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Clear Conscience

Acts 24:10-16
When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: 'I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defence. You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. (NIVUK)

In the Roman fortress at Caesarea, Paul was on trial before Felix. This Roman Governor was responsible for Syria and Cilicia, the province which included Paul's home city of Tarsus. Religious activists, who had tried to kill Paul on three occasions, accused him of causing Jewish people to riot wherever he went (Acts 24:5-8). What really happened was that when Paul preached about God raising Jesus from the dead (Acts 23:6), they were jealous. In their minds, saying that God raised Jesus from the dead, was blasphemy: they felt they had to defend God by killing Paul.

Having failed to murder him, they made up accusations so that the authorities would punish him, preferably by execution. But under Roman law, Roman citizens like Paul were protected. Accusers had to prove their case and the accused had the right to defend himself in court. So, he confirmed that he was at the temple in Jerusalem twelve days previously. He had gone to worship; he had not been arguing with anyone. He caused no disturbance and his opponents would not be able to produce any evidence to support their accusations – because they were false.

But Paul was glad to say what was true. He worshipped the only true God by following Jesus, who called Himself the Way. Paul believed in all God had written in the Hebrew Scriptures (now the Old Testament part of the Bible), and that God will call everybody to account for their lives on the Final Day. Because of his belief in that resurrection encounter, Paul wanted to keep a clear conscience every day. His testimony was not just before a human court but before God.

The basis of Paul's clear conscience is not that he was perfect, but that he had been forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That was validated by Christ's resurrection, which gave him full confidence: his sins were taken away and he would have no charge to answer before God on the Final Day (1 Corinthians 1:8). Living in peace, with a clear conscience, does not mean that we are perfect. It means that we are honest about our sins and honest about our salvation. The believer does not need to pretend to be pious, because everybody who follows Jesus is being made holy. Religious ritual is not salvation: the peace of God flows from confidence in His love and the assurance of forgiveness - as we repent of our sins and trust in Jesus' salvation alone.

God of peace. Thank You for the clear conscience You give me as I repent of my sin and receive the assurance of Your forgiveness. I am ashamed of my attempts to justify myself when justification only comes through faith in Jesus. Please help me to live with a clear conscience, repenting of sin and sharing the joyful freedom of knowing I am fully accepted in Your family and will be unashamed when I see You on the final Day. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams