God 3:16 – Temps & Vomit

What would cause God to say that He may want to barf us out of His mouth?  That conjures up rather grotesque and repulsive imagery.  Something must taste awfully bad or make someone violent ill to spew.  This certainly is strange – talking about puke in relation to God.  And, yes, I’m trying to exhaust every synonym in the English language for the word regurgitate.  Whether or not you upchuck, at least there’s a better chance that you’ll remember reading this by me using language with technicolor yawn-like diversity.

Anyway, in what I now refer to as “The Other 3:16” because of it’s particular relevancy in our increasingly relativistic age and culture, God says, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” – Revelation 3:15&16 (also quoted in my previous post “Utopian Undertones”).   Wow!  If you’re on the same train of thought as I am, that’s not only vivid, but pretty scary too. 

First, The Other 3:16 is a reminder to seek God with all your heart, soul and mind.  In Jeremiah 29:13, God says, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (also see Deuteronomy 4:29).  If we seek God as He challenged us to do, we’re more apt to be hot or cold to God – a decision with which He is intentionally confronting us.  Being lukewarm is like being apathetic to the great asset of knowledge, which is obviously not a wise thing to do for countless reasons.

Second, it provides a reminder of  the responsibility someone with knowledge has, to demonstrate care for things – by which I mean living righteously.  The parable of the faithful steward instantly comes to mind.  Luke 12:48 says, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”  God isn’t pleased when we stop at knowledge and are content with child-like responsibility and care.  Just as a parent, God demands maturation of His children and for them to go beyond the selfishness of lukewarmness into hotter waters.

Third, it reminds me of who Jesus says He is – God, the one and only God.   Jesus’ statements of being God are not lukewarm, nor are they intended to inspire lukewarmness.  Rather, Jesus presents us a two-handled faucet with a cold dial to the left and a hot dial to the right.   It is a faucet too often operated by human error – by delicate human hands that are too apathetic or timid to dial temperatures beyond anything but tepid.  Wouldn’t it be better to test the waters and make a decision cold or hot?  At least you would choose whether or not to believe in the Water of Life – Jesus.  At the very least, it must sound better than being thrown up by God, if He is indeed the one and only Truth, because you are lukewarm.

I’ll leave you with the words of one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis.  In the book Mere Christianity, he wrote: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic – on the level of with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.”

– Terrence

*Origin of Discursion: Writing and ruminating on my article “Utopian Undertones,” talking theology with my friends Grant and Sara over a Grain Belt Premium (The Friendly Beer), and talking with my parents about theology and culture over lunch.


Filed under Terrence

19 responses to “God 3:16 – Temps & Vomit

  1. Brooke

    After reading this I am challenged and hope to have the courage to check the temp. of my everyday living. Thanks for giving me something to wrestle with.
    In agreement,

  2. I like (1 john) 3:16-18 the “other, other” 3:16

    16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

  3. John

    Just for fun…since the passage is intended for the church in Laodicea, the NAB makes a note about the use of “lukewarm”: “Perhaps there is an allusion to the hot springs of Hierapolis across the Lycus River from Laodicea, which would have been lukewarm by the time they reached Laodicea.”

  4. I too like the 1st John quote, Paulo – thanks so much for the post.

    John, I came across something similar. The Bible I have notes: “3:16 lukewarm. l.e., tepid. Nearby Hierapolis was famous for its hot springs, and Collosse for its cold, refreshing mountain stream. But Laodicea had dirty, tepid water that flowed for miles through an underground aqueduct. Visitors, unaccustomed to it, immediately spat it out. The church of 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. Matt. 7:21ff.). I will vomit you out of my mouth. Just like the dirty, tepid water of Laodicea, these self-deceived hypocrites sickened Christ.”

  5. Christopher

    I agree with your first point: that we are to seek God with all of our heart, soul and mind. However, I take issue with the quote of my fellow Anglican, C.S. Lewis:
    Firstly, I can’t say that I agree at all with C.S. Lewis’ basis for acceptance of Christ’s divinity. His quote boils down to: either he was an insane man or you venerate him as God.
    That’s an oversimplification if I’ve ever heard one. But then again, we can all think of Christians who like to be fed simpleton theology.
    Secondly, how should one come to know Christ’s divinity fervently if one hasn’t wrestled with the broader theological implications? God gave us powerful minds with which to discern truth, not pudding in our skulls to blindly accept things. I dare say that the faith of a person who at one time questioned Christ’s divinity and ultimately came to a conclusion venerating him is stronger and more defensible than that of a person who has had mere ‘heat’ of faith all along. Shame on C.S. Lewis: we ought never to be admonished for questioning ANYTHING to do with our faith.
    And finally, what is this ‘heat’ our mystery writer John (Revelation) speaks of? Heat really was a poor choice of word, for it’s linguistic and psychological connection to being destructive and out of control. I fear that by many this passage is misinterpreted to mean ‘mindless zealousness’ – faith devoid of any critical thought. Sort of like the hot passion terrorists feel for God. Christ may be the light of the world, for he is a warm, life-nurturing light – not a destructive fire. Although in retrospect, perhaps it is more than serendipity of language that the gentle Light of the World is often used to incinerate.

