Q: #227. What is a "lukewarm" Christian?
A: This word is used only one place in the Bible, when the Lord is speaking to the church of Laodicea in (Rev 3:16). Let’s start in (Rev 3:15)(NASB) “‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. (16) So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”
*** Note: One thing the city of Laodicea was known for was its tepid, lukewarm water, which archaeology has shown came into the city through an aqueduct. This was in contrast to the nearby cities of Colossae, which was known for its cold, crisp mountain water, and Hierapolis, which had a hot springs with water that was often used for medicinal purposes. The type of water their city was known for was a perfect fit for the spiritual condition of the people living there.
It could rightly be asked if a “lukewarm” Christian is even a Christian at all. When looking at the various descriptions of what defines a person who is “lukewarm,” a “lukewarm Christian” seems to be a contradiction in terms. How can one be a Christian, and live in these ways? Many think they are not (i.e. MacArthur), believing that (Mt 7:21-23) applies these people, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (22) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” I tend to agree that these verses do apply to one who is “lukewarm.”
I have looked at MANY references to find how a “lukewarm” person is described; let me share some of what I think are the best.
Self-satisfied (This seems pretty apparent from the verses after (Rev 3:16)
Lacking conviction: Halfhearted (Webster’s Dictionary)
Worldly minded rather than Heavenly minded
Not standing for anything
Apathy towards the less fortunate
Unaffected by heretical teaching
Hypocrites (ruining any testimony they could have)
Have experienced God’s presence, but turned away with a yawn
Choosing what is popular over what is right
Failing to share their faith, unconcerned with the lost
Gathering with believers when it is convenient
Unmoved by reading and hearing God’s Word
Bearing no fruit
I should add here that I believe every Christian has times in his or her life when they may not be as on fire or passionate for the Lord as they should be or want to be. I would not necessarily characterize such a person as a “lukewarm Christian.” I believe the key is, does the person realize they are not where they need to be or want to be, and have a strong desire to get to that place, or are they totally indifferent to their condition, with no desire to change. If being “lukewarm” is abhorrent to God, that sounds like sin to me, and if someone can practice sin with no conviction, I believe the Bible is clear that this person has no personal relationship with the Lord (Jn 16:8-9)(1 Jn 3:4-9, 5:18)(Titus 1:15-16).