This verse applies at all times, not just during the spring festival season. Here, "faith" is used in the sense of the truth. Those who are in the truth live by faith. They live according to their beliefs in God. The truth is the center of their lives, and by it they direct and choose the course of their lives. The Feast of Tabernacles involves seeing if we are living by faith or sight. It shows whether we are led by God's Spirit or carnality. It reveals whether we can separate temporal vanity from spiritual reality.
God is very concerned, not only with what we do, but also why we do it. This makes fearing God vitally important. Doing everything in relation to Him and His purpose converts ordinary, mundane acts to ones of spiritual significance. If we have a deep and abiding respect for Him and His Word—arising from an awareness that He personally is a part of our lives and has great, awe-inspiring plans for us—we have a powerful motivation to make choices based on faith in Him.
We can easily make the acceptance of Christian faith a substitute for living it. Jesus says, "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Each person must do his own examination. One may hear a sermon that affects him and be shown where he is wrong, but true conviction of wrong is not reached until one sees his sin and condemns himself. The fear of God works this in us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing for the Feast
We understand that we are to examine ourselves in the weeks preceding Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. Sometimes, however, we miss the purpose for the examination. Consider these two scriptures in relation to self-examination:
» Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. (II Corinthians 13:5)
» 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. (II Corinthians 10:12)
If we are not careful in this, we can easily fall into two snares, both of which center on the self.
The most obvious one, expressed in II Corinthians 10:12, is that we will judge ourselves in light of other people. This fatal trap deceitfully provides us with self-justification for the way we are. The result is that we will not change or grow because we will be judging according to our own standards—and why change perfection? Self-examination by our own code produces self-righteousness.
The other dangerous snare occurs when our self-examination is so rigorous that we become very depressed and feel salvation is impossible. This is just as utterly self-indulgent as the other! This "woe is me" approach is a not-too-subtle blast against God's judgment and grace for calling us and making things so difficult for us!
Anyone who compares himself to others is not exhibiting faith in God. He is telling God that His Son's life means little to him. Likewise, anyone who feels so morose with guilt that he threatens not to take the Passover is not exhibiting faith in God. He is telling God that He is unable to forgive that much.
At Passover, our focus should be on the payment for sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God in His grace is willing to forgive our transgressions on the basis of Christ's death. During Unleavened Bread, the focus shifts to overcoming sin and coming out of this world through God's power, which is also part of His grace. At Passover, it is the grace of God to justify us through Christ's blood. At Unleavened Bread, it is the grace of God to sanctify us as we move toward His Kingdom and glorification.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Christ, Our Passover
God, through Paul, commands us to examine our faith and to test ourselves. How can we know the strength of our faith—our belief in the words of God? One of the ways is to examine our fears and worries.
Nehemiah writes, "For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me" (Nehemiah 6:13). Why did Nehemiah call being afraid a sin? Because fear and worry call God a liar, insinuating that His words about His sovereignty, love, power, and faithfulness are not to be trusted. Fear and worry mirror the attitudes of a faithless Satan who believes God exists but does not believe what He says.
Philippians 4:6 tells us, "Be anxious for nothing." In other words, we are commanded, "Don't worry about anything," another of God's absolutes. To have fear, worry, anxiety, or forebodings question God's goodness and care. They display a lack of faith in His promises of wise and gracious providence and cast doubts on the depth of the love God and Christ have for us. If we cannot trust God, how can He ever trust us? Why would Christ marry forever someone who doubts His love?
Rather than give in to fear and worry, we can choose—an action—to believe God and His love. If we believe in the depth of the love God (John 17:23) and Christ (John 15:13) have for us, believing those words, faith in that perfect love will cast out fear (I John 4:18) so that we can say as David did: "I will fear no evil; for You are with me" (Psalm 23:4).
In Psalm 78:22 (New Living Translation—NLT), David succinctly cuts to the heart of Israel's problem, and by extension, ours: ". . . for they did not believe God or trust him to care for them." Doubting God's love for us is at the core of the sin of faithlessness. This doubt was a major characteristic of our ancestors, ancient Israel. ". . . because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the Lord by saying, 'Is the Lord going to take care of us or not?'" [Exodus 17:7 (NLT)] They never overcame this sin of faithlessness. We must. The stakes are so much higher.
It is sobering to consider the fate of the fearful and unbelieving and the rank they are given in the list found in Revelation 21:8: "But the cowardly [fearful, KJV], unbelieving [faithless, RSV], abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
God tested the faith of Adam and Eve and of Abraham. The former failed, the latter succeeded. Eventually, God will put every human being to the same test.
