Soteriology 37, 2 Corinthians 13:5
October 30, 2016
I’m going to go ahead and open in prayer because the clock up there says quarter till. So let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for this morning, grateful for another day, and You never promise us another day but we have it today and we’re grateful for those in Your grace. I pray that You’ll be with us during the Sunday School hour as we take a look again at the doctrine of eternal security, and in particular one of the most abused passages probably in the whole Bible. And be with us in the main service, Father, as we start the book of Daniel and help the Word of God speak to us today, first help us to understand what it means and then we ask that You would apply it to our hearts. We ask these things in Jesus name. Amen.
Good morning everybody. If you could open your Bibles to 2 Corinthians chapter 13 and verse 5, so just find Romans and then go two books to the right and you should hit 2 Corinthians. And we’re in the middle of an ongoing series of studies on the doctrine of eternal security. We’re in that section of the study where we’re not just going over verses that favor eternal security; I’m trying to expose you to verses that people typically use to deny eternal security. And basically what I’m trying to do is to show you that the whole Bible does not contradict itself on this topic or any other topic. So all of the verses that seemingly deny eternal security can be explained when you put the verses back in their context.
Here’s the Pauline verses that we’ve gone over and now we come to one that is quoted… in fact, what surprises me is not when people quote this and explain it; it’s when people quote it and explain it correctly, that’s the shock because people grab this verse outside of its context all the time and they try to make it sound like it says something that it’s not saying. And that verse says this: “Test yourself to see if you are in the faith, examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?” The best way to do this is just give you some quotes on how people wrongly use this verse.
First of all, people that are Arminian, that believe you can lose your salvation believe this verse means test to see if you’re a Christian because, you know, you could have had salvation one day and lost it the next day. And the Calvinist camp, Reformed camp, loves this verse because to them it means if you’re really a Christian you’re going to persevere in works so to determine if you’re really one of those persevering Christians, because if you’re not a persevering Christian you’re not a Christian (in their minds) so the test is to determine if you’re really saved to begin with.
So both camps, Arminianism and Calvinism are applying this to justification, the first tense of your salvation. And quite frankly when you look at it, it reads that way, “Test yourself to see if you are in the faith—examine yourselves.” So here’s some examples of people I think wrongly using the verse. It really starts at the highest levels of Christian academia.
James Oliver Buswell, a long time professor I think at Wheaton College if I remember right, puts it this way. “But my point is that so long as a professing Christian is in the state of carnality, no pastor, no Christian friend, has the slightest ground for holding that this carnal person has ever been regenerated…it is a pastor’s duty to counsel such a person. You do not give evidence of being in a regenerate state. You must remember Paul’s warning, ‘Examine yourselves whether you are in the faith; prove yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? You are not reprobate, are you?’” (2 Corinthians 13:5).” [A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, 2 vols., vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962), 147.] So he’s using this as a test to figure out if you’re a Christian.
John MacArthur quotes this verse constantly in his speaking and in his writing. John MacArthur, of course, who has good things to say in different areas, comes from a very strong Calvinistic Reformed teaching which is basically this idea that if you’re really one the elect you’re going to persevere in works. If you’re not persevering in works you’re not one of the elect. So people that get heavily into John MacArthur’s teaching suffer from a lack of assurance of salvation. I think most of them don’t even know from week to week whether they’re Christians.
So John MacArthur, in his book called The Gospel According to Jesus says, “Doubts about one’s salvation are not wrong…Scripture encourages self-examination…” Then notice what he’s quoting here, 2 Corinthians 13:5 which I’ve already read. That admonition is largely ignored—and often explained away—in the contemporary church.” [The Gospel According to Jesus: What Does Jesus Mean When He Says, “Follow Me”? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 190.]
This is a quote on 2 Corinthians 13:5 from the New Geneva Study Bible, which is heavily Reformed. R. C. Sproul was very much involved in the putting together of this study Bible. And The New Geneva Study Bible says, “Paul’s words” now he’s commenting on 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Paul’s words help clarify the doctrine of assurance of faith. Paul asks the Corinthians to examine their own lives for evidence of salvation. Such evidence would include trust in Christ [Heb. 3:6], obedience to God [Matt. 7:21],” by the way, has anybody ever fulfilled that perfectly in your Christian life? Have you 100% obeyed God? I mean, that’s just such a subjective test, I don’t even know what that means. And how much disobedience can there be before I’m disqualified from being a Christian. “… growth in holiness, the fruit of the Spirit, love for other Christians, positive influence on others, adhering to the apostolic teaching,” and notice the subjective nature, “and the testimony of the Holy Spirit within them.” So unless these things are happening in your life you’re not saved is basically what The Geneva Study Bible says. [Luder Whitlock and Bruce Waltke R.C. Sproul, Moises Silva, et al, eds., The New Geneva Study Bible: Bringing the Light of the Reformation to Scripture (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 1844.]
