Examine Yourselves Part One
Topic: Salvation Passage: 2 Corinthians 13:1–10
Grace Community Church
June 6, 2021
Examine Yourselves Part One
13 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 2 I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them— 3 since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.
5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 6 I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. 7 But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 10 For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down. 2 Cor. 13:1-10
This morning we address an incredibly serious and potentially sensitive topic, so let’s pause and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us to shine His searchlight deeply in our hearts and minds. Pray.
This past Tuesday at Thrive, Ashley Bowers was teaching the kids from Prov. 1 and in the course of the study the word “prudence” was discussed. Prudence is defined as the quality of wisdom that takes into account the future consequences of one's behavior.
Prudence is the aspect of wisdom that looks ahead. Prudence sees down the road, so it asks bigger questions than, “will this give me what I want right now?”, questions like “what will be the future consequences of this action?” “where will this line of thinking take me?” “where does this attitude lead to? What will this belief lead to?” How does my now affect my future? Prudence.
Paul, out of love for the Corinthians, asks them to consider the biggest future-oriented question of all: am I truly a Christian? That’s what he means in the verse 5, Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Am I a Christian (in the faith)? Or am I not?
Since our eternal destiny is at stake, there isn’t a more important question to ask ourselves.
Remembering the context
But first, let’s remember the context. Paul loves the Corinthian church with a tender and affectionate love. But there are some whose ongoing rebellion, sin, and openness to false teachers and false teaching has made it necessary for Paul to urge them to examine themselves deeply and honestly to see if they are truly in the faith.
This comes after they have questioned Paul’s apostolic legitimacy, scorned him as “weak” and “timid”, accused him of being two-faced, and mocked him as being impressive in letter but unimpressive in person. All the while, as we saw in the previous chapter, there are serious sins like jealousy, anger, gossip, slander, and immorality going on in the church.
Moses said an accusation must come with two or three witnesses. Paul says, I warned you once, I warned you twice, the third time I will come in the power of Christ and I will not spare those who ignore my warnings. Paul compares the weakness and tenderness he came to them in with the weakness and tenderness of Christ when he died on the cross – the ultimate weakness – in order to display the ultimate power of God to save.
But that weakness is now power – the power of God – and you don’t want to be on the wrong side of it! So…examine yourselves. Now. Before I come and examine you in the power of God’s judgment.
- It is biblical and prudent to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith
Someone might ask, is it right to ask ourselves whether we are truly Christians, whether we are truly saved? Isn’t the question itself expressing doubt when we’re saved by faith?
Certainly God doesn’t want His children living in uncertainty and insecurity about whether we are His children or not. Whether we are saved or not. Our heavenly Father wants His children to live with a deep and unshakable assurance that we are His and He is ours.
But only if we are His and He is ours. God doesn’t want His children living in uncertainty but He also doesn’t want those who aren’t Christians living with false security.
Paul is looking at the toxic sinfulness of some in the church, their lack of grace, the abundance of unrepentant sin, and he has to ask of them: are you sure you are Christians? Don’t just assume, examine yourselves.
But notice Paul doesn’t limit this examination only to those who are on the edge. He tells the whole church, examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. We know this is for everyone because he immediately says, don’t you realize that Jesus is in you? Even with all this sin and toxicity, that’s Paul’s assumption. His assumption isn’t “you’re going to fail the test”, his assumption is, “you’re going to pass the test”. Jesus is living in you – you should be doing better, you should be more mature. Unless, he adds, you fail the test.
There is a way to examine ourselves, where we so focus on ourselves that we begin to feel we don’t belong to the Lord, that Jesus isn’t in us, that we aren’t in the faith because we see our sins and failings and weakness. There is a self-examination that serves only to increase the doubts, fears and uncertainties we already struggle with. That’s not what Paul is calling for here.
For the believer, examining ourselves properly will lead to a deeper assurance not a deeper insecurity. Examining ourselves will strengthen our faith and deepen the cords that bind us forever to Jesus.
For the unbeliever, the hope is that examining themselves now will awaken them from their apathy and lead them to repentance and a holy fear of God before it’s too late.
On the Niagara River, there are signs warning boaters about the falls. But they don’t put those signs right near the falls where it’s too late for a boater to do anything about it. The signs are posted upriver where the water is still relatively calm, where there is no evident danger, where there is still time to turn around.
If a soul is headed for eternal damnation, their best friend is the sign that says, “turn around! It’s not too late! Stop going the way you’re going, repent and ask God for mercy! Don’t wait until it’s too late and you are lost forever!” Imagine the foolishness of the person who is bothered by the sign, rather than the danger it is warning them of. Examine yourselves now.
