October 18, 2020 The Test

The Test

Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 13:1-7.

 

 

The apostle is coming to the church at Corinth a third time. He is coming to put some of the believers on trial! This is why he cites Deut. 19:15. Every accusation must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. The purpose of this passage in the OT is in publicly dealing with sin in the congregation. And, so Paul uses it here. Unrepentant sin must not be allowed in the church. It is like yeast that will contaminate the rest of the local church if allowed to remain.

 

At the end of chapter 12 we saw that there was fornication still being practiced by some (vs. 21). The man sleeping with his step-mother repented. But there were some who had not taken the warning. The Lord often gives warnings before He administers discipline. If we will take the warnings and repent, then we can avoid the hand of the Lord. These warnings can come from brothers or sisters, in dreams, or in circumstances that we observe. The sinning Corinthians had seen what had happened to the man guilty of incest. Some saw this and forsook sin in their own lives. Others persisted.

 

Paul named jealousy, slander, and gossip as sins to be addressed too. We considered those sins last week.

 

Since the sinners had been warned three times. They were warned by Paul on his second visit. They were warned by the punishment of the fornicator. And, now Paul has just warned them again. Since they have ignored the three warnings, Paul will not spare them when he comes.

 

If you receive a warning from the Lord, heed it! Don’t wait for a second warning. There may not be one. Do you know the most terrible situation to be in if you are in the community of faith? It is to be in sin and nothing happens. That is, you neither receive a warning nor any discipline. That is terrifying! I’ll tell you why. It means that you don’t belong to him! If you are not being disciplined then you are not his child.

 

Consider your sins. If you are in ongoing sin, fall on your knees. Confess them to the Lord and repent! Repentance is necessary to receive forgiveness (Proverbs 18:13; I Kings 8:47-50; Luke 13: 2-5; Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21).nm

 

since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.[1]

 

Because some had been listening to the Judaizers who had come there criticizing Paul, they sought proof that Christ was speaking through Paul. These were the disloyal ones. Paul is saying that, if there has not been repentance, they will see the power of Christ in him when he comes!

 

What will he do? There will be a trial. If the sinners are found guilty then they will be excommunicated. They will be cast out of the church as was the brother from the first letter. To be cast out of the church is not a small matter. It is a matter of spiritual life and death. Those who are in the church are receiving life. Those who are outside the church will receive death. This is why it blows my mind that some so-called Christians voluntarily remove themselves from the church. If you see the church as optional this means that you either completely misunderstand the Scriptures and the importance of the church or else it means that you do not belong to Christ. There is no such thing as a faithful Christian who does not regularly attend a local church. You are either unfaithful or unsaved. Make no mistake. There are many who think they are saved and are not! Many!! Don’t be among that number!

 

Indeed, this is Paul’s next subject in verse 5. First, verse 4:

 

For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God. [2]

 

Christ was weak in his body at the time of his crucifixion, not his spirit. He was raised and lives by the power of God. Paul is saying that, if he comes, though he is weak, he will also display the power of God! It will become known that God’s power rests upon him.

 

God will vindicate Paul. God vindicates – that is, upholds and proves in the face of opposition – his own servants. The Lord’s servants may come under criticism for a time. But, in God’s timing, they will be vindicated. When you are criticized, consider whether there is any merit to it. If not, just keep serving the Lord. The Lord will vindicate you in due time. For Paul, this would happen when he visits.

 

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! [3]

 

Paul is commanding the Corinthians to test themselves. Christians ought to test themselves and not simply assume that they are right with God. Assuming things is an unwise and dangerous practice in mundane matters. How much more when eternity is at stake!

 

What is the test? Paul does not explicitly reveal what the test is. In order to know what the test is we will need to consider the context of what he has written and, because he does not identify the test, we will need to consider what the apostle has written previously.

 

He writes, “…see whether you are in the faith.” The word faith is key here. When the definite article (the word “the”) precedes “faith” it refers to the objective faith, that is, those things believed and held. What are those things? First and foremost is that Jesus is Lord.

 

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.[4]

 

The main truth that proclaimed and the foremost thing that we must believe is that Jesus is Lord. It is not an empty title. To possess faith that Jesus is Lord means that he is Lord of me! He is not just the Lord in a general sense. To believe that he is Lord means that we submit to him as Lord. He must become the Lord of our life whereas before we were our own lords.

 

We need to see, then, that the objective faith that Paul speaks of in verse 5 is irrevocably tied to subjective faith, that is, our own faith. They go together. For the Corinthians to examine whether they are in the faith, they must pass the test of whether they have personal faith.

 

What is personal faith? If we consider what both our Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul said about faith we will come away with an understanding of true faith that is quite different from that held by most people today.

