“Keep Proving What You Yourselves Are”
“Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.”—2 CORINTHIANS 13:5.
1, 2. (a) How can uncertainty about our beliefs affect us? (b) What situation in first-century Corinth may have caused some to be unsure of the way in which to walk?
A MAN traveling through the countryside comes to a fork in the road. Uncertain about which way will lead him to his destination, he asks passersby for directions but receives conflicting information. Confused, he is unable to go on. Having doubts about our beliefs can have a similar effect on us. Such uncertainty can interfere with our ability to make decisions, causing us to be unsure of the way in which to walk.
2 A situation arose that could have had such an effect on some people in the Christian congregation in first-century Corinth, Greece. “Superfine apostles” were challenging the authority of the apostle Paul, saying: “His letters are weighty and forceful, but his presence in person is weak and his speech contemptible.” (2 Corinthians 10:7-12; 11:5, 6) Such a viewpoint may have caused some in the Corinthian congregation to be unsure of how to walk.
3, 4. Why should Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians be of interest to us?
3 Paul founded the congregation in Corinth during his visit there in 50 C.E. He stayed in Corinth “a year and six months, teaching among them the word of God.” Indeed, “many of the Corinthians that heard began to believe and be baptized.” (Acts 18:5-11) Paul was keenly interested in the spiritual welfare of his fellow believers in Corinth. Moreover, the Corinthians had written Paul for advice on certain matters. (1 Corinthians 7:1) So he gave them very fine admonition.
4 “Keep testing whether you are in the faith,” Paul wrote, “keep proving what you yourselves are.” (2 Corinthians 13:5) Applying this counsel would have protected those brothers in Corinth from being uncertain about the way in which to walk. It can do the same for us today. How, then, can we follow Paul’s advice? How can we test whether we are in the faith? And what is involved in proving what we ourselves are?
“Keep Testing Whether You Are in the Faith”
5, 6. What standard do we have for testing whether we are in the faith, and why is that the ideal standard?
5 In a test, usually a subject or an object is tested, and there is a measure or a standard according to which the test is performed. In this case, the test subject is not the faith—the body of beliefs we have embraced. We as individuals are the subject. To perform the test, we have a perfect standard. A melody composed by the psalmist David states: “The law of Jehovah is perfect, bringing back the soul. The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise. The orders from Jehovah are upright, causing the heart to rejoice; the commandment of Jehovah is clean, making the eyes shine.” (Psalm 19:7, 8) The Bible contains Jehovah’s perfect laws and upright orders, his trustworthy reminders and clean commandments. The message found therein is the ideal standard for testing.
6 Concerning that God-inspired message, the apostle Paul says: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Yes, God’s word can test our heart—what we really are on the inside. How can we make this sharp and powerful message come to life for us? The psalmist leaves no doubt as to what this entails. He sang: “Happy is the man . . . [whose] delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night.” (Psalm 1:1, 2) “The law of Jehovah” is found in God’s written Word, the Bible. We must take pleasure in reading Jehovah’s Word. Indeed, we must take time to read in it in an undertone, or to meditate on it. As we do this, we need to expose ourselves—the test subjects—to what is written there.
7. What is the foremost way of testing whether we are in the faith?
7 The foremost way of testing whether we are in the faith, then, is to read and meditate on God’s Word and examine how our conduct measures up to what we learn. We can be glad that we have much help to understand God’s Word.
8. How can the publications of “the faithful and discreet slave” help us to test whether we are in the faith?
8 Jehovah has provided teachings and instruction through the publications of “the faithful and discreet slave,” which explain the Scriptures. (Matthew 24:45) For example, consider the box entitled “Questions for Meditation” at the end of most chapters in the book Draw Close to Jehovah.a What fine opportunities for personal reflection this feature of the book provides! Numerous subjects discussed in our journals, The Watchtower and Awake!, also help us to test whether we are in the faith. Regarding the articles on the book of Proverbs in recent issues of The Watchtower, one Christian woman said: “I find these articles very practical. They help me examine whether my speech, conduct, and attitude really measure up to Jehovah’s righteous standards.”
9, 10. What provisions of Jehovah help us to keep testing whether we are in the faith?
9 We also receive abundant direction and encouragement at congregation meetings, assemblies, and conventions. These are among the spiritual provisions that God has made for those concerning whom Isaiah prophesied: “It must occur in the final part of the days that the mountain of the house of Jehovah will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, and it will certainly be lifted up above the hills; and to it all the nations must stream. And many peoples will certainly go and say: ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, . . . and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’” (Isaiah 2:2, 3) It certainly is a blessing to have such instruction about Jehovah’s ways.
10 Not to be overlooked is the counsel from those who have spiritual qualifications, including Christian elders. Concerning them, the Bible says: “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1) How grateful we can be for this provision for our readjustment!