And then it even hits… this mindset hits some really good teachers; one of my favorite teaches is Warren Wiersbe but this quote just kind of shows you you can’t just believe someone because a person has a brand name. You should screen everything according to the truth of God’s Word, including the things that I say.
So Warren Wiersbe in his book, in his commentary, commenting on 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Paul told the Corinthians that they should examine their hearts to see if they were really born again and members of the family of God. Do you have the witness of the Holy Spirit in your heart? [Rom. 8:9, 16) Do you love the brethren? (1Jn 3:14)” I guess he’s never been cut off in the church parking lot. I’m not against, obviously I’m not against loving the brethren but what I’m saying is we all fail at this test from time to time if we’re honest. “Do you practice righteousness? [1John 2:29; 3:9] Have you overcome the world so that you are living a life of godly separation? [1John 5:4] These are just a few of the tests we can apply to our own lives to be certain that we are the children of God. In one of the churches I pastored, we had a teenager who was at the center of every problem in the youth group…” So obviously that teenager was unsaved, right?
“One summer when he went off to our church youth camp… At one of the meetings, he got up and announced that he had been saved that week! His Christian profession up to that time had been counterfeit. He experienced a dramatic change in his life, and today he is serving the Lord faithfully. No doubt many of the problems in the church at Corinth were caused by people who professed to be saved, but who had never repented and trusted Jesus Christ. Our churches are filled with such people today. Paul called such people reprobate, which means ‘counterfeit, or discredited after a test.’” [The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (Colorado Springs, CO: David Cook, 2007), 542.]
So in this way of thinking there’s only two types of people, saved and unsaved. They don’t have in their thinking something that we explained in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 where Paul divides the saved world into three camps: spiritual, carnal, and infant. And then there’s unsaved people. So if someone is behaving like the devil maybe it means they’re unsaved, that’s a possibility, but it could also mean that they need to grow in Christ, because they’re in a state of carnality. And the Reformed camp doesn’t allow that second option; it’s just saved or unsaved. And they have what is called the doctrine of the two faiths; there’s the faith that saves and the faith that doesn’t save. Now if you believe that you’re going to spend your whole life wondering if you’ve got the right faith because William Hendriksen, a very strong Calvinist says “Not all faith is saving faith.” So there has to be fruit or contrition or they name all these categories you have to have to have the real kind of faith.
So what is happening with all of these interpreters is they’re applying the test, 2 Corinthians 13:5, test yourself to see if you’re in the faith, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith;” they’re applying it to the first tense of salvation. You all recall the three tenses of salvation; justification, the past tense of salvation, progressive sanctification, the present tense of salvation, and glorification, the future tense of salvation. So we get saved in a nanosecond by trusting in Christ as Savior; that’s what saves us from sin’s penalty. And then what hopefully is happening to us, although this isn’t guaranteed for every child of God, we’re growing in the present tense of our salvation where we’re gradually being delivered from sin’s power as we learn of our divine resources and avail ourselves to them moment by moment by moment. And then in glorification I will be out of this body completely, I won’t have any temptation to return to the sin nature, and so I’ll be delivered from sin’s presence.
So what is happening with all of these quotes I just read is they’re all applying the verse to the first tense of our salvation. Are you really a Christian or are you not a Christian? And I am convinced the more I’ve studied this that that’s not what Paul is saying at all; it looks that way if you cherry pick it and remove it from its context but when you look at the whole context it becomes very clear that Paul is not saying examine yourselves to figure out if you’ve been justified; he’s saying examine yourself to see if you’re growing in Christ the way you should. So he’s not applying this at all to the first tense of salvation; he’s applying this to the second tense of salvation.
And I have nine reasons why I think that’s true, which I’m going to try to walk you through this morning. If you want to do more reading on it I wrote a chapter in a book called 21 Tough Questions About Grace, edited by a guy named Grant Hawley, you can find that book easy online and I think we have a copy of it in our bookstore, if I’m not mistaken. So I’m going to go through these nine points pretty quick, if you wanted to drill down and get deeper into it I’d recommend the chapter I wrote in addition to the other chapters in the book which deal with other related topics.
