Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. 2 When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: “We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. 3 Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. 4 But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly.
5 “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect 6 and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.”
9 The other Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.
10 When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: “I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense. 11 You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. 13 And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. 14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.
17 “After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. 18 I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance. 19 But there are some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me. 20 Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin— 21 unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: ‘It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’”
22 Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. “When Lysias the commander comes,” he said, “I will decide your case.” 23 He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs.
24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” 26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.
27 When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.
When Paul was standing before Governor Felix, he spoke of striving to keep his conscience clear “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” (Acts 24:16). Paul was wise in doing this. Integrity was important to Paul. In Titus 2:7-8 the Apostle reminds Titus to “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” A clear conscience makes life better. There is an African proverb that says "A clear conscience makes a soft pillow." In other words, you can rest better when the conscience is clear. I suspect we all know that. We have had our fitful sleeps when our conscience has not been clear. At least, I have.
But how can anyone keep it clear? As Paul talked to Felix, he gave three good principles for doing this.
· Live in such a way that you create no guilt. Paul did this (verses 11 through 13). He lived so that the charges brought against him simply could not stick. Living this way keeps the conscience from being troubled.
· Live according to God’s Word. Again, Paul did this (verse 14). He worshiped God faithfully and lived according to the Law and the Prophets—the Bible of his day. There is no reason for a conscience to be troubled when one lives this way.
· Keep looking forward. Paul lived considering the future. He kept before him the fact that there will be a resurrection for the righteous (verse 15). That, as he would later write "all things work together for the good of those who are called according to his purpose." With that in view, one is less likely to be involved in anything that would soil the conscience.
Thomas Fuller said that “a quiet conscience sleeps in thunder.” Do the things that keep the conscience clear. You will rest better tonight if you do. Actually, all our living will be more peace filled, as Proverbs 10:9 says, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely.”
Craig Groeschel played on his high school’s tennis team. One evening at an out-of-town tournament, the team went mini-putting. At the end of the round, each of the players stole their golf balls as a memento, including Craig.
Back at the hotel, the coach saw Craig with his ball and realized he had stolen it. “You’re off the team.” What?! Craig was totally shocked and surprised. His coach explained: “If you’ll steal a golf ball, you’ll steal other things. You don’t have integrity. So you’re not playing for me.”
After it became clear that Craig was reeeaaaallly sorry and that he hadn’t fully understood the gravity of what he had done, he was allowed to stay on the team on one condition. He had to go back to the owner of the mini-putt course, admit what he had done, apologize, and give the ball back.
He did! And to this day he knows the value of integrity. He learned through his coach to have integrity in the little things.
(Craig Groeschel, Altar Ego: Becoming Who God Says You Are (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), 114.)
As followers of Jesus, let us be models of integrity. Let our yes be yes and our no be no. Let us act with dignity in both our speech and our actions. Let us strive always to keep our conscience clear before God and humankind.
God, we pray that you would help us, each of us. Help me to live with a clear conscience toward you and others. God, please make us people of integrity. We are so prone to cut corners, to cover over things, even to put forward versions of ourselves that are just not true in order to please others, gain approval before others, or even before you. God, please help us to see ourselves as you see us. God, we pray that you would help us to be honest in our time with you, even right now, maybe even flowing from this prayer, just some time in reflection in each of our lives, that you would uncover areas of our lives where we are not being honest before you, where there are things in our lives that are not pleasing to you.
God, we want to be Holy. We want to walk in purity before you with a clean conscience towards you and toward others. God, we pray that you would expose, open our eyes to ways that we have wronged others. Help us to seek forgiveness where that is the case. Lord, help us to live with love for others, with compassion for others, not with bitterness toward others. God, we pray that you would help us to take pains to have a clear conscience toward you and others. In Jesus name we pray, amen.
(Prayer Written by David Platt)