“If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.” (1 Corinthians 14:23–25, KJV)
When I lived in a small Chicago suburb, we started an evangelical Bible study in our house. It was sparsely attended, but one of our neighbors from across the street did attend. She was not a believer but a seeker and seemed to want to understand the truth. The study went on for some time and then kind of withered away and ceased. Yet, this woman across the street was still seeking. She and the family ended up moving away to a place in the south.
Some time later we received a letter from the woman who lived across the street. She convinced her family to try church. In the letter, she explained her family’s experience. They did not want to go to a Baptist church, feeling that it was too radical. So, they decided to attend a large community church. They did not know anything about the church and its theological views. They went in and the way she explained it, got the shock of her life.
They had entered a church that was extremely charismatic. The first thing she said was that the service lasted three hours. People were shouting and talking in bizarre ways, tongues. There were doing a host of other things also that seemed wild and strange to them. They felt like they were in some sort of a wild party. On the way out of the church building, her husband told her “Never again.” We do not know if they ever again heard the word of the gospel preached and experienced salvation. We hope that they did. However, their experience in the church could not have helped.
Paul, in this letter has spent a lot of time dealing with the church’s immaturity. Their childishness was manifested in their predisposition and prioritization of tongues in their corporate assemblies. The sense we get from the writing is that everyone was just speaking out in tongues without any order in the service. Paul indicated that when those that are unlearned or unbelievers enter their service and experienced everyone speaking in tongues, they would conclude that the group of people were “mad.” The word, “mad,” mainomai, means to rave as a maniac (Strong G3105). The ESV states that the outsiders would consider the group to be out of their minds. This is exactly what the woman and her family experienced and concluded in the church experience mentioned earlier.
Paul went on to tell the church in Corinth that is people would have proclaimed the truth revealed from God in understandable language, that it would have a much different result. People seeking the truth would not conclude the church was mad, but respond in a much different way. Look at his words again.
“But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.”
By the church speaking God’s truth, those who visit will determine that God is certainly present. They will see themselves and their deepest need and respond with worship.