Tuesday, 19 January 2016
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5
Paul now takes the time to turn around the Corinthian’s accusations concerning his true apostleship and have them reflect on their own status. In both instances of the word “yourselves,” it is placed in the emphatic position. This stems from their challenge of Christ speaking in Paul from verse 3. As Charles Ellicott restates this, “You seek a test of my power. Apply a test to yourselves. Try yourselves whether you are living and moving in that faith in Christ which you profess.”
He is asking them to look into their own consciences and determine what is going on there. However, Vincent’s Word Studies says that rather than “examine” yourselves, it should read “try” yourselves. He notes, “Examination does not necessarily imply a practical test. It may be merely from curiosity. Trial implies a definite intent to ascertain their spiritual condition.”
Paul’s admonition for them to check whether they are “in the faith” is followed up by a second admonition which is to “Test yourselves.” This word, dokimazete, has more force than the word for “examine.” It is a word which is used when proving metals through heat to determine their purity. Once they have “tried” or “examined” themselves, they can now go a step further and “prove” what they have tested.
In the theology of the Bible, and supported by the words of Paul, faith is what saves. In order to know if one is in the faith, they have to try and prove their faith. Albert Barnes wisely notes that “it is remarkable, that while a child has no doubt that he loves a parent, or a husband a wife, or a friend a friend, almost all Christians are in very great doubt about their attachment to the Redeemer and to the great principles of religion.”
Why should this be? It is because we fail our Lord; it is because we spend our time challenging the faith of others instead of tending to our own faith; and it is because we become unsure about the God that we cannot see. This is what the Corinthians had done. They had learned to trust the false apostles, with their externals on prominent display, and they had stopped trusting in Christ in themselves, the hope of glory.
Instead of this, Paul turns their possession of faith into a question, “Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” He is asking if they are sure they have trusted Christ and Him alone for their salvation. If they are trusting in their deeds for righteousness before God, then they will have failed the test. Thus Paul’s final words, “…unless indeed you are disqualified.”
The KJV says, “…except ye be reprobates.” This translation is unfortunate. The word “reprobate” gives the Calvinistic concept of one who is a moral miniscule who is destined for hell. This is not the intent of these words. Rather, the Weymouth translation gives a good sense of what Paul intends by saying, “…unless you are insincere?” Other translations say something like, “…unless you fail the test.” In that instance, the words “fail the test” mean to fail the test of sincere faith.
In this verse, Paul is speaking less of works to prove one’s salvation than that of true faith which can endure times of testing. It is unfortunate that so many Christians find it necessary to add to the concept of being saved “by grace through faith” by claiming that deeds are necessary for saving faith. The only deeds that should be accomplished are those deeds which are “of faith.”
To understand this, Hebrews 11 gives a long list of such deeds by stating something like, “By faith, this person did this or that.” The things they did proved their faith through an internal process, not an external one.
Life application: To be saved one must have faith in the gospel. Our righteousness is based on the works of Christ, not in our own deeds.
Heavenly Father, help us to grasp that we are saved by grace through faith and that there is no deed which can add to our righteousness. Rather, such a deed can only internally prove that our faith in the work of Jesus stands. We don’t doubt that our parent’s love us, nor do we doubt that our friends have accepted us. So why should we doubt that our Lord, who demonstrated His love for us by dying on a cross, has accepted us. He asks us to have faith in that deed for our righteousness. Help us to get this settled in our minds! Amen.