The Expository Files

Living Life With a "Perfectly Good Conscience"
Acts 23:1


 Paul had been acutely aware of God and His presence throughout his life. Paul's approach to his relationship with God had always been with a deep reverence and respect.  But that does not mean his life had not undergone a tremendous change. It had. His attitude toward God had not changed, but his view of what was right and wrong had.  His conviction about how he must live so as to please the Lord had changed, and because of his respect for God, he therefore had changed the way he was living. 

The apostle Paul had been brought before the Council because he had been preaching Christ. Notice how he begins;  Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, "Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day."  (Acts 23:1).  At an earlier time, Paul had served this very council as Saul, the "Hebrew of Hebrews" and a Pharisee with an extreme zeal for the Law and the traditions. He had once persecuted the disciples believing it to be God's will for him to do so. Paul's point is that his attitude toward pleasing God had not changed. In preaching Christ, his goal was the same: he was aware of God and always seeking to conscientiously please God in everything. He wanted to live each day being able to look back on it with the peace that comes from knowing he had given his best to God.  (Acts  24:16; 1 Timothy 1:5).  

This is how we all ought to live in conscience. Like Paul, learn the right thing, and then apply it to our lives with conviction and zeal. This will in turn enable us to enjoy the peace and confidence that such living by faith brings during and at the end of each day.  

A Good Conscience and Salvation
Paul regards himself as having been, before his conversion, a violent and hostile man with a good conscience (1 Timothy 1:13; Acts 26:9).  Interestingly, there are those who are guilty of similar activities, thinking that their violence is pleasing to God and therefore maintaining a good conscience even though their violence is displeasing and unacceptable unto God. There are all sorts of ways people can avoid pangs of conscience when doing evil. Some merely destroy their conscience ignoring its calls to quit evil or neglect (1 Timothy 4:2).  But at other times people are quite willing to listen to their consciences but still make wrong choices due to ignorance or prejudice (1 Peter 1:14,15; recall 1 Timothy 1:13,14). Paul was this kind of man, having good conscience but still a sinner in need of God's grace.  

Upon coming to the correct understanding that Jesus was indeed the Son of God and Messiah, Paul continued to follow his conscience's call.  When told what he must do to wash away his sins, he did it (Acts 22:16). While the blood of Christ did not erase Paul's memory of his past sins, God chose not to remember them any longer (Hebrews 8:12).  So, on the day Paul obeyed the gospel he appealed to God for a conscience that would remain clear, and,  having been forgiven by God, and having done everything he knew to do, he could  stand before God and say, "I ask for Your grace and I have placed my trust in You and it is enough." (1 Peter 3:20-21). 

A Good Conscience and Living For God
I need to focus first on living with God's approval (1 Corinthians 4:4). He did not always enjoy the approval of man; sometimes even standing alone if need be, though never really alone (Galatians 1:10; 2 Timothy 4:3,4).  As long as God accepted and supported him, he could take it. As he once asked the Christians at Rome, “But if God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31; 2 Timothy 4:16-18). 

Godly living starts with the heart. It is genuine and true; a reflection of who we are as Christ lives in us; and always aware of God's grace in  us at work in the world (2 Corinthians 1:12).  Our words will not only be truthful, but they also reflect what is truly on our hearts (Psalms 19:14).  I will not only say the words of truth: "God is love" but that love becomes a  part of my character (1 John 3:16; 19). 

A Good Conscience and the Judgment
Everyone has the capacity of conscience, though it can be destroyed by abuse. It is a motivator to do what one thinks is right; and this is true for believer and non-believer alike (Romans 2:15-16). However, the approval of my conscience alone is inadequate. For my conscience to be an adequate guide in my daily living it must be accompanied by the following: 

 a. I must have the desire to please God and that desire be greater than competing desires.

 b. I must know what God wants me to do - know His will as revealed in the Scriptures.

Then, I can be ready to live my life acceptably unto God. My life will be lived and my choices will be made depending on how God wants me to live (I John 4:19-21) 

 I can also be ready for life’s end and the judgment. This will no longer involve uncertainty, dread and fear. Now, in Christ, there is confidence, even in life’s final hour (1 John 4:17-18) 

  I can be ready for eternity.  The victory that faith brings is eternal. Who can measure the glory of that home God has prepared in that realm without beginning or end, in the heaven that had existed forever before this universe came to be, and will last after this world’s demise as well, and forever. The throne of God will finally be approachable and that is a glory God means for us to share with Him. It is the victory of faith (1 John 5:3-5; 11,12; 13). 

So, how's your conscience? Are you living before God right now "with a perfectly good conscience?" If not, do you have a desire to please God and is it greater than competing desires? Do you know what God wants you to do?  

Well, there is a saying: "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." Despite what lies in the past, you can be ready for life; for judgment; for eternity; today.  Let us all do what is necessary in our response to God’s grace so that we will be enabled to enjoy the peace and confidence that such living by faith brings at the beginning, during and at the end of each day, as we look forward to that Day that has no end.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 20.6; June 2013