WISDOM FOR LIVING DAILY DEVOTIONAL
JULY 22ND, 2021
TOPIC: A CONSCIENCE WITHOUT OFFENCE
BY T. O. BANSO
“This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16 New King James Version).
Paul was arrested in the Temple in Jerusalem and the mob wanted to kill him. The commander of the garrison who received the news that all Jerusalem was in an uproar immediately took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. Paul was eventually taken into the barracks where before he entered he secured permission to address the mob (Acts 21:26-40).
The following day, he was brought before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council. Paul was not a total stranger to the Council. He had worked in cooperation with the high priest before when he was a persecutor of the church! Acts 9:2 says, “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (New King James Version).
After his conversion, he began to preach Jesus whom he had opposed before and the Jews wanted to kill him. “He debated with some Greek-speaking Jews, but they plotted to murder him. When the believers heard about it, however, they took him to Caesarea and sent him on to his hometown of Tarsus” (Acts 9:29-30 New Living Translation).
When Paul was brought before the Council after his arrest in Jerusalem, he looked earnestly at the council and said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth” (Acts 23:1-2 New King James Version). What was offensive in what Paul said to have warranted such a command? He simply was proving his innocence. Unfortunately, the high priest, who was supposed to administer justice was already biased.
Paul said he had lived in all good conscience before God until the day he appeared before the Council. The Greek word for conscience is suneidesis, which means moral consciousness. The Bible in Basic English renders Acts 23:1 thus: “And Paul, looking fixedly at the Sanhedrin, said, My brothers, my life has been upright before God till this day.” That statement didn’t warrant assault on Paul. Apparently embarrassed by the high priest’s action, Paul spoke against it, as it was contrary to the law.
Acts 23:3-5 says, “But Paul said to him, ‘God will slap you, you whitewashed wall! What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?’ Those standing near Paul said to him, ‘Is that the way to talk to God’s high priest?. ‘I’m sorry, brothers. I didn’t realize he was the high priest,’ Paul replied, ‘for the Scriptures say, ‘Do not speak evil of anyone who rules over you’” (New Living Translation).
Please take note of the phrase that provoked the high priest: I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. Good conscience means a clear conscience. Paul had a right to defend himself the way he did because he believed he was innocent. When he was a persecutor of the church, he did it with passion based on his conviction that he was doing the right thing. The high priest had no problem with him then.
Paul said of himself in 1 Timothy 1:12-16, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (New King James Version).
One could say that Paul did all he did as a persecutor based on his understanding of what was right as a Pharisee then. And when he knew the truth and it made him free, his understanding of what was right changed. He was once blind but he could later see. He lived in all good conscience before God since then, as he declared before the Council. The high priest was angry probably because he was no longer part of them to persecute the church.
Thereafter, Ananias the high priest came down with the elders and a certain orator named Tertullus and gave evidence to the governor, Felix, against Paul. They accused him of sedition which Paul denied as he didn’t incite a riot. Paul, in his defence, said, among other things, that according to the Way which his accusers called a sect, he worshipped the God of his fathers, believing all things written in the Law and the Prophets. He said he had hope in God, which his accusers also accepted that there would be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust (Acts 24:12-15).
Paul declared, “This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (verse 16 New King James Version). From this scripture, you could see that Paul restated the issue of a good conscience. This time, he called it conscience without offence toward God and men. Paul said he always strived to have a conscience without offence toward God and man.
One could say as a persecutor, he strived to have a conscience without offence toward God and men. He strived to do what he thought was right. But he was sincerely wrong. As he said, he hunted down God’s people, harming them in every way he could, but God had mercy on him because he did it in ignorance and unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13).
However, if we view Paul’s reference to having a conscience without offence to his life after conversion since that was the cause of the trouble they had with him, he vouched for himself in this regard. He strived to have a conscience without offence toward God and men.
The New Living Translation puts Acts 24:16 this way: “Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and everyone else.” The Bible in Basic English presents it thus: “And in this, I do my best at all times to have no reason for shame before God or men.” In addition, the New Century Version says, “This is why I always try to do what I believe is right before God and people.”
To strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men means to do what is right before God and people so that your conscience will not condemn you. It means to keep your conscience pure and act in a way that your actions are not offensive to God and harmful to fellow human beings.
Why did Paul do this? This is very important. “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:15-16 New King James Version).
He said it was because of his belief in the resurrection of the dead both just and unjust. If you, too, believe in the resurrection of the dead, you will strive to keep a pure conscience towards God and men. In other words, the belief in the resurrection will help you to be careful how you live your life.
Hebrews 9:27 says it is appointed for men to die once but after this the judgment. Knowing that after death, there is resurrection and judgment, you should strive to have a conscience that will not accuse you but tell you that what you’re doing is right (Romans 2:15).
Do your best at all times to have no reason for shame before God or men. Keep your conscience pure in the sight of God and men. Always maintain a blameless conscience. Paul said, “For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you” (2 Corinthians 1:12 New King James Version).
Don’t let your conscience be defiled (Titus 1:15). Be committed to the revealed truths of the Christian faith and live with a clear conscience (1 Timothy 3:9). “But you must do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak evil against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ” (1 Peter 3:16 New Living Translation).
The writer of the book of Hebrews says, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22 New King James Version). Exercise yourself to always have a conscience without offence toward God and men.
Let the blood of Christ cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14). Serve God with a pure conscience (2 Timothy 1:3b). Paul said, “I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 9:1 New King James Version).
Do your best to have a clear conscience before God and men. This may annoy some people like the high priest but strive to live this way. Not minding the high priest and the Council, Paul emphasized before the governor, Felix, what he had said before the Council concerning his conscience. Try your best to have a clear conscience in anything you do for God and others.
The writer of Hebrews says, “Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably” (Hebrews 13:18 New King James Version). I pray that you also will be confident to say that you have a good conscience, a conscience without offence toward God and men.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Holy Spirit, help me to always strive to have a conscience without offence toward God and men. I shall do my best at all times to have no reason for shame before God or men in Jesus’ name. I shall keep my conscience pure in the sight of God and men. Father, help all readers of this devotional to have a conscience without offence toward You and men. Help them to always do what is right before You and people.
(For over 600 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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