The Saviour uses various aspects of the city’s activities to illustrate the sad state of the church. First, Jesus alludes to the banking system when he urges the church members to buy gold from him in order to be truly rich. This is in contrast to the opinion of the Laodiceans of themselves, for they thought they were rich already. We are not told what Jesus’ promised wealth involved; perhaps it is a reference to spiritual blessings in general. Of course, when Jesus urges them to ‘buy gold’ from him, he is not suggesting that his blessings can be purchased by money; rather he is using the picture of trade that was common in the city.
Second, the wool industry is alluded to in Christ’s advice that they should buy from him fine raiment with which to clothe themselves. While this could be a reference to nakedness that requires the robe of righteousness given in justification, with the accompanying assumption that they needed to be converted, it more likely means righteousness in the sense of holiness of life.
Third, the medical school is alluded to when Jesus tells them to buy from him eye salve in order for them to see clearly. They were spiritually blind to their poverty of Christian experience. They were like the believers described in 2 Peter 1:9, who because of a lack of spiritual growth had become short-sighted, unable to see into the future. What the Saviour is promising to them is true spiritual vision, vision to see how to serve Christ and vision to look beyond the visible to heaven.
What about the posture of Jesus knocking at the door? Often this image of the Saviour knocking at the door is depicted as the Lord Jesus knocking in a gospel sense on the heart of a sinner. I do not think that fits with the context. Rather what we have here is the Master of the House (Jesus and the church) coming to deal with a church whose behaviour had brought it to the place where it was about to lose its role as a lampstand.
The knocking indicates that Jesus is outside and not involved in the activities of the church. He has come demanding access to what they are doing. His demand is strong because he desires fellowship with his people. He was in no doubt that chastisement was needed, and therefore he calls on them to repent, a demand that Jesus also made of the churches in Ephesus (2:5), Pergumum (2:16), Thyatira (2:21-23), and Sardis (3:3).
Jesus takes the initiative in arranging their spiritual recovery. The reality is that unless God took the initiative and drew us back to himself we would not return. How thankful the penitent Laodiceans would have been for the grace of the sovereign Saviour, for the restoring ministry of the Holy Spirit, and for the tender mercy of the Father!