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…
The question, "Know ye not," etc., is exceedingly impressive as addressed to the Corinthians. They prided themselves in the Greek philosophy, whose wisest precept was, "Know thyself." Put to them, therefore, the question expressed —
1. Astonishment, in view of their real self-ignorance.
2. Irony, in view of their pretended self-knowledge. We do not know our own selves.
I. PHYSICALLY. If men thoroughly understood the body and perfectly obeyed the laws of physical life, probably most would attain to the full threescore years and ten. How strange, nay, how sinful, is this ignorance! True, we excuse it by our reliance on medical science. And the excuse would be good if we employed physicians to keep us in health, rather than to aid us in sickness.
II. INTELLECTUALLY. Many men practically ignore their intellectual faculties. Their only self-culture consists in taking care of the body. Some men never think at all. And even among those who recognise their intellectual nature, how strangely is it treated! Every man has his special intellectual gift, which often he does not discover till too late to develop and employ to profit.
1. Self-knowledge here promotes comfort. Of the passions and emotions which belong to our moral nature, some are painful and some pleasurable, and our happiness depends upon quickening the play of the latter and diminishing the power of the former. The soul of man is a dwelling of many apartments. In it love may be supposed to have a fair banqueting hall — anger a dark cell; faith and hope to have glorified chambers looking heavenward, and the lower passions dungeons of gloom. And possessed of such a house, how foolish to practically ignore those loftier and lovelier pavilions of gladness — deliberately choosing to abide in the dungeons of envy, anger, impurity, rather than to sit at love's great banquet, or to recline in the pavilion where benevolence makes sweet music, or to ascend to the bright chamber of faith and hope, and look forth upon heaven from their open casements.
2. Our character depends upon it. It is marvellous how little most men know morally of themselves! And this, not because they cannot, but because they will not. They do not look carefully after those favourite or easily-besetting sins which colour, yea, constitute character. Reading himself wrongly, a man manages himself wrongly. Every man, possessed of a moral nature, whose development must be into immense growths either of good or evil, should understand it thoroughly, that the flowers and fruits of its culture may be good and glorious.
1. There are persons who think themselves Christian, but are not. Such self-deception is altogether unnecessary. Surely if there be anything made plain in the Bible, it is the evidence of true Christian character. A true Christian —
(1) Loves God. Believes in Christ — not merely with a speculative faith but with a loving trust as his Saviour.
(3) Sincerely repents of sin.
(4) Loves the duties of religion.
(5) Loves his brethren. And he knows that he hath passed from death unto life because he does so. Now these are the obvious evidences of regeneration. How strange, then, is it that men should be self-deceived!
2. There are some not thinking themselves Christians, who are yet real children of God. Sometimes this self-distrust arises from —
(1) A temperament constitutionally gloomy. The man who looks habitually on the dark side of everything, of course looks on the dark side of his religious character.
(2) Bodily infirmity. What the man wants to make him a hopeful and joyous Christian is bodily regimen and exercise, and not theological casuistry.
(3) An over-estimate of the particular manner or circumstances of conversion. They can indeed perceive a radical change in their own feelings and conduct; but the manner and manifestation of the change does not satisfy their conscience. As if it mattered how a blind man's eyes were opened! or with what instrumentality the drowning man was saved!
(4) Assuming false tests and standards of Christian character. They entertain extravagant notions of the effects even of regeneration. They have read the biographies of distinguished Christians, wherein it seems as if life were uninterrupted in its wrapt communion with God, but wherein there is no mention of faults and failings. And thus the humble man, finding his own experience so different, turns away in despair. Conclusion: The text appeals —
1. To the self-deceived. To be in the Church without piety is of all conditions the most dreadful. Not because false professors are more sinful than other men — though even this may be true, but because there is less hope of their conviction and conversion. Let us, then, be willing to know the very worst of our character and condition!
2. To the self-distrustful. Your trust for salvation is not in what you are, but what Christ is. If, with a penitent, and believing, and loving heart, you cast yourselves upon the Redeemer, then you know you are Christians! For He says you shall "in no wise be cast out," and "shall never perish! " And thus, "knowing your own selves," your place should be in Christ's visible Church.
3. To the openly impenitent. In one sense, indeed, these men do "know their own selves." They know that they are unconverted. They stand boldly in the ranks of rebellion against Jehovah. But "Know ye not your own selves?" that you are not beasts that perish, but immortal creatures! Two eternal worlds watch you and strive for you. Come to Christ Jesus for life.
4. To the Church. The text intimates that between the professing people of God and the world there is so little visible difference, that it is difficult to distinguish them. Surely, then, it is time for us to rise into higher frames and spheres of religious life!
(C. Wadsworth, 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?