Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Corinthian ‘In The Faith’ Test

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—Unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test!” ~2 Corinthians 13:5 (NRSV).

This is an acid test for the Corinthians as the Apostle Paul concludes his second canonical letter to the church there. The ebbing, flowing passage of the conflict in this text takes us through a very practical insight to Paul’s theology. If we want to know how to deal in hurt, or with hurt, we get a cogent glimpse here.

The key in this verse above, however, seems to be the phrase “in the faith.” In other words, are they in fellowship with Christ Jesus, the Lord? The inference is rhetorical: they are, and this means they should be living “in the faith.”

Real Christian or Not?

Millions of people around the world will profess faith in Christ—marking “Christian” on important identification papers—or for that matter “Muslim” et cetera—but don’t follow that profession at all apart from ‘agreeing’ with its values, yet not aligning with them. We can very well respect the ardent Muslim for the commitment they may have to their beliefs—for instance, adhering to their holy month of Ramadan. We would call them a real believer in Islam. So what makes a real believer in Jesus Christ?

The Apostle Paul uses words that will push the Corinthians when they read them.

He knows that Jesus Christ dwells with them, and indeed in them. He knows this because he has discipled them. He knows they are saved.

Yet, so often the Corinthians had sought to test Paul when indeed Paul now asks them to test themselves. He seeks they honestly look at themselves; as if the Lord were the present Judge—which indeed he was (and is eternally).

The real Christian will test themselves; the key question is, are they in the faith, by way of works consistent with love and repentance. Do they allow the Lord Jesus to judge them, here and now?

Contemporary Reflections

The way some people treat their pastors we might have modern-day representations of Paul and the Corinthians all laid out before us. Presuming this isn’t us, the verse profiled above is very much about fruitfulness—if we are “in the faith” we will pass the test or repent. There’s nothing wrong with being wrong. That’s why there’s no fear in being a Christian because we can, and should, always repent. Indeed, to repent is its own form of fruitfulness.

Amazingly, Paul still takes the lowly position, even in this concluding bunch of verses. He wishes for the Corinthian best when they might openly disparage him.

This is the example of Christ—the very real sign someone is acting “in the faith”; that they voluntarily surrender the upper hand, capitulating in meekness when a ‘killing stroke’ would be that typically expected response.

It is for us, personally, in the privacy of our prayer closets, to allow God to test our hearts and minds—our acts. We pass the test or we fail and then repent. Repenting, of itself, is a fruitful activity enabling us to pass the test; we’re in the faith.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

General Reference: Frank J. Matera, II Corinthians: A Commentary – The New Testament Library (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), pp. 308-09.

No comments: