1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, 4 longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. 6 For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
This is what is known as Paul’s last communication with Timothy. At the writing of this letter, he was in prison yet again awaiting execution (he was martyred not long after this letter was written) and he mentions his impending death throughout the letter. This letter is included in the Pastoral Epistles, but I’m going to keep in mind that this is the last letter of instruction, encouragement, and friendship Paul is writing to Timothy. It’s a big deal. What would you write to your kids if you just had one last letter to send them or just one last time to sit down with them and talk?
As I read verse 3, I think about all the persecution Paul (then Saul) undertook of the early church before his conversion on the Damascus road. How can he have a clear conscience about that? He was considered a “Jew of Jews,” having a pedigree more impressive than most in that time. His background placed him in upright religious standing. Then, when God confronted him face-to-face, he learned the error of his ways, repented, and continued in his zeal for God.
In 1 Timothy chapter 1 Paul said, “5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” We discussed this in detail in my post The Administration of God and I feel that Paul here is presenting to us an interesting thought. He had a clean conscience when he was persecuting the early Christians because he thought what he was doing was right in God’s eyes. God, however, stepped in and let him know that what he was doing was wrong and actually the opposite of what he thought he was doing. Immediately I think of the crusades, a big black eye in Christian church history. I don’t really know a whole lot about the crusades, but what I remember is that it was a period of time when Christians persecuted non Christians. If we look closer to our American heritage we can reference the Salem witch trials and the persecution of many “in the name of God.” I don’t think there are many today who will agree that these campaigns were justifiable with the teachings of Christ or as a reflection of love for humanity. Yet, the people who did these things thought in all sincerity that they were right. Were they?
If we look back to The Administration of God, we can see that these distortions in history in the name of God come from a result of lacking love from a pure heart. Paul as well as the others who committed atrocities were missing the love of God. They might have justified their love somehow as being for the love of others, but God calls us to love everyone, regardless of their beliefs. So how can Paul now have a clear conscience since he knows he was wrong? Because he repented and God forgave him for his mislead and sinful actions.
You too can have a clear conscience. It isn’t about always being right, but rather your desire to follow Christ wholeheartedly. If we chase after Him in sincere faith by seeking to love from a pure heart, He will give us a good conscience. Even when we fail, He will redeem our actions if we continually seek His Will in our lives. The word “repent” is a looming church word that we talk about often but rarely understand what it really means. Repentance means to turn away from your current action and seek out God’s counsel for your life. Don’t you desire a clear conscience?