There are few things in this world as spiritually empowering as a clean conscience. Conversely, there are few things as spiritually debilitating as a corrupt conscience. The apostle Paul strove, “to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16). Yet, Paul spoke of those whose consciences had been, “seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:2).
The same conscience that let Paul to persecute Christians, even unto death (Gal. 1:13; Acts 22:4), also allowed Paul to boldly preach the gospel he once defamed, nearly resulting in his own death on several occasions (2 Cor. 11:23-28). Why is this? It is because Paul believed what he was doing was right. He had a clear conscience in both cases, albeit misguided in one.
Before any conscience can be of intrinsic use, one must recognize the source of its training. A conscience cleansed by God and trained by His word is a conscience of great value. It will admonish one who commits sin and embolden one who is doing right.
In order for a conscience to be of inherent spiritual value, it must first be cleansed by God. The Hebrew writer asked, “...how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14).
Paul (formerly named Saul) experienced this cleansing after the Lord miraculously intervened in his life, helped him to realize the error of his ways, and convinced Him to obey the gospel he once fought so zealously against. He was baptized into Christ, washing away his sins, and he immediately began to serve the living Lord (Acts 22:16). Essentially, his heart was, “sprinkled from an evil conscience” and his body was, “washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).
If the “chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15) can have his conscience cleansed in such a way by obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ, then what does that say for you and I? It shows that sin, whether willful or ignorant, defiles the conscience (cf. Tit. 1:15). Yet, the blood of Christ cleanses the conscience, purifies it (cf. 1 Tim. 1:5), and thereby empowers us for the good works for which the Lord created us (Eph. 2:10).
The challenge for believers is to maintain that good conscience. Can you say, as Paul says, that you, “always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and man” (Acts 24:16)? Can you appreciate the power of being able to stand in the face of evildoers as they defame you, knowing that your conscience is clean and your conduct is good (cf. 1 Pet. 3:16)? Are you willing to suffer wrongfully for the sake of your conscience toward God (1 Pet. 2:19)? Are you holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience (1 Tim. 3:9)? Have you submitted to the command to be baptized into Christ, which is the answer of a good conscience toward God (1 Pet. 3:21)?