But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. (Acts 24:14-16)
Paul’s time in Jerusalem has come to an end. We pick up the chronicles of his travels in Caesarea, where Paul had been waiting in the Herodian palace for yet another defense. And this episode will not be his last defense.
In Acts 24, Paul stands before Felix the governor. Also appearing before Felix are the priests and elders that accused Paul of wrongdoing in Jerusalem, along with their lawyer, Tertullus. Both sides present their case, with Paul defending himself alone.
In verse 16, Paul says something to Felix that he had said to the Sanhedrin in his previous defense: his conscience is clear.
This is not a small point. Paul knows he’s on trial for false accusations, and he is confident that, before God, the Judge of all, he is innocent. One of the reasons, then, that Paul could be so bold was because of his clear conscience.
Today, conscience is often misunderstood, neglected, or abused. The scriptures tell us that humankind was endowed with a conscience, that we might have the capacity to know God and to know right from wrong. But our world often convinces us to ignore our conscience. Consequently, our consciences become seared, weak, or debased.
Many people struggle with shame and guilt. Many people are in bondage to an out-of-control conscience. Because of these struggles, many feel incapacitated and fearful. This could be said of Christians and nonbelievers alike.
What a blessing, then, is a clear conscience! A conscience that can stand before governors and declare God’s word with authority; a conscience that can withstand false accusations because the truth is evident; a conscience that has been redeemed by the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ.
We may not be in the same predicament as Paul; but, we can experience the blessing of a clear conscience because we have access to the same power that made Paul’s conscience clear.
Are you struggling with fear, doubt, or guilt? Is your conscience weak? Be encouraged – God will strengthen the consciences of his people through his means of grace, that they all will be able to live in freedom in Christ!