So here we go: why am I convinced that this verse has nothing to do with the first tense of salvation but rather it’s a test to determine if we’re making progress in the second tense of our salvation? Number 1 is the Corinthians assumed believing status. All the way through the book of 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians Paul assumes that these people are saved, they’re regenerated, their salvation is authentic, their salvation is not in doubt. Now if that’s true why would Paul at the end of the book say you know what, I’m having second thoughts here, I don’t think some of you guys are saved, so you’d better test yourself. That interpretation doesn’t fit with the totality of everything Paul has said in the initial parts of the Corinthians letters. So when you study 1 Corinthians 1 and verse 2 Paul says “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those” what? “who have been sanctified,” now there it’s talking about positional separation so these are obviously people that have been regenerated, what does he call them here, “saints, together with those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” look at this, “both their Lord and ours.” So right at the beginning of the book he’s acknowledge that Jesus is their Lord just like Jesus is the Lord of myself and the rest of the apostles.
And really a good Bible study method is when Paul is revealing things at the beginning of a book you really pay attention to that because that sets the tone for the rest of the book and Paul is not necessarily going to repeat himself. He does the same thing in 2 Corinthians 1:1, at the beginning of 2 Corinthians when he says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all his holy people throughout Achaia:.” There’s no hint here that maybe some of you guys aren’t saved. They’ve all been justified; he never second guesses whether these people are justified. And I wish I had time to go through every verse but if you were to read the rest of the verses I have on the screen, 1 Corinthians 3:1, and 5; 6:11, 19-20, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, 24, 3:2-3, 6:14-16, 8:9, 10:15 and you just were stranded on a desert island and you didn’t know anything about the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints then you would never think that Paul is addressing anybody but believers whose salvation is authentic and not questioned.
So if that is true why would Paul switch horses in midstream; in fact, he wouldn’t even be switching horses in midstream, he’d be switching horses at the end of the stream. And after saying all of that why would he say oh, you know what, you know some of you guys might not be Christians, so you’d better test yourself to figure out if you’re a Christian.
The late Zane Hodges writes this: “Regrettably…these forceful words” he’s speaking of 2 Corinthians 13:5, “have been sadly misconstrued. They have been read by some interpreters as though they were a challenge to the Corinthians to find out whether they were really saved or not! This is unthinkable. After twelve chapters in which Paul takes their Christianity for granted, can he only now be asking them to make sure they are born again?…Let the readers of this book examine 2 Corinthians on their own.” Which I would encourage you to do. “They will see clearly how often the apostle affirms in one way or another his conviction that his readers are genuinely Christian.” [Absolutely Free! A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989), 200]
So that really is my first reason is it’s the Corinthians assumed status as regenerated people. So when Paul says test yourself he’s not saying test yourself to see if you’re a Christian, he’s saying test yourself to see if you’re growing as a Christian, is his point.
The second of the nine reasons is this whole phrase “proving yourself.” The concept of “proving yourself” can easily apply to the Christian whose salvation is authentic and not in doubt. So let’s go back to 2 Corinthians 13:5, [“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?”] you see that word “examine yourselves”? That’s the word dokimazō which is translated as test in the ESV, examine in the NASB, and prove yourself the way the KGB translates it. Now that word, dokimazō is a verb and a verb comes from a root so you can take the root of a word and use it as a verb, you can sometimes use it as a noun, you can sometimes use it as an adjective.. the same root, test yourself. And what you discover is Paul applied that same root in adjectival form to Timothy.
Now is there any doubt Timothy is saved? I doubt there’s any doubt that Timothy is saved in Paul’s mind because why would Paul install Timothy as pastor of the church at Ephesus if maybe this guy is saved and maybe he’s not? Paul calls Timothy in the Timothy letters “my son in the faith.” So there isn’t any doubt that Timothy is going to heaven. But what does Paul say; he takes the word, the adjective form of the word and he says this: “Be diligent to present yourselves” what’s the next word? “approved to God,” that’s our root, “as a workman that does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of Truth.” So the approval is not whether Timothy is a Christian or not a Christian; the approval is are you, as a pastor-teacher accurately handling God’s Word?
