“Test yourselves and find out if you really are true to your faith. If you pass the test, you will discover that Christ is living in you. But if Christ isn't living in you, you have failed.” II Cor. 13:5 CEV
In the above Scripture, we find a succinct definition of what a Christian is: He is a person in whom Christ lives and has a relationship with.
If Christ lives within a person, Christ changes him. Obviously, according to Paul, it is possible—and advisable—to determine if Christ actually does live inside of us by means of self-examination. Each of us who professes to be a follower of Christ should heed Paul's admonition to the Corinthians, by examining ourselves to see if we are "in the faith."
Quite obviously, Paul also believed that it was very possible for church members to be self-deceived, thinking they believed when they really didn't. What error could be greater? What presumption could have more serious consequences? If an unsaved person knows he is unsaved, at least there is a chance he will acknowledge his state, repent, and turn to Christ.
But the self-deceived person is blind to his need. He is smiling on the road to hell believing he has fooled everyone when he is the only one fooled. Worse yet, he considers the peace and joy he feels to be evidence of his salvation, not realizing that they are only the fruit of his self-deception.
Like so many in the Church today, their understanding of the gospel was deficient. In their thinking, anyone who made a verbal confession of Christ was a true Christian, regardless of how he lived his life.
An example Paul used: One of their members in good standing was living in sexual immorality with his stepmother. Nothing was being done to correct the matter.
Paul, however, needed no further facts before rendering judgment. He instructed them to excommunicate the man immediately, describing him as wicked: "Remove the wicked man from among yourselves" (1 Cor. 5:13).
Paul then offered the Corinthian Christians some important insight into the gospel: The grace that forgives also transforms. Thus, people who have not been transformed are not forgiven. They will not inherit God's kingdom. They are all those who are unrighteous in their behavior and Paul even went so far as to list several examples of the kinds of people God considers unrighteous:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God “ 1 Cor. 6:9-10 NIV.
Why didn't Paul instruct the Corinthian church to follow the three steps of church discipline given by Christ, that is; to first confront the wayward brother privately, then by means of a small group, and finally by the entire church, before excommunicating him?
The simple answer is that Christ's instructions apply only to dealing with a true Christian believer who has sinned. The immoral man at Corinth, however, had proven beyond all doubt that he was not a true believer in Jesus. He was a phony. His lifestyle betrayed his true character. He was living in fornication. Such persons, along with idolaters, the effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, the covetous, drunkards, revilers and swindlers, Paul categorically stated will not inherit God's kingdom.
They demonstrate by their lifestyles that they do not possess saving faith in Christ; they are not regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Christ does not live in them; thus they do not belong to Him (Rom. 8:9).
The immoral Corinthian church member was, according to Paul, not a true brother, but only a so-called brother. And failing to understand the inseparable correlation between belief and behavior, the church to which he belonged failed to discern that his confession of faith was bogus.
The new birth changes the behavior of sinners, sometimes radically in the case of gross sinners. Why is it then that the behavior of so many people who claim to be born again is not much different from those who do NOT claim to be born again?
Many people who think they are born again are not. They think they are going to heaven but they are not.
“If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Gal. 6:3