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.
Evil comes in different forms, and we must not be ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11). False prophets come in sheep’s clothing but are devouring wolves (Matt. 7:15). False apostles and deceitful workers appear as “ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Worldly wisdom is an imposter posing as truth (1 Cor. 3:18-20). Immorality presents itself as the answer to our longings but delivers death (Prov. 6:24-29; Gal. 5:19-21). False teachers bring in “destructive heresies” while endearing themselves to the naïve (2 Pet. 2:1-3; Rom. 16:17-18). We must test (examine) everything to approve what is excellent and abstain from evil in every form it takes (Phil. 1:9-11). That requires a standard by which to test all things. The “word of the truth of the gospel” is the only objective and verifiable standard of divine teaching and holiness that impartially judges right and wrong (Jno. 12:48; 17:17). Inspired Scripture must have the final say in “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). Learn God’s word and examine “all things” by its truth (2 Tim. 2:15; Acts 17:11-12). Then, confidently cling to “what is good” and refuse “every form of evil.”
2 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:2–3, NKJV)
Israel’s wilderness wanderings tested their faith in the Lord God. Would they obey Him? Or would they rebel in disobedience when faced with hardships, setbacks, and uncertainties? God disciplined their hearts through the trial of hunger and by the blessing of daily manna (and other provisions, Deut. 8:4-6). God meant for their trials and blessings to humble them and turn their hearts to Him. God taught Israel by trials and blessings to live by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” God also lovingly teaches and corrects us by trials and blessings, like parents who love their children, Heb. 12:4-11). Life is more than bread. Life is more than comfort. Like Israel, life with God that lasts forever comes from God when we obey Him. Jesus knew this when the devil tempted Him to sin (Matt. 4:3-4). Let us accept God’s training during times of trial and blessing that we may humbly obey the Lord God and live with Him now and forever.
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).
22 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin. (Romans 14:22–23, NKJV)
The personal “faith” of which Paul speaks here, is one’s personal confidence (trust) of conscience to participate in a God-approved liberty. Paul adds a warning not to violate one’s conscience in using these liberties: “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin” (v. 23). His exhortation and warning about one’s conscience and God-allowed liberties agrees with his earlier statement, “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). Today’s passage is not at all suggesting that every person decides for himself what is sin, and what is not. God sets that standard, and when we violate it, we sin (John 17:17; 1 John 3:4; Romans 3:23). Before we engage in an activity, we must be sure from Scripture that it has God’s approval (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). In matters of liberty (a God-allowed, but not compulsory, action), our conscience must be clear. We must not violate our conscience in these liberties, nor force our conscience upon others (Romans 14:13-16).
3 You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. 4 Concerning the works of men, by the word of Your lips, I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer. 5 Uphold my steps in Your paths, that my footsteps may not slip. (Psalm 17:3–5, NKJV)
David resisted sin when he had the purpose of heart not to sin by his words, and by carefully avoiding the sinful works of men. Our faith ought to compel us to also purpose in our hearts not to speak evil, and, to keep away from the path of sin. David’s purpose of heart not to speak sin also led him to obey God’s word (“the word of Your lips”) in order to keep away from those who would bring destruction into his life. And so, with purpose of heart, being guided by God’s word, David was sure that God would uphold his steps and keep him from slipping into sin. When David sinned, it was precisely because his purpose faltered and his trust in God’s word failed. That is what happens when we sin, too. When God examines your heart, may he see your resolve to speak what is right, and to do His words. If so, you will be walking upon the solid ground of faith.
We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:6, NKJV)
We hear a lot about fake news these days. Vying for attention and credibility, fake news causes people to doubt all news as tainted. Similarly, there are many fake gospels in the world which give skeptics an excuse to reject the genuine message of Christ. Yes, many “false prophets” peddle their bogus gospels, and we must test them to see if they are from God (1 Jno. 4:1). The test is whether their message agreea with the testimony of the apostles of Christ, who heard, saw and handled “the Word of Life” (1 Jno. 1:1-4). The New Testament is our standard of truth; whatever does not conform to it is fake. For example, salvation by “faith only” is a fake gospel, since the Scriptures say, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24). The gospel that says Christians cannot fall from grace is fake, since the Scriptures say, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). We must test the gospels people preach to us, to know whether it is the truth, or error. By searching the Scriptures and comparing what we hear to what they says, we can discern between fake gospels and the true gospel of Christ.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:19–22, NKJV)
The Holy Spirit guided the apostles of Christ into all truth by revealing to them the mind of God and giving to them the inspiration to speak it and write it (Jno. 16:13-15; 1 Cor. 2:10-13; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). We rejoice in the Spirit’s work and His word. We will not stifle the Holy Spirit’s word and work by minimizing the divine blessings we have as a result His work. Neither will we hold God’s prophecies in contempt. We are strengthened by knowing the Spirit’s prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Acts 3:22-26). The Spirit expects us to test all things by the word He gave us. Consequently, we can cling to good things and refrain from evil in every form it takes. Christians do not refuse the Spirit and the word He gave us. Instead, we walk in the Spirit, are led by the Spirit and live in the Spirit by letting His word define and direct our lives (Gal. 5:16, 18, 25).
15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15–20, NKJV)
Are you sure your preacher is preaching the truth? How do you know? Jeremiah warned of prophets who “prophesy lies in my name” by speaking “the deceit of their heart” (Jer. 14:14). These two-legged wolves in sheep’s clothing continue to devour God’s flock by speaking error in the name of God. When someone speaks on behalf of God we must test what is said to be sure it is indeed from God. Our measuring stick is inspired Scripture, including what the apostles taught (Acts 17:11-12; 1 Jno. 4:1, 6). You see, it does matter what is taught and what is believed. If doctrine doesn’t matter, then why does Jesus warn us of the wolves?