St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Examine Yourselves To See If You Are In The Faith

Sermon on 2 Corinthians 13:5-8

Text: Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you — unless, of course, you fail the test? 6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. 7 Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong — not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.

If you watch the National Football League games during the month of October, you will see the words “Crucial Catch.” This denotes the NFL’s mission to fight cancer through early detection and risk reduction. Part of the early detection is self-examination. If you notice something isn’t quite right, you are encouraged to go to a medical professional and get it checked out. If there is something wrong, it probably won’t go away on its own. That is why self-examination is so important. This morning, the apostle Paul also calls on us to do some self-examination, but it is not a physical type of examination. Rather, we are encouraged to EXAMINE YOURSELVES TO SEE IF YOU ARE IN THE FAITH. First of all, we will discuss 1. What To Look For. Then, we see 2. What Does It Indicate?

As you read through the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians, you see that some preachers had arrived in Corinth, who were saying that their ministries were superior to that of Paul. In essence, what they were saying was: ‘This Paul, who came to you in such a quiet, unassuming way, is hardly the picture of a real apostle. A genuine apostle would come with a greater show of power and authority.’ As a result, some of the people in the congregation were seeking to have Paul show that he was on the same level as these teachers were. ‘Prove it,’ they said. However, Paul’s primary concern was not his reputation among the Corinthians. His concern, above all, is the Corinthians and their relationship with God.

To that end, Paul writes, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” (Verse 5) Take a good look and see if you are a believer. But, how does a person do that? You can’t see faith. It is something that is held in the heart. So, how can I examine myself to see whether I am in the faith? Paul gives us the two things to look for in verse 7: “Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong . . . that you will do what is right.” The evidence of faith or the lack of it will show itself by the way that we are living our lives. We call this the fruits of faith. Jesus said, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.” (Luke 6:43-45) If we are living in a way that is pleasing to God, out of thankfulness for all that he has done for us, it is a clear indication that we have faith. This is what we are to examine in our lives.

This is a good exercise for us to do. It can be an easy thing to say that we are believers, who want to follow God, but if our lives aren’t in line with God’s Word, we are fooling ourselves. The parable that Jesus told in our Gospel Lesson (Matthew 21:28-32) deserves another look. Jesus told the story of a man who had two sons and he told both to go and work in his vineyard. The first refused, but later changed his mind and went to work in the vineyard. The second son said that he would go and work in the vineyard, but he didn’t do it. If you were to look at the two sons’ initial reaction to the father’s request, you would be severely disappointed in the first and applaud to second. However, their words didn’t match their actions. The one said all the right things, but didn’t carry through. Though the other initially refused, there was repentance and he did what his Father wanted. While we cannot see faith in itself, we can see the presence or lack thereof by the way that we live our lives out of thanksgiving for all that God has done for us.

As we put our faith into action, it is an indication that we have been changed through the life-giving work of Jesus Christ. Paul writes, “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you?” (Verse 5) The fact that we live as Christians is an indication that we have been saved. This impetus and ability to live as Christians comes from the heart that realizes what Christ has done for us. As we study God’s Word and read his law, we see how many times we have sinned against God. We see that we have shown by our actions that we have put people in our lives in the spot that God demands for himself. Because we didn’t want to hurt their feelings, we haven’t told them that what they were doing was sinful. This shows that they are more important to us than God. We note the times when an unkind word has crossed our lips. Instead of building them up, we have torn them down. There are so many sins that we have committed. Since we are, by nature sinful, we could never bear any good and pleasing fruit for God. We could only produce rotten fruit. For each and every one of these instances, we deserved to feel the full force of God’s anger against our sins. We deserved to be eternally separated from God.

When we come to this realization, then we can see and appreciate the undeserved love that God has shown to us in sending his Son to be our Savior. In his love for us, God wanted us to be with him in heaven. Since we were unable to achieve this on our own, Jesus came to the world to do what was necessary for us to be in heaven. As he lived his life of perfection, he was living it for us. Jesus showed throughout his life that his Father was more precious to him than anyone else. His words were always spoken to help people. Even when he spoke harshly to people, it was done so that they might see that they were sinning and would repent of their sins. His words were always words of love. Then, to take care of our evil fruit of sin, Jesus suffered and died on the cross. There he was punished in our place. He paid our entire debt of sin to his Father. We know that all has been accomplished for our salvation because he rose from the dead on Easter morning. That was the Father’s announcement to all that the wall of sin that had separated us from God was gone. As a result, we have eternal life to look forward to. We, also, have the assurance that our heavenly Father will take care of this during our entire lifetimes. Because God loves you, the Holy Spirit has come into our hearts and created the faith that makes all that Christ has accomplished our own. When we think of all that God has done for our salvation, how can we do anything less than to devote our entire lives in service to him?

Yes, it is true that we have, at times, acted like the sons in the story that Jesus told. There are times that our good-sounding words have been at variance with what we actually do. This is another spot where it is important for us to do that self-examination. Are there places in my life where I have started down the wrong path? What things in my life seem to trip me up? It is important for us to do that self-examination and see these things. As we note them, we come to God in repentance for them. We know that, for Jesus’ sake, they have been forgiven. Then, we ask our God to strengthen us so that, out of thankfulness for all that he has done for us, we live a life that glorifies him. We don’t do this out of compulsion or fear. Rather, as we meditate on all that God has done for us, we want to thank him in all that we say, do, and think. We want to be trees that are full of good fruit. This is the joy that we have as Christians. We have the honor of living for our God.

There are many people who have wondered if they are a believer or not. Perhaps, in an unguarded moment, you have had that same question, as well. Paul would tell us to “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” (Verse 5) Am I living my life to the glory of God out of thanksgiving for all that he has done for me? While no one will ever be able to say that they are doing so perfectly, we want to do so to the best of our ability. If the answer is “Yes,” then that is an indication that you are a believer. It means that Christ Jesus is in us. Because there is this close relationship, we know that all that he has accomplished for us is ours. In this way, we are blessed as we continue to examine ourselves. Amen.