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Idiots In Our Assemblies

What do people think when they visit a worship service of the church of Christ? What kind of impression does the congregation leave on visitors and those who might be unfamiliar and uninformed with the New Testament church? The answer largely depends upon the congregation they visit and what goes on during the worship. In 1 Corinthians 14 the apostle Paul addresses a New Testament church he earlier identified as "the church of God which is at Corinth" (1:2a). At issue in chapter 14 is how the conduct and behavior of church members at Corinth during the worship assembly might be affecting those we would call "non-Christians" or at least "non-members." The King James Version calls them "the unlearned," the New King James Version "the uninformed," and the New International Version "those who do not understand." It is interesting and a little humorous to learn that the Greek term translated by these phrases in verses 16, 23 and 24 is idiotes (pronounced id-ee-o'-tace), from which we derive the English word "idiot!" Idiots in the pews at the Corinth church of Christ on Sundays? Apparently so. What's that? You think there may be one or two where you worship? And the biggest one may be in the pulpit?! But wait a minute. The idotes Paul refers to are not what Webster's New English Dictionary defines as "a mentally retarded person requiring complete custodial care; a foolish or stupid person." Far from it. This Greek word simply refers to one who was ignorant and unlearned (Strong's Concordance), or as we might say untrained or untaught (see Acts 4:13). The terms are not insensitive or offensive when rightly defined and understood. As Will Rogers said, "Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects."

Now, back to the idiots at Corinth. Read 1 Corinthians 14:23-25 and you will see Paul's great concern. How the idiotes are impacted by the worship service depends upon the behavior of the members during the service! If the members "all speak with tongues," no one would understand (see verse 2), and the "uninformed" (idiotes) will say "you are out of your mind" (the Greek term here means "to rave as a maniac; to be beside one self or to be mad [Strong's Concordance]). The confusion, conflict, disorder and distractions caused by "speaking in tongues" was hindering people from learning God's will. On the other hand, Paul points out that "if all prophesy" (teach with words easy to understand — verse 9), the uninformed (idiotes) will be convinced and convicted and will "fall on his face, worship God, and report that God is truly among you." Wow! What a sobering thought. Although miraculous tongue-speaking has ceased (13:8), it is still true that how we behave and what we do during a worship service may impact where souls spend eternity! Later in the chapter Paul will direct, "Let all things be done decently and in order" (verse 40). Is your conduct during worship creating confusion, distraction, and disorder, or is it adding to the beauty, order and reverence of New Testament worship? Acting like a dummy in worship hinders those who want to learn more about God.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