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SELF-DECEIVED! NOT CHRISTIANS AT ALL!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, February 27, 2011

“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:16-17).


I disagree with Dr. John MacArthur on the Blood of Christ. He teaches that the Blood is another name for the death of Christ (a metonym). I believe that the Blood of Christ and the death of Christ are distinct, as they are portrayed in the two elements of the Lord’s Supper (cf. I Corinthians 11:23-25; Matthew 26:26-28). Yet I do not disagree with everything Dr. MacArthur says. I think he was exactly right in his comment on our text, Revelation 3:16, when he wrote,

The church at Laodicea was neither cold, openly rejecting Christ, nor hot, filled with spiritual zeal. Instead, its members were lukewarm, hypocrites professing to know Christ, but not truly belonging to him, cf. Matthew 7:21-23...Just like the dirty, tepid waters of [the city of] Laodicea, these self-deceived hypocrites sickened Christ (John MacArthur, D.D., The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Bibles, 1997 edition, p. 1997; note on Revelation 3:16).

“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:16-17).

I know there are those who think this passage refers to “backslidden” Christians. But that is an incorrect explanation of the text. Commenting on Revelation 3:16, Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,

The churches have a form of godliness but are denying the power thereof. They have a name that they live, but they are dead. They are neither hot nor cold – they are lukewarm. This is the condition of the church today, and unfortunately, it is the condition of a great many...fundamental conservative churches. But the thing that is absolutely startling and frightening and fearful is that He says, “I will spue thee out of my mouth.” In other words, “I will vomit you out of my mouth” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume V, p. 922; note on Revelation 3:15-16).

Dr. John F. Walvoord added these comments on Revelation 3:15-16,

There is no one farther from the truth...than one who makes an idle profession [of being saved] without real faith...How many have [come into] the church without a true state of being born again...?... Especially sad is the fact that in the church at Laodicea the minister or angel of the church is described as lukewarm [thus, verses 14 and 15 refer to lost pastors as well as the members of their churches]...the term “lukewarm” in this passage seems to extend to their conviction respecting...the new birth and the need for a dramatic change in life...If those who are [pastors] never make clear the necessity of the new birth and do not proclaim accurately the depravity and sin of the human heart and the divine remedy provided...by the crucified Christ, one can hardly expect the church itself to be better than those who lead it. The result ischurchianity,” membership in [a church] without...the miracle of the new birth (John F. Walvoord, Th.D., The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Moody Press, 1966 edition, p. 93; note on Revelation 3:15-16).

“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:16-17).

Now, before I apply these verses, I will give you an historical illustration of them. In the 18th century there was a radical difference between the preaching of Whitefield and Wesley, on the one hand, and nearly all the clergymen of that day on the other hand. The clergymen were teaching the so-called Christians how to live a godly life. Wesley and Whitefield, on the other hand, were preaching that these people (and their pastors) had never been born again! Iain H. Murray said,

It was an age when most people belonged to the church...and yet the influence of the church upon [them] was very [weak]. How was this to be explained? The popular diagnosis was very different from that of Whitefield and Wesley. It was that the churchgoers were weak, deficient Christians. [Whitefield and Wesley], on the contrary preached that these churchgoers were not Christians at all. More than that, the fault lay with many of the clergy themselves. They did not preach the gospel, and if congregations were not hearing the gospel it was no wonder that there should be so many [unconverted] unbelievers in the churches...The first work of an evangelist [Whitefield believed] was to speak like John the Baptist and to shake the refuge of lies in which the nominal Christian tries to hide (Iain H. Murray, Heroes, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009, pp. 58-59).

Today our churches have gone back to the same condition that they were in before the various Awakenings under Whitefield, Wesley, Edwards and C. H. Spurgeon. Dr. C. L. Cagan said, “The movement begun by Edwards, Whitefield, Wesley and Spurgeon has come full circle. Today, as in the dead churches of the 18th century, the pastors are busy each Sunday teaching their people how to live the Christian life – even though nearly all of these people (and very possibly the pastor) have never been born again! Today most of our church members, and many of our pastors, are ‘not Christians at all,’ as Iain H. Murray put it.” Not Christians at all! Could Dr. Cagan be right? Could that be true? I have often heard Bible teachers say that our day is the Laodicean period. But what does that mean? It means that most people who claim to be Christians will be vomited out of the mouth of Christ, who said, “I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). At the Last Judgment of the Unsaved Dead, Christ will say to them, “I never knew you: depart from me” (Matthew 7:23).

