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What Scripture Says About Salvation

A Bible Study by Fred Kenison

 

Monograph 5:  The Good Conscience 


 

 

Summary Highlights of Monograph 5

 

 

In the New Testament, the first use of the words "good conscience" occurs in Acts 23:1-2: 

"And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.  And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth." 

 

Paul had been teaching that the law was fulfilled by Jesus Christ.  Paul taught that Jesus had met all the judicial requirements of the law for all men; that men were no longer under the law, judicially speaking.  They no longer needed to fear God's judicial punishment for failure to obey the law.

 

Paul taught that Jesus had paid for all men's sin and guilt.  He taught that the sacrifices and the law were no longer the means by which men were to approach God. 

 

Ananias was not only a Jew, he was also the high priest.  When Paul said he had a good conscience before God, Ananias may have considered Paul's statement to be blasphemous and ordered him struck in the mouth for such audacity.  Or, perhaps Ananias clearly understood the truth of what Paul said, and realized that this meant the death of the priestly system and the end of priestly authority.

 

The implications of what Paul said meant that Jesus was now the head of the church and the high priest was out of a job.  Men were free to approach God at any time, under any circumstance, without the intervention of any other man.  Jesus, by his death, had opened the way to God for anyone who desired to fellowship with him.  This crumbled the whole administrative system of the priesthood and the sacrifices.

 

There was no longer any need for a priest to tell men what sacrifice to offer to God.  The final and supreme sacrifice had been made.  Ananias and his crew were out of work; there was no longer any need for organized religion.  However, priests probably do not like to be out of work anymore than anyone else.  And, no one likes to walk away from organizations they have carefully built over the centuries.

 

By the same token, we do not need preachers today to tell us what to do to be acceptable to God, or to intercede for us with God.  Preachers should teach the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

There is no need for messages which presume to tell men how to get God to love them.  There is, however, a great need for messages which tell men they need do nothing to get God to love them because he already does love them.  God will never again judge their sins because Jesus bore that judgment and punishment for them.  If men believe this, it will change their lives and give them a love for God and their fellow man.

 

People today do not need a priesthood.  They do need messengers with the proper message of God's love toward all.  Men do not need a law system today anymore than they did in Paul's day.  Law requires administrators, and perhaps this is the reason so much law preaching still persists today.  If law is preached, there is a need for priests to expound and administer it. 

 

We still have organized religion, the organized church, and elaborate judicial systems which presume to tell men what they must do in order to approach God and benefit from his blessings.  In the process they negate the grace of God demonstrated by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

 

Paul said he had a good conscience.  He had no fear of God's judgment and therefore no guilt.  The law had been annulled (Hebrews 7:18).  Where there is no law, there is no imputation of sin (Romans 5:13).  If sin is not put on anyone's account, then there can be no judgment of sin.

 

In Acts 24:16, Paul said,

"And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men." 

 

Paul knew the law now as a means of revealing sin.  He acted toward men in the spirit of the law, not the letter.  He sought to live his life in such a manner that his conscience, telling him right and wrong, guided him so he had no guilt or fear that he had wronged either God or man.

 

Paul knew that this knowledge of God's grace would never lead one to live in sin.  In Romans 6:1-2, he asked,

"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" 

 

Then Paul answered the questions himself,

"God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" 

 

Paul knew that even though the judicial penalty of sin was borne by Jesus, the result of sin and its effect on our lives was still viable.  Sin brings emptiness to life.

 

In Romans 9:1-2, Paul wrote,

"I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,  That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart." 

 

Please note that Paul did not speak of his conscience as being an integral part of himself.  He said that his conscience bore witness to him.  He sets his conscience over against himself, or apart from himself.

 

Adam and Eve were in innocence, knowing neither good nor evil, until they acquired a conscience by their disobedience, or unbelief of God.  A conscience was not an integral part of their being when they were created by God. 

 

Paul recognized the conscience as something which had been added, something outside himself as he was created by God.  It had been added, not by God, but by Adam's disobedience and unbelief.  As a result, all men inherit a carnal nature and a conscience, which is the seed of death.

 

Paul also knew that God, in his grace, has used the conscience to allow man to have joint knowledge with him.  God uses this not to bring a sense of guilt and condemnation, but to bring knowledge of the right and wrong way to live.  God uses men's consciences as a guide for their lives and programs their conscience properly by his word and spirit.

