God has a special relationship with true believers that he does not have with unbelievers. We are priests of God (I Peter 2:5,9), who are able to come boldly into God’s presence because of the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:19) who is our mediator and high priest (I Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 3:1). For this reason our bodies themselves are considered temples of the Holy Spirit, since the soul dwelling in a Christian’s body is in communion with God (I Corinthians 6:19). But we are also a temple collectively. When we gather together with other believers to fellowship, pray, learn, and worship God, we are performing the corporate responsibilities of our priesthood. God is among us when we meet together:
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (I Corinthians 3:16 NIV)
This is a great, awe-inspiring, humbling truth. It is extremely important for Christians to worship and fellowship with each other. This can happen both inside and outside formal church services. We need to fellowship with, pray for, help, and encourage all believers we come in contact with whether they go to our “church” or not. We can be and should be united with them in thought and Spirit, since we are all trusting in the blood of Christ for our salvation. Jesus unites us even though other things might divide us. Therefore we need to strive for unity with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, because when we fellowship with them, Jesus Himself is present among us:
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)
Sadly, there are some who try to drive wedges inbetween Christians. They destroy the ability of Christians to act in their corporate priestly responsibilities by causing believers to dislike each other. The Bible has strong words of warning and condemnation for those who seek to destroy Christian fellowship.
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple (I Corinthians 3:17).
God greatly desires and deserves the worship, both corporate and private, of human beings. But when we are angry and bitter at each other we are no longer coming together in unity to worship God. God views this as the destruction of His temple, and it makes Him mad. “God’s temple is sacred,” which is why “if anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person.” The false teacher who comes into churches and attacks some of the brethren in order to exalt himself will be destroyed by God if he does not repent and try to fix the damage. This is a serious thing. There are many so-called brothers who attack good people in our churches and seeks to destroy their reputation. They may do this in the name of orthodoxy and holiness, but they are self-serving, selfish individuals, who are simply trying to “divide and conquer” as the phrase goes. Our God is a God of unity, not of selfish ambitions nor outbursts of wrath (Galatians 5:20).
This is a scary passage. Many of us have done things from time to time to disrupt the unity of the church. Does this mean that we will go to hell and be destroyed by God? The answer is maybe, but hopefully not. If our destructive words were simply a moment of weakness, that is uncharacteristic of us over all, then we are probably still true believers, although we need to repent of these sins. But if we selfish people who love ourselves more than we love God and our brethren, then yes, we are on our way to hell. Anyone who truly hates his brother is not a Christian.
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister (I John 4:20-21).
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come,I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true. (III John 9-12)