and self-righteousness. Its either one or the other. You cant blend the two together. The moment you accept Christs Righteousness, you must give up self-righteousness. The moment you uphold self-righteousness, Christs Righteousness becomes a stumbling block, an offense to you. Now look at verse 33:
As it is written: See, I lay in Zion [which is another term for Israel] a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall...
It is a rock of offense to whom? To the poor in spirit or to the self-righteous? The self-righteous.
...and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.
Please notice, if you buy the white clothes you will not be ashamed because you will be clothed. And you may remember that I read you a statement from the Spirit of Prophecy (by Ellen G. White) that self-righteousness is not the wedding garment. If you try to go to heaven by your righteousness you will appear what? Naked. Why? Because in the judgment, God doesnt look only at the act, He will look at the motive. And self-righteousness is always motivated by self. Thats why its called self-righteousness. So please remember that the white raiment is the Righteousness of Christ imputed. It is also the Righteousness of Christ imparted. Now turn to Revelation 19:7-8. These verses are in the context of the last days, its dealing with the same people, the last generation of Christians:
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
Christ has been waiting for years to reproduce His character in His bride, that she may be ready. How did she make herself ready? Verse 8:
Fine linen, bright and clean [theres the white raiment], was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
Is it something they have produced, or is it something that they are experiencing? Is it something that they have produced? No! It is the righteousness of saints because it is the righteousness of Christ imparted to the saints. Please notice:
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear....
Who clothes her? Christ. By the way, its this text that led the western world to have a white garment for a wedding dress for the bride. It symbolized purity. They are changing these days, and they have good reason to do that.
I want to read a statement here from Testimonies, Volume 4, by Ellen G. White. Just notice how she puts it in terms of 1888:
Fearful is the power of self-deception on the human mind. What blindness, setting light for darkness, and darkness for light. The True Witness counsels us to buy of Him gold tried in the fire, white raiment, and eye salve. The gold here recommended as having been tried in the fire is faith and love, it makes the heart rich for it has been purged until it is pure. And the more it is tested the more brilliant is its lustre. The white raiment is purity of character, the Righteousness of Christ imparted to the sinner....
Thats how she defines the white clothes in this Laodicean message.
...This indeed is a garment of heavenly texture (you did not produce it, its of heavenly texture) that can be bought only of Christ for a life of willing obedience....
And if you look at the context, what she means is not willing obedience in the sense of our obedience. Willing obedience means I am willing to say, Not I, thats my obedience, so that I may receive the Righteousness of Christ. The price I pay is Not I. In exchange Christ gives me His righteousness. Then she goes on to that third item:
The eye salve is that wisdom and grace that enables us to discern between evil and good and to detect sin under any guise. [4T 88]
Do you know self-righteousness is sin? But it doesnt appear as sin. It looks good. But this eye salve makes us see it without any guise. Now please, going back to the scripture itself. Christ is offering us white raiment that we may be clothed. What is the context of the Laodicean message? I know your deeds. So please notice, the context is, I know your deeds. Is it hot? Is it cold? Is it lukewarm? He wants our works to be hot. How can our works be hot? The imparted Righteousness of Christ. So the context is works, thats the key phrase of the passage. So God is offering us not only imputed righteousness that we may be clothed in the judgement and not appear naked, but that we may also be clothed in our experience, that Christ may be able to be reflected through us.
Now I want to review another statement. Its dealing with the chapter The Time of Trouble in The Great Controversy, page 621. Do you know why God allows the last generation of Christians to go through the time of trouble? Its part of the work of producing the righteous character of Christ. It is part of the buying of that white raiment. Listen to this: talking about the time of trouble:
Their affliction is great. The flames of the furnace seem about to consume them, but the Refiner will bring them forth as gold tried in the fire....
Please notice, the time of trouble is part of that counsel that Hes offering us. What will we have to give up in the time of trouble? Any ounce of holding on to self-righteousness.
....Gods love for His children during that period of their severest trial is as strong and tender as in the days of their sunniest prosperity...
So does Gods love diminish in the time of trouble? No.
...but it is needful (i.e., the time of trouble is needful for them) to be placed in the furnace of fire that their earthliness must be consumed, and the image of Christ may be perfectly reflected.
Not for our salvation, but that the world may see, that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. And God will say, Here are My people, who have the faith of Jesus. You can try them, you can try them to the very limit, you cant kill them, but you can try them.
And as we are tried, folks, what will come out is faith which is motivated by love. Our anchor will not be our love for God, but Gods love for us. Our faith will be in His love, not in His judgment. We will look at God not as a Judge Whos ready to punish you, but a God Who loves us even though we are going through the furnace.
What held Jesus on the cross? Why did He not come down and save Himself? Could He not do that? He could, but He believed that His Father had not forsaken Him. He felt forsaken as far as His feelings went. But His faith was in the love of God which never fails. And that is why I have said before and I will repeat again if there is any passage that you need to memorize it is Romans 8:35-39:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Who will separate us from the love of God?
Is your faith in the love of God and His righteousness which He gave us in Jesus Christ?
And, of course, finally, I dont have to go into any more detail, it is the eyesalve. In the Middle East they used a black ointment. You see, in the olden days they did not have sunglasses and the sun is very powerful in the Middle East. And they used this black stuff which kept the eyes cool and helped you to face the glare of the sun, so that you could see. Otherwise you had to squint your eyes and you couldnt see properly and so the eyesalve was used here as a symbol of the Holy Spirit opening our eyes. Please notice, it is the Holy Spirit that must guide you into all truth. John 16:13-14:
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.
The Holy Spirit is the only One Who can open our eyes and show us that our righteousness is filthy rags.
When Christ comes to you as individuals and says, Look, will you please buy? Will you please give up your own self-opinion? Will you give up all your success and all those badges that the church gave you for the tremendous work you have done? Are you willing to call that dung in exchange for the righteousness of Christ? how will you answer?
You have to make a choice. I know what choice I am going to make, because I have discovered that the only righteousness that will qualify me for heaven is not my successful ministry, it is not the number of people I baptized in Africa, it is Christ and His Righteousness. That is the only thing that will qualify me for heaven. And it is my prayer that this is the only Righteousness that you will accept.
In preparation for our next study please look at verse 19, because there is a problem. It seems that Laodicea doesnt want to buy the gold easily. So He has to do something else to us to put sense into our head:
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
So it seems that it is not going to be easy for us to buy, so God in His patience has to do something else besides offer us His wonderful, rich merchandise from heaven. May God help this church that we may reflect the character of Christ because we have bought the gold tried in the fire, the white clothes, and the eyesalve.