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.
By definition, a debased mind is “unapproved” and, by implication, “worthless.” It does not stand the test and, therefore, is not approved. The Greeks used the word translated “debased” to metals and coins that failed the assayer’s test. So, it was cast aside, rejected, “reprobate” (KJV, ASV). The debased mind does not appear suddenly. The Holy Spirit explained that it develops when people no longer approve of holding on to their knowledge of God. Romans 1 catalogs the process and effects of divesting oneself of the knowledge of God (1:19-25). Foolishly refusing to hold God in one’s knowledge results in all manner of immoral conduct (1:26-27, 28-32). What we retain in our minds shapes our lives. We invariably spiral downward when we are comfortable with not retaining God in our thoughts. The gospel of Christ has the power to save us from the sin that is formed in and results from debased minds (Rom. 1:16-17). The gospel renews our minds when we believe, repent, and obey the Lord Jesus (Eph. 4:17-24; Rom. 12:1-2). Otherwise, our sin put us under God’s wrath and righteous judgment of death (Rom. 1:18, 32). Retain God in your knowledge and follow His will.
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).