TEXT: 2 Corinthians 13:1-5
1 This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
2 I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare:
3 Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.
4 For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.
5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
The Examination of the Christian Believer (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #52)
Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
When was the last time you sat down and really took stock of your life? If you are a young person, you are probably thinking in terms of where you would like to be in the future? If you are older, you are probably thinking in terms of what you have accomplished or failed to accomplish in the past. Scripture challenges us to examine our spiritual lives.
This examination of ourselves is a very serious matter as it would be a tragedy to pass from this life to the next, assuming that our spiritual life is in order, and then find out on the other side that it is not, and that it is too late to do anything about it. In the classic story, Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan describes such a character named Turn-Away. Turn-Away began his pilgrimage to the Celestial City, but he had refused to look to the Cross for salvation or to have his burden of sin rolled away into the Tomb, yet he still claimed to be a Pilgrim. Let’s read briefly as we see what became of him.
So the two pilgrims went on while Ignorance followed after them. Now when they had put some distance ahead of him, they entered into a very dark lane where they met a man whom seven devils had bound with seven strong cords; they were carrying him back to the door, the By-Way to Hell, that they had earlier seen in the side of the Hill, when being escorted by the Shepherds.
Now good Christian began to tremble and so did his companion Hopeful. Yet, as the devils led the man away, Christian looked to see if he could identify him, and he thought it might be a certain Turn-away who resided in the Town of Apostasy. But he was not able to clearly see his face because he hung his head down like a thief who has been discovered. However, after he had passed by, Hopeful watched as he was taken away and noticed on his back a label with the inscription, “Wanton professor and damnable apostate.”
Turn-Away reached the end of his pilgrimage before Christian and Hopeful. But when he reached the end, he was turned away from entering the Celestial City as he did not have the proper credentials to be allowed in. He had never looked to the Cross or had his burden of sin rolled away, thus he was handed over to the devils to be chained and dragged to Hell. Perhaps, if Turn-Away had taken some time to examine himself, he would have seen the error of his ways before it was eternally too late.
Why is it important for Christians to examine themselves as Paul commands the Christians at Corinth to do? Because, unfortunately, there may be some in the church who are not truly saved. Perhaps we only think we are saved because we have been in the church all our life, or because we got baptized at a young age, or because we strive to live according to Biblical principles. Or, perhaps it is only our pride that causes us to think that we are saved. Whatever the case, it is wise to examine ourselves to see whether we are truly in the faith.
The church at Corinth was one that had numerous problems. Some in the church, while claiming to be saved, still lived sinful lives. On top of that, there were some leaders who despised the leadership of the Apostle Paul. They thought he was too weak and humble. They wanted a leader with more “power” in his words and demeanor. (As you can see, they were not thinking about leadership in a Christian way.) In response to the continuing problems with this church, Paul plans to visit them to straighten things out. He visited the city the first time when he founded the church and stayed for a year and a half to teach them. He visited a second time between the writings of First and Second Corinthians. And now, he tells them that he will visit them again: “This is the third time I am coming to you… I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all others, that, if I come again, I will not spare.”
Paul tells the believers that when he comes a third time, he will show them the “power” in his demeanor that they say he is lacking. When he gets there, he intends to clean house and set everything in order. He says he “will not spare” rebuke for those who have sinned. Paul uses the life of Jesus as an example, stating that, when Christ came, He first appeared as weak and humble, but now everyone knows that He is strong and mighty. He appeared weak when He was crucified, but He proved Himself mighty when He rose from the dead.
Even today, we struggle with grasping this dichotomy of Christ. Some of us find it difficult to hold simultaneously the image of the humble, gentle Shepherd and the image of the mighty King who comes raining down judgment. We find it hard to wrap our heads around a Jesus who says at one time, “Peace, be still”, but at another time, “I come not to bring peace, but a sword.” It seems as though the Corinthian believers struggled with this as well. They readily bought into the powerful, mighty image of Christ and the servants of Christ, but they could not, or would not, grasp the humility and mercifulness of Christ. Paul plans to help them see this. He says, “For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.” He is saying, ‘Just as you saw Christ’s weakness and humility in me before, you will see Christ’s strength and power in me when I come this time.’
