Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?
– 2 Corinthians 13:5
The transition from one year to the next is customarily, for secular and spiritual people, a time of reflection. We assess what went wrong or where we fell short in the year that is ending and contemplate how to make the new year better. Some assess themselves and then make a resolution with changes that will hopefully help you reach your goals.
“Examination” / “Examine”
Though resolutions seldom pan out, (because they usually rely on human efforts), the idea of self-assessment is not unbiblical. The Bible uses the word “examination” or “examine” 33 times in the NKJV Bible. The word “examine” (Hebrew ra’a) is associated with advise or advising, discern or discerning, proving, assessing, investigating, examine. In the New Testament the word “examine” (Greek dokimadzo) means test, prove, or approve, discern, examine, scrutinize.
Another word similar to dokimadzo is peiradzo which means examine, scrutinize, discipline, go about as in walk around something to check it out from all directions. This word also had the idea of determining if something can be done or to ascertain quality and quantity, i.e., that you have enough to do the job.
At the end of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church he is inspired to use both words in a single verse. Let’s look at the verse in context:
2 Corinthians 13:1–10 (NKJV)
This will be the third time I am coming to you. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.” 2 I have told you before, and foretell as if I were present the second time, and now being absent I write to those who have sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare—3 since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you. 4 For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.
The context is that Paul’s authority is being challenged by the Corinthian church. They are questioning and looking for “proof of Christ speaking in me.” They see Paul as “weak” personally and only has authority based on the authority the Corinthians care to give him. But Paul points out Jesus was “crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God.” In other words, “Don’t mistake my humility and service as weakness.” Paul admits being “weak in Him,” in that he totally depends on Jesus. But Paul lives “with Him by the power of God toward you.” Paul’s power is not in himself but in Christ.
Then Paul turns to his accusers:
5 Examine (peiradzo) yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test (dokimadzo) yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 6 But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.
Paul challenges the Corinthians to look at themselves. Jesus said, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).
One of the essential purposes of self-examination is to remove obstacles that prevent us from seeing clearly. THE OBJECTIVE OF SELF-EXAMINATION IS THAT WE SEE CLEARLY; THAT WE SEE THE TRUTH.
7 Now I pray to God that you do no evil, not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified. 8 For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. 9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. And this also we pray, that you may be made complete. 10 Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction.
Paul’s honest objective in his ministry was not to exert authority over people but “that you may be made complete.” “Complete” (Greek katartisis) means thoroughly equipped, strengthened for the task, trained well and prepared for the task. That should be the objective of any minister. We should want to be “complete” thoroughly trained and equipped ourselves, and we should seek that for others. That is especially the case for a pastor and his flock.
What Does the Bible Say About Examination?
What does the Bible say about examination? Let’s look at how the word is used in scripture to find out.
Leprosy/Sin. 19 of the 33 occurrences, more than half, are found in Leviticus 13 and 14 where the priest is given the responsibility to examine the person afflicted with leprosy. Leprosy was thought to be and usually was, an incurable disease. God did intervene and heal this disease at times. Naaman was healed of leprosy by God (2 Kings 5). Jesus healed ten lepers on one occasion (Luke 17:11-19).
Leprosy is a type or symbol of sin in scripture. Leprosy was an internal disease in that it was a breakdown in the nervous system. Leprosy was the failure of nerves to indicate pain or danger for the body. Because of this extremities would wear away or suffer injury because the person afflicted lacked the pain signal that a body part was in danger. For instance, a leper’s body could be burning or severely cut, but without the normal warning of pain to indicate a problem the body part was damaged or lost. Leprosy is like sin in that it deadens our sensitivity to the dangers of sin. Leprosy is like sin in that sin is a heart problem. The sinful heart is insensitive to the dangers of living in sin (e.g., Matthew 15:18-19).
