I started this study intending to focus on the idea of Jesus Christ in us, but got distracted by the Greek word translated “reprobate” in 2 Corinthians 13:5. Digging into the root words, I found that it is a negative form of a word that refers to the process of refining metals with fire. Therefore, “reprobate” in this verse could be understood to mean someone who has not been refined by fire. Intriguing …
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)
The word “reprobate” is from the Greek adokimos (G96). It means “Unapproved, unworthy, spurious, worthless.” It is the negative form of dokimos (G1384), which means “Proved, receivable, tried as metals by fire and thus be purified. … Hence, to be approved as acceptable men in the furnace of adversity” (Zodhiates). Here are a few places it is used:
For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth. (2 Cor. 10:18)
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15)
So, we can say that to be “reprobate” means to be the opposite of approved and refined. It is someone who has not be proved by God and tried “as silver is tried” (Ps. 66:10). In several scriptures, our refinement is likened to the purification of metals, which must be heated in a furnace to remove impurities (Zech. 13:9; Mal. 3:3). Being tested and proved is a necessary step in becoming acceptable.
In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul writes about building our lives on the foundation of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11). He is the only foundation upon which we can build a proper Christian life. However, we each build with different materials, and with differing degrees of success.
Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1 Cor. 3:12-15)
Note that the people whose work endures and those who get burned down to the foundation both have to go through the trying fire. No one is excepted from being tried in the furnace of adversity. Some come through stronger. Some “suffer loss,” but are saved to begin building again with better materials. It is part of God’s plan for making us part of His family.
If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (Heb. 12:7-8)
Without refinement and trials, we would be among those described as “reprobates” and bastards.” We need to be purified to be part of God’s family and to become a fit place for Jesus Christ to dwell.
A Habitation of God
In the verse following 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, we are told what type of building we are becoming. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). This is why we need to be refined. As we are now, we are not fit vessels to house God’s spirit and the presence of Jesus Christ. If we keep Their commandments and submit to Their work in our lives, though, we can be.
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (Jn. 14:23)
God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ are not in the habit of holding people at arm’s length. They desire a close, personal relationship with us. They want to dwell in us now, and they want us to literally be part of Their family in the future. The writer of Hebrews describes us as a house which is built by and belongs to Christ, “if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Heb. 3:6).
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph. 2:19-22)
One of our purposes on this earth is to be the place where God dwells. There was a time when He put His presence in a physical temple here on earth, and now He puts His presence inside the people He has chosen — a people refined in the furnace of adversity and approved by Him.