So God puts all of us through certain approvals or test; many times a test has nothing to do with whether our name is in the book of life; it has to do with roles that He wants us to operate in, husband, wife, father, in Timothy’s case a handler of God’s Word, and are we measuring up under God’s power to God’s standard? So it has nothing to do with, you know, maybe Timothy’s a Christian, maybe he’s not. So proving one’s self applies to the believer whose salvation is not in doubt. That’s my second reason why I think Paul is using the test with the middle tense of salvation.
Now what about number three, what about this expression “disqualification?” Actually the concept of disqualification can apply to the Christian whose salvation is not in doubt. We look at the word disqualification and we think automatically it means disqualified from going to heaven. But I don’t think that’s what that word always means. Notice at the end of the verse, 2 Corinthians 13:5, that “Jesus Christ is in you unless … you fail the test.” It’s an adjective there adokimōs in chapter 13, verse 5; it’s translated “fail to meet the test” in the ESV; “disqualified” in the KJV and what I want you to see is failing the test can easily apply to a Christian whose salvation is authentic and not in doubt. Why do I say that? Because Paul takes that same word and applies it to who? Himself! Is there any doubt Paul is saved? Does anybody here have any doubts that Paul was saved. I hope not; we know Paul was saved.
Paul wrote 13 letters of the New Testament. Paul’s the guy that says, “I know in whom I have believed.” And what does Paul do here in 1 Corinthians 9:27? He takes adokimōs, same word translated fail or disqualification and he applies it to himself as a possibility. So he says in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “But I discipline my body and I make it my slave so that after I have preached to others I myself will not be” what? “disqualified.” So that’s the same Greek word translated “disqualified” or fail in 2 Corinthians 13:5. Paul is, in the exact same corpus of material because remember Paul didn’t just write 2 Corinthians, he wrote 1 Corinthians and one of the ways to solve these issues is to figure out the way that Paul uses the identical word elsewhere in the books that he’s writing to the same audience. And you’ll notice what Paul is doing here; he’s applying it to himself. He says I too could be potentially disqualified.
Now when Paul talks about himself being potentially disqualified he’s not talking about disqualification from heaven; he’s talking about a disqualification from a what? A reward. That’s why he says, “I discipline my body and make it my slave lest I have preached to others I might be disqualified for” some translate it “the prize.” He can’t be talking about justification here because how do we receive justification? By faith alone as a free gift. Here he’s talking about receiving something from the Lord as a result of disciplining his body under God’s power. So if you think this is a justification verse you just taught works salvation. He’s not talking about initial justification at all; what he’s dealing with is becoming qualified or disqualified from a prize or a reward. And I like the way Joseph Dillow, in his book, Final Destiny, and I don’t endorse every nook and cranny of Joseph Dillow’s book Final Destiny but I think he makes a very good point here. He says, “if adokimos or disqualified here” in 2 Corinthians 13:5 “means that ‘…the apostle Paul was not certain that he would go to heaven…one wonders…how any Christian in the history of the church could ever know for certain that God was his Father!”
I mean, if Paul didn’t know he was going to heaven what hope do I have? What hope do you have? And he’s trying to get us to see the logical fallacy of applying that phrase to the first tense of salvation.
We know from the rest of the Scripture, Revelation 4:10, Revelation 3:11, 2 John 8, that at the future Judgment Seat of rewards there are going to be crowns given or not given. Paul here is talking about the first crown; it’s an incorruptible crown for the one who gains mastery over the flesh, not by your own power but by dialing into God’s resources. [Revelation 4:10, “the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Revelation 3:11, “’I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.”]
And the Christian that is not sinless but sins less as they walk out the second tense of their salvation is going to be rewarded and THAT is what Paul is fearful of being disqualified from. I’ve told others to gain mastery over their flesh through God’s power, what if I myself were to go back into the sin nature and not gain mastery over the flesh myself and become like a carnal Christian, like I described earlier in this book, then I myself will be disqualified for the prize. So the concept of disqualification, you know, people can see that it can clearly apply to the middle tense of one’s salvation to a Christian whose salvation is authentic and not in doubt.
This takes us to number 4, the expression “in the faith;.” “in the faith” can refer to the experience of the Christian rather than the position of the Christian, because people, when they see that expression “in the faith” “test yourself to see if you are in the faith” they look at that prepositional phrase “in the faith” and they say wow, that means I’m saved or not saved. But you see, the expression “in the faith” can easily apply to testing our progress in the middle tense of our salvation as that expression is applied to believers whose salvation is not in doubt.
