Heart to Heart Commentary
2 Corinthians 13:5: "Test yourselves to see if you are in the FAITH; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test?"
If there was ever a time in the entirety of mankind's history to take the above verse of Scripture seriously -- it is today. In the above portion of Scripture, the Apostle Paul was NOT speaking to the unbeliever, but he was directly addressing his admonishment (warning) to those who identify themselves as Christians. This is very significant as Paul seemed to be VERY concerned about the VERY real possibility that everyone in Corinth who identified himself as a Christian may in fact NOT be a genuine born-again Christian at all.
So the Apostle Paul urged the Corinthian Christians to examine themselves to see if Jesus Christ was indeed dwelling within them, i.e., to see if they were actually born-again with His Spirit. And now if we were to combine the Apostle Paul's admonishment to the Corinthian Christians with his prophetic warning in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 of a last-days apostasy (falling away) from the FAITH within God's Church, the above verse about testing ourselves to see if we are in the FAITH, becomes a bone-chilling warning that CANNOT be ignored.
When I first became a Christian and started to study God's Word, there was one thing that profoundly stood out to me. How could the Pharisees of that time NOT recognize Jesus as their Messiah!? After all, they knew the Holy Scriptures better than our most brilliant contemporary theologians; their words and even their behavior seemed to be in order. Yet they did NOT recognize Jesus! Jesus put it this way: They were religious (God-fearing) on the outside, but dead within. Their apparent spiritual blindness presents to us a profound problem as it exposes to us the real possibility of being spiritually blind ourselves; even though, as with the Pharisees, we have knowledge and appear clean on the outside.
Therefore, we MUST be honest with ourselves in these last-days that there is at least the possibility that we too could be spiritually blind. Yet, if we are to examine ourselves to see if Jesus lives within us, we must also have the ability (the spiritual eyes) to recognize Him. Obviously, by looking at the Pharisees, we know that an overwhelming head-knowledge of Scripture, the ability to quote it, and doing righteous works will not insure us the spiritual eyesight to allow us to recognize Jesus. So how can we attain this spiritual eyesight which is so essential to our self-examination? How can we attain this spiritual eyesight to see if we recognize the Spirit of Jesus Christ within us?
As I pondered this dilemma, it became clear to me that the only way anyone could recognize Jesus was by the Spirit of Jesus; or you could also say, by the Spirit of God, inasmuch as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one. I then began to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to me the Spirit behind God's Word, since Jesus was the Word made flesh (John 1:14). It became my heartfelt desire to use, or allow, God's Word to reveal His nature (Spirit) to me. No longer was I content to just memorize God's Word so I could recite it by rote, I wanted to be able to recognize His Word by the spirit behind it.
Nevertheless, it remained an imperative to me to know His written Word as it was the only way I had to know God intimately, i.e., to know His very nature or spirit. So I proceeded to spend a lot of time reading and listening to God's Word; but then I went a step further, I also spent much time with God in prayer. No longer was I interested in a religious study of Scripture; I wanted to know the Spirit behind the words in the Bible. Over the years, as my intimacy with God grew, I found something truly remarkable; although several different people wrote the Bible, I began to recognize that God's awesome unchanging Spirit was truly behind every word from Genesis to Revelation.
But now my heart began to break. As my spiritual eyesight became clearer and clearer so I could begin to recognize the Spirit of Jesus Christ, to my horror, it also became harder and harder for me to recognize the Spirit of Jesus Christ within "God's" Church at large. Oh, I indeed saw many within God's Church saying the right words (even quoting Holy Scripture better than I could), and everything on the outside seemed to be reasonably righteous, but something was missing -- I did not recognize the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
My heart sank within me. Something was VERY wrong! My heart profoundly sank into my innermost being. It was then I knew in my heart of hearts that this insight was NOT given to me to judge anyone, but to HELP every called-out-one safely into the Kingdom of God. I wanted to somehow spiritually paint "the portrait of a Christian" in order that all who professed to be Christians would then be able to examine themselves to see if they could recognize the Spirit of Jesus Christ within themselves. And, God forbid, if they failed the test, just maybe, if they had ears to hear, they could then turn their mere Christian profession into a truly born-again experience.
With this in mind, the title I have given to the following thirty-one standalone commentaries is: "The Portrait of a Christian." The title comes from the knowledge that the best way to warn (admonish) of a fault is to expose the genuine -- to expose the Spirit behind the Holy Scriptures so you can examine yourself to see if you recognize the Spirit of Jesus Christ (The Word) in you. This is one examination that ALL professing Christians must pass; to fail this examination has eternal infernal consequences.
As a Watchman, it is my heart's desire to lovingly warn and/or admonish the professing Christian by profiling a portrait of the Spirit of God -- by profiling the portrait of a Christian from the perspective of the Spirit, and not by what we see through our physical eyes. From the vantage point of our physical eyes, the Pharisees had everyone fooled (even themselves); but from the Spirit's vantage point, Jesus could see nothing but darkness within. Matthew 23:27: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness."
So as a Watchman who wishes none to perish, and who is filled with a love that can only come from God (to God be the glory), I place before you thirty-one commentaries – warnings – admonishments, in order for you to see if you recognize the Spirit of Jesus Christ in yourself. This is something that is between you and God, as only God can truly expose the state of your heart to you. Therefore, may God forbid anyone in using my commentaries to judge another. For not even I, who wrote the following admonishments (warnings), would even dare to judge my brother or sister as far as his/her salvation is concerned.
So as you begin to read, I pray that those who DO recognize the Spirit of Christ Jesus within themselves will also find comfort and security in these most troubling times. And for you who CANNOT, may you know that God loves you enough to expose it to you now so you can reevaluate the profession of your faith before it's too late and you become condemned with the rest of the world. Matthew 25:7-13: "Then all those virgins (notice that they all identified themselves as virgins of the bridegroom, i.e., Christians) rose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the prudent answered, saying, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. And later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.' But he answered and said, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.' Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour."
2 Corinthians 6:1-2: "And working together with Him, we also URGE you not to receive the grace of God in vain -- for He says: ‘At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you; behold, NOW is the acceptable time, behold, NOW is the day of salvation.'"
From my heart to yours,
Raymond D. Sopp
All above Bible references are from The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.
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