Laodicea, Part 4: “Buy” Your Salvation (Rev 3:18)

UPDATE: This is an old article. An updated and expanded commentary on this passage can be found in Paul’s book Letters from Jesus.

The letter to the Laodiceans is just 222 words long. In 47 of those words Jesus describes the Laodiceans and lukewarm and self-sufficient. The thing that made them self-sufficient was that they were lukewarm – they were mixing law and grace and ending up with self-righteousness.

Just about everyone knows the Laodiceans were lukewarm. But few realize that this had led to them being self-sufficient. Yet Jesus clearly says so:

You brag, ‘I’m rich, I’ve got it made, I need nothing from anyone,’… (Rev 3:17, MSG)

The Laodiceans were a very religious church. They were doing so much for God that they thought they had it made. They thought they were rich but Jesus said they were poor. They thought they didn’t need a thing but Jesus said:

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. (Rev 3:18)

Can you buy your salvation?!

Wait a second. Is Jesus saying salvation is something that can be bought? And if the Laodiceans were truly poor, how could they afford to buy anything?

To buy something is to exchange something we already own for something that we value more. Jesus is counseling the Laodiceans to give up what they have in exchange for three things that he offers:

  1. “refined gold” speaks of Christ our perfect and everlasting treasure
  2. “white clothes” speaks of Christ’s righteousness
  3. “salve” speaks of having a revelation of who Christ is and what he has done at the cross

The Laodiceans were busy doing church stuff. They thought they were rich but without Christ you’re poor. They thought they were good, but without his righteousness you’re naked. They thought they could see but unless you’re looking at things from Christ’s point of view you’re as good as blind. The Laodiceans thought they had it made, but Jesus said they had missed the way. Like Martha, they were so distracted with what they were doing that they hadn’t noticed that Jesus wasn’t with them. They needed a revelation that he was on the outside knocking, wanting to come in.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he with Me.” (Rev 3:20)

Religion keeps God outside

To “behold” Jesus is to see him. Jesus is saying, “see me, hear me, open the door to me and I will come in.” What is God’s will for the lost? He wants to come in and have a meal. He wants to have fellowship. Religion says that God is distant and unapproachable, but Grace personified says, “I want to come in and be with you.”

The redeemed life that Jesus offers is free but it’s still up to us to “buy” into it. You might say we “buy” salvation by exchanging our sins for his forgiveness, but the real exchange is Jesus for us. Derek Prince calls this the “divine exchange.” Jesus went to the cross, took our sin and in return he gave us his righteousness. He took our hurts and gave us his healing. He took our rejection and gave us our acceptance. He took our death and gave us his life. I would say that was a good exchange, wouldn’t you?

Christianity is a Divine Exchange, our life for his. No doubt you’ve heard people say that following Jesus costs you everything. And it does. You cannot call him Lord without renouncing the right to your own life.

But see the bigger picture here folks! See what you get in exchange! If salvation means nothing more to you than self-denial and personal sacrifice, you’ve missed the whole point. Without him we are poor, naked and blind. With him we’re truly and eternally rich!

Notice how Jesus encouraged the Laodiceans to “become rich.” When you have Jesus as your treasure, you have the greatest treasure in the universe. When you have Jesus you are truly, literally, and eternally wealthy.

Somehow we have bought into the idea that God is stingy and wants us poor. But the Bible declares we are forgiven in “accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Eph 1:7), we are strengthened according to his “glorious riches” (Eph 3:16), and we have all needs supplied according to his “glorious riches” (Ph 4:19). This may come as a bit of a shock, but God is not poor. And his kids aren’t poor either. In Christ we have a rich and glorious inheritance (Eph 1:18).

Religion bankrupts but grace enriches

So here’s the deal. Religion says you slave away doing religious things, perhaps earning the praise of men, but ultimately reaping condemnation and death. Grace says:

Come, all you who are thirsty… and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. (Is 55:1)

This is not a fair exchange. God favors us with this exchange. We give him our sinful, godless little selves and get everything in return.