As we cope with these tests we need to stir up (II Timothy 1:6) and exercise that gift of faith God gave us at the beginning, to get back to that first love and dedication to the words and promises God has given us.
We have the same choice as Adam and Eve, ancient Israel, and Abraham had. It is our decision to make: to believe God or to believe what we see—the visible circumstances we face. Faith is life (Habakkuk 2:4), and faithlessness is sin (Romans 14:23) and therefore death (Romans 6:23). God entreats us to choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Faith—What Is It?
Examine yourselves - Paul advises in Galatians 6:3-4: "For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." The Greek word for examine here is dokîmázô, which means, according to Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, "'to test, prove,' with the expectation of approving." It can also indicate "to discern" or "to distinguish," suggesting proving whether a thing is worthy or not.
The Living Bible adds clarity to Galatians 6:4: "Let everyone be sure that he is doing his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work well done and won't need to compare himself with someone else." We realize it is unwise to compare ourselves with others (II Corinthians 10:12), but there is no need to compare ourselves with anyone else if we seek God's help in making the inner secrets of our hearts plain to us through His Spirit! Then, we can work on changing what God reveals that He is concerned about in us.
In other words, if we sincerely, with our whole hearts, ask Almighty God to make us understand the depths of our beings, He is faithful to do it. It is then our responsibility to be prepared to repent fully of what God makes plain to us. This is an easy process to describe, but often hard to follow through on. Nevertheless, it is part of a continuing process in the life of any Christian who wishes to draw closer to God; it is our work. We are required to exert effort - sometimes a great deal of effort, even painful effort - to assure our entrance into God's Kingdom (see, for instance, Philippians 2:12; Colossians 1:23; II Peter 1:10-11). We cannot leave this labor undone!
What Does 'Examine Yourselves' Mean?
Do you not know yourselves? - We have all learned many things through trial and suffering over the years, but it has not been all pain and agony. At various times, we have abounded with joy, contentment, peace, and growth as well, and we should thank God who has engineered and authored these blessings. However, beyond honestly identifying how far we have come, we also need to recognize and acknowledge the stony parts that are still in us, repenting before God with our whole hearts.
As Paul says in I Corinthians 6:19-20, "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." To paraphrase, do we not realize the magnitude of our relationship with God and the obligation this puts us under to live every second as an example of God's way of life? God's people are not ordinary in any sense!
Solomon writes in Proverbs 4:23, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." The heart, the mind, is the storehouse of our character. We must spend time in meditation and in prayer asking for insight from God to reveal to us exactly who we are - inside - where normally only God can see. We must implore Him for understanding about who we really are right now in His eyes. We need this information to understand properly our relationship with Him.
This is a solemn and sobering process, but it should not be something we fear. Still, we must come to God in this process with humility and a heart ready to repent immediately of flaws that He shows us. This process is not superficial by any means, but one designed to reach to the very heart of our being.
Remember, God may be a consuming fire to His enemies (Hebrews 12:29), but to His own children, He is a boundless provider and loving Father (Ephesians 3:14-21). He is quick to forgive if we freely confess our sins to Him (I John 1:9).
What Does 'Examine Yourselves' Mean?
[Do you not know] that Jesus Christ is in you? - Paul exhorts these same Corinthians:
And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you." "I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 6:16—7:1)
Because we are God's children, we are special, but nothing of our own makes us special. It is only God dwelling in us by His Spirit that separates us from others. But what a difference that makes!
Jesus says in John 14:23, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." This should make us think, "What kind of home am I providing for the Sovereign God and His glorified Son?" Our desire to give God nothing to judge as unworthy of His presence should run the gamut from our physical health to our most secret thoughts.
Clearly, every one of us falls short. But this is why Paul exhorts us to cleanse ourselves, continually maturing in holiness in the fear of God. We are to scrub deeply out of deep reverence for Him who dwells in us.
What Does 'Examine Yourselves' Mean?
Unless indeed you are disqualified - Disqualified ("reprobates" in the King James Version, Strong's #1384: adókimos) means, according to Vine's, "not standing the test, rejected." It suggests "unacceptable," "disapproved," "unworthy," "spurious," "worthless," "cast away." This word's meaning is illustrated by the following verses:
Romans 1:28: And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased [adókimon] mind, to do those things which are not fitting.
Titus 1:16: They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified [adókimoi] for every good work.
Hebrews 6:7-8: For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected [adókimos] and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
Being disqualified or rejected is the opposite of having Jesus Christ dwell in us; it is being unfit or unworthy of His presence in us. In other words, a disqualified person is cut off from God! This is the worst possible outcome of a Christian's life: to return to a life of sin and have so much pride that he or she rejects salvation and all that comes with it! God's Word clearly shows that it can happen (see Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31)!
