2 Cor 1 – Paul is defending himself against personal attacks.
- They are saying that Paul is not a man of his word.
- They are saying Paul is not an apostle.
- They are saying that he is a false teacher.
And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” (Acts 23:1 ESV)
So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. (Acts 24:16 ESV)
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, (1 Corinthians 1:4 ESV)
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5 ESV)
This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, (1 Timothy 1:18-19 ESV)
- Maintaining a clear conscience is of vital importance to Paul
- Conscience is a God-given gift for everyone which helps them sense right and wrong.
- Everyone has a conscience.
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16 ESV)
- If one’s conscience isn’t maintained it can lead to greater sin.
- BUT – one’s conscience is not infallible.
My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide. (1 Corinthians 4:4 NLT)
- One’s conscience doesn’t tell us what is right or wrong.
Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. (1 Timothy 1:19 NLT)
These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead. (1 Timothy 4:2 NLT)
- Those with dead/seared conscience cannot discern truth anymore.
- They have been given over to a depraved mind.
Rom 1:28 Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. (Romans 1:28 NLT)
But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning. (Romans 14:23 NLT)
- A weak conscience
- Consciences must be trained, with God’s truth, to distinguish between good and evil.
- Don’t ignore your conscience – you may ignore a legitimate warning.
Robert Murray McCheyne: “for every look at self, take 10 looks at God.”
Charges leveled against Paul by his critics.
1st. Charge: Personally, Paul had hidden sin in his life.
We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you. (2 Corinthians 1:2, 12 NLT)
- For Paul, it’s not about himself. It’s about God. He boasts in his weekness.
We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this. (2 Corinthians 4:2 NLT)
- There is no highter court than that of conscience.
- Unvarnished truth
2nd. Charge: Paul was manipulating people.
Our letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand. I hope someday you will fully understand us, even if you don’t understand us now. Then on the day when the Lord Jesus returns, you will be proud of us in the same way we are proud of you. (2 Corinthians 1:13-14 NLT)
3rd. Charge: Paul was a false teacher.
even if you don’t understand us now. Then on the day when the Lord Jesus returns, you will be proud of us in the same way we are proud of you. (2 Corinthians 1:14 NLT)
How to clear one’s conscience
1. Confess and forsake known sin.
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:9 NLT)
Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. (Hebrews 9:14 NLT)
2. Ask forgiveness of those you have wronged.
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. (Matthew 5:23-24 NLT)
3. Make Restitution.
- Clear the debt or relational wound whatever may be called for.
4. Don’t procrastinate in clearing your wounded conscience.
- This is huge!
- Time does not clear your conscience.
- Time can lets cracks become chasms in wounded relationships.
- Time lets psycho-somatic symptoms develop.
- (Life Groups can help with wounded consciences and issues of woundedness.)
5. Educate your conscience.
- Through study of scripture – devotions – prayer – & the support of a caring life group/small group community.
6. Obey the word of God.
Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:18-20 NLT)
ACTA NON VERBA – “ACTIONS NOT WORDS”
We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you. Our letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand. I hope someday you will fully understand us, even if you don’t understand us now. Then on the day when the Lord Jesus returns, you will be proud of us in the same way we are proud of you. (2 Corinthians 1:12-14 NLT)