If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? (Rms 8:32, MSG)

If you succeed at religion you will be tempted to think, “I am rich and I don’t need a thing.” But religion only bankrupts you. The only way to “become rich” is to buy into the riches of God’s grace revealed in Christ Jesus.

At the end of the day there are only two kinds of people in the world; those whose self righteousness leads them to say, “I don’t need a thing,” and those whose spiritual poverty causes them to say, “I need Jesus.”

Which one are you?

You can go to church your entire life and completely miss it with God. You can serve like a Laodicean with all the enthusiasm of a Pharisee and think you have it made. But without Jesus you’ve got nothing.

Christianity is not about doing stuff. Christianity is about an exchanged life; ours for his. See it from his point of view and make Christ your eternal treasure.

18 Comments on Laodicea, Part 4: “Buy” Your Salvation (Rev 3:18)

  1. You can’t buy salvation… but you can’t be ‘dead’ and in-Christ at the same time either. But this is what Jesus tells the church at Sardis. Paradoxes are not a problem. I cannot say this Laodicean church is completely unsaved, just focused on the wrong thing…money!

    • Paul Ellis // May 22, 2010 at 11:42 am // Reply

      Hi again Ty. Money is not the issue with the Laodiceans, but self-sufficiency. Anything – be it money, religion, whatever – that dulls your need for a Savior making you proudly independent will make you “wretched and pitiable” in God’s eyes.
      If you read what Jesus says to the churches at Sardis or Pergamum, or Thyatira you will see he addresses two distinct groups in each case; a group of sinners and a separate group of believers. (In Thyatira you also had a group of believers who had been misled into sin, but let’s keep things simple for now.) We may see one church, but Jesus is able to distinguish his sheep from the goats. Now we’re in no position to judge other men’s hearts, but we would do well to avoid medicine that God intends for sinners. God gives Christians the gift of “no condemnation,” so when Jesus condemns the Laodiceans I conclude they weren’t saved. Jesus promised no judgment for those who believe in him, so when he judges the Laodiceans for not needing him I conclude that they didn’t believe him. When Jesus says they’re wretched, I conclude that they’re wretched. When Jesus says they’re naked and need white clothes, I conclude that he is referring to robes of his righteousness (or perhaps garments of salvation). There is no problem with paradoxes because there are no paradoxes. Confusion only arises if you think attending church makes you a citizen of heaven. This, of course, is found nowhere in the Bible.

      • Here is my take – add on some of the ideas in the article:

        “refined gold” speaks of faith in Christ (1 Peter 1:6.7)
        “white clothes” speaks of Christ’s righteousness (Rev 7:14)
        “salve” speaks of having a revelation of who Christ is

        This all adds up and keeps in touch with the context. They need white raiment washed in the blood of the Lamb. Otherwise they will be naked at His coming (Revelation 16:15). The Blood is applied through faith and faith can only come if you have a understanding of who Jesus is, and what He has done.

        Unless these saints can get these three things – they wont be saved. But at the moment, God is giving them time to repent but no repentance means no change of state = unsaved.

  2. Awesome series Paul! Loved it all!

  3. perry kuey // May 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm // Reply

    I have to say I’m in the “I have Jesus” group. Ones who know that ONCE I was lost, unrighteous, far from God, guilty, sinful. But NOW I am righteous, blameless, holy, I have been given all things in Christ. He took all of the old me (the good and the bad) we were co-crucified, co-buried, co-raised and now with Him I am co-seated. I have become co-heirs with him!!! That is some exchange.
    I can’t say I’m in the “I need Jesus” group–it makes it sound like he’s holding himself back which is far from reality. He has given himself fully, holding nothing back. I already have him, I may need to see, experience, believe that Truth–Christ in me the hope of Glory.

