Early Christian Meetings

In an answer why the early Anabaptist do not attend the Protestant churches we have much deeper insight into how they functioned as gathering;

.... a listener is bound by Christian love (if something to edification is given or revealed to him) that he should and may speak of it also in the congregation, and again thereupon be silent, according to the text which reads: 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, and hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying, etc. And again, Let one or another prophet speak (that is prophesying), and the other judge. If anything 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, etc. It thus appears further that Paul spoke to the church of God, yea to all Christians whom he in the beginning of the chapter admonished to seek after spiritual gifts, yet most of all, that they may prophesy, prophesying meaning that they receive the meaning from God to share with others (for edification, exhortation and comfort). Yes, also to those whom he (in I Thess. 5) enjoins to admonish one another, to build up one another, and to comfort one another (I Cor. 4), and in Eph. 5, Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; and also Peter, I Peter 4, enjoins them to serve one another, each with the gift which he has received, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God: If any man speak that he speak the oracles of God, etc. That all things may be done in the best, the most seemly and convenient manner when the congregation assembles, which congregation [gemein] is a temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6) where the gifts or inner operation of the spirit in each one (note, in each one) serve the common good (I Cor. 12, Eph. 4). Note, for the common good. How could this more suitably be applied, offered or employed for the common good than in the coming together precisely for this common good and edification, as stated in chapter 14: When such believers come together, Everyone of you (note, every one) hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. etc. And he enjoins them thereupon to permit all this to be done, that is, to apply or to use, to the edification of the congregation which comes together, so that it may be a bright light in spite of the presumptuous attacks of the adversaries. And it is Pauls intention that if one sitting by or listening receives a revelation or is moved to exercise his spiritual gift or to prophesy, then the first shall hold his peace; and he Paul says that all may prophesy, one after the other, and wants that at all times the spirit of the one who prophesies, or teaches, or preaches first, shall be subject to, and silent before, the one from among those seated or listening who has something to prophesy, and shall not show himself discordant or unpeaceful, as some, especially among their preachers, presume that they need yield to no one, either to be silent or to speak, especially not to us. Out of this [situation] discord and sects follow, contrary to the above-mentioned words of Paul, yes, contrary even to their own glosses which they have placed at this point in several German testaments. So Paul in the end of the chapter commands that they shall not forbid to speak in tongues, which, according to the beginning of the chapter serves to the edification of the congregation. How much less authority has one to forbid prophesying, teaching, interpreting, or admonition to the edification of the congregation? When someone comes to church and constantly hears only one person speaking, and all the listeners are silent, neither speaking nor prophesying, who can or will regard or confess the same to be a spiritual congregation, or confess according to I Cor. 14 that God is dwelling and operating in them through his Holy Spirit with his gifts, impelling them one after the other in the above mentioned order of speaking and prophesying?1

Christians are priests and thus proclaimers of Gods virtues, 1 Pet. 2, Acts l; and Moses says, Would that all the Lords people prophesied, Num. 11. Item, he who believes let him speak, II Cor. 4. [This is a marginal notation in the text.]

And thus, as already mentioned, they deny that we possess the evangelical order nor would they permit us to exercise it (if we did attend their preaching), but teach and presume that we also, as those who err, should remain silent in their preaching regardless of what we would have to speak to edification whether or not their preacher defaults from the truth, one must still be silent, even though according to I Cor. 14 the listeners must judge the preachers doctrine. All judgment and everything, yes everyone in his conscience, is bound to the preacher and to his teaching, whether it be good or evil (to accept the same in conscience to believe and to do), and not the teaching of Christ and of his Holy Spirit. .And if a prophet or messenger from God came into their congregation (as occurred in apostolic times), being sent of God and of men, he would be compelled to remain silent, or would be persecuted by them, and thereby under the appearance and pretext of the holy gospel and the word of God, they would hinder the aforementioned order, and in the name of love annul, transgress and resist (their own doctrine of evangelical liberty), yes forbid and then also frustrate and impede the rivers of living water, see John 7, as gifts of the Holy Spirit to the faithful, which gifts should appear for the edification of the congregation, and for the salvation of souls, so that men might recognize the congregation as spiritual; otherwise each one must bury his talent silently within himself, keep it without profitable investment, and at the coming of Christ receive punishment from the Lord, Matt 25. This would mean transgressing, and not abiding in, the doctrine of Christ, and for this reason be without God according to II John 1, nor yet being truly Christs disciples or Christian, John 8.

This would constitute a significant and injurious error. It would not be the word of God nor the voice of Christ, but rather against it, as the preaching of an alien voice, which we should not hear, but rather flee according to the word of Christ, John 10, lest we partake of the impending punishment, or as unfruitful branches or members be cut off, John 15, or as trees which do not bear good fruit, Matt. 7, be cut off and cast into the fire. They have long proclaimed that we shall not be permitted to speak openly, or in public, and forbid us this as already mentioned. This means, however, to quench the spirit. to despise prophecy and, contrary to the word of God, not to prove all things and hold fast that which is good, I Thess. 5. We do not advise everyone among us, notably the weak, inexperienced and ineloquent; much rather we warn them, for the aforementioned and following reasons, not to listen to your preaching nor yet to speak there, because through such listening one is soon worse off than before, and for one to speak before such persons readily leads to blasphemy and malediction rather than to blessing, because the tendency here is to evil rather than to good.

