A Clean Conscience

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By: Raymond Harris
Contributor: Joe Pitman
Regarding Scripture: II Timothy 1.3

Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Epistle of Second Timothy in conjunction with this article.

A Clean Conscience

As a new month begins, we usually have a book introduction. However, since we are entering into a discussion about Second Timothy, this month we will forgo a book introduction. For some items concerning Paul, the writer, and Timothy, the recipient, this writer implores the reader to refer to the article giving an introduction to the epistle of First Timothy.1 Instead of offering a book overview, we will jump right into our examination of Second Timothy.

Again, like the month previous, we will have our shepherds share some ideas with us regarding what they find in the text of Second Timothy. This week our elder, Joe Pitman, has some ideas from chapter one of Second Timothy. While chapter one has eighteen verses, Brother Pitman has asked that we direct our attention to verse three, and that is where we will be spending our time.

Scriptures’ Circumspection
It is important to note, that in this second epistle to Timothy, Paul encouraged Timothy to refrain from discussions that lead to argumentation.2 And while, we should follow this prescribed manner of living, Paul also instructed Timothy to gently and patiently instruct.3 Prayerfully, this writer is working under a sound belief that no one is as translated in the King James, opposing themselves.4

No matter the given situation, Scriptures inform us that church leaders should always be kind and gentle in their teachings, instructions, and manner. Knowing this, however, does not work against the notion that there are times when the Scriptures ask church leaders to continue teaching, instructing – challenging, if one will – provoking the church to love and good works.5 With this in mind, this writer is asking the reader to be alert that some of the items discussed herein may cause initial skepticism because verse three contains some very interesting ideas.

Paul’s Observation
This is Paul’s second letter to his son Timothy, described by Paul as a son in the faith.6 These letters are very personal. They are not simply from just an apostle7 to an evangelist.8 These letters represent a collection of Paul’s pastoral wisdom – given to Paul from God above. That wisdom originates from various places: from years of personal experience to scripture meditation; from prayerful supplications to dedicated evangelism; from church establishment to disciple encouragement; from personal life management to a spiritual life being Holy Spirit inspired, Holy Spirit moved and Holy Spirit led. In all things, both before his conversion to discipleship and afterwards, Paul seemed to be a man wanting to please the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Amazingly, Paul can communicate profound ideas in few words, perhaps that is Holy Spirit inspired, but yet we marvel at the communication that proceeds from him. Not that Paul considered himself to be an intellectual and master of words,9 instead he considers himself a servant,10 a slave, of Christ. As such, he would know of only one thing, Christ and him crucified,11 everything else seemed moot, such as evidenced by his profound dialog in the fourteenth chapter of Romans.

Paul seemed to be acutely aware of New Testament – New Covenant – liberty,12 but he was also circumspect with his God ordained liberty13 and he encouraged others to be as cautious. Summarizing what Paul said:

all things are lawful, but not everything is expedient;
all things are lawful, but not everything edifies.14

While Paul believed all things lawful, he also said that everything should be done for edification15 and that we should not judge each other, but if we have to judge, we should have only one judgment – not to put a stumbling block before anyone.16 All of this wisdom, perhaps, helps us to have a more full assessment of Paul’s thinking, when he said to Timothy, “I am grateful to God – whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did.”17 With all of this in mind, I ask the reader to consider Brother Pitman’s reflection.

An Elder’s Reflection
In reference to the third verse of chapter one and Paul’s phrase, “I am grateful to God – whom I worship with a clear conscience as my ancestors did.” It seems that as modern readers, we can assume two important items. One, Paul’s ancestors worshipped God acceptably. And two, Paul worshipped God with a more full understanding of His will. It seems that we could say that the apostle adhered to the line of Jiminy Cricket who claimed, “It’s what you do with what you got.”

Paul was converted into discipleship from Judaism, claiming that as understanding the Law (Torah) he was a Pharisee.18 But based upon a general understanding of Paul’s life, it seems that following his conversion Paul had the light of the Gospel reveal some things about his ancestor’s teachings, yet Paul still stated that they worshipped God acceptably. In similar ways, as we study and grow we can understand that our church fathers, like Stone and Campbell, had some conclusions that may not withstand close scrutiny. Yet, we are called to be like the noble Bereans who searched the scriptures.19 They were able to look in the mirror, so-to-speak, and compared what they saw in Scripture with what was being taught by the apostles. Sometimes it is difficult to examine something that seems self-evident but that is just what we are called to do.

In some ways, it appears that some Israelites of old believed they were the only ones accepted by God or that could come close to God.20 Unfortunately that understanding had some really big holes in it, yet Paul puts them on the same plane as he – worshipping God acceptably with a pure conscience. While we claim no creed book, it appears that we sometimes look to sources other than the Bible to tell us what we believe. Some of us can claim seven and eight generations in our faith, the church of Christ. Surely, our devout fathers and mothers are at peace and heaven bound. Like Paul and his ancestors, it is possible that we within our heritage may understand some things that they might find scandalous.

Future generations will surely look at us and say, “Why did the church not realize these things which are so self-evident?” Simply stated, no generation can claim they have “achieved.” There is much we all may learn. Still we, like Paul, can worship God with a clean conscience. With God, there is always more evidence to be considered. Meanwhile, when we look in the mirror and examine what manner of worshippers we are, may our conscience bear witness that we are doing the best we can with what we got.

1. “Items Regarding Paul and Timothy.” The Epistle of First Timothy, June 7, 2009.
2. “Refrain from Argumentation.” Second Timothy 2.21-24, NASB.
3. “Patiently Instruct.” Second Timothy 2.24-25, NASB.
4. “Opposing Themselves.” Second Timothy 2.25, KJV.
5. “Provoke to Love and Good Works.” Hebrews 10.24, NASB.
6. “Son in the Faith.” First Timothy 1.2, NASB.
7. “Paul, an Apostle.” First Timothy 1.1, Second Timothy 1.1, NASB.
8. “Timothy, an Evangelist.” Second Timothy 4.5, NASB.
9. “Intellectual and Master of Words.” First Corinthians 2.4, NASB.
10. “Paul, a servant,10 a slave, of Christ.” Romans 1.1; Galatians 1.10, NASB.
11. “Paul’s knowledge: Christ and Him Crucified.” First Corinthians 2.2, NASB.
12. “New Covenant – liberty.” First Corinthians 8.9, 10.29; Second Corinthians 3.17; Galatians 2.4, 5.1, NASB.
13. “God Ordained Liberty.” First Corinthians 8.9; Galatians 5.13, NASB.
14. “All things lawful, but not all things are expedient or are edifying.” First Corinthians 10.23, NASB.
15. “Everything should be done for edification.” First Corinthians 14.26, NASB.
16. “Make only one judgement.” Romans 14.13, NASB.
17. Second Timothy 1.3, Link: NASB, Quote: NRSV.
18. “Paul, a Pharisee.” Philippians 3.5, NASB.
19. “Nobel Bereans Searched the Scriptures.” Acts 17.10-11, NASB.
20. “Only ones accepted by God.” Ezra 4.1-3, Jonah 4.1-3, NASB.