A CONSCIENCE VOID OF OFFENSE
The apostle Paul said, "I have conducted myself in all good conscience before God until this day" (Acts 23:1). This was the secret of his life. The conscience spoken of here is not the conscience of an unregenerated man, but a conscience filled with the Holy Spirit. The apostle was bold in going forward to have full fellowship with God because his regenerated conscience did not reprove him. All of his conduct was according to his conscience. He did not commit, even once, anything that his conscience reproved, nor did he, even once, allow anything that the conscience had condemned to remain in him. Therefore, he was bold towards God and men. Whenever there is any offense in the conscience, we cannot be completely without fear. The apostle said, "I also exercise myself to always have a conscience without offense toward God and men" (Acts 24:16) because "if our heart does not blame us, we have boldness toward God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight" (1 John 3:21-22).
Many believers do not consider the importance of the conscience. As long as we walk according to the spirit, we think that everything will be fine. But whenever our conscience has an offense, we cannot be completely without fear before God. As soon as we have fear before God, there will immediately be a barrier in our fellowship with Him. The offense of the conscience is the greatest hindrance of the intuition’s fellowship with God. If we do not keep His commandments and the things which are pleasing to Him, our hearts will naturally be rebuked. There will be offenses and shrinking back from God. Furthermore, we will not receive the things which we ask of Him. Only a "pure conscience" is capable of serving God (2 Tim. 1:3). A conscience with offense causes the intuition to draw back and fear approaching God.
"For our boasting is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in singleness and sincerity of God, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world" (2 Cor. 1:12). This verse talks about the testimony of the conscience. Only a conscience void of offense can testify for the believer. Even though the testimony of man is good, the testimony of one’s own conscience is more precious. The apostle said that he boasted in this. In our path of walking according to the spirit, we should often have such a testimony from the conscience. Many times what other people say about us may be wrong because they cannot understand how God is leading us. They may misunderstand us and they may misjudge us, just as the apostles were misunderstood and misjudged by the believers in the past. On the other hand, they may also overly praise and admire us. Because of following the Lord, many people may often disparage us, even though we are actually obeying the Lord. At other times men will extol us because of what they see in us; however, most of this comes from sudden emotions or imaginations. Therefore, outward praise and criticism are not the criteria; only the testimony of our own resurrected conscience counts for anything. We must examine how our conscience testifies concerning us. What kind of person does the conscience testify that we are? Does the conscience condemn us of hypocrisy? Does the conscience say that we cover up our faults and assume an impressive appearance? Or does the conscience testify that we conduct ourselves in this world, according to the singleness and sincerity of God? Does the conscience testify that we have walked according to the light we have received?
What did the conscience testify concerning Paul? The testimony was that "not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world." In fact, this is the only testimony of the conscience. The conscience strives for and insists that the believer live by the grace of God and not according to fleshly wisdom. The wisdom of the flesh is of no use in the work of God and the will of God. Neither is it of any use in the spiritual life of the believer. Man’s mind is of absolutely no use in fellowship with God; even in contact between man and physical things, it also occupies a subordinate position. The conduct of the believer in the world is completely dependent upon the grace of God. Grace means that God does everything and man does nothing (Rom. 11:6). Only when the believer lives by fully depending upon God, not allowing himself to initiate anything, not allowing the mind of man to enter and dominate anything, can the conscience testify that we live in the world according to the singleness and sincerity of God. In other words, the conscience works together with the intuition. The conscience only testifies and approves of the conduct of a believer which is according to the intuition. Any conduct that goes against the intuition, even though it may be very much according to the wisdom of man, will be resisted by the conscience. In short, the conscience does not approve anything other than the revelation of the intuition. The intuition leads the believer, and the conscience urges the believer to obey the intuition when he thinks of disobeying it.
A conscience that is void of offense before God testifies that God is pleased with the believer and that there is no separation between God and the believer. Such a testimony of the conscience is indispensable to a life that walks according to the spirit. This should be the goal of the believer; if this has not been attained, the believer should not be satisfied. This is the normal life of a believer; the apostle Paul lived such a life and so must today’s believers. Enoch was one who had an undefiled conscience; therefore, he knew that he pleased God. The testimony of God’s being pleased with us can help us to progress. But we should be cautious; otherwise, we will exalt the "self," thinking that we can please God in ourselves. All the glory belongs to Him. We should "encourage ourselves" to keep our conscience void of offense. If our conscience is really void of offense, we should guard against the flesh entering in a subtle way.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), Chapter 7, by Watchman Nee)