Now how do I know this? Paul didn’t just write 2 Corinthians; he wrote 1 Corinthians, didn’t he. And did you catch what he says at the end of 1 Corinthians in chapter 16, verses 13-15, he says, “Be on the alert, stand firm in” what? “in the faith,” that’s the same prepositional phrase that he uses in 2 Corinthians 13:5. “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.” Now what’s the next sentence,  “Now I urge you” what, “brethren,” when he uses the expression “brethren” he’s acknowledging that he’s talking to a fellow believer. So what he’s saying to these fellow believers is to stand firm in the faith because as a Christian there are times when I am standing firm in the faith and there are other times when I’m not standing firm in the faith. And when I’m not standing firm in the faith that doesn’t mean I’m not saved; what it means is I’m not experiencing God to the fullness, the way He would have me experience Him.
So you’ll notice that this little preposition “in the faith” can easily apply to the believer, to the Christian, whose salvation is authentic and whose salvation is not in doubt. And again, it’s in the same body of material, what we would call the Corinthians corpus, if you want a fancy name for it, referring to the body of truth that has been revealed to the Corinthians. So when you run into these troubling phrases try to track how the same author uses the same phrase either in the same book or the same body of material.
So this takes us to number 5. Now this is what disturbs people, “Christ in you,” test yourself to see if Christ is in you and people look at that and they say well, if I fail the test Christ is not in me. Well why is Christ not in you? Well, Christ is not in you because I’m Arminian and I lost my salvation or I’m a Calvinist, an aggressive Calvinist and maybe I never had salvation. So “in you” is used constantly in that way as those two camps are arguing their theological system. But what I want you to see is the expression “test yourself to see if Jesus Christ is in you” is an expression that can easily apply to the experience of the believer as they’re walking out the middle tense of their salvation, to a believer whose salvation is authentic and not in doubt.
How does Paul use the same expression in the book of Galatians, which was the first book that he wrote? Galatians 4:19, “my” what? “children”. Are the Galatians saved or unsaved? They look saved to me; “with whom,” look at this, “I am again in labor.” Well, wait a minute, I thought once a woman gave birth that was it. I mean, think about (you ladies) what you go through to give birth, what if you had to do it a second time. And some of you have done it like ten times you have so many kids, but what if you had to do it again for the same… and we’re pro kids here by the way, what if you had to do it again for the same child? So Paul here is building this spiritual analogy, he’s saying to the Galatians I am again in labor, I birthed you through the gospel into justification, you’re saved, but the problem with you all is you’re not growing the way you should in progressive sanctification. So now I’ve got a second duty, I’ve got to see that you grow right; I was your obstetrician spiritually, now I’m your pediatrician.
And then as he’s describing their progress into the second tense of their salvation he says “until Christ is formed” where? “in you.” So “My little children,” Christ is not in you yet, not in the sense that they don’t have the Holy Spirit but in the sense that Christ-like character, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, those things are not a reality yet in their lives. And as he’s describing their lack of growth into the second tense of their salvation he uses the expression, Christ in you which is the exact same expression that he used in 2 Corinthians 13:5, Jesus Christ in you. So the expression “in you” can clearly apply to a believer who is struggling in the middle tense of their salvation.
We know that the Galatians were saved because they had begun in the Spirit, Galatians 3:3. [Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”] In fact the Galatians are called “sons of God” the Spirit is in, not just your hearts, our hearts, the same Spirit that’s in me Paul says is the same Spirit that’s in you Galatians, but Christ has not yet been formed in you. Why? Because I birthed you into justification and you’re short-circuiting in the area of progressive sanctification. Of course the Galatians are saved, why would he tell them to walk by the Spirit; an unbeliever doesn’t have the Spirit. See that.
Now when he says “Christ in you,” see if Christ is in you, there’s a parallel passage in John 15:4 where he talked about branches in the vine that bear fruit, branches outside of the vine that don’t bear fruit. And people look at that and they say well, that’s the difference between a believer and an unbeliever. That doesn’t make any sense because when Jesus gave this teaching He was talking to eleven people, Judas had already left the Upper Room by this point (back in chapter 13), whose salvation obviously is authentic and not in doubt. And so what does Jesus say? “Abide” what? “in Me,” which means I as a believer have the potential of not abiding in Christ. It doesn’t mean I’m going to hell. What it means is I’m not becoming what God wants me to become in the second tense of my salvation.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” So you have Christians that are abiding in Christ and other Christians that are not abiding in Christ, which helps explain why Paul says test yourself to see if Jesus Christ is in you, not whether you’re saved in the first place but whether you are abiding in Christ by way of fellowship so that the fruit that God wants to bring forth in your life can come forward.
