The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good (Psalm 14:1, NKJV).
April 1 is April Fools’ Day, celebrated with fun, good-hearted practical jokes. But there is nothing funny about Bible fools. “Fool” is used almost five hundred times in English translations of the Bible. Opposite of wise, the fool is associated with senselessness, ignorance, and transgression (Ps. 94:8; 107:17; Prov. 15:14). The ones who deny God comfort themselves in their understanding while refusing to accept the evidence of God’s power and presence (Rom. 1:20, 28). Professing their wisdom and trusting in themselves, they become fools (Rom. 1:21-22). As David’s psalm observes, refusing to believe in God comes from a corrupt mind that leads to sinful conduct. This rebuke is not only reserved for atheists. A similar indictment exists against those who “profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (Titus 1:16). It is foolish to say one believes in God while disobeying Him because disobedience denies God. This person is self-deceived and disqualified from fulfilling the good works of God (Eph. 2:10). Fellow Christians, let us not live like unbelievers while condemning those saying, “There is no God” (Rom. 1:28-2:1). To do so makes us as much a fool as them (Eph. 5:17). And that’s no joke.
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified (2 Corinthians 13:5, NKJV).
Self-examination is not easy nor always pleasant. But Christians must do so to confirm our faith and assure our hope in Christ. The doctrine that a Christian cannot fall from God’s grace and be lost is patently false (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 2:1-3; 3:12-14; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). In today’s text, the exhortation warns of being disqualified (“unapproved, rejected,” castaway, reprobate, G96). Paul himself was not immune to the possibility of being disqualified (1 Cor. 9:27). He uses two words in today’s text to urge us to avoid being rejected by the Lord. To prevent such spiritual disaster, we must (1) Examine ourselves. We must expend effort to test and scrutinize ourselves, to explore our conduct and our heart’s motives, attitudes, and aspirations that prompt our actions. The standard we examine ourselves against is “the faith,” the gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:11, 23; Jude 3). Do the heart and behavior align with the word of Christ? (2) Test ourselves. This word means to discern whether we are approved. Vine says it means “to prove with a view to approving” (Vine, II:22). We must discern whether our assessment shows “that Jesus Christ is in” us. If it does, then good. Keep it up. If it shows we are deficient, repent and practice righteousness (2 Cor. 12:20-21; Rev. 2:5). Christians use the gospel to examine (inspect) and test (approve) ourselves. By conforming to it, we know (recognize) ourselves and are accepted by Christ.
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. (2 Corinthians 13:5, NKJV)
The possibility of Christians becoming disqualified and lost (severed from Christ, fallen from grace, Gal. 5:4) is both implied and explicitly stated here. To be “disqualified” means to be “unapproved, i.e., rejected” (Strong’s Dictionary). Conversely, the one who is accepted is “in the faith,” that is, “Jesus Christ is in you.” To know which is true of us, Christians should do three things. 1) Examine ourselves. Like an assayer tests “a metal or ore to determine its ingredients and quality” (Merriam-Webster), we must “endeavor to discover the nature or character” (BDAG) of ourselves. Am I “in the faith” (in harmony with the gospel, Eph. 4:1), or am I deceiving myself (Gal. 6:3; Jas. 1:22-26)? 2) Test ourselves. This word means to “try, prove, put to the test,” “to make a critical examination of something to determine genuineness” (Thayer, BDAG). We must test all things, then hold fast to what is good, and reject evil (1 Thess. 5:21-22). This includes a close, careful examination of our own work and responsibilities (Gal. 6:4-5). 3) Know ourselves. This requires humility (1 Cor. 8:2). The Scriptures help us know ourselves the way God knows us (Heb. 4:12-13). God’s word corrects us so we may live in the faith, have Christ in us, and be approved before God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2:15; Eph. 3:17).