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“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith” (PDF) PDF version

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith”

I was thinking recently the picture given in I Timothy 1:18. There, we find Paul giving instructions to Timothy:

I Timothy 1:18-20
“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, HAVING FAITH AND A GOOD CONSCIENCE, WHICH SOME HAVING REJECTED, CONCERNING THE FAITH HAVE SUFFERED SHIPWRECK, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme”

Some, of whom were also Hymenaeus and Alexander, concerning the faith suffered shipwreck. These people were not unbelievers. To suffer shipwreck in the faith, it implies that sometime they were in the faith. As Paul again says, speaking this time for Hymenaeus and Philetus:

II Timothy 2:17
“And their message will eat like canker, of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus, WHO HAVE STRAYED CONCERNING THE TRUTH, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some

One is strayed when he is on the way and he loses it. Something like this happened also with Hymenaeus, Alexander and Philetus: concerning the truth, they had strayed; concerning the faith, they suffered shipwreck. And unfortunately they are not the only ones. Their case, though it is an example to be avoided, has many things to teach us.

Is the keeping of the faith something granted?

When I first knew the Lord I believed that yes, the keeping of faith is something granted and it is impossible to lose it. However, through the years I saw that my belief was not correct. The keeping of faith is NOT something granted. If it was there would not be in the Word of God the warnings we will see today, nor the Word of God would ever speak for people who concerning the faith suffered shipwreck. I believe that the Christian life and faith is not something instantaneous, something that finishes with the confession of Romans 10:9-10. Instead, it is something that has duration, a way that as long as we live we should walk. It certainly starts with the confession of Romans 10:9-10, but it doesn’t finish there.

A. II Timothy 4:6-9

In II Timothy Paul, now reaching the end of his life, gives instructions to Timothy. There, in verses 6-9 he gives a short account of his life:

II Timothy 4:6-9
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I HAVE FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT, I HAVE FINISHED THE RACE, I HAVE KEPT THE FAITH. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing”

If faith was something that started and finished the day that Paul believed, he wouldn’t have said: “I KEPT THE FAITH”. The faith is indeed something that needs to be KEPT. While Paul kept the faith, Hymenaeus and Alexander made a shipwreck concerning the faith.

See also that Paul in this account of his life didn’t say: “I planted so many churches, I wrote so many books, I preached to so many crowds, I made thousands to believe”. At the end of his ministry, his account was very simple: I HAVE FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT, I HAVE FINISHED THE RACE, I HAVE KEPT THE FAITH.

The Christian life is a fight, a race, a path that one has to walk. It starts the day we believed in the Lord but it doesn’t finish there. Only at the end, and after he had first said that he is “already being poured out as a drink offering”, only then Paul speaks using past tense concerning the faith, the race and the fight. Only then, little before the end of his journey on this earth, Paul draws the line for the final account.

In contrast to him, many brethren we believe that the race finished the day we believed, and that our faith will never be in danger. Obviously, Paul would not agree with us. Probably this is also the reason that many of us cannot understand him, when in Philippians 3:12-14 he says:

Philippians 3:12-14, 17
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; BUT I PRESS ON, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. BRETHREN I DO NOT COUNT MYSELF TO HAVE APPREHENDED; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. …… Brethren, join in following my example”

In contrast to Paul, many brethren count themselves as having already attain the prize. “Since I believed and was saved, I can now live as I wish. I have already received the prize” many of us think. The Christian life for Paul was not like this. It was not something static, “a stop to get salvation, and then we continue as before”. In contrast, it was something dynamic, a fight, a race that he had to run. As he again says in Hebrews 12:1-2

Hebrews 12:1-2
“LET US RUN WITH ENDURANCE THE RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE US LOOKING UNTO JESUS THE AUTHOR AND THE FINISHER OF OUR FAITH, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The Christian life is indeed a race, a road we should run by looking unto Jesus. The faith is something that we need to keep.

