“For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.”
if because of conscience toward God
“If” means that this statement is assumed true. This is our lot in life. If we suffer for the Lord Jesus, our love for him must endure grief. It is grace to suffer wrongfully for your convictions. The boss does not promote you simply because you are a Christian. “You are too religious. What will our customers say?”
We have two choices: 1) to resent our suffering or 2) to suffer for the glory of God.
“Because of conscience toward God” means that we have God’s norms and standards in our lives from the Word of God. If we recognize God’s blessing, we will have inner stability in suffering. The more we know of the Word of God, the more norms we have for facing life. If we know many biblical principles about many subjects, we will apply those principles to life.
The word “conscience” comes from two words know and with. Once we know something to be true from the Word of God, it sets up a base of knowledge in our minds. We understand that the Word works with our experience. This base of knowledge becomes our standard for living life. Our conscience makes us aware of information about something. “I am aware of nothing against myself” (1 Cor 4.4).
Unbelievers set up their norms of right and wrong strictly from the conscience. The conscience is their sole basis for evaluating values. Their conscience usually develops from their background. That is, what they learn from their parents, childhood experiences, and experiences as an adult. Some of it comes from training, such as how to be a gentleman. We obtain some of our conscience from culture. We live out our responsibilities in life based on these norms.
We have all heard of the “guilt complex.” This is the guilty conscience. Our conscience is a complex of many norms and standards. Since they are firmly inculcated into our conscience, when we violate one of its standards, this sets up vibrations that go into the emotions. The guilt complex means that we have violated our own norms over a period of time. They may be society’s norms and standards, but we have accepted them in our view of the world. Non-Christians have inner conflicts because they violate their norms and standards derived from culture.
The Christian develops norms from his culture, but he has a set of norms beyond culture. He is now regenerated. He has new life in Christ. This new life in Christ can now receive the Word of God. God now introduces a whole new set of standards into his life. Now we have a conflict with the old standards from culture.
Before we accepted Christ as our Savior, we had certain ideas about what was right or wrong. Usually, this has to do with overt morality. The Bible goes far beyond morality as its way of life. It deals with negative attitudes of anger, jealousy, bitterness, and gossip. The Bible changes our views of right and wrong. It changes our evaluation of people.
The Word of God goes beyond simple right and wrong. It moves into the promises, rapport with God. So the Christian’s conscience undergoes some very radical changes as we learn principles and apply them to our lives from the Bible. When we do this, we come into conformity with God’s thinking. This is necessary to become an ambassador for Christ. Since every Christian is in full-time Christian service as per the previous verse, we must have a conscience toward God.
God does not want us to suffer from merely a sense of duty but a conviction about God’s purpose for us.
The employee who has norms set up by God will suffer because of those norms. Someone says, “Well, everyone else is doing it.” He replies, “Not me. I cannot honestly do that before God. Fire me. So penalize me. So sue me. My conscience will not bend that far. I can’t stretch my conscience like a rubber band like everyone else.” You might be fired. You might be penalized.
You may be passed over for a promotion, but you take your stand. This is grace. You know that you were in line for that job, but someone else got it. Someone else less qualified than you was promoted. You refused to lower your standards. You stood firm and were true to the Lord.
However, if we suffer because we are peculiar or eccentric, that is a different matter. In that case, we suffer because we are an oddball. That is our fault. If we suffer because we are disagreeable, don’t blame that on the Lord.