 

God gives men knowledge of the law as this guide.  They are not to put themselves under the law, but are to use the law, recognizing that God's grace has set them over the law.  They are subject to grace, not to law.  However, this does not mean that men may disregard the law.  Proper faith establishes the law as a guide which reveals sin (Romans 3:20).

 

Those seeking to live pleasing to God desire to avoid sin, and the law becomes a road map for the spiritual life.  Jesus set himself under the law, to obey it both for God and for all men, as only he could fulfill it.  Because of this, all men are set over the law to be the masters of it.

 

The conscience will always give an answer according to the way it has been programmed.  If the conscience is rightly programmed, it will always give a proper answer to life's questions.  If the conscience has been programmed to fear and dread God, as many churches teach, it will always give guidance accordingly.

 

When men sin, they naturally fear God's judgment against them.  With a good conscience, men recognize the sin as sin, and confess the sin (agree that it is sin) to God as a father, not as a judge.  They give God praise that Jesus Christ died for that sin and has already borne the judicial punishment and guilt.  Judicially, the sin question has been settled once and for all.  It is finished.

 

In II Corinthians 1:9, Paul wrote,

"But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead." 

 

Paul did not trust in his own works, but in God.  In the next verse (1:10), he continued by saying that

"Who (God) delivered us from so great a death (past tense), and doth deliver (present tense): in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us (future tense)." 

 

Paul trusted God not only for past forgiveness of sins, but also for present freedom from the bondage of sin (or death), and a future deliverance from death.

 

In II Corinthians 1:12, Paul said,

"For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward." 

 

Paul again noted that he did not regard the conscience as an integral part of himself but a separate entity.  His conscience was programmed by the knowledge of the grace of God.

 

Paul's conscience informed him that his deliverance was by God's grace, not his works.  Paul knew his sins were paid for!  God had already given him deliverance from the judgment for his sins.  They had been assessed and put on Jesus Christ who had borne the guilt and also the punishment. 

 

As Paul wrote in Romans 8:3,

"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh."

 

Paul considered that he had been crucified and raised together with Jesus.  (Romans 6:6, Galatians 2:19-20).  He also knew God had delivered him from the bondage of sin.  Expecting God's future deliverance, he lived confidently, joyously, and peacefully. 

 

When Paul sinned, he knew that God did not withdraw from him.  He recognized, or knew, that God was not now judging any man, but had committed all judgment to his son (John 5:22), who would judge all men's righteous works.  Paul knew Jesus had borne the sins of the whole world.  All of this knowledge is another effect of a good conscience.

 

Those who live their lives in the knowledge of God's grace have complete freedom.  They have stopped striving to influence God with their works.  The works they do are done on the basis of love, the love of God and the love of others.  God can exercise command and oversight through the conscience of those who see and understand his grace.  This, too, is part of the conscience, or joint-knowledge, which God uses for his glory.

 

In I Timothy 1:5-7, Paul verified that love is to be the basis for pleasing God. 

"Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:  From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;  Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." 

 

Charity (love) out of a pure heart is the end of law.

 

In Romans 13:10, Paul stated the same truth in a different manner. 

"Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." 

 

Love is the end of the commandment.  Faith that the love of Jesus fulfilled the law for every man frees men to live in love of their fellow man in liberty from the law. 

 

But, if men swerve from this concept of God's love and desire to teach law, they have no understanding of what they say in their vain jangling.  In Romans 13:8, Paul said,

"Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law."

 

In I Timothy 1:8, Paul said,

"But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully." 

 

Grace sets people over the law, and grace enables them to use it, instead of being used by it.  The law is used properly when people use it as a guide for their lives.  The law then becomes a means of demonstrating love to others and love to God.  The law becomes onerous only when people seek to use it unlawfully to influence God in their behalf.

 

I Timothy 1:18-19 says,

"This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;  Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck." 

 

Paul did not make much of a distinction between faith and a good conscience.  However, he did say that some have destroyed themselves by putting away a good conscience.  It is impossible to have a good conscience if one does not have a proper faith in the grace of God.

 

I Timothy 3:9 says that deacons are to be,

"Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience." 

 

What is this mystery of the faith?  Simply this: the faith that says Jesus died for all sins and is now living through us. 

 

Colossians 1:25-27 says,

"Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;  Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:  To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."

 

God is our Father, and we need not dread his judgment when we break the law, because our punishment and guilt was borne by Jesus Christ.  This is a great mystery that God should so love sinners that he would send his son, Jesus, to die in their place, take them from under the law and set them over the law to use it.

