The “Luke-Warm” Reformation Church

Do we know what it means to be children of the Reformation? Really? Are we true children of the forefathers of this great reformatory movement? Do our children know what the Reformation was all about? Are they taught these important parts of history?

The Reformation gave three especially important blessings. In the first place it restored to God’s people the blessed truth of the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. Closely connected with this, God restored to the church the truth that we are justified not by works but faith only in this finished work of Christ. Not by works and faith (as many confessed them) still less by the popish mass, but by faith alone. And last but not least the Reformation gave to the church again the precious Word of God. Through the Word the church, of course, receives the former two, namely, faith in the finished work of Christ.

How precious this Word was to the saints of that age! Some paid as much as five hundred dollars, for one hand-written copy of the Bible. Others would rent the Bible for one or two hours per day. As time went on all kinds of commentaries were written; people studied because they were interested in the Word. And we see special providence at work here in that just at this time the printing press was invented. This was a flourishing period for the church. Its zeal and courage were amazing, even in the face of satanic opposition. Hearts were on fire for the Lord. They feared neither devils nor men. God alone knows how many tens of thousands suffered and even died that this fire might remain alive. And as the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, it was this river of blood that made it possible for us to have this Word today. Let me just quote a few words that have been written about John Knox, the great leader of the Reformation in Scotland.

What a torrent his electrified soul poured forth when he opened his mouth and protested against the wrongs done to Christ and the church. His eloquence was like a rushing river, an irresistible Niagara. He never feared the face of man. In private and in public, in the pulpit and through the press he reproved kings, princes, judges and nobles for their sins. He did his best work when he met them face to face. He was imprisoned, yet four years spent in jail, eating bad bread, breathing foul air, sleeping on a hard bed, groping in darkness, lonesome in his cell, brought him no regret for preaching Christ. From prison he went into banishment and from banishment home to heaven. In his illness he was asked if he desired the return of health. No, not for twenty worlds was his spirited reply.”

This is a description of the light and life of the Reformation. So it shone in the hearts of thousands of sinners who had learned to know the Christ of the Word.


What a difference we observe between that Reformation church and the church described in Revelation 3:14–22.

Laodicea was a congregation in Asia Minor, a church of “peace” and plenty, living in a city of abundance. This in itself should already cause us to take notice. Spurgeon said that prosperity was the greatest trial and danger of the church.

The Laodiceans said that they were rich, increased with goods, and had need of nothing. Theirs was a congregation that was well satisfied. Of course, they might admit theoretically that they were not perfect. After all we’re still human, and on this side of the grave. That’s how such people often talk. They were rich and satisfied with their professed love to God and to one another, with their church services, the attendance, the offering, the works of mercy, activities in the church and the general life of her members. There was no real awareness of need. And this is always bad, because the Christian is always in great need. And he must know it, confess it, and do something to fill that need. But the Laodiceans felt that they lacked nothing. They were comfortable, as many church people can be. There was no conscious daily need of admonition, of repentance, confession and improvement. They had “arrived.” Surely they had vastly improved the Christianity of their fathers. Theirs was a self-satisfied church, complacent, with a form of godliness, but lacking spiritual power.

They didnt hear the words of the Old Testament prophet, as they are echoed throughout the ages, “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion.”

Therefore Christ said that this church was luke-warm. And anything that is luke-warm is nauseating. Few people can drink luke-warm water. Christ therefore was ready to spit her out of His mouth.

It is this Laodicean spirit that pervades the church world of today, not the least in our own beloved country. It is the spirit of formalism, of being contented with present conditions. And much of this is brought on by materialism; let us never forget this.

Where in general is the light of the Reformation today? Ignorance of the very principles of this great movement is nothing short of appalling. Of course, we have our Sunday worship services, catechism and Sunday school classes, Christian day schools, mission programs, various church activities. And for these we are and want to be thankful. But with them all we usually are quite well satisfied. There is little real fire and zeal for the Lord, for the truth of the Word. So little do we feel the need, real need of more spiritual power and strength. In general there is little interest in the doctrines of the church, and in the very knowledge of the Bible itself. Usually only material things and the increase of them enthuse people today. Just listen, if you can to the daily conversation of people, church people. What do they talk about? Generally very little reading is done. And unless people have special burdens or problems, most of them are quite well satisfied. Smug complacency and lack of spiritual fervor are the termites that gnaw away at the very foundation of the church and true spirituality.

In the dark ages of history the light went out, humanly speaking, because the church had no Bible. But worse than that today, the light is growing dim with an abundance of Bibles in our possession.

I will spit you out of my mouth, says Christ.

The Great Lack

What was really wrong with Laodicea? This, says the Lord, that she didnt really know that she was wretched, and miserable and poor, blind and naked. Read verse 17.

In these words we Snd a true diagnosis of the spiritual condition of that church as well as of the churches in general today. The sinner and Christian must see that he is in need, great need. And when we lose this awareness of need we must take inventory of ourselves. We must never be satis6ed with ourselves. What do we really need? As sinners we need Christ. In the words of the Catechism, there is only one comfort for man and that is to belong to Christ with body and soul, in life and death. True knowledge of Christ gives zeal, life and love. When our real need is satis6ed with the knowledge of this Christ we are not luke-warm church members, with a mere form of religion, but we are alive as new creations in Christ . . . .

True children of the Reformation pray daily, “Fill our empty cups Lord, with Your forgiveness, with Your love, with Your promises and all Your blessings.” Such people are alive. Such people can sing, Faith of our Fathers, living still.