  6. GCC

    I love the title of this post.

    And my main thought was on Lewis as well. The argument he is making in that quote is an oversimplification indeed. To come to that point, one must ignore many other factors, not the least of which is history. And even if there was no debate as to the historicity of Jesus claim (direct or indirect) to be divine it still misses the real point. Lewis’ thought on this might very well be an excellent example of being lukewarm.

    Furthermore, such a dilution of that particular question of faith can really only “work” on the under-informed or those willing to otherwise suspend disbelief. To boil things down that simply is to make the choice for the informed person much too easy. The reason that this “choice” is oversimplified is that it completely ignores the element of suspending disbelief. To make the “choice” that Lewis presents and determine that Jesus was not “a madman or something worse,” one must grapple with many things, some of which I’ll list here: Direct contradiction of scripture. Unfulfilled prophecy. Clear indications of false prophecy. The inequality of men. God-ordained sexism. A sudden “left turn” in God’s plans.

    It’s certainly possible to deal with these things. But the point is they must be dealt with. One must have a reason why one suspends disbelief in deciding that Jesus is God. And that’s why the idea that he was either God or a “jackbutt” (love that term too) because he said so, and therefore we should believe (or not) is so foolish; it ignores those reasons why, everything else.

    So, I agree with Christopher. Shame on C.S. Lewis. Making such a statement either fosters the “faith” of the uniformed or never forces the people who suspend disbelief to confront the question of why the do so. An oversimplified faith that doesn’t challenge its adherents can lead swiftly to an exclusionary “faith” that we manufacture in order to meet our own needs. It allows us to work comfortably within the status quo whether right or wrong. It allows for external corruption to reign while also allowing internal corruption to erode things from within. It makes it exceedingly easy for us to be lukewarm. Indeed, this may be the very kind of thing that had Jesus so cheesed off back in the first century.

  7. Christopher

    I’ll further mention that Lewis was also a “Theist” for a short time from 1929-1931. This was following his rejection of the Church if Ireland (in which he was raised) when he considered himself a strict atheist. Tolkein persuaded him to Christianity (1931). If that’s not lukewarm while one figures things out, then I don’t know what is.

  8. GCC

    And one must question the veracity of his new found faith. Could it be that the idea for the Narnia books came first and was followed quickly by a realization that a Church affiliation could greatly help sales? Hmmm…

    I’m kidding, of course. Poor C.S. Lewis. We shouldn’t be too hard on him. Actually, does anyone have any suggestions for his more theological work that’s better than his Mere Christianity? I’d like to read more of him, but only if his other theological work outshines MC. By that one I was not impressed.

  9. GCC

    Actually, after reading this post again, I think it’s interesting that we have such divergent opinions on the Lewis quote, yet still very consistent understandings (I think) of the Rev 3:16 quote. The hot/cold/lukewarm thing is something I’ve often thought before, only in different terms. I think it’s central to all relationships with God regardless of creed. It’s also something that will be experienced differently by different people. But in every case it’s a wrestling match.

  10. Out of fairness to C.S. Lewis, it is important to note that he actually presented three options as to Jesus’ identity – an insane man, the devil of hell, God Himself. This is a matter of record as Lewis did not just present two options as Christopher stated above. Also, Lewis isn’t saying that Jesus’ claims of being God are proof that He is God. Lewis is connecting the claim back to the narrative of Jesus, which is the substance we should investigate.

    I’d argue that these three options C.S. Lewis presented could be viewed as simplistic theology if the reader projects an errant and simplistic interpretation onto them. I’ve read enough C.S. Lewis to know that this quote is not the extent of his theology, nor did he hold a simplistic theology. On the contrary, C.S. Lewis developed a rather robust theology on his journey of becoming a Christian.

    Another important point… Christopher, C.S. Lewis isn’t saying not to question if Jesus is God. Instead, he is only trying to present the options as to the identity of Jesus. So, I don’t think the “shame on C.S. Lewis” is in order. I could only laugh when you later noted that C.S. Lewis was an Atheist. Doesn’t that indicate that he wrestled with his faith and would expect others to?

    As for the “heat” spoken of in Revelation… it’s actually Jesus speaking… woops, whoever He is (sorry, I had to). Again, Christopher, I’d argue that you’re projecting your interpretation onto the text rather doing a proper exegisis of the text. Obviously, that’s a dangerous thing to do… it leads to the very thing you accused the text of doing… “faith devoid of any critical thought.”

