In the last post, we looked at how Jesus gave the Christians at Laodicea the first remedy for their blind, miserable, and pitiable condition: Buy of Him gold tried by fire. It seems to be apparent that the way we do that is by prayerfully pursuing a life of sacrifice, living as soldiers, as Paul wrote to Timothy. After entering into that pursuit, Jesus next tells the Laodiceans to buy “white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen” (Revelation 3:18).1

This statement shouldn’t surprise us, since He has already told these believers that they’re naked—they just don’t know it. They should be ashamed of that nakedness, but they’re oblivious to it. Before we discuss how we Christians could be so clueless, let’s talk briefly about white clothing.

There are two events in the gospels where someone was clothed in white. The first occurrence is when we see Jesus clothed this way on the Mount of Transfiguration. The second time is at the tomb, after His resurrection. There we also see angels in white, as well as after Jesus’s ascension, when they ask the disciples the well-known question, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

However, the clearest connection to believers being clothed in white clothing is in the book of Revelation, and the clearest one of all is after John sees this scene in heaven: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9–10). The elder standing next to John tells him who they are. “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).

The idea of being made clean or white by the blood of Jesus is further clarified in this passage from First John: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7–9).

This doctrine of being cleansed and having our sins washed away is central to the Christian faith. Christianity is the only religion that speaks of a God who loves and forgives regardless of one’s merit. Every other religion requires some kind of work that one must do in order to find acceptance with its God. Christianity requires none. Christians are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, and that faith is itself a gift from God. So, Jesus is telling the Laodiceans that this must be done: They must make sure what the source of their salvation is. I’ve found in my life that this is a necessary daily process. I’m not trying to lay down some legal code here, but we are so apt to jump into legalistic, self-righteous goofiness that it behooves us to prayerfully approach the Father daily to reinforce the truth that our fallen condition has changed only because of His grace.

Which leads us to this question: Why would these rich and self-satisfied Laodicean Christians in particular have a problem with knowing the true source of their salvation? We’re not told, but here are some things to consider, and it does have to do with being self-satisfied with one’s spiritual condition as the Laodiceans were. When rich Christians lapse into passivity, as these believers had, their wealth is a powerful anesthetic to their desperate condition. We have need of nothing, we senselessly think, which is exactly what Jesus told them they were saying. So, why should we pray? Why should we seek Him? We have all we need. This is why, I believe, Jesus told them to pursue sacrificial living first. Let’s think about this. Why didn’t Jesus bring up being able to see—buying eye salve for blindness—first? Why didn’t He bring up making sure the Laodiceans understood the source of their righteousness first? I believe it is because the admonition to purposefully and prayerfully pursue a life of self-denying sacrifice will eventually move us in those directions. When the Lord begins, by His Spirit, to show us ways we can sell all we possess in order to buy the Pearl of great value, we begin to see how attached to this world we are. When the Lord, by His grace, begins to show us how we can sell all we possess in order to purchase the Treasure hidden in the field, we see how greedy and self-centered we are. His revealing of these things to us will cause us to understand our true spiritual condition. In addition, being needy may very well put us into some “interesting” predicaments that we would not face if we were wealthy.

One more thing, and we’ll finish. When the Lord shows us how much we’ve become attached to the world and we respond by making certain sacrificial changes, there is a tendency for us to draw up legalistic guidelines for what this true following-Jesus discipleship is. How much should one spend on a cup of coffee? How much for a computer? A car? That’s when Christians need to back up and make certain what the source of their righteousness is. It isn’t how self-sacrificial one is—it’s by faith in Jesus, by grace alone.

Would you please join me, if you’re a Christian, in prayerfully pursuing how to buy of Jesus gold tried by fire? How to live like a soldier and not be entangled with the affairs of the world? Would you join me in praying earnestly that we will understand the true nature of our spiritual condition? It will be difficult.

And it will be lovely.2

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

2This article is an edited version of a previously published post entitled, Jesus Speaks to the Church in Laodicea.