However, we immediately see that Paul did not WANT to come to them in a spirit of judgment. He did not want to come to rebuke them to their faces. Instead, he says, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” He wants the Corinthian believers to ask, “Am I truly saved? Am I really a Christian?” You see, they were so busy criticizing Paul that they hadn’t taken the time to critique themselves — to look themselves in the mirror. Perhaps the reason why the Corinthian believers had trouble with Paul is because they were not truly abiding in Christ, and, thus, they could not identify with Paul’s Christ-like spirit. Paul was not the problem; they were. By examining themselves, Paul hopes that they will see the issue and fix it on their own.
Alan Redpath said, “To examine yourself, in fact, is to submit to the examination and scrutiny of Jesus Christ the Lord — and this never to fix attention on sin, but on Christ — and to ask Him to reveal that in you which grieves His Spirit; to ask Him to give you grace that it might be put away and cleansed in His precious blood.” Self examination “takes the chill away from your soul, it takes the hardness away from your heart, it takes the shadows away from your life, it sets the prisoner free.”
It is easy for us to examine others and point out the flaws in others, but today, we are called to turn our cross-examination skills on ourselves. We need to look within. As the old, Greek maxim says, “Know thyself!” We must examine ourselves to see whether we are truly in the faith, if we are truly saved, if we truly have Christ living inside us. Was there a time in your past when you gave your life to Christ? Is the Holy Spirit inside of you agreeing with your spirit that you are a child of God? These are sobering questions.
Are you constantly at odds with your pastor or with other Christians like the Corinthian believers were at odds with Paul? The problem might not be with them; it might be with you. Examine yourself.
Once you have looked inside your soul and spirit, you must also look at your lifestyle. Paul says, “prove your own selves.” The only way to prove something is to see it in action, to see it carried out. Are you living out the faith you claim to have? Charles Spurgeon said, “Do not merely sit in your closet and look at yourselves alone, but go out into this busy world and see what kind of piety you have. Remember, many a man’s religion will stand examination that will not stand proof. We may sit at home and look at our religion, and say, ‘Well, I think this will do!'” But not so in the world. Have you been living like a Christian? You know the answer to that.
Finally, Paul hits the nail on the head with this question: “Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” The word “reprobates” means something which does not stand the test or is not approved. Paul says, ‘This is serious. If you don’t have Jesus Christ in you, you are reprobates. You are not approved of God. You’re going to Hell.’ Examine yourself now, before it is too late. David Guzik writes, “Paul knew there were some among the Corinthian Christians who were disqualified for eternal life and salvation. Their thinking was worldly because they were of the world, not of the Lord. This is a hard truth to confront, but it is better to know now than when it is too late. The word for disqualified is simply the negative of the word for test in this same passage. If we don’t examine ourselves and test ourselves now, we may find that we ultimately don’t pass the test and are disqualified.”
You don’t want to be like the sad soul in Pilgrim’s Progress who got all the way to the Celestial City and then got turned away because he was disqualified. When he got to Heaven’s gates, the gatekeeper looked out and said, ‘I don’t see Jesus in his soul. I don’t see Jesus in his heart. I don’t see Jesus in his life. He can’t come in.’ This is a serious matter. You could die today thinking you are saved and find out that you are not So examine yourself and see whether you are in the faith.
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If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, allow me to share with you briefly how you can be saved from your sins and be guaranteed a home in Heaven with God today.
First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Please understand that because of your sins, you deserve eternal punishment in hell. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death…This is both physical death and spiritual death in hell. That is the bad news.
But here is the good news. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door.” Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.