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2 Corinthians 13:5-6 NASB

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test? But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test.” ‭‭

How do we test ourselves to see if we’re in the faith? And how do we know if we’ve passed the test or not?

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7 Answers 7

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Ultimately, only God knows those who are His (see 2 Timothy 2:19a). In that same verse, in verse 19b, are the sobering words:

“Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

One of the best ways for a Christian to test/examine their self is to ask the question "Am I currently turning away from wickedness?"

Most Christians believe that they will never reach the point in their sanctification where there will be no wickedness whatsoever in their lives. They know that with heartfelt confession comes forgiveness and cleansing. If, however, a person is "living in sin" and knows that he or she is but is unrepentant, then they can safely conclude they are probably not in the faith.

Another important result of examining oneself is an inner peace that comes from God. True Christians have peace with God through the shed blood of the Lamb of God. That peace can and will develop into "the peace of God" existentially. From Philippians 4:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (my italics).

In short, true Christians pray to God, petition God, express thanksgiving to God, and then present their requests to God. The result of doing all those things brings peace to the heart and mind.

In verse 7, the word guard in Greek is φρουρήσει (phrourēsei) which means to set a sentinel in one's heart and mind. Think of a soldier who is entrusted with the task of guarding someone's well being. He is ever watchful. His charge can rest assured they are well cared for.

That is what the peace of God does in true believers' lives. God's peace, when they submit to it, garrisons their hearts in Christ Jesus.

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In 2 Cor 13:5, Paul uses two different verbs synonymously as follows, which I will take in the order that they appear in the verse:

πειράζω (peirazo) = try, tempt, test

The word occurs in 39 places in the NT such as Matt 4:1, 3, 16:1, 19:3, 22:18, 35, Mark 1:13, 8:11, etc. It is only in 2 Cor 13:5 that it is used of a person testing themselves.

δοκιμάζω (docimazo) = prove, examine, distinguish by testing

The word occurs 22 times in the NT such as Luke 12:56, 14:19, Rom 1:28, 2:18, 12:2, 14:22, 1 Cor 3:13, 11:28, 16:3, 2 Cor 8:8, 13:5, Gal 6:4, etc. In the sense of testing/examining people, it is used as follows:

  • Rom 12:2 - And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, for you to prove what is the good and well-pleasing and perfect will of God.
  • Rom 14:22 - The faith that you have, keep to yourself before God. Blessed is the one not judging himself in what he approves.
  • 1 Cor 13:3 - the work of each will become manifest, for the day will disclose it, because it is revealed in fire, and the fire itself will prove the work of each, what sort it is.
  • 1 Cor 11:28 - But let a man examine himself, and in this manner let him eat of the bread, and let him drink of the cup.
  • 2 Cor 8:8 - I do not speak as a command, but proving the genuineness of your love through the earnestness of others also.
  • 2 Cor 13:5 - Examine yourselves whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Or do you not recognize yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you are unapproved?
  • Gal 6:4 - But let each test his own work, and then he will have the ground of boasting in himself alone, and not in another.
  • 1 Tim 3:10 - And these [deacons] also, let them be tested first; then let them serve, being blameless.

Thus, it is apparent that Paul wanted the church to test/prove/examine people, including ourselves, NOT to see if a person is saved, because only God knows that, but to examine a person's life in accord with Jesus' life.

Recall that examining something is to discover some information so that we know. How do we know if we are "in the faith" (humans can be extremely self-deceiving!)?

We are given the answer to this question a number of times in the NT:

  • John 13:34, 35 - A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”
  • 1 John 2:3 - And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we should keep His commandments.
  • 1 John 2:5, 6 - But if anyone keeps His word, the love of God has been truly perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him: Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked.
  • 1 John 3:10 - By this the children of God are distinguished from the children of the devil: Anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
  • 1 John 3:16 - By this we know what love is: Jesus laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
  • 1 John 3:18-20 - Little children, let us love not in word and speech, but in action and truth. And by this we will know that we belong to the truth, and will assure our hearts in His presence: Even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and He knows all things.
  • 1 John 3:24 - And the one keeping His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us: by the Spirit whom He has given to us.
  • 1 John 4:2 - By this you will know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God
  • 1 John 4:6 - We are of God. The one knowing God listens to us. He who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
  • 1 John 4:13 - By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us: because He has given to us from out of His Spirit.
  • 1 John 5:2 - By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.
  • John 14:15 - If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

Thus, the examination of our lives is as simple as it is demanding - we must abide in Christ, imiate Christ's life and remain obedient to Christ's commands.

