Paul: a Good Conscience Before God

Acts 22  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 6
The Holy Spirit often puts Paul forward because in him are manifested the ways of the heart, and this under grace. He displayed a patience truly admirable in caring for the church. We can sound the ways of God and of the human heart in the history that the Holy Spirit has given us of Paul. He had an immense activity and great force of character. This chapter contains circumstances which show what a good conscience before God is.
If the conscience is not good, the Holy Spirit is grieved, and some, having put it away, have even made shipwreck concerning faith. If a child has offended his father, he is no more at ease before him, and cannot open his heart.
In the history of Paul we see his conversion in verses 3-16. Then he is in a trance or ecstasy (vers. 17-21), in which the Lord commands him to depart from Jerusalem. It is for him to regulate these things. Paul in his answer says to the Lord that he is precisely the man suited to bear witness for Him in Jerusalem. I have persecuted Thee, and they know it; will they not see in me the efficacy of Thy grace? Such was the reasoning of Paul. But the Lord takes no account of it.
That which strikes one most is that Paul recalls to the Lord all his iniquity; and this, because his conscience was perfectly purged before God. It is necessary that it should be thus if one would dare to speak to God in detail of all our offenses, of all our sins. There is a false repose in the child of God when the conscience is not perfectly good and opened out before God. Paul replaces before the eyes of the Lord all the detail of his sin. He does not confine himself to saying, Thou knowest all; he puts all before God, without having the idea that anything can be imputed to him. He talks about his sins as of an affair irrevocably settled. He can even present these sins as a motive for being an apostle, for bearing testimony to Jesus in Jerusalem. Paul reasons with the Lord as a person with his intimate friend. This is what Ananias also does. (Acts 9:13-1613Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. 15But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. (Acts 9:13‑16))
When God has purified the conscience for us by His perfect grace, the interests of Jesus are ours. Jesus is no longer our judge; He has taken our sins, He, has united us to Himself, having taken our cause in hand. Instead of seeing in Jesus our judge, we see in Him a friend. Instead of being affrighted at Christ, we are full of confidence in Him, because we are assured of His love. There is in the heart a complete change.
The reasoning of Paul was true, as we see in 1 Tim. 1:1515This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15). God had prepared Paul in that he had been the greatest enemy of the Lord Jesus, and chief of sinners; because, if Paul had spoken of other things than God's righteousness by faith and man's perfect pardon, his mouth must have been closed.
Peter was prepared by denying Christ, which is even worse than being His enemy. That closed his mouth for every other thing than preaching grace. They had, the one and the other, a profound conviction of sin. If we would be strong and bear testimony to grace, we need to have the sense of the evil whence God has taken us up. If the occasion presents itself, we can speak before men of our sins, provided that all has been laid clearly before God. The Christian converts at Ephesus brought their books of magic, and confessed all their actions by the power of the Holy Spirit. If the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, we have more shame for our sins before God than before men. To have a good conscience we must keep the conscience pure. Paul exercised himself to have in everything a conscience without offense toward God and men. When we have grieved the Holy Spirit, we do not feel the love of God in the same way. A conscience defiled cannot be at its ease before God; and when God enters, there are dark corners that one hides from Him. Impossible then to have that perfect confidence in reasoning with God as with a friend. If we have beforehand the sense of our feebleness, we shall be forced to seek strength in God.
Can we with boldness and without pain recall before God all we have thought, said and done? To be unable to do so is not to be in the presence of God; to do so is to recall to God His immense grace in having pardoned us. Without Christ who would venture such things? Sin hidden corrupts the heart, hardens the conscience, and renders us blind and proud. It is of all moment for us that our conscience should be entirely emptied before God. We can afterward forget those things; we shall not be judged because of it. Be faithful in this sense-to have a pure conscience before God and men.