Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourself, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! ~ Paul, 2 Corinthians 13:5
To close out his second letter (at least second letter that we still have) to the church at Corinth, Paul called the church to a moment of introspection. He wanted them to examine and test themselves to make sure their faith was genuine. You can’t blame Paul for this request. In the first letter we see again and again how much the Corinthians got wrong, though they were still “called to be saints.” And much of this second letter is Paul dealing with the fallout from attacks on him by false apostles.
It seems that spiritual maturity was greatly lacking.
Paul here doesn’t give a ten question exam or something similar for them to take. So when we try to apply this passage to our own lives we cannot create a legalistic exam that can be used across the board. Also, we shouldn’t see this as Paul demanding some sense of perfection. A few verses after this he called them to continue to grow in areas of restoration, comfort, unity, and love (13:11).
But as we think through Paul’s letter, we do see hints of what he likely meant. First, as in all his letters, Paul spoke about faith in Christ. Throughout the letter, Paul again and again returns to the fact that either we have Jesus or we do not. Most of chapter 3 deals with whether or not they and we are living by the Spirit through Jesus as opposed to finding self-justification in laws carved onto stones. And chapter 4 opens with the fact that the perishing have minds veiled to the gospel but those saved have seen the glory of Jesus through it. So the baseline question of the test would be: Are we trusting in Jesus as our Savior-King?
We also see throughout the letter a call to the Corinthians to pursue godly character. Such a pursuit is ultimately the work of the Spirit within the believer as he transforms us to be more like Jesus, but it is still our place to pursue such traits as we are transformed. This includes: boasting only in the Lord and not in human strength, offering forgiveness to a repentant brother or sister, separating oneself from sexual immorality, being true to one’s word, avoiding anger, quarreling, jealousy, and the likes. So a second question would be: Are we growing in Christ-like character?
Paul also spoke about taking the gospel to those without Jesus. He said no matter where they go, they preach Christ whether people accept it or reject it. They were seeking to bring light to the blind and saw themselves as ambassadors of Christ with the message of reconciliation to God. So a third question would be: Do we have a growing love and concern for those without Jesus?
Paul also spoke of community matters. He encouraged them to give generously to their brothers and sisters in Christ who were in need, just as they promised to give. He lamented the possibility that there would be disunity bound in quarrels, slander, and gossip. And he called them to unity and peace. So a fourth question would be: Do we have a growing love and concern for those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ?
Most of these questions are summaries of ideas which could have many applications. What could be a sin-struggle for one Christian or one church may not be a sin-struggle for another. Hence, why we cannot be too legalistic in our application. But I believe these questions provide a fair idea of what Paul wanted the Corinthians to consider and what we should also ponder from time to time with a moment of introspection.
This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.