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    Hello Dottard. I see you continue to be a reliably excellent poster on this site. Kudos. May I ask you a question? It seems to me that the #1 litmus test applied in the real world is that of the dogma of the Trinity. Most Churches seem to have it at the top of their "Statement of Faith." Do you share the view that this is essential in order to be considered to be a Christian? If not, are you prepared to declare such a requirement as a false gospel? This seems to be THE test in both historic and modern Christianity and to my mind, seems heretical in its own right.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 0:54
  • I really like the compilation of quotes from John--it shows how important it was to him (probably writing as the first generation of Christians were dying off) that people know how to discern between truth & error. +1 Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 2:05
  • Dottard, is there a discernable difference between being in the faith and being saved? Can you be in the faith and not saved? Can you be saved and not in the faith?
    – Austin
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 2:11
  • @Dottard, also where does one find scripture that informs us that only God knows if we are saved?
    – Austin
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 2:12
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    @Dottard "Every person should have the absolute assurance of salvation" how can everyone have the absolute assurance of salvation if "only God knows" "if a person is saved?" If it's impossible for me to know if I'm saved how can I have absolute assurance that I am saved?
    – Austin
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 7:40
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This point Paul made was addressed to those who had Christian faith, "the faith of Christ". It is not faith that God exists, because millions of non-Christians have that faith. Even the demons believe that one God exists (James 2:19)! Romans 3:22 speaks of the righteousness of God which is through the faith of Jesus Christ to all who believe. (Some translations say "faith in", not "faith of" but another question would be required to sort that important detail out.)

The testing, the proving of having that faith of Christ cannot be to have turned away from wickedness and seeking to always avoid wickedness. Why not? Because lots of people who are not Christians hate wickedness and always strive to avoid wickedness.

The test is not what Christians do, but what they actually are, "in Christ". That's the key phrase - "Jesus Christ is in you". Otherwise, you are not in the faith. Only once a person is "in Christ" can what they do truly be Christian. But many people who think they are Christians do all sorts of things that Christians should do, supposing that this proves they must be Christians who are "in the faith". Not necessarily. Christians who are in the faith have the indwelling testimony of the Holy Spirit that they now belong to Christ. Consider how Jesus put it.

"If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him, but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."

"If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." John 14:15-21 & 23 (emphasis mine)

We can only know that we are "in the faith" when the Spirit of God and of Christ dwells in us, as the apostle John stated:

"Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit... Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." 1 John 4:13 & 15-16

The test is to examine oneself with regard to Christ being "in us" - or not. Romans chapter 8, first half, fully explains how Christians have that assurance. All who pass the test of 2 Corinthians 13 know exactly what that is, to have the assurance of the indwelling Holy Spirit that they now belong to Christ, that there is no longer any condemnation for them, that they are going to be with Christ in glory, for eternity. There are lots of people who just don't know anything about the quiet assurance the Holy Spirit gives; they don't have any assurance that they will be with Christ in glory; they don't have any assurance that there is no longer any condemnation of them. Yet those self-same people insist that they are Christians. They may have marked themselves as having passed the test, but if they misunderstand what the test requires, they cannot pass it. This is about the inward witness of the Holy Spirit with our spirit, that we now belong to Christ, by faith. All of that is detailed in Romans 8:1-17.

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If we keep His word then we are perfected in the faith.

"4 he who is saying, `I have known him,' and his command is not keeping, a liar he is, and in him the truth is not; 5 and whoever may keep his word, truly in him the love of God hath been perfected; in this we know that in him we are." (1 Joh 2:4-5, YLT)

So, we examine ourselves daily to see if we are keeping His word. And, if so then we are perfected through Jesus Christ in the faith.

"Therefore, we also having so great a cloud of witnesses set around us, every weight having put off, and the closely besetting sin, through endurance may we run the contest that is set before us,

2 looking to the author and perfecter of faith -- Jesus, who, over-against the joy set before him -- did endure a cross, shame having despised, on the right hand also of the throne of God did sit down;" (Heb. 12:1-2, YLT)

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2 Cor 13:5-6 [KJV]

Examine [πειράζω] yourselves, whether ye be in the faith;

prove [δοκιμάζω] your own selves.

Know [ἐπιγινώσκω] ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

This question is about faith that Christ is in you. We know that faith comes by hearing the word of God, then we accept this word and the seed is planted in us. But a seed that merely remains in the soil is a dead seed.

The seed must grow, which is why there is πειράζω/δοκιμάζω, both synonyms whose meaning in this passage is "to endeavor to discover the nature or character of someth. by testing".