11. Testing whether we are in the faith calls for what?
11 Our publications, Christian meetings, appointed men—these are wonderful provisions from Jehovah. Testing whether we are in the faith, though, requires self-examination. So when we are reading our publications or listening to Scriptural admonition, we need to ask ourselves: ‘Does this describe me? Do I do this? Am I adhering to the body of Christian beliefs?’ Our attitude toward the information we receive by means of these provisions also has a bearing on our spiritual condition. “A physical man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him,” says the Bible. “However, the spiritual man examines indeed all things.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, 15) Should we not strive to maintain a positive, spiritual view of what we read in our books, magazines, and other publications and of what we hear at our meetings and from the elders?
“Keep Proving What You Yourselves Are”
12. What does proving what we ourselves are involve?
12 Proving what we ourselves are involves self-evaluation. Yes, we can be in the truth, but what is the level of our spirituality? Proving what we are involves giving proof of maturity and of genuine appreciation for spiritual provisions.
13. According to Hebrews 5:14, what serves as proof of our maturity?
13 What proof of Christian maturity can we look for in ourselves? The apostle Paul wrote: “Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14) We give proof of maturity by training our perceptive powers. Just as certain muscles in the body of an athlete need to be trained through repeated use before he can excel at his sport, our perceptive powers have to be trained through use in applying Bible principles.
14, 15. Why should we put forth diligent effort to study the deeper things of God’s Word?
14 Before we can train our perceptive powers, though, we must acquire knowledge. For this, diligent personal study is essential. When we regularly engage in personal study—especially of the deeper things of God’s Word—our perceptive powers are improved. Over the years, many deep subjects have been discussed in The Watchtower. How do we respond when we come across articles that discuss deeper truths? Do we tend to shy away from them just because they contain “some things hard to understand”? (2 Peter 3:16) On the contrary, we put forth extra effort to understand what is being said.—Ephesians 3:18.
15 What if personal study is difficult for us? It is vital that we endeavor to acquire or cultivate a taste for it.b (1 Peter 2:2) Growing to maturity requires that we learn to draw nourishment from solid food, the deeper truths of God’s Word. Otherwise, our perceptive powers will necessarily remain limited. Giving proof of maturity, however, involves more than acquiring perceptive powers. In daily life we must put to use the knowledge that we gain through diligent personal study.
16, 17. What admonition does the disciple James give about becoming “doers of the word”?
16 The proof of what we ourselves are is also found in our expressions of appreciation for the truth—our works of faith. Using a powerful illustration to describe this area of self-evaluation, the disciple James says: “Become doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves with false reasoning. For if anyone is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, this one is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, and off he goes and immediately forgets what sort of man he is. But he who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in it, this man, because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing it.”—James 1:22-25.
17 James is saying: ‘Peer into the mirror of God’s word, and evaluate yourself. Persist in doing this, and scrutinize yourself in the light of what you find in God’s word. Then, do not quickly forget what you have seen. Make the needed corrections.’ Following this advice may at times present a challenge.
18. Why does following James’ counsel present a challenge?
18 Take, for example, the requirement to share in the Kingdom-preaching work. “With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness,” wrote Paul, “but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” (Romans 10:10) Making public declaration for salvation with our mouth requires a number of adjustments. Participating in the preaching work does not come naturally to most of us. Being zealous at it and giving the work the place that it deserves in our lives requires even more changes and sacrifices. (Matthew 6:33) But once we become doers of this God-given work, we are happy because of the praise that it brings to Jehovah. Are we, then, zealous Kingdom proclaimers?
19. What should our works of faith include?
19 How inclusive should our works of faith be? Paul states: “The things that you learned as well as accepted and heard and saw in connection with me, practice these; and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9) Proof of what we are is given by our practicing what we have learned, accepted, heard, and seen—the full scope of Christian dedication and discipleship. “This is the way. Walk in it,” instructs Jehovah through the prophet Isaiah.—Isaiah 30:21.
20. What type of individuals are a great blessing to the congregation?
20 Men and women who are diligent students of God’s Word, who are zealous preachers of the good news, who are flawless in their integrity, and who are loyal supporters of the Kingdom are a great blessing to the congregation. Their presence adds stability to the congregation they associate with. They prove to be very helpful, especially because there are so many new ones to care for. When we take to heart Paul’s advice to ‘keep testing whether we are in the faith, keep proving what we ourselves are,’ we too become a good influence on others.
Take Delight in Doing God’s Will
21, 22. How can we take delight in doing God’s will?
21 “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted,” sang King David of ancient Israel, “and your law is within my inward parts.” (Psalm 40:8) David took pleasure in doing God’s will. Why? Because Jehovah’s law was in David’s heart. David was not uncertain about the way in which to walk.
22 When God’s law is within our inward parts, we are not unsure of the way in which to walk. We take delight in doing God’s will. By all means, then, let us ‘exert ourselves vigorously’ as we serve Jehovah from the heart.—Luke 13:24.
a Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
b For helpful suggestions on how to study, see pages 27-32 of the book Benefit From Theocratic Ministry School Education, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Do You Recall?
• How can we test whether we are in the faith?
• What is involved in proving what we ourselves are?
• What proof can we give of Christian maturity?
• How do our works of faith help us to evaluate what we are?
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Do you know the foremost way of testing whether you are in the faith?
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We give proof of our Christian maturity by exercising our perceptive powers
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We prove what we are by becoming ‘not forgetful hearers, but doers of the word’