As Jeremiah lamented over the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, he called for the people to examine themselves and turn back to the Lord - Lam 3:40 Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the Lord;"
In teaching on the proper observance of the Lord's Supper, Paul wrote that it was to be a time for self-examination –1Co 11:27-28 "27Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup." Paul later challenged the Corinthians to "examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves." -2Co 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? — unless indeed you are disqualified." In doing so, he employs the present tense for the verb "examine" indicating that such examination was to be an on-going activity!
This should naturally raise some important questions... Why should we examine ourselves, and by what standard should we examine ourselves.
Paul said, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the ”faith." The expression "in the faith" refers to being a faithful Christian so we are to examine whether or not we are remaining faithful to the Lord! We need to remember that the danger of drifting is ever present. It is possible to drift away if we neglect our salvation He 2:1 "Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away."
Another reason we should examine ourselves is to ensure we do not fall away. Paul warned of falling from grace - cf. Gal 5:4You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. Peter likewise warned of falling from one's own steadfastness 2 Peter 3:17 "You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked." Jesus described what would happen to those branches who did not bear fruit John 15:1-2 1"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." Through self-examination one can KNOW what their true condition is!
By what standard should we examine ourselves? We cannot trust solely upon what we may think of ourselves, we are approved only if the Lord commends us - 2 Cor 10:18 "For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends." We cannot compare ourselves with others, to compare ourselves with others is unwise - 2 Cor 10:12 "For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."
We examine ourselves by the standard of the Word of God. As the Lord Himself has said, we will be judged by His words John 12:48 "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day." The only appropriate standard to use when we examine ourselves is the Word of God. To ensure that we will remain faithful to God we should frequently "Examine ourselves" in the light of God's Word!
- Dewey Stidham Jr.