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? — 2 Corinthians 13:5
Some years back, I worked at a bank. One part of the employee training of those who would be in a cash-handling position involved how to detect a counterfeit bill. We would give employees instructions on the features of a genuine bill and show them the various security items to look for on the bill. However, identification of a counterfeit bill really came down to familiarity with a real bill.
The paper of United States currency is very distinctive: it has tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout. In addition, the currency is plated so the ink on the bill is actually slightly raised. Thus, a genuine bill has a distinctive feeling in your fingers as you hold it, and it is possible to become very familiar with that feel. In fact, in every case that I can recall, when a counterfeit bill was detected it was through the feel of the bill. When you are well acquainted with the genuine, a counterfeit is not hard to spot.
In today’s text, Paul indicated his intention to return to the Corinthian church in person and administer justice. He warned the people there that he would “not spare” those who refused to repent. In our focus verse, Paul encouraged the recipients of his letter to examine themselves, to “prove” whether they were really Christians. Paul’s detractors were prepared to examine him by challenging his right relationship to Christ, so Paul instructed the Corinthians to subject themselves to the same scrutiny. Did their lives align to the standards of genuine Christianity? Just as a counterfeit bill can be identified by a comparison with a genuine bill, counterfeit Christianity is revealed when it is compared to the genuine.
Paul’s advice is timeless — appropriate for every era through history. Today, too, we must carefully measure our Christian lives by the standards of genuine Christianity spelled out in God’s Word. It is not enough to be Christians in name only. Our daily lives must prove that our testimony is real!
In the final chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul informed the members of the Corinthian church that he would be coming for a third face-to-face meeting, and declared that he would administer discipline if he found evidence of disobedience and sin in their midst. As indicated in verse 3, Paul’s spiritual authority had been questioned by some of the Corinthian congregation. These people had even been bold enough to ask Paul for proof that his messages were inspired by Jesus. The fact alone that they had come to know Christ through Paul’s ministry should have confirmed that Paul was led by God.
In verses 5 and 6, Paul exhorted the saints at Corinth to examine themselves, telling these early believers to look within their own hearts to see if they were truly in the faith. This required some individual soul searching. Regardless of each one’s personal status, Paul was hopeful that they would recognize that he and his associates in the ministry were genuine.
In verses 6-9, Paul once again demonstrated his humble spirit. His love for the Corinthians outweighed his desire for personal vindication. He hoped and prayed that they would do nothing evil or dishonest, nor side with the impenitent sinners in their midst. Paul wanted these people to walk in the truth, even if it meant he had to appear in the wrong. His desire was that this church would become unified and perfect. With that goal in view, he would have been glad to forego the legitimate use of his disciplinary authority, if their moral and spiritual state did not require it.
Paul again reminded the Corinthians (verse 10) that even though he was absent, he was exercising his right as the church leader. He wanted to build up the Corinthian church, not destroy it, and if this could be done in his absence, so much the better.
The last four verses contain Paul’s conclusion to this epistle. He encouraged the Corinthians to be peaceable, to love each other, and to live close to God. Paul exhorted them to obtain grace from Jesus the Son, love from God the Father, and communion of the Holy Ghost. The concluding verse incorporated the third person of the Trinity and also let the Corinthians know that Paul wanted God’s blessing to be upon their lives.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV. The authority of the Apostle
D. The challenge of the Apostle
1. To repentance
b. The statement of his authority (13:1-4)
2. To self-examination (13:5-10)
V. Conclusion (13:11-14)
A. Exhortations (13:11-12)
B. Greetings (13:13)
C. Benediction (13:14)
When we examine ourselves spiritually, can we say with assurance that we are genuinely “in the faith”? The answer to that question is of eternal importance!