“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16).

Christ said He would rather have you be “cold” or “hot” than “lukewarm.” “Cold” refers to those who have never pretended to be Christians. “Hot” refers to those who are truly converted. But “lukewarm” describes those who are “self-deceived hypocrites” (MacArthur, ibid.,), “churchgoers who [are] not Christians at all” (Murray, ibid.).

I wonder if that doesn’t describe you. Are you a person who claims to be a Christian, although you are really a self-deceived hypocrite, not a real Christian at all? Let me give you a Bible test. See if you can pass it – or not.

First, have you ever been convicted of your own sins? Has God’s Spirit ever “reproved” you of sin? (John 16:8). Have you ever felt convicted of a particularly bad sin, one that you would not want your mother to know about? Have you ever felt anxiety, fear and pain for the actual sins you have committed in your life? Has the thought of God reading a long list of your sins at the Last Judgment ever caused you to tremble with fear and conviction? (Revelation 20:11-15). If you have never felt any of that, do not call yourself a Christian. You are nothing but a self-deceived hypocrite. You are nothing but a nominal lukewarm church-attender. You are not a Christian at all.

Second, have you ever been convinced of your own depravity? Have you ever felt that your “whole head is sick, and [your] whole heart faint”? Have you ever felt that you are a ruined, depraved sinner, that “From the sole of [your] foot even unto [your] head there is no soundness in [you]; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores”? (Isaiah 1:5-6). Have you ever felt that your “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”? (Jeremiah 17:9). Have you ever felt, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). Have you ever been convicted of the wretched, inbred wickedness of your own heart? If you have never felt any of that, do not call yourself a Christian. You are nothing but a self-deceived hypocrite. You are nothing but a nominal lukewarm church-attender. You are not a Christian at all.

Third, have you ever felt that no one but Christ could pardon your sins? Have you ever felt that “Christ...hath once suffered for [your] sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring [you] to God”? (I Peter 3:18). Was there ever a time that you felt joyful and happy that Jesus died in your place to pay the price for your sins? Or did you just memorize those words without any feeling of joy? If there was never a time when you rejoiced when you thought of Christ dying in your place, do not call yourself a Christian. You are nothing but a self-deceived hypocrite. You are nothing but a nominal lukewarm church-attender. You are not a Christian at all.

Those are three very important tests. Take this test yourself. Let me give again the three questions on this test. Answer them in your own mind as I give that test to you again.

1.   Have you ever felt guilty for the actual sins you have committed? Have you ever wished that your sins could be blotted out of God’s record books? Have you ever trembled in fear of God reading the record of your sins? If not, do not call yourself a Christian.

2.  Have you ever felt that there is something terribly wrong with you, that you are a fallen, ruined and depraved creature, that your mind and heart are defiled? If not, do not call yourself a Christian.

3.   Have you ever felt that no one but Jesus Christ could pardon your sin? Have you ever felt the joy of knowing Christ and being washed from your sins by His Blood? If not, do not call yourself a Christian. Have you ever come to Christ? Have you ever encountered Jesus Christ Himself? Have you made face-to-face contact with Him? If not, do not call yourself a Christian (Matthew 11:28). Can you truthfully say that you have had the wrath of God propitiated “through faith in his blood”? (Romans 3:25). If not, do not call yourself a Christian. He who has never felt the cleansing power of Christ’s Blood is not a Christian! If you have never felt any of those things you are nothing but a self-deceived hypocrite. You are only a nominal lukewarm church attender. You are not a Christian at all!


Please stand and sing hymn number eight on your song sheets!

Depth of mercy! can there be Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear, Me, the chief of sinners, spare?
Depth of mercy! can there be Mercy still reserved for me?

I have long withstood His grace, Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not [listen] to His calls, Grieved Him by a thousand falls.
Depth of mercy! can there be Mercy still reserved for me?

Now [O God, make me] repent! Let me now my sins lament;
Now my foul revolt deplore, Weep, believe, and sin no more.
Depth of mercy! can there be Mercy still reserved for me?

There for me the Saviour stands, Holding forth His wounded hands.
God is love! I know, I feel, Jesus weeps and loves me still.
There for me the Saviour stands, Holding forth His wounded hands.
   (“Depth of Mercy” by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788;
       altered by the Pastor).

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Revelation 3:14-19.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Depth of Mercy” (by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).