And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”
In this section of the book of Acts, Paul is being questioned by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council of 70 elder leaders. They are saying he has broken the Jewish law. He is defending himself against their charges. He is defending the actions he has done and the way he has lived his life.
Like Paul, we all live our lives however we choose to. It’s best if we recognize that we live it before God, and not just ourselves and our friends. Every day, every minute, we choose whether to follow Christ or not follow him, whether to live out our faith and make it real, or let it dwindle. We choose to what degree we follow Christ. Some of our decisions are life-changing, some of them are only baby steps, but they all go into what makes our faith or breaks it. Hopefully, most of our decisions will be like the ones Paul made in following Christ, not in following the Law.
Like Paul, we make decisions and live our lives in ways that reflect our faith. As a Pharisee, before his conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul believed that persecuting Christians, persecuting Christ, and demanding obedience to the Law was the way to be pure. He lived that life with zeal and a clear (but wrong) conscience about his purpose and his motivations as well as his execution. After his conversion, Paul realized that his past was wrong, and that believing in Jesus Christ, sharing the gospel, loving his neighbors, and loving God most of all, are the way to be made pure, and he did that to the best of his ability.
If our faith is in celebrities, we will follow celebrities. If our faith is in politics or pastors, we will wait for them to give us what we think we need. If our faith is in the things we have, we will depend on them to make our lives worthwhile, and we will always come up short. Our defense for how we lived our lives will not be a good one. Following Christ is the only thing that can make our lives worthwhile. If we are waiting on anyone else for the answers, we will probably miss them when they come.
The Sanhedrin was a pretty tough crowd. They knew what Paul had done before, and they knew what they were charging him with on this day. Hopefully, none of us will ever face the kind of trial Paul was facing before the Sanhedrin while we are on this earth. If we already have faced that kind of trial, then maybe that just makes this passage more real for us. Hopefully, like Paul, along the way we have recognized the importance of living our lives before God in all good conscience.
Keeping our consciences clean is important because it affects the way we live. Unfortunately, we can be like Paul pre-conversion, and have a good conscience despite doing everything wrong. Our consciences don’t recognize that they are wrong until God makes it clear to us that what we are doing is wrong. For that we should be thankful, because we then have a clear conscience and a clear direction from him on what to do to maintain it. May we all live our lives following Christ with all the sincerity we can muster, knowing we have always done our best in serving him and one another.