Let a Man Examine Himself – on “Letters of Commendation”

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Just recently I happened to be researching places of worship in an area which I may visit in the near future. One particular place of worship had an online statement: “letters of commendation required for visitors wishing to remember the Lord.”

My understanding of this is that if you are a stranger in a certain place of worship and you want to have communion with the other Christians there, then you must carry a letter “of commendation” from your normal place of worship. As to whether your “normal place of worship” must be of the same denomination as the one you are visiting was not made clear. As it happens no such denomination exists in our area – and in fact we would have to drive for a very long time before finding one!

That Paul wrote letters to churches, commending brothers and sisters who would be visiting there, is an entirely different matter, as he was introducing these people as fellow workers in the gospel. He was not passing judgement or comment on whether these individuals were eligible to participate or receive communion in the church they were proposing to visit.

In the world in which we live, any person could find himself in any area at any particular time – and if that soul is truly a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and wants to have fellowship with local believers in a place where he or she is a total stranger – should they not be given a warm welcome?

Years ago my husband and I were visiting a certain church in a certain city and (although I don’t remember much about it) it must have been decided that we shouldn’t have communion with the rest of the congregation as ‘they didn’t know us’ and so we were amused to find ourselves ‘put behind a curtain.’

I refer to the words of Paul in 1Corinthians 11v26-31: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged, But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”

Here we see that we should judge ourselves, otherwise we will be judged by the Lord. The Lord “looks on the heart” of men and women and only He knows whether that person eats or drinks unworthily and only He can judge. Obviously, if some stranger came in, acting in an unruly manner, then clearly someone should have a quiet word with this person so that the service is not interrupted. However, this passage talks about “judging ourselves” and the “Lord judging us.” No one else should be able to decide whether we are worthy or unworthy, unless there is some very obvious reason for doing so, like the one previously mentioned.

Legalism and the letter of the law are so at odds with the spirit of the law. Ironically, at the end of the day, the stranger who enters one of these churches might be in a better standing with the Lord than someone who is known to the elders, because… who can know the heart of man? “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17v10)

Praise the Lord, we can have fellowship with (and love for) others without denominationalism being an issue when we pray sincerely about these matters, leaving them at the feet of the “Judge of judges. “For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1Samuel 1v7)

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