“EXAMINE YOURSELVES AS TO WHETHER YOU ARE IN THE FAITH”, says Paul in II Corinthians 13:5. Are we in the faith or we live our lives based on a distorted view that justifies sin …because we are now under “grace”? Let’s examine ourselves, lest we become disqualified in something. As Paul again says:

I Corinthians 9:24-27
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? RUN in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified”

B. The parable of the sower

This is a well known parable to most of us. Jesus there spoke for 4 categories of men relative to the effects that the seed, the Word of God, had for them. In Luke 8:11-15 we read:

Luke 8:11-15
“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who BELIEVE for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are chocked with cares, riches and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the onesthat fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”

The second and third categories of this parable, were always a question to me. These categories, didn’t reject the word, at least immediately. In contrast, the seed sprang up, yet it didn’t give fruit. As the Lord clearly says for the second category, “THEY BELIEVE” but only “for a while”. Though the seed of the Word springs up in all the three categories, it is only the last one that is able to give fruit. The other two, while they had faith, in the way it disappeared. To tell it differently and more openly: the fact that someone made a confession of faith in Jesus Christ does not automatically classifies him in the fourth category. The category to which we belong is dependant on what will happen on the way, in our walk with God from this day onwards. The day that we made our confession it was the day that the seed sprang up. However, how this seed will grow it is not something that one can know from the beginning. The only right account is the final account. Only at the end can someone speak as Paul, using past tense.

Some traps that can put the faith in trial and to which no-one should give in, are recorded in the above passage of Luke 8 and are examined more extensively below.

I. Temptations

As James 1:14-15 says:
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” No-one should give in to temptation. There will be times where we will have to decide between God and “OUR OWN DESIRES”. There will be critical crossroads, times where we will have to chose whether we will follow God’s way or our own way. At such times, the people of the second category, forsake God and run again after their own lusts. If there is no repentance and return, the results can really be devastating.

II. Tribulation / Persecution for the Word

This cause is given for the same category in Mark’s record of the parable of the sower (Mark 4:17). As Paul says concerning the results of tribulation: “no-one should be shaken by these afflictions” (I Thessalonians 3:3). The afflictions and tribulations shake the people of the second category. Though they initially believed, they are not immovable in temptation and tribulation. As soon as these appear in the arena, they prefer to change their way.

III. Love of money, greediness, deception of riches

For this trap, Paul says:

I Timothy 6:9-10
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL KINDS OF EVIL, FOR WHICH SOME HAVE STRAYED FROM THE FAITH IN THEIR GREEDINESS, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows”

The Bible contains references to people of God that were extremely rich, as Abraham (Genesis 13:2, 24:35) and Job (Job 1:3). However, they were not greedy, lovers of money. When Job in one moment lost everything, his reaction was very simple:

Job 1:21
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord”

The problem is not with money itself but with the love of money. The problem with Balaam the prophet, was not that he didn’t ask God, but that he “ LOVED the wages of unrighteousness” (II Peter 2:15) so much that he ran after them.

IV. Cares

Another obstacle for the growth of the seed of God’s Word is cares. As Christ warns:

Luke 21:34
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come on you unexpectedly.”

Cares make the believer’s heart heavy and choke the seed of the Word. Instead of first, God takes a second or a lower position and He is somehow considered not so relevant for meeting the needs. The covering of cares becomes our personal responsibility, and not God’s responsibility as He invites us:

I Peter 5:7
“casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you”

When we consider God as not relevant with our cares and we keep them on us, the cost is that in the Word of God we will become fruitless. Though one day we had heard the Word and believed it, we left this seed to be choked by cares and our unbelief to trust them to God.

V. Pleasures of life

The Lord spoke concerning the results of this trap in the passage of Luke we gave previously. A very obvious example of the effects of this trap is a well known man of God: Solomon.

The richest king of Israel, the one to whom God had given so much wisdom that kings from other nations were coming to listen to him, at the end “TURNED HIS HEART” away from God and His Word. As I Kings tells us:

I Kings 11:1-9
“But king Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians,and Hittites – from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it was so, when Solomon was old, THAT HIS WIVES TURNED HIS HEART AFTER OTHER GODS; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord and did not FULLY follow the Lord, as did his father David…… so the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.”

And Nehemiah 13:26
“Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin.”

