B. The regional Assembly
We are not told in the context whether the assembly that was addressed in 1 Corinthians 11 – 14 was a weekly event, or a periodic event when all the house groups of all Achaia came together in one place in Corinth. However, it is more reasonable to believe that this specific disruptive occasion wherein the competitive behavior concerning languages and prophecy that was discussed in the context of 1 Corinthians 11 – 14 was actually an occasional provincial assembly. This is indicated in the statement of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:18: “For first of all, when you come together in assembly, I hear that there are divisions among you.” Or more specifically, “Therefore, if the whole assembly gathers in one place [in Corinth]” (1 Co 14:23).
It seems more likely that Paul’s reference to the assembly was not to the small weekly house assemblies, but to something far greater to which everyone in the province was gathered, and during which the problems of 1 Corinthians 11-14 were addressed.
An occasional large provincial meeting was where the “I am of Paul,” “I am of Cephas,” and “I am of Apollos” sectarianism would most likely have been revealed (1 Co 1:12). Such an assembly would present the opportunity for competition between those gifted in languages and those gifted with prophecy in order to teach the multitude who had come together.
It would certainly be unreasonable to conclude that their sectarian behavior was being manifested in the weekly house assemblies throughout the province. Claiming allegiance to a specific personality in a group of 25-30 people would seem questionable, especially since each particular “loyalty sect” may have been meeting in the same house. And the use of the gift of languages (tongues) would have been unnecessary if everyone in the weekly house assembly spoke the same language.
People of a common language throughout Achaia would certainly have met in a group that spoke their particular language. But throughout Achaia, everyone spoke Greek, so the need for the gift languages was not necessary. Only during the Isthmian Games did people come into town who spoke other languages. During an assembly with diverse language groups, there would be the necessity for the use of the gift of languages.
The disruptive behavior that Paul confronts in the context of 1 Corinthians 11-14 seems to fit better in the context of an occasional fellowship assembly of all the Christians in Achaia when they came together in the city of Corinth. It was in such an assembly that favorite personalities divided the one body of Achaia into “loyalty sects.”