Theologian John Piper is weighing in on how often Christians should question their salvation, stressing that Scripture points out some substantial distinctions as to what that means.
In response to a question from a listener in a Friday episode of his podcast, the renowned Reformed author and former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis distinguished testing oneself to see if he or she is truly a believer in Jesus versus living like a true Christian.
Asked about the meaning of 2 Corinthians 13:5, which reads "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith," and how often such examination should occur in the life of a Christian, Piper said a strategic and psychological difference exists when approaching the question of whether one is in the faith.
"One of the reasons I think there’s a significant difference here is because, in the context of 2 Corinthians, there is some real conflict between Paul and some people at Corinth who have given significant evidence that they may not be true Christians," he said, noting that Paul seems unsure of some who profess to be believers.
Yet 2 Peter 1:10 urges Christians to "be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election [or you could say salvation], for if you practice these qualities you will never fall," he added, emphasizing that an important distinction exists between examining oneself and the ongoing process of living out one's salvation long-term and thus showing evidence of saving faith.
"In a sense, the bottom line in both cases is this: show that you’re a real Christian, born again, justified, on your way to Heaven," he said.
He continued that the Apostle Paul's words to the Corinthians were said with the urgency he did because he was dealing with unrepentant people who claimed to be Christians but were living in sin. Yet the admonition to "test yourself" is not a regular part of Christian life.
"I think Paul would say this kind of test is something extraordinary, and to be done at critical points in your life when you have drifted away from walking in step with the Spirit, and have been called out, probably by somebody, or maybe by your own conscience: Are you a real Christian?" Piper said.
"Do the serious, critical test of 2 Corinthians 13:5 when someone warns you that your life no longer appears to be confirming your Christian claim. This should set off alarm bells in you, and you might be in serious trouble. So do that kind of serious self-analysis, which can be very frightening, very difficult, but very, very important."