Leprosy is like sin in that it gives off a bad odor like sin does. Leprosy attacked the vocal cords and is like sin in that our tongue and its words are sinful (e.g., James 3). Leprosy was highly contagious; it could be transmitted by touch and clothing. Like “evil company” that corrupts “good habits” (1 Cor. 15:33).
Leprosy was a disease that separated people. Because of its contagiousness lepers were separated from the community. They would have to announce themselves to warn people when they approached. Similarly, sin separates us from God and from fellowship with each other (e.g., Isaiah 59:1-2).
Leprosy is like sin in that a person could not heal themselves of the disease. Like lepers, the sinner needs a Savior. Jesus can heal the physical disease of leprosy but also and more importantly, the leprosy of sin:
1 John 1:7 (NKJV) – 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 1:9 (NKJV) – 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
How about you, are there signs of sinful leprosy in you that need to be examined and confessed to the Savior for healing?
Examine your relationships. When Ezra returned from captivity to rebuild the temple some of those who returned began intermarrying with unbelievers. This was a terrible development because intermarrying with unbelievers was one of the things that led to their downfall and captivity in the first place. Therefore, when this sin was discovered, the people were gathered and confronted by Ezra. A time of examination was held and those with unbelieving were challenged to repent:
Ezra 10:16–17 (NKJV) – 16 Then the descendants of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, with certain heads of the fathers’ households, were set apart by the fathers’ households, each of them by name; and they sat down on the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter. 17 By the first day of the first month they finished questioning all the men who had taken pagan wives.
Ezra 10:11–12 (NKJV) – 11 Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives.” 12 Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, “Yes! As you have said, so we must do.
Thankfully, the people repented, and the work continued. You can read about the situation in Ezra 9-10.
We need to evaluate our relationships as to whether they are of the Lord. This is not an endorsement of divorce, but there are other relationships we have that should be assessed according to scripture. Remember, “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor. 15:33).
But I’m already married to an unbelieving spouse. What do I do? I am not advocating for nor should the circumstances in Ezra be used as a justification for married couples to divorce, even if they are unequally yoked. Divorce should always be a last resort. The imagery of a “yoke” is that of two beasts of burden in a collar next to each other working together in tandem. The yoke keeps the beasts moving in the same direction but if they are contrary to each other the work is hindered, the direction is divided. This is what happens in an unequally yoked marriage between a Christian and non-Christian.
Both Old and New Testaments discourage God’s people from marrying or being unequally yoked with unbelievers. Marriage is difficult under the best of circumstances. Truly a saving eternal life relationship with God in Christ is essential for a marriage being all it can and should be. Because of this Christians should refrain from entering into relationships with unbelievers where marriage is the goal. “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). The “fellowship. . . righteousness. . . communion” Christians have with God and are supposed to have with each other is essential to healthy relationships. Disregarding this essential aspect of a relationship (that is second only to our relationship with God), will lead to frustration, aggravation, and very possibly failure. At the least it will lead to a hindrance to the believing person. At worst it will lead to the pain and suffering of divorce.
We should also add here that it’s feasible for Christians to be unequally yoked. An on fire Christian matched with a lukewarm Christian is a very frustrating thing. Unfortunately, it is usually the on fire Christian that is stifled and dragged down to the level of the lukewarm Christian. Why is that? To illustrate, if a person stands on a chair it is much harder to pull a person up to you than for a person to pull you off that chair and down to them. It would be best that the two are on the same level from the start.
Much prayer and patience should precede marriage. Build your relationship with God. Build a friendship with someone who is a potential spouse. Look at their life before they met you because that is a truer depiction of who they actually are. Do they love the Lord not merely in word but in action too? Are they involved in their church regularly attending and serving? Are they a person of God’s word? Are you compatible? Are they living a Spirit-filled life? Don’t marry someone who requires you to overlook red flags. Be honest. Trust the Lord’s leading. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking they will change after you’re married. Yes, people change and grow, but those who are pursuing marriage should be mature in their walk with the Lord.
