Paul said examine yourself. So how can we do that? In John's first letter, he was writing to people who were shaken up because of the Gnostics - people who had come into their midst professing a greater measure of enlightenment. Gnosticism is a technical term for a philosophy that grew to become a damaging influence later on in the church.

There are great passages that talk about the doctrines of assurance and eternal security. There are three key passages. One is the tenth chapter of John's Gospel where Jesus is speaking. He says there that he holds his people in his hand. He is the Shepherd; he has called them to himself. They have heard his voice; they have come out. Now he holds them in his hand and nobody is going to pluck them out.

It is one thing to practice discipline where there is a clear violation of the law of God, and there is unrepentant behavior after much careful concern and pleading with the person, and a great deal of effort in prayer. But where discipline gets to be simply a matter of the opinion of a board of men, discipline gets out of hand. This is something that needs to be guarded against.

The thirteenth chapter of 2 Corinthians is a summation of what Paul has been talking about in terms of his warnings to the church to straighten out its problems before he comes to see them. Paul concludes by issuing a great challenge to the Corinthian believers, a challenge in which he instructs them to examine themselves to see if they are really in the faith. Have they truly been born again? Are they really followers and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Paul feared that he would find quarreling among the Corinthian believers. We know that there was quarreling, because he mentioned it earlier in these letters. He also feared discovering among them jealousy, outbursts of anger, and factions (dividing up into exclusive groups). We know from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians that factions had indeed occurred in Corinth. There he wrote, "My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, 'I follow Paul'; another, 'I follow Apollos'; another, 'I follow Cephas'; still another, 'I follow Christ' " (1 Cor. 1:11-12).