Lesson 27—Conscience and Conduct
Scripture: 1 Peter 3:16-17
Lesson Goal: To understand the importance of having a good conscience in order to be an effective witness for Jesus Christ.
In today’s lesson, we see the thought from verse 15 continue in verse sixteen. Peter instructed believers in verse fifteen to be prepared to give an answer (defense) to anyone who asked the reason for the hope within them. They were to give an uncompromising defense, but they were to do it with meekness (humility) and fear (reverence). In addition to the manner of this defense, with meekness and fear, a third component is added: “having a good conscience.”
(Verse 16) “having a good conscience”—used as a participle “to have,” in the present tense, it means “to possess,” “to maintain.”
Conscience—a good or clear conscience. If the believer is to stand with meekness (humility) and fear (reverence) against threats and persecution, he must have a clear (good) conscience. To have a good conscience, the believer must be living a God-honoring, holy, pure, upright, and above-reproach life. The believer who is living a truly God-honoring life will have a clear conscience.
The blood of Christ cleanses the believer’s conscience. This cleansing is “from dead works to serve the living God.” The Bible gives many instructions for and examples of a good conscience. Before we look at some of the scriptural references, we must establish one important truth that will help us in our understanding of “conscience.” At the moment of salvation, God cleanses the believer’s conscience of the lifelong accumulation of guilt, shame, and contempt. What a wonderful blessing of salvation (see Hebrews 9:14).
The Bible teaches the importance of keeping a clear conscience. “Believers must guard the purity of their cleansed consciences, winning the battle for holiness on the inside by maintaining a pure heart (see Acts 23:1). Paul’s words to the council and to the high priest Ananias speak to his good conscience before God.
➢ What does it mean to have a good conscience before God?
➢ How can a believer maintain a good (clear, pure) conscience?
A clear conscience in the life of the believer is the result of purity and holiness through the power of the Holy Spirit and allows the believer to live in freedom from any burden of guilt or shame.
“that when they defame you as evildoers”—It is hard to stand for Christ and be convincing in our testimony with an accusing conscience, but when the believer’s conscience is pure, he can stand against the false accusations and slanders with a testimony of a good conscience. There is no fear of guilty secrets and hidden sins. (See Acts 24:25.) Paul knew that neither the Jews nor the Romans had anything on him. He stood with a clear conscience. The fact that he could stand as a witness of Jesus Christ with a good conscience gave him the boldness and courage of a lion. Paul’s good conscience was a great blessing and asset to him as he faced trials and persecution because of his faith in Christ.
➢ Question of honesty—If today you stood to defend your faith in Christ, what does your own conscience say as a witness on your own behalf? Could you stand with boldness or is there un-confessed sin in your life?
“those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed”—The criticisms of Peter’s day are the same criticisms hurled at believers today. Unbelievers and persecutors criticized the good conduct of the believers. The word Peter uses for conduct means the kind of conduct (behavior) that is pleasing to God.
**Notice that this conduct is viewed distinctively and uniquely as Christian, because of the propositional phrase “in Christ.” Once again, we see the importance of our position in Christ. Paul wrote about it; in fact, “in Christ” appears seventy-three times in Paul’s writings.
Peter is emphasizing that Christians will be abused for their good conduct. Believers are to live such God-honoring lives that those who abuse their conduct will ultimately be ashamed (see Acts 7:58-60, Acts 22:19-20).
➢ How did Stephen’s death and conduct before his death affect Paul?
Notice in Acts 22:20 the words “Your martyr Stephen.”
(Verse 17) Peter instructs and encourages his readers in a simple but profound truth. As they stand for their faith in Christ, believers will receive threats, ridicule and persecution for their faith. The believer’s good conscience and good conduct (behavior) testify to the truth of their belief in Christ. Ultimately, unbelievers will be put to shame because of the witness and testimony of true believers in the face of false accusations and persecution.
**If we must suffer, let us suffer for doing good, not as a result of our disobedience to God.
I close today’s lesson with the words of Thomas Watson:
Afflictions work for good, as they make way for glory…not that they merit glory, but they prepare for it. As ploughing prepares the earth for a crop, so afflictions prepare and make us ready for glory. The painter lays his gold upon dark colours, so God first lays the dark colours of affliction, and then He lays the golden colour of glory. The vessel is first seasoned before wine is poured into it: the vessels of mercy are first seasoned with affliction, and then the wine of glory is poured in.
Questions for Life Focus
Explain how a believer’s good conscience can be a witness for Jesus Christ.
Can you remember a time in your life when you spoke evil of believers?
Has a believer’s good conduct (behavior) ever been used by God to bring conviction in your life?
How is it possible to have a good (clear) conscience before God and men?