Regular self-examination is a proven way to make sure that it does not happen to us!
What Does 'Examine Yourselves' Mean?
God intends for us to discover the reality of our nature. Of course, it is impossible to fathom it entirely, but we can and must come to grips with the potential for evil that exists in every one of us. We must at least annually measure the extent that we have overcome the evil in us and the sincerity of our commitment to our relationship with God. As we examine ourselves this and every year, God expects us to prepare ourselves as mature Christians to rededicate ourselves to Him afresh at Passover and to put sin out of our lives diligently and actively, which one of the lessons of the Days of Unleavened Bread.
If we sincerely ask God in faith, He will reveal our inward, hidden faults to us (see Psalm 19:12-13; 51:6; 139:23-24). It is important that we not be overly discouraged by what He reveals. It is human nature. It has lived and grown within us for as long as we have lived, and it takes long years to overcome its influence. In fact, we cannot entirely escape it in this flesh, a compelling reason Christians long for the resurrection at the return of Jesus Christ.
Rather than wallow in discouragement, we should channel our energies in eradicating its power over our lives (see II Corinthians 7:9-11). Paul tells us in Romans 7:14-23 that, to his shame and regret, he often did what he hated, sin, and conversely, he did not do what he really wanted to do. Yet, the same apostle also writes in verse 25: "I thank God - [I am delivered from my sinful flesh] through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." As long as we are "in the flesh," we will sin, but we must continually - daily - repent and ask God for help in fighting our carnal nature.
God has promised the overcoming if we do our part. Although every imaginable wrong influence in this age besets us, we must remember that God has promised to stick with us and give us the help we need: "For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we may boldly say: 'The LORD is my helper; I will not fear'" (Hebrews 13:5-6).
In Psalm 119:57-60, David intimates that it is a Christian's obligation to turn again, day after day and year after year, to God, saying:
You are my portion, O LORD; I have said [declared, promised] that I would keep Your words. I entreated Your favor with my whole heart; be merciful to me according to Your word. I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies. I made haste, and did not delay to keep Your commandments.
By doing so, we will, due to God's help, succeed in attaining eternal life.
When approaching the Passover season, we would do well to fast, dedicating a whole day to searching the Scriptures and ourselves. We need to make sincere inquiry of God regarding our sins and shortcomings, so that God will never need to reveal them to us in condemnation.
Let us recall I Corinthians 11:28-30:
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
Notice verse 31: "For if we would judge ourselves, we would not [need to] be judged." Christ is the righteous Judge. He would much rather we judged ourselves and turned to righteousness than have to point out our faults to us.
In II Timothy 4:7-8, Paul speaks of his life's accomplishments. He knew he had run the course of his life in a way that was "pleasing" to God. He described it this way:
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.
He is speaking about us!
We have no need to be discouraged at Passover time. It is our opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to Almighty God and renew our dedication to putting on the new man. As James says, sometimes we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). We need to ask God for a clean heart before Him, as well as for hope, joy, peace, and a close, personal relationship with Him and His Son.
What Does 'Examine Yourselves' Mean?
We generally take one of two approaches to self-examination. The first is something on the order of, "I'm no good. I've never lived up to my expectations. I'm just worthless."
Some of us hail from some pretty painful backgrounds. A handful have been molested and feel worthless because of it. Others have been told they were useless from childhood and have a very low opinion of themselves. Many have just had terrible experiences that have left scars, making accurate self-examination very difficult.
We may not like ourselves, and we wonder how anyone else could like us—especially God. We may look at ourselves, at the plethora of mistakes that dot our past, and judge ourselves harshly. In some cases, we feel we are unworthy to take the Passover.
The second approach to self-examination is just the opposite. Here we give ourselves a quick once-over and go on our way. Like the man in James 1 who looks in the mirror, sees what he is, but immediately forgets, some of us fail to give our lives a thorough evaluation.
We may think, "Well, in Romans 7 it shows that Paul sinned. He didn't want to, but the sin in him caused him to. Man will never be perfect until the return of Christ. If Paul couldn't overcome sin, then I guess that God knows that we really can't get out all the sin. I'll try, but if it's too hard, I'm sure that God will understand." A person who uses this approach may feel he is taking the Passover seriously, but in fact has not done a proper self-examination.
John O. Reid
Time for Self-Evaluation
Other commentary entries containing this verse:
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
2 Corinthians :
2 Corinthians 13:5