    • Paul Ellis // May 22, 2010 at 5:41 pm // Reply

      Hi Perry, thanks for the comment. If you mean, “I don’t need what I already have,” then I take your point and wholeheartedly agree. What we already possess in Christ is truly awesome – something to get excited about. But if what I already have is the sum total of my “Jesus experience” (for want of a better phrase), then I am sorely disappointed. Like Paul, who knew Christ, I am still pressing on to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. As you say, Christ in me is the hope of glory. There is a glorious aspect to Christ that we can only hope for in this age. Thankfully, his Spirit within is a guarantee of what is to come, but my point is there is something glorious to look forward to that only Jesus can make happen. In the meantime I also need Jesus to keep me from falling (Ju 24). I have no confidence in my ability to keep myself from falling, but Jesus I trust. Again I take your point that we already have him and that we only need to see it. Perhaps I don’t see it as clearly as I should, for each trial that comes along, each storm that slashes my sails and floods my boat, only seems to reveal further my utter dependence on him.

  4. Praise God, Paul. This is GOLD!!!! Thank you 🙂

  5. Gordon Wallis // February 20, 2011 at 2:04 am // Reply

    This is wonderful teaching, thank you

  6. What do you need to do to be warm.. or cold?

  7. Haha I’m done reading the first three parts and gotta read this one tomorrow! I can’t wait! Thank you paul. Been confused abouth because of what I’ve heard (they pertain to Christians.) AND THIS IS GOOD NEWS!! 🙂 I am now understanding HOW GOOD the good news really is. 🙂 Thank GOD for your life. Grace and peace be to you 🙂

  8. wow , thank you this series has helped me a lot. Often I feel like I am not good enough or some how I just don’t measure up to other Christians no matter how hard I try. At times I could image Jesus wanting to throw up on me.

  9. i really thank God for such great revelational knowldge He has given you Paul….I am a preacher of Gods grace also but i av dis question. Do u tink dat as a believer who believes in Gods grace nd rest in his finished we still av to labor and take up spiritual responsibilities e.g(prayer and the ministry of the word-Acts6:4), fasting etc….Now does doing dis with the mindset similar to Apostle Paul saying that he labors more than them all but yet not him but the grace of God that works in him and doing all of these stuffs not to attain self confidence or self righteousness but to attain spiritual growth…..

    • Joy Brothers // July 27, 2015 at 4:18 am // Reply

      Hey Paul, I have to admit, I’m still not convinced the Laodiceans weren’t saved, at one time. It is possible for a church, which is what Paul called them, to go off on the wrong track and not get back on the right one. And if they weren’t saved, how could they mix law and grace, if they had no grace to start with?

      • Hi Joy, I’m not sure if you meant to put your comment under this post, where I list 10 reasons why the Laodiceans had missed out on the grace of God. God is indiscriminate with his grace. He does not offer it exclusively to believers for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to the whole world.

  10. Jared Westendorp // July 24, 2019 at 8:59 pm // Reply

    I was reading this and started thinking. Man, thank God Dr. Paul went through religious bondage so he could speak truth to so many lies that I had believed. Thank God for you brother.

  11. Seeing myself as the believer I have been, I probably wouldn’t have made it to hot zeal and enthusiasm.
    And I struggled as a believer with continual sin.. in my area of Jesus Christ doing the redemptive work in my life.. I saw that I went too far in the process of willful sins.. believing yet still continuing rebellion in some ways, so then I figured if im saved and I’m not obeying, then maybe I should..
    Meanwhile I also questioned being lukewarm,
    In spite of my reading This article helped me while Christ was helping me..
    we as believers believe and in spite of that belief it produces works.. not because we’re trying to add them to our faith, or because we’re using it to earn the rest of our way in.
    So if anyone is stuck being lukewarm..
    just pray, re read this article.. and understand Gods forgiving and loving nature, read Ephesians 2:8-10..
    It shows that we are saved by Gods free gift, an unmerited gift of underserved favor.. (Grace)
    Through our faith.. Ie our trust in Jesus Christ as our only way to salvation..
    Submit to his salvation
    Which is by grace through faith only.
    And remember what he did
    On the cross for us. It will help and encourage us to love Him truly, and not because We fear condemnation.
    But if this doesnt work.. you can always pray to Jesus, confess your sins of lukewarmness and ask/trust him to deliver you to being hot.
    I pray we all trust Him when needed in Jesus Name, amen.

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