Unbelievers in the Church

Something to ponder from 1 Corinthians.

1 Cor 14:24-25
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God.

Here are some commentaries:


Prophecy, reaching their conscience, would make them feel that God was there-was present in the assembly of God.


he is convinced of all, he is judged of all;
of all the prophets or preachers; they all reprove him, and detect his secret … This must be understood of such persons whom the Spirit of God, under, and by the ministry of the word, powerfully works upon; whose hearts he opens to receive the word, and to whom he effectually applies it; whom he convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment, shows the evil of their hearts and ways, reproves their errors, convicts them of their mistakes, and informs their judgments, and condemns all their principles and practices which are not agreeably to the word of God.

And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest?
Not to the prophets, or preachers, or to the rest of the congregation, but to himself; the word preached being in the hands, and trader the influence, direction, and application of the Spirit of God, a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart; showing the plague and naughtiness of it, discovering the lusts that are in it, detecting the errors of the mind, and filling the conscience with a sense of guilt, and a consciousness of deserved punishment; so that the person looks upon himself as particularly spoken to, and as if the person speaking had knowledge of all that was within him, and adapted his discourse on purpose to him, and delivered it for his sake alone; concluding, that there is, and must be, something more than human in it:

and so falling down on his face:
either publicly before the whole congregation; or when retired, as one ashamed of his sins and errors, and not able to look either God, or good men, in the face; and being in an adoration posture; or however, being truly humbled before God under a sense of his iniquities,

he will worship God;
pray unto him, and earnestly entreat he would be merciful to him a sinner, and blot out all his transgressions, and forgive him all his sins; and will ever after acknowledge him to be the true God, embrace his Gospel, submit to his ordinances, and attend his service:

Jamieson, Fausset, Brown

prophesy–speak the truth by the Spirit intelligibly, and not in unintelligible tongues.

one–“anyone.” Here singular; implying that this effect, namely, conviction by all, would be produced on anyone, who might happen to enter…
judged–His secret character is opened out. “Is searched into” [ALFORD]. Said of the “one unlearned” (compare 1 Corinthians 2:15).

secrets of his heart made manifest–He sees his own inner character opened out by the sword of the Spirit (Hebrews 4:12, 1:23), the word of God, in the hand of him who prophesieth. Compare the same effect produced on Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:30 and end of Daniel 2:47). No argument is stronger for the truth of religion than its manifestation of men to themselves in their true character. Hence hearers even now often think the preacher must have aimed his sermon particularly at them.

and so–convicted at last, judged, and manifested to himself. Compare the effect on the woman of Samaria produced by Jesus’ unfolding of her character to herself (John 4:19,29).

Matthew Henry

If, instead of speaking with tongues, those who minister plainly interpret scripture, or preach, in language intelligible and proper, the great truths and rules of the gospel, a heathen or unlearned person, coming in, will probably be convinced, and become a convert to Christianity (v. 24, 25); his conscience will be touched, the secrets of his heart will be revealed to him, he will be condemned by the truth he hears, and so will be brought to confess his guilt, to pay his homage to God, and own that he is indeed among you, present in the assembly. Note, Scripture?truth, plainly and duly taught, has a marvellous aptness to awaken the conscience, and touch the heart.

Note, Religious exercises in Christian assemblies should be such as are fit to edify the faithful, and convince, affect, and convert unbelievers.

I don’t know what labels we might give to preaching in such a manner as to convict unbelievers of their sins (and challenge believers to growth), but “Biblical” might be one such label. I don’t really see Paul encouraging the Corinthians to “hug people up close to Jesus” in their church service.

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One Response to Unbelievers in the Church

  1. Harpreet Sandhi says:

    my dear brother in Christ

    I am currently going to a church which allows unbelievers into the congregation.

    I don’t know why but i have a real problem with this.

    If we as the church are the Body of Christ then surely this must mean that the curch should really contain the congregation which has been cleansed by the blood of our Saviour.

    I pray that you shall help me with this matter. For my heart feels grieved.

    Thank You
    Harpreet Sandhi

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