Thus the seed must be tested. How do you test if Christ is in you? By relying on God's provision.

1 John 5:13-14 [KJV]

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. 14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us

It is like the missionary in a far off country that doesn't know where his next meal will come from, compared to a rich man who eats from his own wealth. With each meal, the missionary tests and proves his faith, whereas the rich man remains in doubt - not because God has rejected him, but because his faith is never tested. This is why it is hard for the rich man to enter the kingdom.

How does an animal know its master? Because each day he feeds it from his own hand. If the animal were to feed itself through its own efforts, it would not know. In the same way, God commands us to live in dependence on Him so that he can provide for us.

Matthew 6:31-33 [KJV]

31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

By this continual provision we know that we are His. This is the testing of faith that creates the knowledge that Christ is in us. The passage is not talking about inward reflection, but the repeated, lived experience of divine provision.

However the experience of divine provision is not available to all. Paul calls living life based on human effort "living according to the flesh" - it is the analogue of Christ's "live like the gentiles". Those who put their trust in human effort will not obtain God's provision. (Living "after the flesh" is not about sexual desire or bad deeds, but should be read as "living after [the manner] of [all] flesh" - as an ordinary unredeemed human). Paul even puts observance of the law into the category of "living after the flesh", since observance of the law is based on human effort (Gal 3.1-5).

The alternative is to be dependent on God, because God provides for those who depend on Him. This is called "living after the Spirit" - the analogue of Christ's "seek ye first the kingdom of God". It is those who depend on God that belong to God, just as the animal that is fed from a man's hand belongs to that man.

Romans 8:13-17 [KJV]

13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body [e.g. "human efforts"], ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Thus if we live in dependence on God, then our spirit will testify within us that we are His. Faith must be lived in order for the fruits of faith to be experienced - this is the testing that Paul urges us to do.

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In the passage, Paul writes:

Put yourselves to the test to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize regarding yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you – unless, indeed, you fail the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5, Net Bible)

The concept is a simple inference that "no man can save Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:3) Where the Spirit is, Christ is also there. Yet, the Spirit's work is always tied to the external Word of God. “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:2).

It is not a matter of feelings, as feelings come and go. It's a simple heart acknowledgement of trust. While it is good to do some introspective heart felt examination, the focus in Pauline theology is to go back to the objective work that Jesus Christ did on the cross. "For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2)

The concept of "the faith" is an objective faith. The subjective feature is in the copula and in the preposition. One is "in" the objective faith through a personal faith that believes in the objective faith.

The 19th century Lutheran theologian, George Stoechardt, put it this way:

Never in this sense do we hear it presented: I believe; I am conscious of the fact that I believe on my Savior. Therefore I am justified in the sight of God. A believing Christian does not make the pulse of his faith-life the criterion of his state of grace… The believer rather makes this conclusion: O, how godless I still am. Out of my heart godless thoughts continue to arise. There is no doubt but that I am a poor, unworthy sinner. My sin is ever before me. But now God’s Word tells me, that God has already declared godless Sinners righteous. Thus I belong without any doubt whatsoever in the number of those whom God justifies. (St. Römerbrief, p. 185).

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    Excellent quote to describe the paradoxical theology of Lutheran/Protestant sect; boasting in sin, yet ironically claiming to approve himself in faith. Brilliant indeed.
    – Michael16
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 17:44
  • Michael16, its like Paul saying "oh wretched man that I am (i.e. not, I was)." - Romans 7:24
    – Jess
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 18:04
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Jesus said "You know the way"

Leviticus says, "when any sin comes to your mind"

If your walk isn't according to how Jesus walked, forgiving all and living holy, then you will be shown what you need to repent of.

Paul said that sanctification is the same way as salvation. Repentance and asking forgiveness. The same way you got in is how you stay in.

If you are fornicating or masterbating you are not in the faith. Repent. James says that once you have been sanctified you will know how to control your body.

The prayer life is for repentance, every day and for specific sins that have yet to fall off.

The Cross is where you go for repentance.

Have your blessings been cut off? Are you unemployed or sick?

Your leanness is a testimony against you which means you are not in the faith.

Repentance is always the way. The goal is holiness as God said, be holy for I am holy.

Peter was given the keys to the kingdom, how to behave during sanctification when you find the straight gate of afflictions on the narrow way, that few ever find.

Jesus said you must enter at the straight gate and few there be that find it.

There's a lot more to salvation. Salvation is just the starting point. Sanctification and living for God is required.

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