The Spiritual Terrorist
The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are (1 Cor 3:16–17).”
Ten times in Corinthians Paul asks, “Do you not know…” It is the same as saying, “Obviously…” Paul only uses this clause of inquiry one other time in Romans. Clearly, the Corinthians were missing some knowledge. They needed understanding. What did they need to know?
“You are a temple of God.” The “you” here is plural. It is a reference to the whole local church. Temples are made with hands. They are buildings and there were many of them in Paul’s day. For Paul to write this to the Corinthians would have a dual effect. One, it would delight them. It was a compliment. Two, it would convict them. If we are the temple of God, what do we look like?
“The Spirit of God dwells in you (See also Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11).” What makes the temple of God, the temple of God, is the presence of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament temple, the shekinah glory would occupy the tabernacle or temple and at times, the glory of the Lord would depart from the temple (ichabod). What was the message at departure? “If you do not want Me, I will leave.”
The New Testament brings the Holy Spirit into the church, the temple of God (Eph 2:11–22). The church is where God meets with His people. This is a permanent indwelling. The church is the house of God where God dwells. Each member of the church is a living stone, filled with the Holy Spirit.
“If any man destroys the temple of God,” introduces us to the subject of terrorism. If the Spirit of God fills the people of God, and each person in the church is fitted into the church, then a terrorist is one who enters the superstructure with the intent of tearing it down. God is the architect and builder of all things (Heb 11:10), including the church. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it (Mt 16:18).” The historical and universal church ultimately share in this promise of success. The church is on the offensive. We expose evil (Eph 5:11) with light and truth.
The adversary blends in, as an angel of light, and infiltrates the church (2 Cor 11:14). His external warfare injures the church, but his internal warfare is far more insidious. When Paul repeated his inquiry, “Do you not know…,” he was pointing at gaps in the walls of the church. Knowledge of the truth is our saving grace. It is truth that sets us free from the spiritual terrorist.
Truth is a weapon of warfare, like a sword. In our struggle against principalities and powers in heavenly places, we fight by preaching the truth of God’s Word (Ps 119:160; 1 Cor 2:2; 2 Tim 4:2; Heb 4:12). “It is written,” and “Thus says the Lord,” draw the sword of the Spirit from its sheath (Eph 6:17).
Ignorance, wrong ideas, bad philosophy, twisted psychology, and false religion are the weapons of the deceiver. He is the author of confusion. He has been a liar from the beginning (Jn 8:44). His agents enter the local church. They operate as like-able people and often serve much in the social gospel ministries. In time, they speak and even gain their place in church leadership. Damnable heresies are soon introduced.
Local churches are susceptible, but as we have seen with mainline Protestant denominations, the whole denomination can fall prey to any number of perversions. Revelation 2–3 warns us of the consequences for not being vigilant for truth and against error. Today, the sexual immorality of the evangelical church is nothing more than the spirit of Jezebel in our churches (Rev 2:20). The only way to cast out this demon is to preach the truth of God’s Word, calling “sin” what it is…”sin.”
Every elder must assume the devil has infiltrated the congregation he oversees (Mt 7:15; Acts 20:29). The best strategy for weeding the garden of “any man” who brings Corinthian factions is to preach the Word of God. Expository preaching of books of the Bible, systematically, over time, rids the garden of the heretical weeds. Warnings must be issued.
What makes a warning so offensive in churches, today, is the very presence of overgrown weeds, caused by years of neglect. To warn the people of God’s judgment exposes their doctrinal blinders, such as, “God is love, only.” The preacher will appear harsh. He will be accused of being mean or angry, as he plucks out the heretical ideas from the minds of the congregation. The Bible is filled with warnings to those who would harm the church. The devil is always sowing his tares, and only the Word can sever the weed.
“God will destroy him,” is a clause quickly and easily passed over in a sermon. Read it again, “God will destroy him.” Here is a stark warning to those who are not aligned with truth and unity. The Spirit of God knows nothing other than these facets of church life. He is the Spirit of truth, and where the people are together, in truth and the Spirit, there is unity.
When God is depicted as love only, there is no fear of God. Sin is diminished. The law is diminished. Judgment is hardly spoken of. Hell is watered down or annihilated. Why must spiritual terrorists be destroyed? The answer is right here in the text.
“The temple of God is holy.” God is present in holiness, and where God is, holy ground exists (Ex 3:5; Acts 7:33). Today’s evangelical church does not exude this message of holiness to those in the mix. God is holy (Lev 11:44; 1 Pet 1:16), but we treat Him in an unholy manner. We come into His house unprepared. We have our social interactions with friends there before and after our worship services. We are entertained, and then we go home. There is no ongoing spiritual accountability for the church members. Is anyone monitoring my spiritual growth? Much of this is to cater to unbelievers. In one sense, we are desecrating the house of God for them to feel at home.
The church is holy (Jn 17:17; Eph 5:27; Rev 3:7). We must be clear about holiness. We are a people set apart, but listen to most Christians, and you will hear the doctrine of universalism in their words. “We are the world…We are the people,” is the real slogan for many churches. To talk about “His people” or “God’s chosen” or the “elect of God” is an offense to many in churches, today. Universalism is the doctrine and antinomianism is the practice.
Therefore, we must issue the warning to those who would hurt the church. We must warn ourselves of Christ’s judgment against the churches in Revelation 2–3, and judgment begins in the household of God (1 Pet 4:17). We must have confidence of ultimate victory (Jn 16:13; 1 Jn 4:4; 5:4–5), but we must be vigilant in the ongoing battle for holiness (2 Pet 2:20).
In conclusion, the spiritual terrorist is in your church. He looks like you. He dresses like you. He blends in better than most who attend. His spirit is off. His words are errant. Therefore, you must listen for him and for his ideas. His love for Christ and for the church will never be known. He is merely waiting to strike when a rogue idea is planted and ready to divide the congregation. This is the moment he strikes. He is an opportunist. He loves the drama of people in conflict with one another. God will destroy him.
May 15, 2021