Self-Examination Recommended; Supremacy of Divine Truth
2 Corinthians 13:5-10
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…

Proof of his apostleship had been the demand of the disaffected portion of the Corinthians; "but prove your own selves is St. Paul's exhortation. "Examine not me, but yourselves, whether you are truly in the faith; put yourselves to the proof concerning Christ's presence with you which you seek in me" (Conybeare and Howson). No one can help seeing how natural this advice was to the apostle, and how suitable to these noisy and fault-finding Corinthians. On the one hand, St. Paul was a man whom casual observers could easily misunderstand. His temperament, his habit of introversion, his intense self-consciousness, exposed him to constant misconception. Again, he was a born leader of men. Such a leader as he could not escape a severe probation while acquiring the ascendency to which he was predestined. Leaders who adapt themselves unscrupulously to times and circumstances gain a quick mastery. Leaders that shape contingencies to their high purposes and bring men into sympathy with a lofty ideal in their own souls must have creative genius, and exert it under sharp and continual opposition. To this class of leaders the apostle belonged. Furthermore, his position was unique by reason of the fact that his apostleship necessarily placed him between the two great rival forces of the age, Judaism and Gentilism to show what the Law meant as a Divine institution; to show what Gentile civilization and culture meant as a long existing providence; to harmonize as far as might be the truths in each; in brief, to mediate between their claims as widely organized economies, and put them on common ground as it respected Christianity and its supreme authority, and do away with the distinction of Jew and Gentile as to the conditions of salvation; - this was the most difficult task ever committed to a man. Owing to its intrinsic character, it brought him at every turn in contact with prejudices and passions which justified themselves in the one case by the miracles of Jehovah, in the other by the prescripts of government, and in both by the venerable sanction of ages. What wonder, then, that his career as a public man among public men was specialized quite as much by systematic and vindictive misrepresentation as by a success unequalled in the influence exerted over the thought and morals of the world! On the other hand, look at these young Christian communities, situated often wide apart and unable to strengthen each others' hands, planted in the midst of peoples hostile to their creeds and still more to their virtues, and dependent in most instances on the nurture of a single apostle; look at them in a state hardly more than inchoate, and can we be surprised that they were in some cases the subjects of intestine disturbance, nay, of violent commotion? "Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble," were "called;" but the "weak things of the world," "base things, and things despised," were "chosen," for the most part, as the original materials of that edifice which was to show in its proportions, its symmetry, its permanence, the workmanship of the Hand unseen. The "called" and the "chosen" were eventually to vindicate the wisdom of the call and the choice. Let us not overlook, however, the disadvantages inseparable at the time from the crude elements that constituted the early Churches. Without dwelling on these at length, suffice it to say that they were imperilled by a corrupt Judaism on the one side, and a most corrupt paganism on the other, the agencies and influences of which sought them as a prey to their lust of avarice and ambition. Now, the Church at Corinth was notably in this state of exposure. Gallic, the Proconsul of Achaia, had protected St. Paul against the fury of the Jews, and the Greeks had used the occasion to wreak their vengeance on the Jews. Retaliation was the order of the times. Baffled by a Roman official, insulted and beaten by a mob of Greeks, the Jews were not likely to forget the apostle, and we can imagine with what zest they would enjoy the zeal of the Judaizing emissaries, and how they would diligently foment the efforts made for his disgrace in Corinth. To what extent this was carried by the Jews as a body we can only conjecture. Certain it is, however, that for several years Corinth was the seat of a most active and uncompromising warfare on St. Paul. Once more, and finally, he comes before us in the passage under notice in an attitude unmistakably stern and authoritative. Is Christ in you, be asks the Corinthians, or are ye reprobates? Prove yourselves, apply the test, find out whether or not you are in Jesus Christ and share his spirit, and if you cannot stand the test, know then that you are reprobates. He expresses the hope that they will not find him a reprobate (unapproved or spurious) if they put him to the test of exercising his authority. Yet he trusts that the test of his power will be avoided, and prays that they may "do no evil." If they should act as he prayed they might, then there would be no necessity for him to demonstrate his authority, and, in that happy event, he would appear "unapproved," i.e. not tested as to the display of his power. Welcome such unapproval! It would be in exact conformity to the spirit and end of his apostolic administration, which was in accordance with the truth of the gospel and designed to show forth that truth. What is the test of a great and wise ruler? The test is the uselessness of a punishing power (except in extreme cases and as an ultimate resort), because his subjects govern themselves. Such was the apostle's argument. Nothing against the truth, all for the truth, Christ the Truth; this was the beautiful summation in which he rested. If this should apparently exhibit his weakness, what a glorious weakness it would be! Apostolic judgment made needless by self-government; what could be a grander testimony to the truth and excellence of his work among them? Then, verily, they would be strong. "Perfection" in the order and unity of the Church, "perfection" of individual character, was the object of his prayer, and hence this Epistle. Whoever teaches Christianity as God's truth cannot fail to teach much else besides. These verses are maxims of infinite wisdom. What man in authority, what statesman in the affairs of a nation, what father at the head of a family, what office holder in the Church, if he would bear his faculties so meekly and be thus "clear in his great office," would not be a providence of instruction and helpfulness in the world] Decay of reverence for law begins in decay of reverence for men who administer the law. Unhappily enough, this decline in reverence for law is one of the growing perils of the age. It is peculiar to no form of government. It is spreading everywhere as an atmospheric evil, and threatening like an epidemic to travel roared the globe. Power to build up, not to destroy; this is St. Paul's idea of power divinely bestowed. And accordingly we see what a blessed discipline it was to him personally and officially; and having accomplished this result in his own soul, it is not remarkable that it achieved its ends in this distracted and corrupted Church at Corinth. - L.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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?

WEB: Test your own selves, whether you are in the faith. Test your own selves. Or don't you know as to your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.

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