What a statement, 2 Corinthians 1:12 “Our conscience testifies.” Whenever I study a particular topic I like to copy and paste the scriptures I find onto one page. I do this for a couple of reasons, to refer back to for easy reference and to read through all at once. This scripture was among those in one such list. Today in reading through the list, these three words, which were not the focus of the previous study, jumped out at me. In the same way that “In What Do You Have Faith?” suddenly occurred to me that day on the road, these words, which I had read multiple times before, demanded my attention and consumed my thought.
In this statement, “Our conscience testifies,” a question is asked: how have you conducted yourself? Can I say, as Paul did, I conducted myself “with integrity and godly sincerity”? Even more importantly, can I say my conduct was the same in “the world” as it was in the safety of “the church?” Merriam-Webster defines Integrity as: “firm adherence to a code of especially moral values: (or) Incorruptibility.” 1 Peter 3:16 says “keep a clear conscience” and 3:15 says “always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” As Christians our first responsibility is to be a witness for Christ, “the hope” that is in us. What we do as Christians, whether in the world or in the church, is our testimony of God. The world is watching, and if our values have been corrupted, the world will know. Paul said that they “relied not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.” If we base our decisions and our behavior on the world’s judgment rather than on God’s what will be our “defense?” Will we be able to say as in Hebrews 13:18 “we have a clear conscience?” If the world tries to slander us as they did Daniel will they say: “They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent”? (Daniel 6:4)
“Our conscience testifies…” what power that has. Not a lot of wiggle room. Tell yourself what you want, at the end of the day our conscience is our chief witness. 1 Peter 3:17 says “it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” Every moment of every day we make decisions for which we will be held accountable. In those moments we choose the “world’s wisdom” or “God’s grace.” We have to decide who we will please, man or God? Will we face being judged by man for doing what is right or be judged by God for doing what is wrong?
So what are the mechanics of a clear conscience? Luckily God’s word is a consistent and complete manual. Remember the letter to Corinth that prompted this post was actually from Paul and Timothy. So it makes sense that a record of Paul speaking to Timothy might be useful. In 1 Timothy 1:5 Paul says to Timothy: “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” While the entire chapter is well worth a read it seems to me the answer to our question is in this one verse. Paul tells Timothy as they wrote to the church of Corinth: conduct yourself with “godly sincerity” or a “sincere faith” in God and His instruction. You achieve a “good (clear) conscience” through “a pure heart” and “a sincere faith.” Paul also makes clear that the “goal of our instruction” is not hate or malice as “false teachers” would have the world believe, but of “love from a pure heart.”
As we walk the path to “improve life” in the “pursuit of character” the smallest and sometimes the simplest things can be the hardest. Can we say “Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity?” If we cannot, then not only did we fail to act in God’s character, but we didn’t “improve life” at all.
UPDATE: Exactly 4 years later I dove deeper into the issue with “The Shipwrecked Series,” Part 1 starts –Here–
© 04/02/2016 Scott Caughel