If you are presently a Christian married to an unbelieving spouse it doesn’t necessarily follow that you should seek divorce. In such situations if the unbelieving spouse desires to remain in the relationship, the marriage should remain so that the unbelieving spouse is “sanctified,” or exposed to the gospel and Christian influence that may ultimately lead to their salvation (see 1 Corinthians 7:10-16). This is often difficult. It can take years for an unbelieving spouse to come to Jesus. But it can happen. Follow the leading of the Lord. Rely on Him.
This is a complex issue in our day. Many people only consider God, His word, and godly counsel as an afterthought to things they want to do. Too often feelings are the basis of decisions rather than the truths of God and His word. Feelings are fickle. Feelings can be very up and down, irregular, unpredictable, unstable. The Faith should be our rule. Feelings will follow acts of faith like a caboose follows a train engine. People might have disregarded the warnings of God’s word in this area and they might say their marriage lasted. There are exceptions. But its never a good idea to look at exceptions and make them a rule to be followed. The issue is not merely whether a marriage lasts, but whether a marriage is all God desires it to be. People can have a good marriage without the Lord, but it will never be the best marriage it might have been with the Lord. Marriages between unequally yoked people begin with a disregard of God’s word. This creates an environment where “exceptions” to God’s word are justified on the basis of personal wants. Such an environment is passed down to offspring. Your unequally yoked marriage may be the “exception,” but it is only because of God’s mercy and grace. God does not ordain things that are contrary to His will. But when people disregard His will, He is still merciful, gracious and loving.
Invite God to examine you. The David the Psalmist wrote, “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my mind and my heart” (Psalm 26:2). Elsewhere it states, “Search me, oh God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). We should always be open and invite God to examine us to see if any sin or wicked way has crept into our lives.
Others will examine you. Whether you ask them to or not, people will examine you. Our lives are under constant examination. Jesus and the Apostles were examined by others, so will we:
Luke 11:53 (NKJV) – 53 And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things,
Acts 22:28–29 (NKJV) – 28 The commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.” And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.” 29 Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.
1 Corinthians 9:3–5 (NKJV) – 3 My defense to those who examine me is this: 4 Do we have no right to eat and drink? 5 Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?
Considering this, we should try to live like Paul who was able to testify, “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1). This should be one of our objectives:
Philippians 2:14–16 (NKJV) – 14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
Examine yourselves generally. When Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians Jeremiah lamented and exhorted people to, “Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the LORD; let us lift our hearts and hands to the God of heaven” (Lamentations 3:40-41). When we suffer loss or trouble, rather than first pity ourselves we should seek the Lord for insight into any part we might have had in our problems. The Bible states:
Galatians 6:3–5 (NKJV) – 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load.
Notice, our examination is not based on a comparison with others. Our examination is an assessment of how we have progressed. We might ask, “How does the me of a year ago compare and contrast with the me of today?”
We should examine our lives generally. But we should also. . ..
Examine yourselves particularly – spiritually. Examining ourselves is important because being aware of our state before God helps us to understand the possible causes of our life situations:
Galatians 6:7–9 (NKJV) – 7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Most importantly, we are to examine ourselves regarding eternal life:
2 Corinthians 13:5 (NKJV) – 5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
How can we examine ourselves and our spiritual state, our eternal life? A study of the Book of Romans would be a good start. But be a Berean and search the scriptures to see where you are at with the Lord (e.g., Acts 17:9-10).
Examine for God’s blessings. We might be tempted to see examining ourselves as only a negative thing. There is a negative aspect of examination in that we look to negate or remove those things that are hindering our walk with the Lord. BUT! we should also examine ourselves to see that we are receiving or experiencing the fullness of what God offers to us. Consider these verses:
John 10:10 (NKJV) – 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
John 16:33 (NKJV) – 33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Romans 11:33–36 (NKJV) – 33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34“For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” 35“Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
2 Corinthians 1:17 (NKJV) – 17 Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No?
Ephesians 1:15–23 (NKJV) – 15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Ephesians 3:14–21 (NKJV) – 14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Just like we don’t want and shouldn’t ever leave any unopened gifts under the Christmas Tree, we should seek to experience all of God’s blessings.
