The Apostle Paul maintained a good conscience for gospel ministry. Making his defense before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, he began, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1). Leading a religious establishment that had lost its integrity long before it chose to crucify its Messiah, the High Priest Ananias directed his underlings to pummel Paul in the mouth for making such a claim. The cynical priest found Paul’s stand outrageous.
After the foiled plot to assassinate Paul and in response to the lying accusations of Tertullus, the Apostle again affirmed his integrity: “And herein do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16). The “most noble” Felix, as Tertullus’s flatteries referred to him, imprisoned Paul for two years after this show-trial, in spite of his obvious innocence, hoping to extract a bribe from his prisoner (vv. 26-27). Clearly, Paul’s calling required a life of integrity in a world of duplicity. He had determined to “hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience” while facing a world of lies (1 Tim. 3:9).
To live with a pure conscience, one must live with integrity. Like our word entire, the word integrity comes from the Latin word integer, which word English speakers use in mathematics to refer to whole numbers. Noah Webster defined integrity as “wholeness; entireness; unbroken state” and “the entire, unimpaired state of anything, particularly of the mind; moral soundness or purity; incorruptness; uprightness; honesty.” Integrity is the virtue James encouraged when he warned that “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (Jam. 1:8). Integrity yields stability, courage, and allegiance to truth.
Though still hailed by many as “the most noble,” many influencers in today’s world continue to lead with duplicity rather than integrity. They speak “lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron,” just as many did in the days of Paul (1 Tim. 4:2). Government officials lie about their political opponents; election officials lie about the accuracy of their vote-count; social media outlets lie about the neutrality of their platforms; mainstream media lies when they claim disinterested objectivity; medical professionals and pharmaceutical companies lie about the harmlessness of their technologies; corporations lie about their “woke” agendas; and ecclesial leaders lie about the true nature of Christianity. “Unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled” (Tit. 1:15).
Therefore, the Independent Baptist Fellowship of North America, meeting at our 32nd annual family conference, June 20-22, 2023, at Bible Baptist Church in New Hartford, NY, resolves to follow Paul’s example of a good conscience for gospel ministry. With the help of our Savior, whose integrity is “the same yesterday, today, and forever,” and who has purged our “conscience from dead works to serve the living God,” we shall “hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience” (Heb. 13:8, 9:14, 1 Tim. 3:9). Recognizing our weakness and remembering that to lose faith and a good conscience is to experience spiritual shipwreck (1 Tim. 1:19), we shall make the goal of the commandment we have received from the Lord our own, which is “charity out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (1 Tim. 1:5). By God’s grace and through the power of His Spirit, we will have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them with faithful ministries of trustworthy integrity (Eph. 5:11).