One of my favorite scenes in Scripture is the dedication of the temple in 2 Chronicles 7. I wish I could have been there to see it. Imagine being alive at that moment.
Can you imagine watching fire come down from heaven? What is God’s glory like? I imagine my heart pounding. I picture myself struggling to even breathe and keep from fainting. Then there’s the thrill of worshipping with other believers in the middle of it all! The temple was the place where heaven intersected with earth. A glimpse of His glory was made visible to human eyes.
The New Testament describes something even greater. The fact that I covet the Old Testament experience is an indication that I don’t appreciate the new reality as I should.
I would give anything to stand outside the temple and watch God’s glory descend. But I get something so much better: I am literally a part of the temple itself! Somehow by the blood of Jesus, I became worthy of joining with others to form a dwelling place for God! Peter described us as “living stones.” You are a stone in the same structure in which the apostles and prophets are the foundation and Jesus Himself is the cornerstone! When Paul talked about this concept, he used the plural form of you and the singular form of temple. We are all joined together to form one house for God. Somehow I am a block of a temple that transcends time and space. And because the structure is a temple, this means that God makes His home among us! You should be bursting out of your skin at this point!
Don’t try to solve the mystery; just stare at it.
When Paul explained the mystery to the Corinthians, he added a terrifying warning.
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:16–17
Think back to the scene in 2 Chronicles 7. When the fire came down and God’s glory filled the temple, would you have considered taking a sledgehammer and striking the temple? Of course not! Then why are we so quick to gossip, slander leadership, and divide the Church?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person.
Why is God so harsh about this? Paul explained that God’s temple is sacred, and we—collectively—are that temple. Every time you speak evil about a member of the Church, it is like taking a sledgehammer to the temple. Are you sure you want to keep doing that?
Let’s be careful with our words and actions. We are dealing with something sacred. Let’s stay on the right side of His protection. Maybe this is why Paul said in Titus 3:10, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.” We can’t be enablers of division. God hates this sin too much. His temple is too sacred.
We live in a culture today where we are used to evaluating and giving our opinion on everything. Whether it’s the pizza we ate, our Uber driver, the movie we saw, or our friend’s picture on social media, everything is set up for us to be able to critique and compare. So in the Church, rather than marveling at the incredible mystery that we are a part of God’s body, we critique the leadership, the music, the programs, and anything else we can think of. We point out the flaws in our pastor’s sermon with the same conviction we critique a movie star’s acting or our favorite team’s recent loss. Could it be that we are taking a sledgehammer to the temple in so doing?
Remember that the temple was the location where God chose to live on earth. And now the Church is that temple. We are that temple. Consider this: 2 Chronicles 7—when the temple was dedicated—was not the only time fire fell from heaven onto the temple. It also happened in Acts 2 when the Church was born. The disciples were united and praying when tongues of fire fell on them. They were the temple. Fire fell on them. And you know the rest of the story.