2 Corinthians 13
Examine yourself to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. – 2 Corinthians 13:5 NLT
There comes the time in every believer’s life when they must examine themselves and determine whether what they say they believe is making a difference in the way they live their lives. In this passage, Paul is not calling into question his readers’ salvation, but their sanctification. Did their lives demonstrate that they were in the faith? Did their behavior give evidence or having been justified by God? Paul wanted them to do what was right. For twelve chapters, Paul seemed to take their salvation for granted, speaking to them as believers and never questioning the validity of their position in Christ. So it doesn’t make sense that he would suddenly become suspect of their saving relationship with Christ. Instead, he is asking them to take stock of their salvation and examine the fruit of their lives. Were their actions in keeping with their faith? The NSRV translation of verse five reads this way: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith.” One of the key evidences of sanctification is obedience. Paul wanted them to take a long, hard look at their lives and be brutally honest about their own fruitfulness. He wanted them to see that the problem was not with Paul and his apostolic authority, but with them. They were disobedient and rebellious, refusing to accept Paul’s correction or submit to his authority in their lives. So Paul plead with them to “do the right thing before we come” (2 Corinthians 13:7b NLT). He wanted them to see the error of their way and repent before he had to come and deal with their rebellion first-hand. If forced to, he would wield his apostolic authority when he arrived, but preferred that they would do a serious self-examination and correct their behavior before he arrived. Paul’s prayer was that they would become mature and do the right thing.
One of the things that had set Paul off was that there were some in the Corinthian church who were demanding that Paul give them proof that he was speaking on behalf of Christ. So Paul turned the tables and demanded that they give proof of their own sanctification. He told them to examine themselves and give proof that they were living in obedience to Christ by doing the right thing. Rather than test Paul, they needed to spend some time testing themselves. He was not the problem, they were. “The logic of Paul’s argument is compelling: If the Corinthians wanted proof of whether Paul’s ministry was from Christ, they must look at themselves, not him, because Paul had ministered the gospel to them” (Bibliotheca Sacra 154:614,April-June 1997: 181). They were in Christ, now they must act like it. They had been justified and made right with God by Christ, now their lives must reflect that right standing by doing the right thing. Paul was calling them to Christian maturity. He wanted them to grow up in their faith. Rather than questioning their salvation, Paul is calling them to sanctification. He closes his letter with these words: “Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. then the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT). When all was said and done, Paul simply wanted to see the Corinthians living obedient, godly lives. Their willing submission to his God-given authority would be ample proof of both his divine calling and their own sanctification.
Father, what a great reminder that I must examine my own life on a regular basis to see if the fruit of my own sanctification is evident. Too often, I am content to rest in the assurance of my salvation, and then fail to see that salvation producing true life change. Never let me grow content with where I am. Keep me striving after godliness, not to earn favor in Your sight, but because I expect life transformation to take place each and every day of my life. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men