    Christopher and Grant, you both accuse C.S. Lewis of being lukewarm. I’d argue you are terribly wrong. As C.S. Lewis knew, as we know, the journey (or lack thereof) to find our faith will go through peaks and valleys. C.S. Lewis was “hot” for Truth because he pursued it with great dedication and vigor. He didn’t kinda-sorta seek Truth (which would be lukewarm) and he obviously did not, not seek Truth (which would be cold). His journey to find his faith should not recieve judgement of being lukewarm because he changed his mind, but rather should recieve our applause, regardless of what faith he arrived, because he pursued Truth and a right mind with hot passion. C.S. Lewis should be an inspiration for us to seek God with all our hearts, soul and mind. Interestingly, C.S. Lewis found God when he did this.

    Yes, please do grapple with your faith. Wrestle with God if you must. That is precisely what God is saying in Jeremiah 29:13 as mentioned above. If you’re reading this discursion, then clearly Luke 12:48 applies to you. You have the knowledge of Jesus’ claims and the three options C.S. Lewis presented as to His identity. Now you have the responsibility to grapple with the narrative of Jesus, and with intellectually honesty decide whether or not you believe Jesus is God. What you do with that knowledge and responsibility will largely determine your care for both… and Truth.

    Grant, if you were not impressed with Mere Christianity, then I challenge you to write an article on why it is so unimpressive.

  11. blraatikka

    The passage from Revelation and the Mere Christianity excerpt have significantly different contexts, which I think are being conflated here. Christ’s message to the Laodicean church is about people who claim to know Him but don’t have zeal for him or live like he is coming back; Lewis’ passage deals with conclusions about Jesus himself, and whether they are reasonable or not. Lewis’ only indirectly deals with taking Jesus seriously, like the church in Revelation should have been doing– which is why Terrence used it– and it should not be taken further than in terms of thinking that Revelation is shedding light on what Lewis is saying, or that Lewis had the “hot and cold” idea in mind when he wrote the passage.

    That Lewis rejected his religious upbringing (which was never very strict), called himself an Atheist but still wrote poems about God, later became a theist, and finally, a Christian, should tell you that Lewis is not demanding a snap decision on who Jesus is, or that you should blindly accept him (I don’t know where that’s coming from at all). Instead, he’s actually saying that whatever you decide about Jesus, it shouldn’t be anything but the three options he’s laid out– and if you come to another conclusion, you ought to think about and struggle with the question some more. You may disagree with his options, yet I’ve never heard a convincing case otherwise.

  12. GCC

    T: Good idea, will do. I’ll need some time though because I’ll need to read if again so as to be thorough. Looking forward to it.

    Now that I’ve re-read this on a real computer…

    I didn’t suggest that C.S. Lewis himself would be considered lukewarm. Rather, the particular quote from him may be lukewarm, and, much more importantly, such ideas foster lukewarm-ity (I love making up words) in others. That’s where I lay the “shame on…” part of my comment on the quote. This is certainly not something that is limited to C.S. Lewis either. In sum, I really don’t see that this concept (which I run into a lot(!) and is often referred to cutely and alliteratively as Liar, Lunatic, Lord) adds anything to anyone’s theology. It could, however, detract from everyone’s theology (or at least religious experience). So I think it should be avoided. As I’m writing this, I think I’m assuming the worst of people – that they aren’t smart enough on their own to figure out where this kind of thinking fits in theology and religion. Naturally, I don’t like thinking that. However, I fear that religion is an area in which such a thing is more likely to occur. That is to say, I fear that modern religion and religious insitutions are bursting at the seems with those who are lukewarm.

  13. blraatikka

    Grant– I don’t know if I’d go to Lewis for “hard theology,” although he’s definitely helped me figure out what type of theology I think is correct. “The Great Divorce” might be his most intensely theological work, as it is an allegory, and quite good, but you also might start with some of his essays in “God in the Dock” or “The Weight of Glory.” My favorite work of his, “The Abolition of Man,” has more to do with moral education and is less theological, so I’m not sure you should try that one, but I figured I’d pitch it anyway because it’s stellar.
    If you want something with just a s***-ton of theological substance, you might try Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship.”

  14. czfinke

    I’ve been reading this through, and finally got to the final post, by brandon, that I was long waiting for. I’ve read (as probably many here have) quite a bit of Lewis, in my time and all through these comments I was thinking, wait, C.S. Lewis doesn’t work in strict theology, or any such thing. I would say he’s barely a theologian, if at all.
    And especially not in Mere Christianity, which is a fine book in itself, but not something I would get too theologically worked up over.
    Well said, brandon.

