More from Rickie Jenkins chapter in the book 12 Spiritual Disciplines.
Self-examination is a test many never take. Take note of yourselves appears three times in this verse. Not only is it emphasized by repetition; it is emphasized by being placed at the beginning of the sentence. A more literal reading may be: “You yourselves test …. You yourselves prove … Jesus Christ is in you.” The reason for the emphasis is that only we ourselves know whether Jesus is really truly in us.
There are three criteria for passing the test. The faith test does not take into account church attendance. It does not give credit for prayer, Bible study or good works. There are three words that tell us the criteria of passing this exam: test, prove and recognize.
The first, “test” or “try” refers to how coins are tested to determine their genuineness and their full weight. Is the coin genuine or fake, genuine or disapproved? They are to apply the right test to see whether they are in the faith. A few honest questions will soon enough reveal whether they are spurious or genuine. “Do you not fully know yourselves, i.e., realize concerning yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?” The Corinthians must have this realization, “unless you are disapproved,” i.e. tested and found false, only pretending. The aim of the test is assure they are genuine. Paul had required this of himself, and is concerned that they know he is genuine, not spurious. Spurious Christians would not be able to know. Their judgment would be blind. But, Christians are able to test themselves and to realize their genuineness. If they are able to detect the presence of Jesus Christ in themselves they should be able to recognize others in whom Christ’s power operates, especially those who helped to put Christ in their hearts. Therefore, he calls on them to prove themselves. The irony of this passage is the Corinthians valued themselves as being exceedingly knowledgeable but were really puffed up (1 Cor. 8:1).
The second word, “prove,” is the word for examine. Think about the word in the relationship of a student and teacher. The teacher must have tangible proof that the student has progressed through one grade before passing the student to the next grade. Tests provide proof that the student has successfully completed his or her work and learned the require material. Just think of all the tests you have taken in your life. Tests in school. Driving tests. Medical tests. Occupational tests. Not all of these tests could be described as fun, yet every one of them have value. Some of them reveal aspects of who we are and what we know. Some of them give us needed information. They represent milestones or offer us admittance to a new privilege or opportunity. Many tests require preparation, and often the knowledge gained in the process is the real benefit. Other tests are personal and are sometimes hard to see their rewards until long afterward. Maybe we have lost a loved one or experienced a failure of some kind. Perhaps a dream has died or financial disaster has devastated our world. Personal tests are the most difficult of all, and we don’t always pass them with flying colors. God allows tests and trials in our lives in order to make us more dependent on Him and to bring us to a point of greater spiritual maturity (Jas. 1:12).
The third word, “recognize,” indicates a full confidence and deep knowledge. Are you sure Christ lives in you? All of us struggle with faith at times, but if Christ lives in us we should have a sense of peace and security concerning salvation. This examination requires honesty and introspection. The purpose is not to see whether you pass or fail, but to answer life’s most important question: Are you in Christ? Is Christ in you? If Christ is in you, is He making a difference? Is your thought life different? Have your attitudes, goals, habits and lifestyle changed to better reflect God’s purposes in your life? We should see signs of effort and increasing spiritual maturity. Is He seen in how I am as a husband? Wife? How I receive His word? When people see me do they see the Father?
— to be continued.