Letters of Commendation

Letters of Commendation. The use of “letters of commendation” was very common among believers in the early Church (Acts 18:27; 2 Corinthians 3:1). The purpose of the letter was to express the unity of the Body of Christ, and the resulting communion between local assemblies gathered to the Lord’s Name. Scripturally, an unknown person traveling to another assembly should carry a letter of commendation signed by two or three brothers (Matt. 18:16 for the principle) from their home assembly. However, if a person has previously visited and is well known, they do not need such a letter; see 2 Cor. 3:1. In 1 Corinthians, Paul suggested that the local assembly might select several deacons to carry the collection to Jerusalem. Because they were unknown, they needed to have letters of commendation; normally written by the assembly, but in this case written by Paul himself because they were working on his behalf (1 Cor. 16:3, see critical translation). Howbeit, if traveling with Paul, they would need no such letters. The pattern laid down in Romans 16 shows that even if some from the “destination” assembly know the visitor (as Aquila and Priscilla most likely did know Phoebe, having lived in Corinth) a letter of commendation is still the proper order. It is a happy thing to read such letters, and often notes of encouragement and love are included, as Paul does in Romans 16. Letters of commendation are one way that we can “endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).

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