When Solomon was born, the Lord sent Nathan the prophet and called him Jedidiah that means “Beloved of the Lord” (II Samuel 12:24-25). He gave him so much wisdom that they were coming from other kingdoms to speak with him (I Kings 10). Yet, all these do not mean that Solomon had a good end. The reason is that HIS HEART TURNED AWAY, and “he did not FULLY follow the Lord”. At the end he fell into the traps he himself was teaching that should be avoided (Proverbs 2:16-19, 5:20, 6:24): his palace was a collection of all sort of foreign women, with of course the respective consequences - his wives turned away his heart from God.

Regardless of how hard the old man tries to persuade you that there is no problem if you are a bit lax toward sin, since…. at the end of the day you don’t harm anyone…. do not give ear to him. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” says the Word of God (I Corinthians 5:6). There is no compromise with sin that is without effects on your fruitfulness. The sin as well as the cares, the greediness and all other traps make the heart heavy, lukewarm. Who really could imagine that the man that so fervently taught that one should keep away from foreign women at the end would have dozens of them? Despite the fact that God reproved Solomon (I Kings 11), he didn’t change. He was so blind that his heart no longer understood the error or it was indifferent about it.

VI. Falsely called knowledge / Heresies

This cause is given in I Timothy 6:20-21, where Paul instructing Timothy said:

I Timothy 6:20
“O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – by professing it SOME HAVE STRAYED CONCERNING THE FAITH”

Also, as we already read previously, concerning Hymenaeus and Philetus:

II Timothy 2:17
“And their message will eat like canker, of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus, WHO HAVE STRAYED CONCERNING THE TRUTH,saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some

Hymenaeus and Philetus, had strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past. As one can see from the Word of God, the apostles many times warned against wrong, dangerous teachings. John warned that the one that didn’t confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh was the antichrist (I John 4:3). The apostles came together in Jerusalem to face teachings that went around wanting the disciples to circumcise and follow the law (Acts 15). As Paul also says in I Timothy 4:1-3:

I Timothy 4:1-3
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times SOME WILL DEPART FROM THE FAITH, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”

Let’s be careful where we turn our ear. It is not the person that makes something wrong or right but the Word of God. Is what we hear in agreement with the Word of God? It does not matter whether it sounds good or not, different or not from “traditions”. Only the truth can set one free. All else, even if it is like the truth, or sounds nice or seems full of knowledge will enslave. If today someone feels his relationship with God is in a difficult position a serious I think reason is the existence of wrong beliefs concerning God and the Bible: we have in our minds a god we have constructed, and who is NOT the God of the Bible. The trials make also such things to show up.

Conclusion

What I believe should probably be clear from the above is that the Christian life didn’t finish the time we confessed Jesus as Lord. Yes, it started there, but for sure it didn’t finish there. There is a good race we have to run, a good fight we have to fight. The confession we then made is proven true or not every day. Is Jesus Christ our Lord TODAY? As we saw Paul instructing Timothy:

I Timothy 6:20
“O Timothy! GUARD what was committed to your trust, ….”

When a seed falls on the earth does not grow instantaneously. So also the seed of the Word of God. Its evolution is something dynamic. In all three cases of the parable of the sower, the seed sprang up, yet only in the last one it gave fruit.

Let’s follow Paul’s example and instead of imagining ourselves as having reached the end, as having attained the prize, let’s count ourselves as RUNNING for it. Not as perfect but as running towards perfection. The decision to give our life to Jesus Christ is indeed something we decide everyday. Does our life belong to Jesus TODAY? It cannot belong both to Him and to the world. Yet, many believe that it can. The result is hypocrisy and double mindness. If you are in a situation like this, there is a way out. God CAN help you. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you. Decide that for your life there is nothing more valuable than Him. Give your life to Him FULLY. Here is what James suggests:

James 4:7-10
Therefore SUBMIT TO GOD. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse yourhands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning andyour joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up

and Proverbs 22:4
“By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honour and life”

Real life is found in the humility and the fear of the Lord.

And to close, let’s turn to II Corinthians 13:5, the verse we borrowed as title to this article:

II Corinthians 13:5
“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?”

Anastasios Kioulachoglou