  15. Christopher


    I’d urge you to re-read your Lewis quotation. He plainly says, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say…But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

    But Lewis did just that in his own life. Which is precisely my point: We must all wrestle with this notion and come hopefully come to some conclusion, as Lewis had. Though from the quote you chose, it appears that Lewis is not willing to allow others the same wiggle room he needed to figure out his beliefs.

    Secondly, you seem to say that Jesus is the narrative voice in Revelation:

    “As for the “heat” spoken of in Revelation… it’s actually Jesus speaking… woops, whoever He is (sorry, I had to).”

    I am almost certain though that you understand a mysterious John to be the writer to the churches in Asia. I think we should be careful not to confuse the chronicled quotations of Christ with the “divinely inspired” text of Revelation.

    Finally, I am coming to a much better understanding (with Tom’s help) of what I believe you meant with the Hot and Cold statement from Revelation: Passivity is the essence of tepid faith. This is something that I think we can all agree upon.

  16. Despite the article achieving one of the points of The Discursionists – the development of tangents – I hope this isn’t becoming a debate over whether C.S. Lewis, Bonhoeffer, Kierkegaard, Nouwen, or any other Christian author/theologian had a more robust or “harder” theology, or was or wasn’t a theologian. Although, it is fine to discuss such matters, I hope the main point of this article is not lost. Afterall, I didn’t intend to inject C.S. Lewis’ quote to have a debate ensue over which author/theologian said it best or most provacatively. Rather, I introduced C.S. Lewis’ quote because it makes logical sense and is worthy of honest investigation.

    Grant, perhaps the Liar/Lunatic/Lord doesn’t add anything to your theology, but this doesn’t mean it cannot or should not. I’m not saying that it is the “text” of theology, but I am saying it is a beneficial “lens” to use while reading the “text.” Would you still think C.S. Lewis’ Liar/Lunatic/Lord framework should be avoided if I told you it was the tipping point in my decision to believe that Jesus is the Christ, my God, LORD and Savior? Because that really was the case. If this framework is an over simplification, then should we shame C.S. Lewis for drawing logical conclusions that so happen to be simplistic? Are you suggesting that this framework is flawed? If so, in what way? What different framework regarding the identity of Jesus would you suggest?

    Christopher, despite being able to recite this C.S. Lewis quote from memory, I took you up on your appeal to revisit his words again. I maintain my position not out of bullheadedness, but because I believe it to be correct, and will continue to do so until convinced otherwise. C.S. Lewis presents three legitimate options as to the identity of Jesus, and logically debunks one outright. So, do you fault C.S. Lewis for urging people not to believe in something that is logically impossible? And more… do you fault C.S. Lewis for presenting two other legitamite options despite being contrary to his belief? C.S. Lewis allows wiggle room, he’s just urging people not to waste their resources on futility. C.S. Lewis is merely trying to move people past an option this is logically impossible so that they can focus their resources on three legitimate options at hand.

    I must admit that I don’t know all the exegetical nuances of Revelation, but I don’t believe that changes the meaning, significance or source of the words in the text. This means that I still find the belittling and/or downplaying of the hot/cold/lukewarm analogy in Revelation 3:16 to be a bit humorous; and I’m almost certain, that if honest, you would agree it deserves a few chuckles.

  17. glad ur writing terrence and getting your thoughts out there. It’s quite risky to put yourself out there, so keep writing!

    My two cents: Jerome Murphy-O’connor has a great historical background on laodicea and colossae. Here’s a summary i wrote on this: The cities of Colossae and Laodicea shared a river in the valley of Lycus, a mere 11 miles apart. Because of its fertile valleys and rich resources, namely hot springs and precious stones, the valley was a popular destination for luxury seekers. Although Colossae had enjoyed a monopoly on the natural wealth of the land for many years, the Seleucid monarchs in the 3rd century B.C. set out to form new centers for business in the region in nearby Hierapolis and Laodicea. The new accommodations for entertainment and pleasure as well as for business and finance were better suited to meet the demands of the times. By the 1st century, Both Hieropolis and Laodicea would claim famous stoic philosophers and Greek rhetoricians to their name, while Colossae, could not. The aims of these ancient cities became one of increased competition for resources and attention. One can only imagine the people of Laodicea had become increasingly proud of its contributions to business, wealth, pleasure, philosophy, art, and architecture.

    The context of Rev. 3:16 deals directly with the fact that they have forgotten God because they have become wealthy. Materialism is one of the perennial idols of God’s people… very applicable to us today. Our interaction with money and wealth is often in direct relation to our relationship with God. I think the 1 John 3:16-18 is quite applicable to this scripture as well. maybe there are other 3:16 connections out there, we could unlock the 3:16 code. (joke)

  18. GCC


    You’re right that this post has moved off track. I’m writing another post to cover the liar/lunatic/lord thing in greater detail. I intend to cover everything you mention here.


  19. Grant,

    Awesome! I really am looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


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