“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves.
Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Cor. 13:5-6 RSV)
An Outer Change
That is what Paul says he wants these Corinthians to ask themselves, “Does Christ live in you? Have you been transferred from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God by faith in Jesus Christ?”
Now this inner change will also produce an outward change, which is not all subjective. We can answer the question, “Is Jesus Christ in you?” by observing our conduct, because the inner change will produce a different attitude toward our behavior. One of the striking things about new Christians is that they invariably begin to manifest a totally different attitude toward things they once thought OK. Some of them had been living in sexual immorality, perhaps, indulging in regular or frequent acts of fornication or involved with sexual perversion of some sort, and had accepted these things, as they are widely accepted today, as being OK. But when they were born again, they suddenly saw these things as injurious and hateful. They no longer wanted to have a part in them. They may have struggled in that, but their desire was now different. In some of the more open and blatant forms of evil, such as attitudes about lying or drunkenness or stealing, you find immediately that your attitude is changed. That is because Christ lives in you, and light can have no part with darkness. Christ cannot have part with Belial. Even your attitude toward your own selfishness changes. You see how selfish you have been. It looks ugly and distasteful in your eyes and you want to be free from it.
It is right here that problems arise in the Christian life. There are many people who truly have been born again who, in the initial years of their Christian experience, did change, but later on, as Christianity became more old hat to them, as it lost its newness and its freshness, they began to drift back into old patterns that are wrong. Under the pressure of their peers or their circumstances, they allowed themselves to get involved again in things that they once had forsaken as Christians. When that happens, it raises the question we have been asking, “Are you really a Christian? Were you born again? Has the change occurred?” Because it is also true that many people who think, for one reason or another, they have become Christians, who feel that because they went through a certain experience or had a certain feeling at a given time, who have never really surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus and seen him as rightful Lord [and Savior] of their lives, they too can get back into things they once left; they too can give way. There is no difference in their behavior from somebody who is genuine Christian but has slid back into this. So the question, “Are you really a Christian?” is raised at that point.
This is what Paul is doing. “Examine yourself,” he says. “Others who are watching you cannot answer that question. They do not know whether something you have been doing is only temporary or if it is real with you. They cannot tell, but you can.”
Here is the issue: The question you have to ask at that point is, “How do you feel about this behavior?” Are you glad to get back to it? Do you see it as something that represented a kind of religious kick you were on, but you are glad to get back where you can be “normal” and live like everybody else, or do you hate yourself [your actions] for doing it? That will tell the story. How do you feel about it? Do you justify it? Do you want to go on with it, or do you inwardly hate yourself [your flesh], and wish you were free from it? Are you sorry you went back to it and long to be freed again by the power of Jesus Christ? That is the question Paul is asking the Corinthians.
I hope every one of us will occasionally ask ourselves the same question. Are we holding to our faith? Our behavior tells the story. If we really believe what we are told to believe, we are going to be different. What you think about yourself tells the story of what you are going to do; that governs how you act. We all know that instinctively.
Have you ever said to yourself or to somebody else, “Who do you think you are anyhow, doing this sort of thing?” That is a revelation that you instinctively know that it is what people think themselves to be that will govern and control their behavior. So this question here is the most important one you can ask yourself:” Are you really Christian? Who do you think you are? Have you been changed? Who are you–really?”
Part 2 of 2
Peninsula Bible Church archives
[Italics and the two main pints added – JBW]
1 Belial : Worthlessness, frequently used in the Old Testament as a proper name. It is first used in Deut. 13:13 In the New Testament it is found only in 2 Cor. 6:15 where it is used as a name of Satan, the personification of all that is evil… The expression “son” or “man of Belial” means simply a worthless, lawless person (Judges – 19:22; 20:13). – Easton Bible Dictionary
Although Grace Notes usually emphasize the believer’s identity in Christ as a key to practical sanctification, here Dr. Stedman rightly draws out the meaning of this passage of Scripture. If, however, as a born again believer you are prone to doubt your salvation, read further the articles:
How to have True Assurance, part 1, part 2, and part 3. Also the book Blessed Reassurance deals with this directly.