4. The church meeting
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. How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.
—-I Corinthians 14:23-40
Much is made of Corinthian disorder. But little is made of the church order indicated in I Corinthians 14: this was the original order of the churches. However the churches, through centuries of tradition, have made Chapter 14 to be archaic or irrelevant.
While Paul rebuked the Corinthians for disorder, he implicitly ratified the order of the meeting in Corinth. He did not say, “stop doing things this way,” but “stop doing these things in a disorderly way.”
The assemblies in the first century were conspicuous, not for their form but for their absence of form. That is, the meetings were not planned or preplanned or “scripted” or “liturgical.” There was no “order of service,” at least it is not recorded, and we take it the Scripture’s silence on this is inspired. In Acts 2:42 it says they continued in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. This tells us what they did and not how they did it. However the key word in the passage is they. They continued in these things together. There was spontaneity in the service and perhaps even (gasp!) intervals of devout silence, with the brethren waiting on the Spirit to move one of them to speak.
While I Corinthians 14 is one of but two instances in the New Testament that expressly indicates the manner of meeting (the other being Romans 12:3-8), this sort of meeting is corroborated by the doctrine of the priesthood, the analogy of the body, and the reality of fellowship of the saints in the meeting. In addition to this, the familial aspect of the church (“Ye are all brethren”) indicates a meeting that manifests the way godly families relate to one another.
Not only so, but many of the nearly sixty “one-another” passages found in the New Testament surely have application–and perhaps primary application–“(when) the whole church be come together into one place.” For example, we are to pray for one another (James 5:16), encourage one another (Heb. 10:25), instruct or admonish one another (Rom. 15:14), speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19, and this especially correlates with I Cor. 14:26), and teach and admonish one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16, which parallels Eph. 5:19).
So it is a very weak argument that says I Corinthians 14 is an aberration, or the sole example, or a practice that disappeared after completion of the New Testament canon.
If tongues have ceased, and my opinion is that they have, this does not alter the manner of meeting. There are no new revelations since the first century, but prophecy abides, “for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,” Rev. 19:10. So there remain teaching, exhorting, prophesying, and leading among the speaking gifts.
What we find in I Corinthians 14 is: this is the way Christians met in the first century.