Why would Paul, a Christian, write to other Christians these words: “Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13)?
That little phrase, “in the faith,” refers to being a Christian. It’s used that way a number of times. Luke writes about being strengthened “in the faith” (Acts 16:5). It’s different from having your faith strengthened. Paul writes the same thing in 1 Corinthians 16:13 (see also Colossians 2:7). Paul writes of unity “in the faith,”(not unity in faith – the former referring to unity among Christians) and being healthy “in the faith” (Titus 1:13) and loving those “in the faith” (Titus 3:15). Peter writes about “standing firm” in the faith.”
In all of these cases, the writers point to our religion and call all adherents to give it their attention and care.
But then, in 2 Corinthians 13, Paul adds: “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?”
The whole thing should give us pause.
Paul seems to be saying: “Examine and test yourself to see if you are a Christian.”
This will present a problem for those whose theology allows for no doubt regarding one’s standing with God. After all, “once saved, always saved,” right?
No. It isn’t right. Being a Christian isn’t just a matter of some “membership” – or a “name it and claim it” idea. It is about Jesus living in us. Throughout 2 Corinthians, Paul has urged the Corinthians to follow Jesus’ example. At the end, he tells them that if they do follow Jesus, and it can be seen in their lives, they will be “in the faith.” If they don’t, no matter that they have been baptized and call themselves Christians, they won’t be “in the faith.”