If we are to “examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5), then it will help us to have a standard by which to make that examination.
We can do no better than to use what God has revealed to us in His Word through the first of John’s three letters.
In this letter, John gives us numerous ‘tests’ or standards by which we can know that we have eternal life, which is the purpose of his first epistle—
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 Jn. 5:13)
We will begin looking at “these things” in the order they appear in John’s letter. They are things that we are to “know” and if we know them, then we know that we have eternal life.
The first thing John gives us as a standard to be measured is if we “know Him.” (1 Jn. 2:3)
“And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” (1Jo 2:3-6 NLT)
While this passage can certainly be used to judge whether someone else is a believer as they claim, let us turn the searchlight on ourselves for this part of the study. We are considering the command from 2 Cor. 13:5 to “examine ourselves”—not others.
Do YOU know Him?
The “know” here is ginosko, which we defined previously as “to know from experience.”
What is your experience of God?
“I went down to the altar when the preacher called for decisions.”
Great. I’m happy for you. That is a great start, a good beginning; but that is not what the Holy Spirit is asking us here in this passage.
What is your experience?
According to this passage, we can “know” that we have come to know HIM if we find ourselves keeping His commandments. In other words, your heart was changed as a result of your trip to the altar, and you began to keep the commandments of the Lord. That should be your “experience.”
Two objections to this type of thinking immediately surface in today’s church.
- That’s legalism.
- The only real command is to love.
First of all, I didn’t write that passage. John, the Apostle of Love wrote it.
Secondly, how is that being legalistic? Before anyone throws that spear, they would do well to understand what legalism really is. Unfortunately, (maybe fortunately?) this is not the place to straighten out such misguided thinking. (Click here for a good discussion on legalism.)
Thirdly, the second objection is interesting. It sounds good on the surface, even spiritually correct; but it is highly deceptive.
The objection is deceptive, because it is used as an objection to the plain Word of God. We haven’t even gotten into an interpretation of the passage yet; we have only quoted the words from the Bible.
This is a common tactic I encounter on a regular basis. Not to get into the various reasons people may use this, it is simply a deflection away from the truth that was spoken—
if you love Him, keep His commandments.
Let’s recall that the author of this letter, John, was present when Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” (Jhn 14:15 NLT)
Any objection to this is therefore against the Bible, against Jesus, and against John. I don’t think you have a chance to prove your position against three such powerhouses.
However, for the sake of argument (and to prove a point), I am going to agree with you for a moment and say, “Yes, the only real commandment is to love.”
Now, then. Show me a commandment of the Lord that is NOT an expression of love.
You see, the problem we have today is that we apply our weak, humanistically-oriented understanding of “love” to these things. We do not operate from a biblically-oriented understanding of love.
It is very common to hear “don’t judge” whenever anything ‘negative’ is mentioned about another. It seems that the current understanding of “love” means that we do not correct anything about anyone for any reason.
That, my friend, is NOT love.
You will not stand by while a toddler is running toward the street thinking, “I love that child. I sure hope she realizes that a car is coming.” This would be the direct antithesis of Pro. 27:5—”An open rebuke is better than hidden love!” (NLT)
This is all somewhat off topic, though. The command is for YOU and for ME so that we can know about ourselves whether we truly know the Lord.
Do we keep His commandments? Or, do we immediately retreat to one of the objections?
Examine yourself whether you are in the faith.
Before you go, take time to enjoy this beloved video once more: