Examine Yourself or Not?

by Roel Velema

But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I DO NOT EVEN EXAMINE MYSELF. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:3,4 NASB).

But a man must EXAMINE HIMSELF, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor 11:28 NASB).

EXAMINE YOURSELVES, whether ye be in the faith; PROVE YOUR OWN SELVES. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?“(2 Cor. 13:5 KJV).

Should we examine ourselves or not? The key to the answer is that in all these three passages Paul uses different Greek words. That should be recognized or else we are comparing apple with oranges.

In 1 Corinthians 4:3,4 the Greek verb is ἀνακρίνω (ana-krinoo). This verb is related to the verb (κρίνω) krinoo, which carries the thought of judgment. Paul says that he doesn’t pass judgment on himself but he does judge (ana-krinoo) things whether they agree with the Scriptures or not (Acts 17:11). Believers can so that because they are spiritual persons who judge (ana-krinoo) all things (1 Cor. 2:15).

In 1 Cor. 11:28 the Greek verb is δοκιμάζω (dokimazoo). This verb means to investigate, to test. So we may test ourselves relative to something, but not judge ourselves as in 1 Cor. 4:3,4. We should be aware of the difference. We investigate ourselves whether we know what it means to be in Christ, but in Christ we do not judge ourselves.

In 2 Cor. 13:5 dokimazoo appears again in the translation ‘proves your own selves”. So there is a difference between proving and judging. However, and that is interesting the translation ”EXAMINE YOURSEVES” introduces a new Greek verb: πειράζω (peirazoo). Peirazoo points to experimental experience and to put something to the test. So dokimazoo and peirazoo belong to each other. Peirazoo is also related to temptation. When it comes to temptation the point is to abide in Christ. We are always in Christ, and in this respect we don’t judge ourselves, but when we are tempted to act as if we are not in Christ, we prove our own selves.

So in answering the question whether we should examine ourselves, the answer is yes and no. We should see the nuance differences in order not to compare apples with pears, as the expression goes in Dutch.

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