 

Faith like this will change our lives, but it does not change God.  Faith changes men.  It is the means God uses to conform us to the image of his son.  It is the power God uses in our lives.  This faith must be based on proper knowledge of God's word if it is to produce proper results.  Men's faith does not cause God to act in their behalf as far as salvation from judgment is concerned.  If it did, then faith would be a type of work, and not true faith.

 

Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).  God saved men from judgment because of the faith of Jesus Christ.  It was the faith of Jesus which caused God to act in love on behalf of mankind; it was not the faith of men.  Salvation is of God, not of men.

 

Many seek to assume the role of God by telling people what they must do to be saved.  Some say people must be baptized.  Others say that people must believe because their faith saves them and brings forgiveness of sins.  Some teach that people must be "born again."  Some teach that people must ask Jesus to come into their hearts and save them, whatever that means.  These are all religious ideas of men, not biblical teaching.  The Bible teaches none of these as a means of salvation, regardless of all the contrary pronouncements from many pulpits on any given Sunday.

 

When someone says, "Here is what you must do to be saved from the judgment of sin," that person is taking away from the finished work of Jesus Christ and the grace of God, whether they do so knowingly or unknowingly.  Salvation was done by God.  Men cannot save themselves from God's judgment no matter what they do.  God's judgment of sin is past and over with.  Jesus took care of it.

 

Salvation has also been bestowed upon men.  Faith allows men to live out the salvation freely bestowed upon them by God's grace.  Proper faith and a proper conscience says that God did save, is saving, and will save.  Everything was brought about by God through Jesus Christ. 

 

All men were judicially judged for sins and guilt together with Jesus Christ.  All men died together with Jesus and were raised together with him and seated together with him at the right hand of God (Ephesians 2:6).  Faith in these truths about the grace of God will change anyone.

 

In I Corinthians 6:12, Paul taught that all things were lawful to him, but not everything was useful. 

"All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." 

 

Paul realized his liberty, but he also knew his liberty also brought the responsibility to not wound the conscience of others who were weak in knowledge.

 

Although we are no longer under the law, I Corinthians 8:6-12 teaches that there is a limit to the liberty of those who understand this. 

"But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.  Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.  But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.  But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.  For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;  And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?  But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ." 

 

These verses say that we are to show love, and curb the exercise of our liberty, so as not to cause a brother with a weak or evil conscience to stumble.  Notice that Paul taught God as a father, not as a judge.

 

Paul summarized his teaching about liberty being limited in I Corinthians 10:25-29: 

"Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:  For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.  If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.  But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that showed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof:  Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience?"

 

Paul knew that his knowledge of God's grace gave him the liberty to eat meat offered to idols, but he also knew that sometimes his liberty might cause others to stumble.  Therefore, out of love, he would choose to not eat, and thus limit his own liberty.

 

In I Corinthians 8:6-12, Paul said there is only one God-the Father; therefore, idols are "no gods," and of no consequence.  There is not only no other God greater than our God, there is no other God than our God. 

 

Many today are zealously pursuing supposed godliness without first arming themselves with the proper knowledge of God's grace.  They simply fail to understand that, in Jesus Christ, God has set them free from the law.  They still seek to run the race by fulfilling the law, without realizing that by doing so they bring forth only dead works.  To bring forth works pleasing to God, we must properly understand our position of liberty over the law.

 

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Summary Highlights of Monograph 5

 

#  Paul taught that Jesus had met all the judicial requirements of the law

     for all men; that men were no longer under the law.  They no longer

     needed to fear God's judicial punishment for failure to obey the law.

     This is the basis for a good conscience.  

 

#  Paul taught that Jesus had paid for all men's sin and guilt.  He taught

     that the sacrifices and the law were no longer the means by which men

     were to approach God.  

 

#  The implications of what Paul said meant that Jesus was now the head

     of everyone and the high priest was out of a job.  Men were free to

     approach God at any time, under any circumstance, without the

     intervention of any other man.  

 

#  Jesus, by his death, opened the way to God for anyone who desires to

     fellowship with him.  This crumbled the whole administrative system of

     the priesthood and the sacrifices.  

 

#  By the same token, we do not need preachers today to tell us what to

     do to be acceptable to God, or to intercede for us with God.  Instead,

     they should teach the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection

     of the Lord Jesus Christ.  

 

#  There is no need for messages which presume to tell men how to get

     God to love them.  There is, however, a great need for messages which

     tell men they need do nothing to get God to love them because he

     already does love them.  

 

#  God will never again judge our sins because Jesus bore that judgment

     and punishment for us.  If we believe this, it will change our lives and

     give us a love for God and our fellow man.  

