And of course, control doesn't begin and end with the first generation of copies, or the first planting of churches. Control is an ongoing factor. If control was needed in the 60s of the first century, then it was also needed in the 70s and the 80s and the 90s. Continuously, in other words. The early church was a continuous project. The need for control doesn't disappear as time goes on. If anything, the need for control increases, as the number of voices in Christian networks grows.
- Acts 18:27: “And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him.”
- Acts 15:22-23: “They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings...””
- Acts 9:1-2 “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus”.
- 2 Corinthians 3:1 - “do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?” (So here, we see that Paul was writing to people he knew and so did not want to have to use a letter of approval to give him the right to continue teaching them. Whereas other Christian teachers were clearly travelling with letters of commendation, their passport to a church audience.)
- 1 Corinthians 16:3: “I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.” (This is how money was sent from one church to another.) cf 2 Kings 5:5-6.
- Colossians 4:16 – “After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:27 – “I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.”