For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you… Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. (2 Corinthians 1:12,15 ESV)

We can live confidently in Christ, our consciences cleaned by His grace and guided by His Spirit. “Conscience” is that aspect of the human soul that knows right from wrong. The Bible has much to say about the matter. Consider these few verses:

  • Our consciences bear witness to the fact that originally we were made in the image of God, but that image is scarred because of sin. We do not perfectly follow our consciences. “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them” (Rom. 2:15). They defend us one moment in that we have a conscience, and accuse us the next because we do not follow them all the time.
  • Our consciences are imperfect, so they they are not the same as the Holy Spirit of God who resides within the believer. “Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:2). We each often feel guilty for the wrong reasons and do not feel guilty when we should. (See also 1 Cor. 23-29)
  • To regularly neglect our conscience will lead to a shipwrecked faith: “holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith” (1 Tim. 1:19 NIV)
  • Yet the more we walk with God in fellowship, the more informed and healthy our consciences are. “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5 NIV).

Paul had just finished writing about the overwhelming pressures he felt in his life and ministries that caused him to even despair of life (2 Cor. 1:8-11) . God had delivered him - not only from the deadly peril but also from the overwhelming fear that he had felt in its presence. In the verse above he explained the reason for his confidence, and laid down for us a principle of life - how to live confidently with a clear conscience.

Here is what he stressed:

He had listened to and heeded the Spirit’s voice: Above the deafening din of the world’s noise, he had learned the discipline of hearing from God. He meditated on the Word and communed the Spirit. He had worshiped Christ in his heart. His conscience was shaped not merely from his childhood memories, not merely from the voice of his teachers as a young man, and not from his fears or superstitions, but from the voice of the living God and the purity of His Word.

He had shunned worldly “wisdom”: The word “wisdom” appeared in 1 Corinthians, and it was apparently a word used quite often in the church of Corinth. Paul wrote to them:

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. (1 Cor. 2:6-7 NIV)

The spiritual person may have many friends who are less spiritual than he, but he follows only one voice and only one Master. He distinguishes between the ways and values and thoughts of the world and the thoughts of God. We cannot be spiritual if we have never learned to say “no” to the world and to its influences - especially to its false “wisdom.”

He behaved with simplicity, godly sincerity, and according to the grace of God: The complexity of the world’s thinking that says, “on the one hand” and then “but on the other hand,” that knows neither pure good nor admits to pure evil, was cast away from his mind. Instead he walked in simplicity of heart, eschewing all and any impure motives, and in sincerity. Grace was the value he held, which meant that he knew he himself was undeserving of God’s favor, but that God poured this out freely through Jesus Christ to all who believed.

In this grace and simplicity he engaged others lovingly and kindly. As he wrote to the Colossians, “Him [Jesus] we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:28 NKJV). He had come through the fire of trials with the life of God and the grace of Christ guiding his thoughts and every decision, relationship, and value.

Grace meant that he had not considered himself perfect, but rather his direction was Godward and he was quick to confess his failures and live daily in the reality of the grace of God. He refused to live under the illusion of his own moral perfection or perfect determination. He knew that he did not always know what to do in and of himself alone, but he trusted that God did and would guide and enable him to stand. As he wrote to the Philippians:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14 NIV)

This is God’s goal and plan for every Christian, that we might in simplicity of obedience, in freedom of conscience, and in the joy of the Spirit. The two Christian disciplines that we should have are to daily confess our sins and to surrender to the Lordship of Christ - forsaking the world and following the Christ.

You can have a clean conscience if you will confess your faults to Christ and commit to follow Him daily.

This was the blessing that he wished to share with the Corinthians - the Christian joy of confident living in purity of conscience with the Lord.

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