Now this expression, “abide in Me” the word “abide” is the Greek verb menō, menō, whether someone abides (menō) or not abides is an expression that is used many times, in fact, every time, of a believer to determine if they’re really abiding in Christ, whose salvation is not in doubt. That’s how Jesus uses the identical verb in John 8:31, “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had” what? “believed Him,” so as Jesus is talking is He talking to believers or unbelievers? Believers because He’s talking to Jews who have believed in Him. But then He gives a condition, “If you continue” the word “continue” is a translation of the Greek verb menō, the exact same verb that’s used in John 15:4 regarding the vine and the branches. “If you continue in My word, then you are truly” what does it say? “disciples,” He doesn’t say if you continue in My word then you’re truly believers, we already know they are believers. We know they’re believers because of the beginning of the verse. He says if you want to graduate into discipleship, if you want to grow in the middle tense of your salvation then you need to “abide in Me,” menō, which is the same verb that’s used to describe the branches in the vine, branches outside of the vine.
So the expression, “Jesus Christ in you” can easily relate to the Christian whose salvation is not in doubt. It’s not a test to determine are you a Christian, are you not a Christian, it’s a test to determine are you abiding.
So this takes us to number six, and this is probably the area that is very disturbing to me, of all the Reform doctrines out there this is the part of it that really gets under my skin. Number six, the Reformed view, well, actually not number six, the one that gets under my skin is number nine, so when we get to number nine just remember that’s the one that gets under Andy’s skin. Number six, the Reformed view destroys the passage’s symmetry. What you have to understand about Paul’s dialogue, if you can call it that with the Corinthians, is he’s dealing with a bunch of saved people that would not submit to his authority. That’s why he’s so heartbroken over it.
And they are challenging him; we don’t want to submit to your authority Paul. They are challenging him and he makes a reference to this earlier in the chapter, 2 Corinthians 13:3, “since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks” what? “in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you.” So when he uses this expression “proof” it’s dokimai, it’s the same word he uses in verse 5. The expression “in me” is almost the identical expression that he uses in verse 5. And then in verses 6 and 7 he goes on and rehearses the test that they had given him, “But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test.  Now we pray to God that you do not wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved.”
So when he uses this expression “unapproved” and “fail the test” it’s adokimos, the same word that he uses related to them in 2 Corinthians 13:5. So what I have here in our passage, 2 Corinthians 13:5 is the words underlined and the phrases underlined that were the same phrases that they were applying to Paul. So I want you to start seeing the symmetry of the passage. Paul says you’re challenging me; Paul turns the tables on them and he says now I’m challenging you, which is sort of like Paul. Paul had a tendency to move into sarcasm, I don’t know if that gives us permission to be sarcastic, because we’re not apostles, but he got very sarcastic with these people which is easy to do when you’re an apostle and you’ve got a bunch of people that don’t want to submit to your authority because they think they know better.
In 1 Corinthians 4:8 Paul lets his sarcasm work out as he’s dealing with these people. He says, “You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us;” “us” meaning the apostles, “and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we” us little poor apostles over here, might “also might reign with you.” So what he’s critiquing them on is a know-it-all mindset. Do you see the symmetry? The symmetry of the passage is this: they challenged him, he turns right around and he does what? sarcastically challenges them.
So if you can figure out on what basis they were challenging him you can figure out on what basis he was challenging them. Do you see that? And what were they challenging in Paul? They weren’t challenging whether Paul was saved; they didn’t have any doubts that Paul was saved. What they were challenging him on is his apostolic mantle, his apostolic authority. I mean, was this guy who wasn’t even one of the original twelve, is he really in a position to correct us, you know, mighty Corinthians? So the challenge that came his direction was not a challenge to say you’re not saved; it’s a challenge of his maturity. It’s a challenge to his growth; it’s a challenge to his apostolic authority, so therefore Paul, using sarcasm turns right around and says I’m going to challenge you. And when he challenges them in return he’s offering the same challenge. He’s not trying to ascertain are these people believers or not; he’s trying to ascertain are you mature enough to the point where you don’t even think you need correction from an apostle?
So if you think this passage means they are challenging him on his experience as a Christian and he’s turning around and challenging them on whether they’re saved you wreck the whole symmetry of the passage; he’s offering a challenge to them that would be disproportionate to the challenge that was initially aimed at him.
