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!
At the end of an extended correspondence with the church at Corinth, Paul plans for a visit. He wants to see to it that the church has returned to order and that the people have repented of immorality. And, as he prepares for his visit, Paul calls on the people to examine their own lives with the goal in mind of checking their salvation.
I would argue that this command is one of the least obeyed in the Scriptures in many circles. I grew up in churches where we were told, quite directly, never to question our salvation. We were to write down the date of our praying “the prayer” in our Bibles or on the pages of a gospel tract, and we were to never allow ourselves to question the veracity of that moment. I grew up in a world where claims of childhood conversion outweighed lifetimes of fruitlessness.
Interestingly, I do not believe that the doctrine of eternal security or perseverance of the saints has anything to do with the failings of those churches to obey 2 Corinthians 13:5. The blame for that lies elsewhere. In fact, I would argue that the blame for the failure to allow believers to question whether or not they are in the faith is based on a faulty understanding of the relationship of salvation and sanctification. If one believes that going to heaven is all about an individual’s decision or an individual’s prayer, then they will not allow a person to ever revisit the topic of salvation. However, if we understand that salvation is about the saving work of God, regeneration that leads to faith, then we will encourage people to examine themselves to see if their lives contain marks of conversion.
Regardless of one’s view of the sovereignty of God in salvation, all Christians should recognize that 2 Corinthians 13:5 is a command. Paul is asking people to examine their lives. He is not asking them to do a history check and see if they prayed a simple prayer at some point in their lives. In context, it is clear that he is asking them to look at the fruit of their lives, their present state of repentance and faith, to see if their lives look like the lives of people who have entrusted their souls to Christ and his saving work.
Let us, then, examine ourselves. Is your only hope for your eternity completely wrapped up in the person and finished work of Jesus? Are you believing that he died for your sins and rose from the grave? Have you asked him to forgive you and to rule your life? And, is there evidence that you are different, that you are moving into obedience of his word? Are you yielded to his lordship? Are you turning from sin and following the commands of God? Do you sorrow when you sin? Are you regularly repenting? Such things are marks of salvation.