Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?
The second epistle to the Church of Corinth is the most biographical and least doctrinal epistle of Paul. The Church of Corinth was sinful and corrupted, and in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul reprimanded and corrected them harshly. When Titus returned to Paul with a report of how the Corinthians had received his letter [2 Cor 7:6-7], he also brought news that some people from Corinth had began to question Paul‘s authority as an apostle. This was troubling, for if Paul‘s apostleship was questioned, his teachings and commands would be meaningless. Much of 2 Corinthians was devoted to Paul‘s explanation of his apostleship and how he lives, and we learn a lot more about Paul here than in any other of his epistles. Nearing the end of his letter, he reminds the Corinthians to examine themselves, test themselves, and know themselves.
Analysis: Examine ourselves
The Church of Corinth then was lacking in the doctrine and many churchgoers did not really understand what was expected of them as a Christian, as they brought the ways of their society naturally into the church. It was also a time when there were many false teachers and taught deceiving things. Paul said to examine if they themselves were truly in the faith – he was speaking to the Corinthian Church, and therefore he was speaking to Christians, and logically speaking, if they were Christians, they would certainly be in the faith. However, many of them were ignorant in the doctrine and very susceptible to the false teachings that were not uncommon then. Even if they are Christians, it is prudent to take a step back and examine their own hearts to see if they are truly in the faith or not. It has been stated several times that one has to believe in their hearts and confess with their mouths [Rom 10:9] – and whether they truly believe or not is something that they themselves can best gauge. Many Christians appear to believe – but whether they have placed their belief in the right thing or not, that is another matter altogether. Though this is putting it briefly, but the crux of this faith is in Christ Jesus himself – to believe that Jesus is Lord and saviour, who became flesh and was sacrificed to redeem our sins, rose from the dead after three days, and is now sitting at the right hand of the Lord.
Analysis: Test ourselves
In some versions the word rendered here is prove instead of test. Indeed, if we have examined ourselves and found ourselves to be truly in the faith, that is not enough. In order to prove to ourselves that we are truly in the faith (and therefore avoid any possibilities of self-deception, as men are so prone to), we need to test ourselves, test our faith. The best way to prove our faith is to subject it to actual trials in the various aspects of life. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work [1 Cor 3:13] – whether our hearts are true or not, we’ll be able to tell when we go through trials.
Analysis: Know ourselves
Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you? Do we always know ourselves? Do we always know our characters, qualities, and conduct. If Christ Jesus is in you, there is really no reason for you not to know and conduct yourself in a way as if Jesus isn’t in you. Christians need to know their identity as Christians, and conduct themselves in a manner as expected of being a Christian. In 2 Tim 1:12 Paul says, yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. Because Paul knew himself, he was able to put his hope and confidence in Christ and take comfort. Likewise, Job proclaims that ‘I know my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth‘ [Job 19:25]. Knowing ourselves is the key to knowing our faith, which is rooted in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we know ourselves to be Christians, we know Christ. The only way if you don’t know yourself is if you fail the test – i.e. false Christianity. If one’s belief was placed in the wrong place, either by one’s own ignorance or by the deception of the teachings of the false apostles, it won’t be strange if he doesn’t ever realize that Christ Jesus is in him – because Christ wouldn’t be in him.
At first glance, our communities and churches may not be as corrupted as the Corinth Church of those days. However, with the speed that the mainstream culture is seeping into the church, perhaps we are far more tainted than the Corinth Church today. We may not have false apostles today, but we possibly still have false teaching and deceptions in other forms. Even if we know for sure that we believe that Christ Jesus is Lord, let us take some time regularly to reflect on our trials and how we respond to them. The best proof of our faith, of where we stand, is in trials. We may have believed, and are certain of our belief, but that doesn’t mean that our ‘faith’ has been applied into our lives. If that is so, we must repent and prayerfully work on our conduct – but without that awareness, it is impossible to correct ourselves. Hence examining ourselves and testing ourselves are important. So is knowing ourselves – truly knowing ourselves, which only comes after we have examined and tested ourselves. Self-awareness is very important, least we lose sight of that which is important and allow ourselves to indulge in sin. Even if we’ve been Christians for a long time, and even if we are very confident of our strong faith, Paul reminds us these three things – examine, test and know ourselves, and in doing so, surely we will know our Lord better as well.