Summary: Paul stressed in Acts 23 that he had a good conscience toward everyone. This messages focuses on the importance of a clear conscience and how to gain a good conscience.
Freedom and Healing through a Clear Conscience
January 28, 2018
TEXT: Acts 23:1-11 - "And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. 3 Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? 4 And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest? 5 Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. 6 But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. 7 And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. 9 And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God. 10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle. 11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome."
In our text, Paul was brought before the council of Jewish leaders to answer for the supposed charge of bringing Gentiles into the inner court of the Temple, a crime punishable by death. But Paul knew he was innocent and attempted to give a defense of himself.
Well, the Jewish leaders were not about to give him an honest hearing. You must remember that they had been dealing with these pesky Christians for almost 30 years now and they were about fed up with the whole business. And to them, Paul represented the most dangerous faction of the Christian community. It was bad enough that people revered Jesus as the Messiah and worshiped Him as God. But Paul was broadening the movement by taking the Gospel to the Gentiles. THAT was simply unforgivable! So, this explains their brutality in dealing with Paul.
In this passage, there I want to focus on a phrase in verse 1 - "And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day." Today I want to talk to you about having a good conscience.
Paul said that he had had a clear conscience up until that very day. What do we mean when we talk about a good conscience, or a clear conscience?
It may be defined as: "An inner freedom of spirit toward God and others that comes from knowing that you are right with God and others, and that no one can point a finger at you and say, 'You wronged me, and you never tried to make it right.'"
The New Testament writers had a lot to say about a good conscience.
* In his first letter to Timothy, Paul tells us that next to our faith, a clear conscience is our most important weapon in the Christian life - 1 Timothy 1:18-19 - "This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy,…that thou… mightest war a good warfare; 19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck." - Paul was concerned that Timothy would keep his faith to the end, but also that he would maintain a good conscience. Paul puts a good conscience as the second most important thing for Timothy.
* Peter tells us that we cannot witness effectively without a clear conscience - 1 Peter 3:15-16 - "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed who falsely accuse your good conversation [behavior] in Christ." - You can witness to the lost all you want to, but they know you do not have a clear conscience, those you witness to will have cause to speak evil of you.