 

Faith is knowledge held with certainty whereby we recognize all that God has revealed to be true, with a heart-felt trust in Christ and his work.[5]

 

The Corinthians must recognize and know what God has revealed through Paul, especially that Jesus is Lord. And they must trust in Him as Lord and Savior. Paul may be alluding to those who have been practicing sin (12:20-21). If one continues in sin, then Jesus is not their Lord.

 

This is true. But there also exists the possibility of over-applying this aspect of Christ’s lordship to ourselves. A person may begin to doubt their salvation because of frequent failure in obeying the Lord. Here, what Paul wrote in chapter 12 is essential.

 

His great concern was that there were some who did not repent of their sins. It is not how often we sin that is determinative of whether we are in the faith. It is how we respond to our own sin. Do your sins burden you? If they do this reveals a sensitive conscience and a desire to obey the Lord. This desire is divine evidence of the indwelling Christ. If you are seeking to live for Christ and you confess those sins you are aware of then this is a strong sign that you possess true faith.

 

Are your sins insignificant to you? If so, this is a perilous sign. Those who love God have a yearning to please Him. If your own sin is a small matter to you, you must be concerned about this. You must examine yourself!

 

I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. 7 But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed.[6]

 

Paul and Timothy did not fail the test. And, he hopes that all at Corinth would realize that. But, whether they think Paul and Timothy are approved or not, they still must do the right thing. The right thing is dealing with sin! They must deal with sin whether they think Paul and Timothy are genuine or not.

 

Do you see how important the apostle thinks sin is in the life of those who claim Christ? It is so important that even the perception of his own ministry is secondary.

 

Since it is so important, let us examine ourselves. Give yourself the test!

 

This is the test. It has two parts. Are you holding to the objective faith? That is, are you believing the gospel unwaveringly? Paul affirmed this in his first letter:

 

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. [7]

 

If we cease to believe the gospel then we have believed in vain and we have failed the test.

 

Is our faith living? That is, have we submitted to Jesus as Lord and is he, indeed, the Lord of our life? This means that we listen to him (we know what he asks of us) and we obey him.

 

If you can answer these two questions affirmatively then we have passed the test.

 

This matter of obeying the Lord is crucial. The problem that we face when we assess our own obedience has two sides. One side is thinking that, because we sin, we are not obedient and, therefore, have not passed the test. We have just seen that it is not our sins that cause us to fail the examination. It is how we deal with them. If we confess and turn from them then we are living as all people of God have lived as they wrestle with sin.

 

The other side of the problem is having our understanding of sin being too shallow. That is, many people only think of the shameful sins as sins. The true child of God flees all sin and seeks to bear fruit for the Lord. This side of the problem is magnified because there are so many false conversions in our day, partly due to a false, fact-only gospel having been promoted among evangelicals for decades.

 

What I am saying is this: a true child of God bears fruit. Paul wrote about this in his other epistles. In his beautiful prayer on behalf of the Colossians he prayed this for them:

 

so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;[8]

 

Bearing fruit characterizes the true disciple. He likewise prayed for the Philippians:

 

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. [9]

 

They were not pure and blameless yet. But his prayer is that they would be by the time Christ returns. And, his people will be! Why? Because they are “filled with the fruit of righteousness.”

 

Let me close by briefly mentioning two fruits of righteousness that are evident in the true child of God. One is love. Paul mentions it in his prayer for the Philippians. In the letter we are considering, 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks of the necessity of love in chapters 5, 6, and 8. The apostle John, in his first letter, says plainly and clearly that if we do not love the brothers and sisters then we have not been born of God.

 

The apostle John also writes that the evidence of true faith is continuing to meet with the church. He says that those who leave the church never had genuine faith (“not of us;” I John 2:19). If Paul wrote Hebrews he listed meeting with the church as a matter of obedience (Hebrews 10:25).

 

The test is two-fold. We believe the gospel. That is, we have faith. Remember that faith is knowledge held with certainty whereby we recognize all that God has revealed to be true, with a heart-felt trust in Christ and his work.

 

And, we have Christ as Lord in a living, practical way. This means we flee sin and bear fruit. Although there are more facets of bearing fruit than these two, two indicators of Jesus being our Lord in a living way are loving the brothers and sisters, and meeting with the local church regularly.

 

Take the test! If you wait until you die to take the test, it will be too late.

 

 


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 13:3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 13:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 13:5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 4:5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] To see how their words reveal this definition: http://nsbcwinfield.com/september_22_2019_what_is_faith

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 13:6–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 15:1–2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 1:10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Php 1:9–11). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.