“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith”
Once I say yes to Christ, is that it? Is that saving grace enough for me to keep the faith?
Let’s look at what Paul said to Timothy. I Timothy 1:18. There, we find Paul giving instructions to Timothy:
I Timothy 1:18-20
“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, KEEPING FAITH AND A GOOD CONSCIENCE, WHICH SOME HAVING REJECTED, CONCERNING THE FAITH HAVE SUFFERED SHIPWRECK, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme”
Some, of whom were also Hymenaeus and Alexander. These people were men of the faith, Men who at one time came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Concerning the faith, they suffered shipwreck. To suffer shipwreck in the faith, it implies that at one point they were moving in the faith.
As Paul again says, speaking this time of Hymenaeus and Philetus:
II Timothy 2:17
“And their message will eat like canker, of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus, WHO HAVE ALLOWED THEIR FAITH TO SUFFER A SHIPWRECK, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some”. These men have gone astray and have lost sight of the faith.
One has gone astray when he is moving in the teachings of Christ, and he loses it. Something like this happened also with Hymenaeus, Alexander and Philetus: concerning the truth, they had strayed concerning the faith, and as such they suffered shipwreck. Unfortunately, they are not the only ones. Their case, though it is an example to be avoided, has many things to teach us.
Is the keeping of the faith something granted?
The keeping of faith is NOT something granted. If it was there would not be in the Word of God the warnings we will see today, nor the Word of God would ever speak for people who concerning the faith suffered shipwreck. I believe that the Christian life and faith is not something the happens immediately, something that finishes with the confession of Romans 10:9-10. Instead, it is something that must be walked out daily, and until GOD calls us home. It certainly starts with the confession of Romans 10:9-10, but it doesn’t finish there.
A. II Timothy 4:6-9
In II Timothy Paul, now reaching the end of his life, gives instructions to Timothy. There, in verses 6-9 he gives a short account of his life:
II Timothy 4:6-9
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 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”
If faith was indeed something that started and finished on the day of our salvation, why would Paul here say “ He has kept the faith”? While Paul kept the faith, Hymenaeus and Alexander made a shipwreck concerning the faith.
At the end of his ministry, his account was very simple: I HAVE FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT, I HAVE FINISHED THE RACE, I HAVE KEPT THE FAITH.
The Christian life is a fight, this is why we called to be soldiers and put on the full armor of GOD. It is a race, slow and steady, but always moving. We must keep the faith, building endurance daily. It starts the day we believed in the Lord, but it doesn’t finish there. Only at the end, and after he had first said that he is “already being poured out as a drink offering”, only then Paul speaks using past tense concerning the faith, the race and the fight. Only then, little before the end of his journey on this earth.
In contrast to him, many brethren and sisters in the faith, have come to the wrong and harmful belief that the race finished the day we believed, and that our faith will never be in danger. Obviously, Paul would not agree with us. Probably this is also the reason that many of us cannot understand him, when in Philippians 3:12-14 he says:
Philippians 3:12-14, 17
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; BUT I PRESS ON, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. BRETHREN I DO NOT COUNT MYSELF TO HAVE APPREHENDED; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. …… Brethren join in following my example”
In contrast to Paul, many brothers count themselves as having already attain the prize. “Since I believed and was saved, I can now live as I wish. I have already received the prize” many of us think. The Christian life for Paul was not like this. It was not something as easy as a little stop to get salvation, and then we continue our lives as there were before. In contrast, it was something different, a fight, a race that he had to run. As he again says in Hebrews 12:1-2
“LET US RUN WITH ENDURANCE THE RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE US LOOKING UNTO JESUS THE AUTHOR AND THE FINISHER OF OUR FAITH, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The Christian life is indeed a race, a road we should run by looking unto Jesus. The faith is something that we need to keep. There is no such thing as “I have made it”. Daily we need to be growing, learning, and moving ahead in Christ. We need to go from infants, to full Maturity in Christ. If one is keeping the faith, then he is moving according to the commandments of his Lord.
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
“EXAMINE YOURSELVES AS TO WHETHER YOU ARE IN THE FAITH”, says Paul in II Corinthians 13:5. Are you in the Faith? Are you abiding in Chris, and abiding in HIS Word? Test yourselves. If you are not abiding, but still believe you are in the faith then your life is being lived with a harmful view of justification, and the grace of GOD. Let’s examine ourselves, before we become disqualified in something. As Paul again says:
I Corinthians 9:24-27
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we can imperishable 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
B. The parable of the sower
This is a very well know piece of scripture. In which Jesus speaks to the reaction of 4 different men regarding the effects of the seed (The Word of GOD). In Luke 8:11-15 we read:
“ 11“Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. 12“Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. 13“Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. 14“The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.15“But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”
The second and third categories of this parable, were always a question to me. These categories didn’t reject the word, at least not immediately. In contrast, the seed sprang up, yet it didn’t give fruit. As the Lord clearly says for the second category, “THEY BELIEVE” but only “for a while”. Though the seed of the Word springs up in all the three categories, it is only the last one that can give fruit. The other two, while they had faith, in the way it disappeared. To tell it differently and more openly: the fact that someone made a confession of faith in Jesus Christ does not automatically classify him in the fourth category. The category to which we belong is dependent on what will happen on the way, in our walk with God from this day on wards. The day that we made our confession it was the day that the seed sprang up. However, how this seed will grow it is not something that we can know from the beginning of our walk with the LORD. Only at the end can someone speak as Paul, using past tense. (II Timothy 4:6-9)
Here are some traps that can put our faith in jeopardy, and to these traps no one should give in. These traps are associated with Luke 8.