So this takes us to number 7, only believers experience discipline because if you go back to 2 Corinthians 13:1 how does Paul threaten these people if they fail the test? If they fail the test and they’re not growing in the middle tense of their salvation the way they should what is Paul going to do? What threat is he going to carry out against them? And that’s what he explains in verse 1, which is in our same context, 2 Corinthians 13:1, “This is the third time I am coming to you.” So he’s been dealing with these people for a number of years.
And then he makes this statement here, it’s a citation, I believe this comes from the book of Deuteronomy, “Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two to three witnesses.” [Deuteronomy 17:6, “On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.”] That’s talking about capital punishment and basically you couldn’t just execute people under the Mosaic Law unless there were two to three witnesses to a capital crime.
Now who else used this exact same expression, every fact is to be confirmed by two to three witnesses? Anybody know? Jesus, in the context of church discipline. Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus says, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.  But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you,” watch this, “so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.  “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Jesus, when He uses the expression “two or three witnesses” is using the expression in the context of church discipline.
That is how Paul is using the expression in chapter 13, verse 1, just a few verses before our context in verse 5. This is the third time I am coming to you; every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two to three witnesses. In other words, if you fail the test, you Corinthians, and you’re not making progress in the middle tense of your salvation, and you’re still hooking up with temple prostitutes and things like that, then I’m going to show up on your doorstep and when I show up on your doorstep it’s not going to be a pretty picture because I’m going to start exercising church discipline on you. That’s what he’s getting at.
Now let me ask you a question: who do you exercise church discipline on? A believer or an unbeliever? You don’t exercise church discipline on an unbeliever, they don’t know any different. You’ve got to get unbelievers to become believers. You exercise church discipline on the fleshly, carnal Christian. The only people that discipline are: number 1, God, and number 2, the church. “Whom the Lord loves the Lord” what? “chastens.” Hebrews 12:7 says “God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” My father, when I was growing up never disciplined the neighbor’s kids. I think he was tempted to on a number of occasions but he never did. But when his own, and I am a witness to it, stepped out of line we came under severe discipline because I belonged to him, my earthly father.
So when Paul threatens them with church discipline he’s making an obvious statement here that these people are saved, their salvation is not in doubt at all. If their salvation had been in doubt he wouldn’t have moved with this threat of church discipline if they’re not growing or maturing the way they’re supposed to. Revelation 3:19, Jesus says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline;” discipline is not, whether it’s from God or the church it’s not for unbelievers; it’s only for believers.
Which takes us to number 8, the eighth reason why I think 2 Corinthians 13:5 is a test to determine our growth in Christ and not whether we’re Christians in the first place, has to do with this: Scripture… and don’t take my word for it, search it out yourself, I think you’ll find it to be true, Scripture nowhere tells believers to test the authenticity of their faith. Of all the commands in the Bible never a single time are we told to look inside ourselves to see if we’re really a Christian. Well, wait a minute, Matthew 7:15 says, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
Well, that’s a test, isn’t it? But who’s that test aimed at. Look at the underlined portion there, “Beware of the false prophets.” See, the test that we are to examine, if it’s to ourselves it’s whether we’re growing in Christ; we’re never called to test whether we’re saved and when we are called to test things we’re called to test false teachers.
Joseph Dillow writes this: “Nowhere in the Bible is a Christian asked to examine either his faith or his life to find out if he is a Christian. He is told only to look outside of himself to Christ alone for his assurance that he is a Christian. The Christian is, however, often told to examine his walk of faith and life to see if he is walking in fellowship and in conformity to God’s commands.”
Do you know why there are so many people today that do not think they’re saved because they’re looking at themselves. What a depressing subject. I mean, if I spent my whole life examining my own spiritual inventory I’d probably think I wasn’t saved 75% of the time because I know that my walk with God can be successful, I know that it can be a total failure. What I’m looking to, to ascertain whether I’m a Christian is not my own faithfulness but the faithfulness of who? Christ’s promise. And if we got more people looking at Christ’s promises to them rather than their own performance this epidemic that we have of people not thinking they’re saved I think would radically disappear. Now if you want to test something you can test the spirits, that’s the same Greek word there for “test,” not to one’s self but again testing false teaching.
Revelation 2:2 uses the same word for “test” when Jesus says, “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test” who? “those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false.” You test teaching, you test false teachers, you can test yourself to determine your growth, but never does the Bible tell us to test ourselves to see if we are justified before God. So if Paul is saying here look at your life to see if you’re a Christian he’d be teaching a doctrine that’s taught nowhere else in the Bible.