 

#  People today do not need a priesthood.  They do need messengers with

     the proper message of God's love toward all.  

 

#  Men do not need a law system today anymore than they did in Paul's

     day.  

 

#  Law requires administrators, and perhaps this is the reason so much

     law preaching still persists today.  If law is preached, there is a need for

     priests to expound and administer it.  No one likes to walk away from

     organizations they have carefully built over the centuries.  

 

#  Paul said he had a good conscience.  He had no fear of God's judgment

     and therefore no guilt.  

 

#  If sin is not put on anyone's account, then there can be no judgment of

     sin.  

 

#  Paul acted toward others in the spirit of the law, not the letter.  He

     sought to live his life in such a manner that his conscience, telling him

     right and wrong, guided him so he had no guilt or fear that he had

     wronged either God or man.  

 

#  Paul knew that even though the judicial penalty of sin was borne by

     Jesus, the result of sin and its effect on our lives was still viable.  Sin

     brings emptiness to life.  

 

#  Paul did not consider his conscience to be an integral part of himself.

     He said that his conscience bore witness to him.  He sets his conscience

     over against himself, or apart from himself.  

 

#  Paul recognized the conscience as something which had been added,

     something outside himself as he was created by God.  It had been

     added, not by God, but by Adam's disobedience and unbelief.  As a

     result, all men inherit a carnal nature and a conscience, which is the

     seed of death.  

 

#  When men sin, they naturally fear God's judgment against them.

     With a good conscience, men recognize the sin as sin, and confess the

     sin (agree that it is sin) to God as a father, not as a judge.  They give

     God praise that Jesus Christ died for that sin and has already borne the

     judicial punishment and guilt.  Judicially, the sin question has been

     settled once and for all.  It is finished.  

 

#  Paul trusted God not only for past forgiveness of sins, but also for

     present freedom from the bondage of sin, and a future deliverance

     from death.  

 

#  When Paul sinned, he knew that God did not withdraw Himself from

     him.  He recognized that God was not now judging any man, but had

     committed all judgment to his son, who would judge all men's

     righteous works.  

 

#  Those who live their lives in the knowledge of God's grace have

     complete freedom.  They stop striving to influence God with their

     works.  The works they do are done on the basis of love: the love of

     God and the love others.  

 

#  God can exercise command and oversight through the consciences of

     those who see and understand his grace.  

 

#  The law is used properly when we use it as a guide for our lives.  The

     law then becomes a means of demonstrating love to others and love to

     God.  

 

#  The law becomes onerous only when we seek to use it to influence God

     in our behalf.  

 

#  What is the mystery of the faith?  Simply this: the faith that says Jesus

     died for all sins and is now living through us.  

 

#  Paul taught God as a father, not as a judge.  We need not dread his

     judgment when we break the law, because our punishment and guilt

     was borne by Jesus Christ.  

 

#  Our faith does not cause God to act in our behalf as far as salvation

     from judgment is concerned.  If it did, then faith would be a type of

     work, and not true faith.  

 

#  God saved men from judgment because of the faith of Jesus Christ.  It

     was the faith of Jesus which caused God to act in love on behalf of

     mankind; it was not the faith of men.  Salvation is of God, not of men.  

 

#  Many seek to assume the role of God by telling people what they must

     do to be saved.  Some say people must be baptized.  Others say that

     people must believe because their faith saves them and brings

     forgiveness of sins.  Some teach that people must be "born again."

     Some teach that people must ask Jesus to come into their hearts and

     save them, whatever that means!  These are all religious ideas of men,

     and the Bible teaches none of them as a means of salvation.  

 

#  Proper faith and a proper conscience says that God did save, God is

     saving, and God will save.  

 

#  Everything was brought about by God through Jesus Christ.  All men

     were judicially judged for sins and guilt together with Jesus Christ.  All

     men died together with Jesus and were raised together with him and

     seated together with him at the right hand of God.  Faith in these

     truths about the grace of God will change anyone.  

 

#  We should show love and curb the exercise of our liberty so as not to

     cause a brother with a weak or evil conscience to stumble.

 

#  Many today pursue supposed godliness without the proper knowledge

     of God's grace.  They simply fail to understand that, in Jesus Christ,

     God has set them free from the law.  They still seek to run the race by

     fulfilling the law, without realizing that by doing so they bring forth

     only dead works.  To bring forth works pleasing to God, we must

     properly understand our position of liberty over the law.

 

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© 2009, Fred Kenison and Merrill Douglass. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.