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1 Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.”  


Chapter 23 provides Paul’s defense before the council in Jerusalem and Felix in Caesarea. His speech in Jerusalem ended with friction and violence. However, Jesus encouraged Paul that he would have a further testimony in Rome (Acts 23:11). The chapter ends with the Jews’ conspiracy to kill Paul, but when the Romans discovered the plot, they sent the apostle to Caesarea to be heard by Felix, the Roman Judean governor (Acts 23:12-35).  


Then Paul, looking earnestly at [gazing upon] the council, said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” 

Verse 1 begins Paul’s defense before the Jewish council (the Sanhedrin) and high priest. Paul declared that he had lived with a “good conscience before God until this day.” He had lived his life in the sight of God; his conscience was clear of any blame as a Christian (Acts 24:16). This statement did not mean that he was without sin but that his ministry was one of integrity (Acts 24:9). No one could charge him with conducting his ministry with ill intent.  


It is possible to damage one’s conscience. 


Our day is one in which people live with a shriveled conscience. The Greek word for “conscience” means to know with. The conscience is what we know about ourselves or our values. Scripture speaks of believers with a good conscience (1 Tim 1:5, 19: He 13:18; 1 Pe 3:16,21). A person can have a “blameless conscience” (Acts 24:16) or a clear conscience (1 Tim 3:9; 2 Tim 1:3). People need to purify their conscience from distorted doctrine (He 9:14; 10:22). The conscience has to do with biblical standards and values. The issue in our lives is to assess where each of us stands in our conscience before God. 

The Bible has much to say about the conscience. It is the Christian’s guide for living according to biblical standards. It is not an entirely dependable standard on its own because it can be stretched or shriveled. It is a flexible entity with some people. That is why we need to measure ourselves by the ultimate standard of the objective Word of God. The conscience tells us what it can’t do but not what we should do without an objective standard. It can be seared with a hot iron (1 Tim 4:2).