2 Corinthians 13:5 – 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!
I believe strongly in the biblical teaching that, if a person is truly a believer in Christ, that person will remain in the faith, persevering to the end. I believe that no one can be once saved by God and then lost. I believe this for a number of reasons, including simple texts from scripture as well as complex understandings of the sovereignty of God in our salvation.
I also believe that the doctrine of the security of the believer has the tendency to carry with it a weakening effect on some people. It indeed has the possibility of offering a false sense of security to those who were never in the faith at all. This does not make the doctrine bad, but it does call us to have caution when addressing issues of whether or not others or even we ourselves are saved.
I can remember hearing pastors and evangelists talk to men and women immediately after they had prayed a “sinner’s prayer.” Many of those pastors would say something like this: “Take out your Bible. Write today’s date down in it as the day of your salvation. And no matter what you might feel or what you might do, never allow yourself to question the fact that today, you were saved and you can never be lost again.” Generally such teaching is intended to be an affirmation of the perseverance of the saints. However, such a message given to a person who has merely repeated a few words of a prayer while displaying no evidence of salvation is very dangerous advice.
So, look again at 2 Corinthians 13:5. Paul calls the believers in Corinth to examine themselves to see whether or not they are in the faith. To a true believer in Jesus, such an examination ought not cause fear, doubt, and dread. Instead, such examination of a true believer should yield fruit. A believer should be marked by a genuine and lasting faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Such an examination ought also to yield the fruit of a changed life (I’m by no means saying a sinless life, but a changed one none the less).
How do I know that I’m saved? It’s not based on how I feel. Nor is it based on the fact that I prayed a particular set of words several years ago after watching a movie about Jesus. No, the way that I believe that I am saved is this: I trust, here and now, in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as my only hope to receive God’s forgiveness of my sins. The evidence of my salvation is that, though I’m nowhere close to perfect, I am different than I was before. I cannot revel in sin without feeling the conviction of God’s Holy Spirit that leads me to repentance. I’m not who I should be, but by God’s grace, I’m certainly not who I once was or who I could be.
As a pastor, I urge you to examine yourself. God commanded it in 2 Corinthians 13:5. Are you in the faith? Do not base your assessment on a prayer prayed sometime in the past. Instead, base your assessment on whether or not you have faith in Jesus and Jesus alone for your salvation and whether or not your life shows the fruit of a changed heart. This can be a scary test, but it is a right test. And, if you find yourself in the faith, let the doctrine of the security of the believer help you to know that God will continue his work in your heart and never lose you.