In his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul was compelled to prove himself for the sake of the gospel. He had been criticized by some at Corinth for various reasons, and his authority as an apostle was questioned. Paul answered this criticism not because he was offended personally but because he sought to protect the integrity of his message. He knew that if his critics succeeded in discrediting him as an apostle, then they would also succeed in undermining the gospel he preached. To prevent this, Paul defended himself and the gospel with proof after proof and soundly defeated his critics (see 2Cor. 10-12).
After making his defense, Paul issued a challenge to the Corinthians that we should accept for ourselves. Notice this challenge in 2Corinthians 13:5:
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you -- unless indeed you fail the test?
The Corinthians had thoroughly scrutinized Paul and Timothy, so he confidently said, "But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test" (2Cor. 13:6). Now it was time for them to measure themselves by the same standards to see whether they could pass the test. In this same way, we also should test our own faith to see whether Jesus Christ is truly in us.
Passing the test of our faith is a necessity, for faith itself is a necessity of salvation. Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Eph. 3:17), but if our faith fails the test, then He is not in us. If Christ is not in us, then we are hopeless, for Jesus said that "unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24). Furthermore, Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." Thus, failing the test of our faith means that we are outside of Christ, lost in sins, displeasing to God, and disqualified from the reward of eternal life.
To test your faith, it is not necessary to create an experiment or an artificial trial, but rather you must simply make an assessment of yourself from day to day. In fact, tests of your faith occur every day when you are faced with decisions to choose between the ways of God and the ways of the world. The challenge of 2Corinthians 13:5 is for you to examine yourself to see whether you are making the right decisions that demonstrate Christ in you. The question is, are you in the faith? Are your choices made according to the faith you have in Christ by the word of God? Remember, "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17). Are you living by His word?
When you have tested yourself by examining your choices, consider the results carefully. If you pass the test, then rejoice and know that you will be even better prepared for more tests to come. Notice James 1:2-4:
2Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If you fail the test, then remember what Paul wrote: "Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you -- unless indeed you fail the test?" A failed test means that Christ is not in you, but it does not mean that He cannot be in you. If you build up your faith, then He will dwell in your heart, and you will choose the ways of God when faced with the trials of life. In this way, make it your ambition to pass the test.
Therefore, let us keep ourselves under constant examination. Like the Corinthians, we often examine others and quickly find their faults, but we need to focus on our own conditions. Let us always remember the words of our Lord in Matthew 7:1-5:
1"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
Jesus did not forbid us from making judgments (John 7:24), but He set a priority and a standard for our judgments. According to the Lord's instructions, let us first examine ourselves by the righteous standard of God's word. If we pass the test, then we may see clearly to examine others and to help them pass the test as well.
Stacey E. Durham
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