In II Cor 13:5, the Apostle Paul challenges us to, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Now there are three words in the Greek language here for examine or test.
The first word translated in the ESV as “examine” means to test the moral fabric of one’s life. In other words, if my life is given over to the world and sin rather than God, or if I succumb to temptation continually, instead of gaining victory over it, then we are simply to ask ourselves, “I am I a believer in Christ, does my life reflect the fruit keeping with a true Christian?”
The second word for test or examine is a common word used in the NT for something that is proven genuine in the same way gold is proven genuine by a goldsmith. Obviously, since the reward for fake gold is so great, there will never be a shortage of those pretending to get a reward for something that is false or not real. So the skill to test gold for a goldsmith was indeed essential.
During the gold rush out west that began in 1849, amateur miners would find a rock that looked like gold, called Pyrite. They would bring in the gold-like rock to a town with great excitement to cash in what they thought would bring them great wealth, only to find it was worthless. This was called fool’s gold.
In a similar way, if a person believes they belong to Christ and has eternal life and an eternal destiny in heaven, but upon closer scrutiny fail the test of being genuine, then instead of heaven, the Bible tells us there will be hell. Instead of a glorious future with God, there will be a future separated from Him. Just as a fool thinks they have something of value, in reality they have fool’s gold. And so the Apostle Paul simply invites us to “test yourselves.”
The third word in that Corinthians text means something that is disregarded because it had failed the test. In other words, its true worth is revealed and now it is something only good to throw away. Interestingly, in II Cor 13:6, the Apostle Paul also challenges those who were accusing him of being a charlatan, “I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.” And of course when we look at the life of Paul, we see the genuine article.
All of this is there to help us to be honest with ourselves. To examine and test if my life is in keeping with being a follower of Jesus. And if we pass that test we have the promise of everlasting life. In the gospel of John 5:24, Jesus promises us that whoever, “hears my words and believe in the Father who sent him does not come into judgment but passes from death to life.” This is the goodnews of the gospel, when we trust in Christ as our Savior from sin, we receive new life and then, only then our lives are transformed and changed within from sinner to saint and we bear the true genuine characteristics of those who are indeed in the faith.