According to their writings their preachers at first taught that they do not wish to set any judge over Gods word, that they know of no such judge, and that there is no authority [Oberkeit] over the word but God alone. Therefore no one can make such a prohibition. Such a one would be a servant of anti-Christ, and no magistrate [Ober] would wish, as far as it depends on him, to hinder the salvation of souls, etc. But now they transgress this, their original teaching. You say that if, in connection with the sermon, something is said contrary to the preachers doctrine, let him go to him after the sermon and tell him privately according to the teaching of Christ, If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone, etc., Matt. 18. Answer: This passage does not at all apply here, for this is a matter of great ignorance in spiritual matters and of stewardship in a true Christian congregation.

We say, that if anything is revealed to a listener to be spoken to edification in the congregation or to prophesy, as the above text. I Cor. 14, clearly states, even if it does not pertain to an error made by the minister, but to any other matter, but also if it does pertain to an error of the minister, this must be treated openly before the congregation which has heard it, and not privately with only the preacher. Because the sin is not against himself only, but against the whole congregation, and therefore should be corrected before them all, especially since the congregation is to judge that which is spoken openly. Therefore such public matters cannot be terminated or adjusted privately, apart from the congregation. And if the preacher otherwise sin against only one person in the congregation, and refuse to hear the first and then the second time, this then (according to the commandment of Christ) becomes a matter to bring before the congregation, that is, there to reveal the matter. Certainly this opportunity in their congregation is undermined, since no one may speak but the preacher, and thus the congregation is deprived and robbed of all right of judgment concerning matters of the soul, being bound exclusively to the preachers and their understanding, contrary to the word of God. A preacher who verily has the love of God and neighbor, will rejoice in the truth, if someone will kindly correct him before the congregation in things wherein he erred before the congregation, and will not become impatient, obstinate nor bitter, nor attribute this to evil intent, I Cor. 13, and, through the fear of God, avoid such error as coming from the evil, Prov. 16. If otherwise, he lacks such love and fear, and opposes the truth as long as he continues. Some of the preachers also interpret this passage, when one cites the words of Paul in I Cor. 14, as follows: When ye come together every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, etc.... Let all things be done unto edifying.... For ye may all prophesy, one by one ..., etc., to mean that it refers not to the entire church but only to the elected ministers, since they are the preachers and will observe this together. Paul speaks to these in this passage. They infer the same meaning from other words in this same chapter concerning the laity, where they apply the word (lay) to their hearers or sheep, whom they regard as laity, and themselves as those to whom Paul spoke, even though Paul spoke the words When ye are come together not only to some, but to the whole believing Corinthian church [gmeind] of Christ. We cannot understand the word 1ay thus; and more, as applying to those that are without, those thousands who do not belong to the congregation of Christ, or who would otherwise come and listen in, as the meaning of the word in the German text also shows. There the words (lay or unbeliever) mean nearly the same, and say, and there come in those who are lay or unbelievers, etc., that is to say, into the Christian congregation as, according to our understanding, the Latin text regarding this word (lay) makes still more clear, that it cannot be applied to the true believers or Christian members. Nevertheless let him who thinks otherwise give his proof, for we do not wish to oppose the truth. And even if Paul had meant that the words, ye may all prophesy, should apply only to the prophets, then prophesying would still not be limited to one person in the congregation only, but would also be given by God to others, that they might also do according to the words indicated above (Ye may all prophesy). And thus the foregoing words (When ye are come together everyone of you hath. . . . Let all things be done to edification ) undeniably apply to the whole congregation or to all the members of Christ.
150AD JUSTIN: "And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.

Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.

But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead...

We are always together with one another. And for all the things with which we are supplied we bless the Maker of all through his Son Jesus Christ and through his Holy Spirit. And on the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live in a city or a rural district. (Ante-Nicene Fathers , Vol. 1
From the Schleitheim Congregational Order we can see into the early Anabaptist gatherings

The brothers and sisters should meet at least three or four times a week, to exercise themselves, in the teaching of Christ and His apostles and heartily to exhort one another to remain faithful to the Lord as they have pledged.

When the brothers and sisters are together, they shall take up something to read together. The one to whom God has given the best understanding shall explain it, the others should be still and listen, so that there are not two or three carrying on a private conversation, bothering the others. The Psalter shall be read daily at home.

Let none be frivolous in the church of God, neither in words nor in actions. Good conduct shall be maintained by them all also before the heathen.


The Apostle Paul AD 53-54
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 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 the churches of the saints.

Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.

Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant.

Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order. 1Cor 14:26-40
Committing ourselves to the apostles' teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Acts 2:42
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