What Is a Lukewarm Christian? Meaning & Bible Verse

It is much better for Christians to be either fervent (hot) or refreshing (cold), rather than to be “lukewarm.” The point of this important biblical truth resonates even today. God does not want His followers to be “lukewarm” Christians.

Contributing Writer
Updated Jan 23, 2024
What Is a Lukewarm Christian? Meaning & Bible Verse

A "lukewarm Christian" is a term often used to describe someone who identifies as a Christian but does not fully commit to their faith or live according to its principles. 

The term is derived from a passage in the Bible, specifically from the Book of Revelation 3:15-16, which says:

Lukewarm Christian Bible Verse

"‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth."

In this context, being "hot" refers to having a passionate and committed faith, while being "cold" could mean rejecting faith altogether. A lukewarm Christian, therefore, is someone whose commitment to their faith is tepid or half-hearted. It's often used to encourage believers to be more dedicated and sincere in their relationship with God.

It is logical that readers of this passage would conclude that being “hot” spiritually is understandable and even desired. At face value, this passage also seems to imply that it was acceptable to be “cold” spiritually — a term that could be understood to mean lifeless, even dead.

However, the Lord was not telling them that it was appropriate to be “cold” spiritually. Jesus is not saying that He wishes they were either spiritually hot or spiritually cold rather than being spiritually lukewarm.

Bible Advice to Avoid Being Lukewarm

To avoid being a lukewarm Christian, one can consider the following biblical advice:

Passionate Commitment: Develop a passionate and wholehearted commitment to your faith. This involves actively seeking a deep and personal relationship with God.

Spiritual Zeal: Cultivate enthusiasm and spiritual zeal in your pursuit of God. Engage in prayer, worship, and spiritual disciplines with sincerity and eagerness.

Faithful Obedience: Obey God's commandments and follow His teachings consistently. Living a life of obedience is crucial in maintaining a strong and genuine faith.

Love for God and Others: Foster a genuine love for God and for others. Jesus emphasized the importance of love as a central aspect of following Him (Matthew 22:37-39).

Regular Reflection: Regularly reflect on your spiritual condition. Assess whether your faith is growing or if there are areas where you may be becoming lukewarm.

Repentance and Turning Back: If you recognize lukewarmness in your faith, repentance is encouraged. Turn back to God with a sincere heart, seeking His forgiveness and guidance.

These principles, among others found in the Bible, can help believers avoid the pitfalls of lukewarm faith and cultivate a vibrant, dedicated relationship with God.

Lukewarm Laodicea

Although the lukewarm Bible passage may sound somewhat confusing today, the people of Laodicea understood exactly what the Lord was saying.

History has revealed that the city of Laodicea was known for its tepid or lukewarm water supply. Nearby were the ancient cities of Hierapolis and Colossae. Both cities had well-deserved reputations for their water supplies.

Hierapolis boasted of hot springs that contained therapeutic, medicinal — and hot mineral water. Colossae enjoyed cold and refreshing mountain spring water. The water in Laodicea, on the other hand, was reportedly dirty and lukewarm.

That’s why the Laodiceans could easily grasp what the Lord was saying in this description of their church. To be “hot” was to be fervent and helpful, and to be “cold” was refreshing and invigorating. To be “lukewarm” was to be undesirable and useless.

Therefore, this important passage is saying that it is much better for Christians to be either fervent (“hot”) or refreshing (“cold”) rather than to be “lukewarm” — something that no one in Laodicea wanted.

The point of this important biblical truth resonates even today. God does not want His followers to be “lukewarm” Christians.

The Context of a Lukewarm Christian in Revelation

This passage, the description of the last church listed in the “seven churches” in Revelation (Revelation 1:11, Rev. 1:20), provides some unmistakable truth of what it means to be a lukewarm Christian.

As clearly illustrated by the water supply that was such a big part of the lives of the Laodicean people, the term “lukewarm” means neither hot nor cold. It implies being average, not living fervently for the Lord, and not serving Him with energy and enthusiasm.

The Lord’s concern with the church of Laodicea is that they were going through the motions spiritually. They were content with their wealth and materialism and were unaware of their spiritual poverty. The Lord uses some of His strongest words of criticism in the Scriptures by calling them “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

Perhaps the words, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot,” in verse 15 of this text, present the most revealing characteristic however of this particular group of people. Their service for the Lord was not being done with a genuine desire to please Him.

Their hypocritical and pretentious “works” were not sincere and, therefore, were not what God wanted. God wants His people to serve Him with a pure heart.

Christ’s Solution to Being Lukewarm

Readers can find a practical and important solution interwoven throughout the nine verses in this description of the Laodicean church in Revelations 3:14-22. This passage also contains one of the most familiar verses in all the Bible,

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).

The context of these verses makes it clear that this is not an appeal to unbelievers. The Lord here is not asking those who have not put their faith and trust in Christ to open the door of their hearts to accept Him as their own personal Savior.

These people were already church members who were already a part of God’s family. Their problem here was not that they weren’t saved. It was that they were “lukewarm” Christians — and were just going through the motions of their halfhearted faith.

Christ is asking His people to open the door of their hearts to a genuine and consistent walk with Him. He wants His followers to willingly enjoy a deep fellowship with Him that can be both fervent and refreshing.

He wants believers to listen to Him and follow His lead. He wants His people to willingly and enthusiastically serve Him with sincere hearts.

This passage contains an impassioned plea from the Savior to the lukewarm people of Laodicea, “…be zealous and repent,” He writes in verse 19. The word “zealous” means to be deeply committed to something, and the word “repent” means to turn around or to go back.

The idea here is that the Lord is asking His followers in this church to make their faith real — to be genuine and wholehearted followers of Christ. He is asking them to give up their lives of just going through the motions spiritually.

That’s why He instructs them to “repent” — to understand that their lives of playing games spiritually must end. He is looking for “zealous” or totally committed followers who are both fervent and refreshing servants of the Most High God.

Lukewarm Christians indeed make God sick. It’s time for all Christ-followers to be totally committed to serving Him.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/BackyardProduction

Mel Walker is the president of Vision For Youth, Inc., an international network of youth ministry, and he is currently in the process of raising financial support to serve with VFY on a full-time basis. Mel has been actively involved in various aspects of youth ministry for over 45 years. He is also an author, speaker, and consultant with churches. Mel has written 13 books on various subjects relating to youth ministry. More information about his speaking and writing ministry can be found at www.YouthMinistryQuestions.com. Mel & Peggy Walker are the parents of 3 adult children—all of whom are in vocational ministry. You can follow him on Twitter: @vfyouth.


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