Taking the Test
2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV
“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!”
When we take an examination (a test) in school, it is to test our knowledge on a particular subject. So, in order to pass the test, we must know the material that is to be on the test so that we can answer the questions correctly. If we don’t know the material, we are not likely to pass the test.
Now, that kind of test is usually based on head knowledge only, although there are tests which examine people’s knowledge in practical application, too. But in either case, or both, there is a set of criteria or a grouping of facts which must be learned in order to pass the examination.
Well, the same is true in this case of examining ourselves to see whether we are in the faith. There is a textbook which gives us the criteria for this examination, and we must not only know the material, but we must be applying what we have learned in our day to day lives in order to pass this examination.
Our textbook is the Bible (Genesis to Revelation), which is God’s word to us. Regarding our faith, it is in Jesus Christ, and it is based on the truths of his gospel which we read about primarily in the New Testament (Matthew to Revelation). And, again, this is not just testing our knowledge of what the gospel teaches us, but it is testing whether we are applying that knowledge to our everyday lives.
Now, if we take a test in school, but we only study 10% of the material, we are not going to pass the test. Usually we have to get 70% correct to pass a test, or so it was when I was in school a very long time ago. And the same applies to the gospel and to our faith. If we only study a small percentage of it and if we only apply a small percentage of it, but we miss the most critical aspects of it, then we aren’t going to pass the test.
In other words, we can’t build our doctrine of salvation around a few cherry picked Scriptures which fit with our lifestyles and then think we have passed the test. For Scriptures taught outside their context can take on a different meaning. We need to study it all, and we need to apply to our lives all that we are required to apply to our lives in order to pass the test.
The Examination Criteria
Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
We are saved by God’s grace through faith. And this is not our own doing. So, this means that the grace to save us and the faith to save us are not our own doing. We can’t even come to faith in Jesus Christ unless God the Father draws us to Christ. Also this grace and this faith are gifted to us by God. And Jesus, in fact, is the author and the perfecter of that faith.
So, if all this is of God and from God and is perfected by God, it says that it will also agree with God and with his word and with his character and with his divine will and purpose for our lives. And no sin exists in God. He is light. He is pure. He is righteous. He is holy. So, the faith to believe in him will not grant us permission to keep living in sin, only now without guilt.
Our salvation is also not a result of our own works. We can do nothing in our flesh to earn or to deserve our own salvation. But this does not mean our salvation is absent of works. It just means that they are the works of God which he prepared in advance that we should walk in them in his power and strength. So, our salvation does not exclude works.
In fact, we are taught that we are to, in obedience to our Lord, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Php 2:12-13).
And we are taught that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives,” while we wait for the return of Jesus Christ, “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (see Tit 2:11-14).
And when we believe in Jesus with this God-given faith, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are raised with him to walk in newness of life in him, not like the old life. For our old self was crucified with Christ so we would no longer be enslaved to sin but so we would now be slaves to righteousness (Rom 6:1-23).
And the way that we should have learned Christ, as the truth in Jesus, is “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (see Eph 4:17-24).
And then we must know this, too, that we are going to be judged by our works (Rom 2:6-8; 2 Co 5:10). If we sow to the flesh, from the flesh we will reap destruction, but if we sow to the Spirit, from the Spirit we will reap eternal life (Gal 6:7-8). And if we make sin our practice, and we walk according to the flesh, we will die in our sins. We will not inherit eternal life with God (Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Gal 5:16-21; 1 Co 6:9-10; Eph 5:3-6).
And one more thing, we must obey our Lord. We must follow Jesus Christ with our lives, not just profess him with our lips. We must walk (in conduct) according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. We must no longer live for ourselves but for Jesus. And if we say we know Jesus, but we don’t obey him (in practice), we are liars who do not live by the truth (Lu 9:23-26; Jn 10:27-30; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; 2 Co 5:15; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6).
Passing the Test
This is obviously not a complete list of Scriptures on salvation, but it does let us know the criteria we need to know and to put into practice if we are to pass the test to see if truly we are in the faith.
In a nutshell, the Scriptures teach that Jesus died that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness (1 Pet 2:24). And they teach that we must leave our lives of sin behind us to follow our Lord Jesus in obedience to his commands, as a matter of practice. But if sin is what we practice, we will not inherit eternal life. Please take this to heart.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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