The language is meant to speak to the merchants of the city, some of whom would have been members of the church:
He who might have commanded, prefers rather to counsel; He who might have spoken as from heaven, conforms Himself, so far as the outward form of his words reaches, to the language of earth. To the merchants and factors of this wealthy mercantile city He addresses himself in their own dialect. . . . Would it not be wise to transact their chief business with Him?1Salvation is free for no man has the necessary riches to contribute even one penny toward the cost of his own salvation. And to do so would be the height of blasphemy since it would deny the sufficiency of the sacrifice of Gods own Son (Col. Col. 2:14; Heb. Heb. 7:27; Heb. 9:12, Heb. 9:28). On the other hand, Scripture also records that true salvation and service for the Lord costs everything (Luke Luke 14:33).
The price which they should pay was this, the renunciation of all vain reliance on their own righteousness and wisdom; the price which in another Epistle St. Paul declared he had so gladly paid, that so he might himself win Christ (Php. Php. 3:7-8); the [forsaking all], ἀποτάσσεσται πα῀σα [apotassestai pasa] , which the Lord long before had declared to be the necessary condition of his discipleship (Luke Luke 14:33).2
gold. . . white garments. . . eye salve
The remedies for the previously-stated ills, for they were poor, naked, and blind (Rev. Rev. 2:17+).
refined in the fire
Not just gold, but refined gold which has been purified by fire:
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1Pe. 1Pe. 1:6-7)The Laodiceans church needed true spiritual gold which would stand the test of the bema seat of Christ:
Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each ones work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each ones work, of what sort it is. (1Cor. 1Cor. 3:12-13)
The mention of white garments would be especially noteworthy since Laodicea was known for its production of high quality glossy black wool:
Commentators . . . have seen allusion to the clothing industry of Laodicea and in particular a contrast with the glossy black wool of its sheep. Knowledge of the breed rests primarily upon Strabo: The country around Laodicea produces sheep remarkable not only for the softness of their wool, in which they surpass even that of Miletus, but also for its raven-black color.3Laodiceas wools were famous. Christ offers infinitely whiter raiment.4 The same white garments which are promised to the overcomer in Sardis (Rev. Rev. 3:4-5+). See commentary on Revelation 3:4.
be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed
The Laodicean church had walked in the steps of Adam and Eve before themthey had attempted to clothe themselves to cover their nakedness (Gen. Gen. 3:7-11). Yet the fig leaves sewn by Adam and his wife were not sufficient in Gods sightanimal sacrifice was needed to atone for sin when God provided their clothing (Gen. Gen. 3:21). The Laodicean church had religion, but was lacking relationship . They had attempted to substitute their own righteousness (Pr. Pr. 20:6; Pr. 21:2; Mtt. Mat. 5:20; Luke Luke 10:29; Luke 18:9) for the righteousness that can only come from God (Rom. Rom. 10:3). They were clothed in see-through garments of their own worksnaked but unable to see their condition. They needed to purchase from God the robes of righteousness:
eye salve that you may see
The eye salve may allude to the early practice of ophthalmology associated with the city:
We have explicit evidence for the connection of Laodicea with a leading figure of first-century ophthalmology. . . . local people today find medicinal value in bathing their eyes in the Hierapolis waters, the alum content apparently being the beneficial [sic] agent. . . . the city probably marketed extensively and profitably an ointment developed locally from available materials, whose exact composition may have been kept secret from commercial rivals.5The Laodiceans needed the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit so that they may more clearly see their own nakedness and realize their need of clothing. The Spirit convinces of sin, and by this [eye salve] we must understand the illuminating grace of the Holy Ghost, which at once shows to us God, and in God and his light ourselves.6 They needed the illumination of the Holy Spirit so they could see their condition accurately, just as the seven eyes saw them (Rev. Rev. 4:6+). See Hiding or Revealing?
1 Richard Chenevix Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1861), 201-202.
2 Ibid., 203.
3 Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 199.
4 A. R. Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 3:18.
6 Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 206.