The Bible says "examine yourself" whether you are in the faith which means to check your experience to see if you are really saved. It also says to "prove" your own selves. The word translated "prove" is also translated "examine" in I Cor. 11:28, "But let a man examine himself. . ." Therefore, II Cor. 13:5 gives a double emphasis "examine, examine" yourselves to see if you are saved. The meaning of this word is to test or scrutinize to see whether a thing (in this case salvation) is genuine or not.
The problem is that many who try to examine do not know what they are looking for because they do not know what is involved in real salvation. If I tampered with a yardstick and shortened it by two inches and then gave that "so-called" yardstick to you along with a bolt of material and told you to cut it into yard lengths, what would be the results? Every piece of material would come up short, two inches short. The message of salvation has been tampered with (many times through ignorance), therefore many who have made "professions" will come up short. Mat. 7:22-23 says, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
Many in this condition are measuring by the wrong criteria and as a result have a continual nagging doubt. This causes them to go to others looking for someone to tell them they are saved. Some would be thrilled if an angel told them they are saved, but the Bible says in II Cor. 11:14 that, "Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." This is dangerous! Preachers, we are not "assurance givers" but preachers who set forth criteria (an accurate standard by which one can measure) so that a person may examine himself and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal that person's true condition. As a preacher of the gospel, I would like to set forth some criteria by which you may examine yourself.
1. Reality of a Time and Place
A person is saved at a specific time and place. There are many things involved in your experience that leads you to that time and place but salvation occurs at an instant, at a time and place. You may not know the minute, date, or hour but that time and place is etched upon your heart just as much or even more so than when you were married, if you are married. If you do not have a time and a place when you were saved, it is a good indication that you are not saved. Let me say this, you may have a time and a place of a "profession" you made and yet still not be saved because there was not a completed work of the Holy Spirit done in your heart, thus you are not saved.
2. Reality of Self
This is more than having a revelation that you are a sinner. When the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8), you will see yourself as you really are. Every man according to Eph. 2:1-3 is dead, dominated (controlled by the world, the devil, and the flesh), and doomed (children of wrath which remains upon every person who has reached the knowledge of accountability and not yet saved; John 3:36). Also every person has a deceived heart before he is saved. (Jer. 17:9; II Cor. 4:4) Before one is saved there will a reality of self. You will recognize and realize who and what you really are.
3. Reality of Sin
John 16:8-9 states that the Holy Spirit will reprove (convict) you of sin. Notice sin is singular, therefore, it is not referring to the fruit of sin which is sins such as lying, stealing, drinking, murder, adultery, and etc. but it is referring to the sin of unbelief as verse 9 clearly brings out. "On" means to come to a point, place, and time with a purpose. This can only be accomplished by Holy Spirit conviction which brings a person to a place and time and enables him to believe "on" the Lord Jesus Christ. At that point all sins of that person were charged to the Lord's account and marked "paid in full."
4. Reality of Separation-Lostness
Many say that they are lost when they have never had a reality of that lostness or separation from God. What they have done we can call "inductive and deductive" reasoning. They heard the preaching of what real salvation is and realized they were not saved; therefore, they said, "I am lost." But their lostness is not yet a reality to them because the Holy Spirit has not completed His work and made their lostness a reality.
5. Reality of the Saviour.
John 16:8, 10 states that the Holy Spirit will reprove (convince) of righteousness which really is a person, the Lord Jesus Christ who has been made unto us righteousness. (I Cor. 1:30)
Many "professors" know about Jesus as Saviour but have no reality of Him as their Saviour because He has never become a reality as "the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14:6) I John 5:12 make it very clear that one must have the Son (Righteousness) to have life. "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."
6. Reality of Repentance
Repentance is a must to be saved. Luke 13:3 states, "Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish." Repentance is more than turning over a new leaf. It is a change of mind which leads to a change of heart, attitude, and direction. It means to turn from sin, self, and the world and turn to the Lord, taking up sides with Him against yourself. One can only repent after godly sorrow (Holy Ghost conviction) has produced repentance in his heart. (II Cor. 7:10)
7. Reality of Trusting
Eph. 1:13 indicates those saved "trusted" on the Lord Jesus Christ after they heard the Word of Truth. This means more than to just believe some facts about Jesus. It means to commit to, rely on, and submit to Jesus Christ as one's Lord. This can only be done after "faith" as been given by the grace of God. (Eph. 2:8)
8. Reality of Assurance
Assurance does not come from man but from the Holy Spirit bearing witness with your quickened spirit that you are saved. (Rom. 8:16) If you are saved the gospel came to you not in Word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance. (I Thess. 1:5) Isa. 32:17 reveals that assurance is forever.
These criteria must be present in your salvation experience in some quantity or in some degree. If they are not present you are not in the faith, you do not know your own self, and you are "reprobate" (not approved; not standing the test). Our text, II Cor. 13:5 verifies this. You may refuse to examine now or you may refuse to admit you do not measure up after you examine, but one day when you stand before the Lord, if these criteria are not present, you will not measure up and then He will tell you "I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Mat. 7:23) How sad that will be and it will be too late to do anything about it. But now you can do something about it. Examine yourself and be honest about the criteria you find or do not find and then allow the Holy Spirit to complete His work of conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
We have this complete message on tape that explains in more detail each criteria. If you would like a copy, please feel free to call or write. Our tapes and booklets are free for the asking. If we can be of help in any way please let us know. We care!
THE PERSUADER - June-July, 1997