2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you…
I. THE DUTY OF SELF-EXAMINATION based upon self-ownership and self-competence.
1. Self-ownership. "Your own selves." Christ paid profound deference to the individual man. "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? "His own soul, which he can never abdicate, nor alienate. No power, no process, can cut off the entail of your own personality; but what an awful moment is that when a man like the prodigal comes to himself, and sees for the first time the being that must be his own for evermore. This is the crisis which we call conversion.
2. Out of this arises self-trusteeship. No executor, ecclesiastical or other, can take that off your own hands. It is said of a duke when he went over to the Roman Church, the Roman Catholics undertook that if his soul was lost they would bear his damnation for him, and he could never find any other sect that would undertake that. "Thou fool! thy soul shall be required of thee. We cannot relieve you of the responsibility.
3. Self-competence. Know ye not your own selves?" Every man's interior nature is a terra incognita to everybody else. "No man knows the spirit of a man," etc. But it does not rest there only. Paul is speaking to people who have heard the gospel, and so Christ says to those who had the Old Testament, "Judge ye not that which is right." Self-searching and Scripture-searching must be carried on contemporaneously. Then you have the Holy Spirit to enlighten you. "They shall be all taught of God." It is this which constitutes your self-competence, running parallel with your self-ownership. God's ministry is not intended to rescue God's people from the labour and exercise of thought upon the subject of their religion. We are to think to set you a-thinking.
II. THE PROCESS OF SELF-EXAMINATION. Examine yourselves; then prove yourselves. The word "prove" in Scripture means both to prove and to approve. "If we would judge ourselves we should not be condemned in the world."
1. This process of self-examination is based upon the selfsame principles on which all examinations arc held. First examine and then prove, as the man of science does, and then draws his generalisation; as the judge, who collects the evidence and then gives his charge to the jury; as the medical man, who finds out the symptoms and examines until he obtains a diagnosis of his case, and then gives the prescription of the treatment; as the examiner, who puts his questions and then decides upon the classification of the examined. We must get all the facts together as clearly as we can, and then determine our classification in the sight of God.
2. A man examines himself when he studies his own past history, when he lays bare the habits of his life, when he asks himself what difficulties and temptations lie across his path, and considers with what aids and weapons he can best meet them, and when he calls up before him the last strong fainting agony, and asks with what strength he is provided for that terrible moment; when he sends out his thought to that interminable duration that goes beyond the grave, and asks how he is provided to meet the exigencies of the eternal world; then, and then only, does he examine himself.
III. TO WHAT THIS SELF-EXAMINATION IS DIRECTED: "Whether ye be in the faith." Faith is the moral element, the spiritual atmosphere in and by which we have our being. When we say a man is in a rage, or in love, or in drink, we mean that rage, love, or drink has got possession of him. And so with a man "in the faith." It means that his views are coloured by, and that all his affections and habits are under the mastery of, faith. Now, a man may entertain strong affection or resentment, and yet not be in a rage or in love; and so a man may have the faith in himself and yet not be in the faith; may have no doubt as to the historical verity which constitutes the faith, and yet not be in it. How sad it is that with all this preaching, and singing, and school-teaching, the faith has so little influence over us. That is what we must examine ourselves about.
2. There are two classes in the present day.
(1) One says the question is whether you be in the right; "For creeds and forms let graceless zealots fight," etc. This is neither the beginning nor the end of the matter at all, unless the beginning be to be right at first. Everybody knows that the moral quality of an action depends upon the motive of that action. More than that; a man's motives grow out of his heart. A good heart cannot produce bad motives. A bad heart cannot produce good motives. Now the moral and spiritual quality of the heart depends upon and is derived from the object upon which a man's heart is set. If a man's highest object in life is self, then selfishness is the ruling motive of his actions. And if a man's heart is set on Christ, he lives a Christly life, and will be thus judged at last. Are you then in the faith?
(2) Nor will it do to say if a man is in the Church he must be all right. No doubt if you are in the faith you will do what Paul did, "essay to join yourselves to the disciples." You will do it by a necessity of your own nature.
IV. WHAT IS THE TEST OF BEING IN THE FAITH?
1. Is Christ in you? That will determine that matter. Is He now —
(1) In your thoughts? Does Christ dominate the whole field of your life as some grand cathedral rises above the spires of a city, or as some mighty mountain range visible from every part of a continent?
(2) In you, the chief of your affections? Have you thrown open the state apartments of your heart to Him, and does He reign there? When Christ enters the heart He does not come incognito. When the doors are lifted up that the King of Glory may come in, the soul knows it.
2. But what is the terrible alternative? "Except ye be reprobate" — rejected and cast away. The idea of judgment is kept up all the way through. This is the subject of examination. Examination arises respecting the last decisive test. If when you come before the bar of God, and the secrets of your hearts are judged according to the gospel, Christ is not in you, you must be a wandering wreck for ever — cast into outer darkness, where is weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
(B. Gregory, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?