- I. Temptations
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death”
No-one should give in to temptation. There will be times where we will have to decide between God and “OUR OWN DESIRES”. There will be critical crossroads, times where we will have to choose whether we will follow God’s way or our own way. At such times, the people of the second category, forsake God and run again after their own lusts. If there is no repentance and return, the results can really be devastating.
II. Tribulation / Persecution for the Word
As Paul says concerning the results of tribulation: “no-one should be shaken by these afflictions” (I Thessalonians 3:3).
The afflictions and tribulations shake the people of the second category. Though they initially believed, they are not immovable in temptation and tribulation. As soon as trials and tribulations arise they lose their way.
III. Love of money, greediness, deception of riches
For this trap, Paul says:
I Timothy 6:9-10
“ 9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
The problem is not with money itself but with the love of money. The problem with Balaam the prophet, was not that he didn’t ask God, but that he “LOVED the wages of unrighteousness” (II Peter 2:15) so much that he ran after them.
Another obstacle for the growth of the seed of God’s Word is cares. As Christ warns:
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come on you unexpectedly.”
Cares make the believer’s heart heavy and choke the seed of the Word. Instead of first, God takes a second or a lower position and He is somehow considered not so relevant for meeting the needs. The covering of cares becomes our personal responsibility, and not God’s responsibility as He invites us:
I Peter 5:7
“casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you”
V. Pleasures of life
The Lord spoke concerning the results of this trap in the passage of Luke we gave previously. An obvious example of the effects of this trap is a well-known man of God: Solomon.
The richest king of Israel, the one to whom God had given so much wisdom that kings from other nations were coming to listen to him, at the end “TURNED HIS HEART” away from God and His Word. As I Kings tells us:
I Kings 11:1-9
“But king Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites – from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it was so, when Solomon was old, THAT HIS WIVES TURNED HIS HEART AFTER OTHER GODS; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord and did not FULLY follow the Lord, as did his father David…… so the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.”
When Solomon was born, the Lord sent Nathan the prophet and called him Jedidiah that means “Beloved of the Lord” (II Samuel 12:24-25). He gave him so much wisdom that they were coming from other kingdoms to speak with him (I Kings 10). Yet, all these do not mean that Solomon had a good end. The reason is that HIS HEART TURNED AWAY, and “he did not FULLY follow the Lord”. At the end he fell into the traps he himself was teaching that should be avoided (Proverbs 2:16-19, 5:20, 6:24): his palace was a collection of all sort of foreign women, with of course the respective consequences – his wives turned away his heart from God.
Regardless of how hard the old man tries to persuade you that there is no problem if you are a bit lax toward sin, since…. at the end of the day you don’t harm anyone…. do not give ear to him. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” says the Word of God (I Corinthians 5:6). There is no compromise with sin that is without effects on your fruitfulness. The sin as well as the cares, the greediness and all other traps make the heart heavy, lukewarm. Who really could imagine that the man that so fervently taught that one should keep away from foreign women at the end would have dozens of them? Even though God reproved Solomon (I Kings 11), he didn’t change. He was so blind that his heart no longer understood the error, or it was indifferent about it.
VI. Falsely called knowledge / Heresies
This cause is given in I Timothy 6:20-21, where Paul instructing Timothy said:
I Timothy 6:20
“O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babbling s and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – by professing it SOME HAVE STRAYED CONCERNING THE FAITH”
Also, as we already read previously, concerning Hymenaeus and Philetus:
II Timothy 2:17
“And their message will eat like canker, of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus, WHO HAVE STRAYED CONCERNING THE TRUTH, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some”
Hymenaeus and Philetus, had strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past. As one can see from the Word of God, the apostles many times warned against wrong, dangerous teachings. John warned that the one that didn’t confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh was the Antichrist (I John 4:3). The apostles came together in Jerusalem to face teachings that went around wanting the disciples to circumcise and follow the law (Acts 15). As Paul also says in I Timothy 4:1-3:
I Timothy 4:1-3
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times SOME WILL DEPART FROM THE FAITH, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”
What I believe should probably be clear from the above is that the Christian life didn’t finish the time we confessed Jesus as Lord. Yes, it started there, but for sure it didn’t finish there. There is a good race we must run, a good fight we must fight. The confession we then made is proven true or not every day. Is Jesus Christ our Lord TODAY? As we saw Paul instructing Timothy:
I Timothy 6:20
“O Timothy! GUARD what was committed to your trust, ….”
“Therefore SUBMIT TO GOD. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up”
“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?”