It is prudent, and it is biblical. Paul will sometimes make sweeping statements about God’s promises to the believer but then he will qualify it with the word if.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Rom. 8:9
Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. Rom. 11:22
But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. Col. 1:22-23
Those words if and provided express conditions that are necessary for the promise to apply to us. We are not in the Spirit if the Spirit is not in us. We live in the awesome kindness of God…unless we turn away from that kindness and discontinue in the faith that makes that kindness possible. We’ll talk more about what it means for someone to stop believing and fall away from Christ in a minute.
Let’s consider two important aspects of our faith that we should examine: the root of our faith and the fruit of our faith. Let’s begin with the root of our faith.
- Examine the root of your faith
Is your faith firmly rooted in Christ and Christ alone? Do you place all your confidence in God justifying you by faith in Christ and no confidence in your good works? Justification is the sweet doctrine that says that when we believe in Christ, our sins are forgiven, having been imputed to Christ as he hung on the cross as if he committed them, and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us so that in God’s eyes we have the righteousness of Christ.
The false apostles were teaching the devilish doctrine that Christ began our salvation, but we must complete our salvation by obeying the law of Moses. To believe that empties the power of the cross completely and the soul who trusts that will find on Judgment Day that they have no salvation at all.
Several times, a condition of salvation is continuing in the faith. Continuing in God’s kindness. Does that mean we can be saved and then lose our salvation by discontinuing in the faith? I believe the answer to that is no.
I don’t believe that a person, once saved, can lose their salvation. First of all, that doesn’t actuallymake sense. It empties the word saved of all it’s meaning.To be saved means to rescued from hell and to live eternally with Christ, so if someone isn’t rescued from hell and doesn’t live eternally with Christ, by definition they weren’t saved. Jesus himself said,
39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Jesus says he will lose none of those the Father has given him. The Father’s will is that everyone who believes in Jesus has eternal life and will be resurrected on the last day. Hallelujah!
But there are examples of people who for a time profess Christ as Savior, come to church, look every bit a Christian, but then walk away or are drawn away by some other teaching or ideology. If they were truly saved, the Good Shepherd will go after them and bring them back to the fold. They will come back to Christ. If someone walks away and never returns, it indicates that they were never truly saved.
The Apostle John writes They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 1 John 2:19
They may have gone out from us, they may have been truly touched by the grace of God, have enjoyed the fellowship of the saints, but they were never of us. John is saying they were never in the faith and regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It’s not that they lose their salvation because they fall away from Christ, it’s that falling away from Christ reveals that they were never saved. The warnings to continue in the faith are to remind us that if the grace of Christ has gripped us, that grace will never let go. A precious quality of saving faith is that it perseveres. No matter what life throws at us, once our hearts have been drawn to Christ, we will never leave him. We might stray for a time, we might lose our way and wander, we might backslide, but we will come back.
But there are some who will fall away never to return. They would fail the test Paul is giving.
If anyone or anything can talk you out of your faith in Christ; if you’re open to being convinced not to follow Christ, then you are not a Christian and I urge you to settle it in your heart and mind right now: Christ alone is my Lord and Savior and I will not be moved from him. Saving grace works in our heart to say, “I will put my hand to the plow and not look back”. “I am yoked to Christ and will never be yoked to another.”
Do you notice what isn’t the focus in this examination? It’s you. It’s me. The focus of this examination is Christ and what we believe about him.
The root of the Christian faith is Christ. We are saved by Christ through faith. We are justified by Christ through faith. We are made alive to God by faith in Christ. We are redeemed and reconciled to God
by faith in Christ. We are adopted by God through faith in Christ.
- Examine the fruit of your faith
If Christ is in us the fruit of his grace will be evident in our lives. Not perfect, but evident. We aren’t saved by fruit, the fruit reveals that we are saved. Next week we’ll look at this in more detail and emphasize the progressive and growing nature of fruit.
This deserves more time than we can give it this morning, but I realize that those who struggle with doubt and insecurity about their salvation can over-examine themselves and lose sight of Christ in their self-examination. To those who are rooted in Christ I want to close with this assurance.
This is a blessed warning, not a condemning warning for those who struggle in their faith. Isa. 42:3 speaking about Christ says he will not break the bruised reed or snuff out the smoldering wick. In other words, if our faith is weak, maybe even banged up, Jesus doesn’t come along and snap it in two. He cares for it and tends to it. If our faith that maybe once burned brightly is just smoldering, more smoke than fire, Jesus doesn’t snuff that barely lit ember, he protects it from the wind and blows on it to restore the fire in our faith.
Jesus is for the weak and struggling. He goes after the straying lamb. Don’t examine yourself with a condemning eye, examine yourself in the light of Christ’s love and ask him to deepen the roots of your faith, and grow the fruits of your faith.
More in Messy Grace: Second Corinthians
June 20, 2021Leaving People with Hope
June 13, 2021Examine Yourselves Part Two
May 29, 2021Minimizing Mess, Maximizing Grace in Relationships