2 Corinthians 13:5
There are a great many people in hell today who, while they lived upon the earth, presumed with great confidence that they were God's children. They lived and died under the delusion that all was well, when nothing was well. And now they suffer the horrible wrath of God in hell. There are also many who live in peace today, confident that they are born of God, who are strangers to grace. They are religious, zealous, and outwardly righteous. But they are without Christ. And the wrath of God is upon them.
THESE THINGS CONCERN ME! If you honestly think about them, I am sure they will concern you as well.
"`Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought:
Do I love the Lord, or no?
Am I His, or am I not?"
No one can settle this issue for me, or for you, but the Spirit of God. And he will settle it only by the Word he has given. So I urge you (and myself) to do what he tells us to do.
"EXAMINE YOURSELVES" - We are not to examine one another. And we are not to subject ourselves to the examination of others. If you examine others, you will become hardened in self-righteousness, harsh and judgmental, arrogantly making yourself the standard by which you judge others. If you subject yourself to the examinations of others, you will have nothing but the words and opinions of men as the basis of your faith. Your assurance, if you get any, will be nothing but a temporary, self-righteous confidence, varying with the opinions of the preacher to whom you are listening.
The point of examination is this - "WHETHER YE BE IN THE FAITH." It does not matter when, where, or how you came to be in the faith, or even who was preaching when you believed. It only matters that "ye be in the faith." For most of God's people, conversion is not a climatic experience, but a gradual process. Some, like Saul of Tarsus, have great, climatic experiences. But most are brought to Christ, one faltering step at a time. And even those who have Damascus road experiences must be gently led into the knowledge of Christ by one like Ananias (Acts 9:6-18).Are you, or are you not, now in the faith? That is the only issue of examination. If you are in the faith, you are saved. If you are not, you are lost.
“PROVE YOUR OWN SELVES”
The only way to know "whether ye be in the faith" is to bring your faith to the Word of God, crying with David, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try (prove) me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me (see if I am in the way of the wicked), and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psa. 139:23-24). If God will "say unto my soul, I am thy salvation" (Psa. 35:3), I want no other proof.
God has given us in his Word seven essential characteristics of saving faith. If these seven things are consistent with my faith, then my faith is genuine and I am a child of God. If these things are not consistent with my faith, then my faith is false and I am not a child of God.
1. SAVING FAITH CONFESSES PERSONAL DEPRAVITY AND SIN BEFORE GOD (Psa.51:3; Lk. 18:13; Rom. 7:18; I John 1:9). Faith confesses the deed of sin (Lk. 15:18), the nature of sin (Matt. 15:19; Psa. 51:5), and the sinfulness of all deeds of personal righteousness (Isa. 64:6).
2. SAVING FAITH LOOKS TO THE BLOOD OF CHRIST ALONE FOR ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD. Christ's precious blood represents the whole of his obedience to God as the sinners' Substitute. And faith sees everything it needs, everything God requires, in the blood of Christ alone: Redemption (Eph. 1:7), Forgiveness (Col. 1:14), Justification (Rom. 3:23), Sanctification (Heb. 10:10-14), and Reconciliation (Col. 1:20-21).
3. SAVING FAITH KNOWS THAT SALVATION IS BY GRACE ALONE (Eph. 2:8-9). I do not say that a person must be a Calvinist to be saved. Calvinism has no more to do with salvation than Arminianism. Salvation is not in a system of doctrine, but in a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ! And all who know that Person know that "Salvation is of the Lord" (Gal. 5:1-4; I Cor. 15:10).
4. SAVING FAITH WILLINGLY SUBMITS TO THE DOMINION OF CHRIST AS LORD (Lk. 14:25-33). Faith gives up the reins of life to the hands of Christ (Mk. 8:34-35).
5. SAVING FAITH WORKS BY LOVE (Gal. 5:6). Good works attain nothing. And the lack of good works prevents nothing. In the kingdom of God, "faith which worketh by love" is everything.
6. SAVING FAITH IS INVOLVED IN A WARFARE (Gal. 5:17). The flesh and the Spirit are constantly at war within the believer's heart. The Spirit rules! But the flesh will never surrender.
7. SAVING FAITH PERSEVERES TO THE END (Col. 1:21-23; Heb. 10:38-39). It simply will not quit!