Test all things. In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians he is inspired to give a series of exhortations to end his letter one of which is, “Test (dokimadzo) all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).
10 Suggested Self-Examination Questions
How might we actually examine ourselves spiritually? Here are ten self-examination questions to help you examine yourself:
1. Have I been born again? Jesus said, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. . . You must be born again.” We are physically born without spiritual life. Jesus said we must receive the spiritual life He offers if we are ever to be a part of His kingdom. This requires a second birth when the Holy Spirit takes up residence within you. Without the Holy Spirit within, you do not belong to God (Romans 8:9-11). What it means to be “born again” and how you can be “born again” are found in John 3. “Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Romans 10:13; See also Romans 1-6; Ephesians 2:1-10). You can know and be assured you have eternal life – read 1 John.
2. Am I living a “Spirit-filled” life? Jesus described the Holy Spirit as One just like Him who would reside within the person who believes in Him (see John 14, 15, and 16). The Holy Spirit is our Helper, our Comforter. Once we are born again, we will want to live for Jesus and serve Him. But if we try to live and serve the Lord in our own strength we will be frustrated and fail. This condition is described in Romans 7. There is a remedy for such frustration. Jesus told His disciples to wait for the Promise of the Father which is the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses (see Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:4-8; Acts 2). The Spirit-filled life is described in Romans 8. Evidence of the Spirit-filled life are love (Romans 5:5), spiritual fruit of love (Gal. 5:22-24), and a spiritual growth (2 Cor. 5:17). This is what we should be living as followers of Jesus. When you read Romans 8, does that describe you?
3. How is my prayer life? The Bible tells us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). What does that mean? Have we ever honestly thought about what that statement means? How’s my prayer life? Do I have one? Jesus described prayer in Matthew 6 and Luke 11.
4. Am I more anxious than prayerful? The Bible states, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Is this true in my life?
5. Is God’s word a central part of my life? Are my beliefs based on personal Bible study? Or do I relinquish my responsibility to study God’s word to others relying on what they say I should believe? Teachers are good, but what they teach should always be tested by God’s word. We are responsible for what we believe (2 Cor. 5:10; Hebrews 9:27). We need to make sure what we believe is true to God’s word (e.g. 2 Cor. 11:3-4). The Bible exhorts, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the LORD” (Colossians 3:16). The Bible also states, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). And the Bible states, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine [teaching and what we believe], for reproof [proving what is true], for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
6. Is fellowship and involvement at my local church important to me? What do my actions about fellowship reveal (expose) in answer to this question. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
7. Am I serving the Lord? Are you involved in and participating in the ministry of the church where you attend, giving out more than taking in? Jesus’ example is that He came not to be served but to serve and give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Do I have a servant’s heart? Am I more concerned about getting something out of my church involvement than giving out something for the Lord’s glory?
8. Do I know my spiritual gift(s) and am I using it for the benefit of the church body? Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit so that we can all have a place serving in our local church family. Read 1 Corinthians 12-14 to learn what your spiritual gift may be and how to use it.
9. Do I share my faith with others? Do I know what the gospel is and pray and trust the Holy Spirit to help me to reach the lost? Do I care about the Great Commission and being a disciple of Jesus sharing the good news with others who are lost in sin? Is the gospel and sharing it with others important to me? Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20). Are you a part of Jesus’ Great Commission?
10. Am I being conformed to the likeness of Jesus? God’s purpose for us is to become like Jesus. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). “Now by this we know that we know Him if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keep His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as he walked” (1 John 2:1-6). Am I more like Jesus today than yesterday, this year than last year?
I pray we can all begin the new year well equipped and thoroughly trained for what lays ahead. I pray when we are tested and examined we will all pass the test. I pray God makes us what we need to be, to do what He calls each of us to do, for His glory, until He returns. In Jesus’ name. Amen.