Which takes us to number 9, and this is the one that gets under my skin as I mentioned before. The Reformed view (and the Arminian view for that matter) making this a test for initial salvation damages the assurance of salvation. It destroys it. And the more influence that these Reformed teachers have in media and in pulpits and on the Christian printed page the more you have this epidemic of Christians that listen to this thinking they’re not really Christians.
John Piper, very popular, says, “No Christian can be sure that he is a true believer.” You guys see that? “No Christian can be sure that he is a true believer. Hence, there is an ongoing need” here come the works, you ready… “to be dedicated to the Lord and to deny ourselves so that we might” what? “make it.” [John Piper and Pastoral Staff, TULIP: What We Believe about the Five Points of Calvinism: Position Paper of the Pastoral Staff (Desiring God Ministries, 1997), 25, cited in Dave Hunt, What Love is This?, 379.]
Is that not works salvation? My salvation does not come from me, beloved, denying myself and me being dedicated to the Lord. My salvation comes from receiving, by faith, a free gift from my Savior. Well, Andy, are you against people denying themselves and being dedicated to the Lord? Of course I’m not against that if it’s done for the right motive. You deny yourself and you dedicate yourself to the Lord as an act of worship and gratitude for what God has done for you. It’s a response of graciousness; you don’t do it because you’re trying to earn something. You don’t do it because you’re trying to keep something. And so many people are serving the Lord because they are afraid to death that God is going to somehow rip the carpet out from under them. And I would say that’s not much of a motivation.
Fear is a terrible motivator. Your productivity in the Christian life will be enhanced when we come to the Lord and serve Him with the right motives rather than a works mentality. My salvation is not based on my own faithfulness; it is based on the faithfulness of Jesus. And once I get that and grasp it what else can I do but offer myself to Him as a living sacrifice. I’m just blown away by what I have, I offer it to Him as a living sacrifice, I’m not serving the Lord because if I don’t do X, Y and Z I’m in a lot of trouble, I’m going to hell. That’s how practical this doctrine is. This is not just pie in the sky stuff; you need to start coming down, you need to start thinking about this, coming down where you stand on it because it goes right to your motivation for service.
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has” present tense, “eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” Does that sound like there’s any doubt about one’s salvation there, once you’ve trusted in Christ? You have eternal life. How long does eternal life last for? Forever. Now you’re not crossing out of death unto life, it’s already happened. So if it’s already happened am I going to make a U-turn and turn around and go from life to death? No, we’re saved based on the promises of Jesus Christ. It’s called the assurance of salvation, which is annihilated under Reformed teaching and Arminian teaching.
Well where is the pastor getting these strange doctrines from? They seem strange because hardly anybody talks about them anymore but what I want you to see is what I teach on this used to be the majority opinion at one time. This is Dallas Seminary’s doctrinal statement. It says, Article XI, Dallas Seminary, founded in 1929, “We believe it is the privilege, not only of some, but of all by the Spirit through faith who are born again in Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, to be assured of their salvation” when? Till they get to the very end of their lives, right? It doesn’t say that; “from the very” what? “day” if I was writing this I wouldn’t say the very day, I would say the very nanosecond, I don’t know if they used the expression nanosecond in 1929, “to be assured of their salvation from the very day they take Him to be their Savior” watch this, “and that this assurance is not founded upon any fancied discovery of their own worthiness” thank God for that, I can have the assurance of salvation because it’s not based on my faithfulness, it’s based on His. “but wholly upon the testimony of God in His” what? “written Word,” you believe it because it’s objectively true. But my emotions tell me something else. Don’t listen to your emotions. Listen to the objective truth of God’s Word. That’s where your assurance of salvation comes from.
So putting all of this together, examine yourself to see if you are in the faith is not a test for justification; it’s a test for sanctification based on nine reasons: Number 1, “The Corinthians’ Assumed Believing Status. Number 2, The concept of Proving Oneself Applies to the Believer. Number 3, Disqualification Applies to the Believer. Number 4, The expression “In the Faith” can refer to the experience of the Christian rather than the position of the Christian. Number 5, Christ in You can easily relate to one’s sanctification. Number 6, The Reformed View destroys the passages symmetry. Number 7, Only believers experience discipline. Number 8, Scripture nowhere tells believers to test the authenticity of their faith. And number 9, If you go for another doctrine the Reformed view destroys the assurance of salvation.
So have I convinced the ladies and gentlemen of the jury? Any questions on that.