GETTING THE MESSAGE/Maintaining a good conscience
In this passage, Acts 24:22-27, Paul has defended himself from the charges the Jewish leaders have brought against him, and now the governor of Judea, Felix, is to give his ruling on the case. But Felix decides to put off any decision until he hears from the Roman tribune over Jerusalem (verse 22).
Felix remands Paul back to custody, but with some liberty; he can have friends attend to his needs (verse 23). In the meantime, Felix and his wife Drusilla send for Paul to hear him speak about faith in Christ Jesus (verse 24). When Paul reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became alarmed and sent Paul away. For the next two years Felix conversed with Paul, while hoping Paul would give him money (verse 26). The subjects Paul discussed with Felix give us direction on how to maintain a good conscience.
The first subject is righteousness. When Felix heard Paul, his conscience became alarmed. God has engraved a conscience in all men. If we say a man has no conscience because of the evil he commits, we mean he has no good conscience. His conscience will still testify against him before God. Conscience follows a man forever. Joseph’s brothers betrayed him when he was young, but years later the guilt of it came back to them in a time of trouble.
The remedy to a troubled conscience is to gain righteousness with God. Some try to calm a troubled conscience with a little religion. But that will harden a conscience instead of making it good. When we are convicted of our sin before God, the gospel of Christ becomes good news to us. Christ alone can take away our sin and give us righteousness before God. Felix chose to suppress his conscience rather than commit himself to Christ.
Paul’s next subject was self-control. Felix had a reputation for being cruel, adulterous, and greedy. Paul made clear to him that he would have to repent and turn from these things to be right with God. Faith in Christ always entails self-control. A Christian will struggle with sin, but there must be a commitment to subdue his sinful nature and live a holy life.
It is for that purpose Christ redeems us that we might become his disciples and follow his ways. Paul maintained a good conscience before God by fighting the good fight of faith. He was not sinless, but neither was he double-minded. He was committed to honoring Christ with his life, and the Lord will honor those who honor him.
Paul’s other subject was the judgment. Paul kept the judgment of the Lord in his mind, and this led him to maintain a good conscience. Jesus said all men would be resurrected from the dead, some to a resurrection of life and others to a resurrection of condemnation.
The Lord was good to Felix. He not only convicted him in a way that gave him alarm in his conscience, but Felix had two years of private audiences with the apostle Paul. There are few people in the world who have ever had such privilege. But Felix rejected Christ and went his own way. He didn’t believe the warning of judgment.
There is little fear of God in our day because men do not believe there will be a judgment. But their conscience will testify against them on the Day of Judgment, when God shall judge the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. The conscience will tell all the truth and nothing but the truth.
Men can deny God or mock God in their lives, but their conscience will be exposed by God. Who knows how much Felix wrestled with the truth he heard from Paul? Who knows how much you have denied your own conscience? God knows. God knows what all men know and what is in their conscience. God will be justified in his condemnation of men because he will bring forth the witness of their conscience. Those with the greater privileges will face the greater judgment.
The only wise thing you can do with your conscience is go to Christ. There are none of us righteous or who can make ourselves righteous before God. Only Christ can do that. God has given a great salvation in Christ for sinners, not only forgiving sin but giving a place with God forever. Let Felix be a warning and Paul a good example for pursuing a good conscience before God.