Lesson Two – Christian’s Boast of a Clean Conscience

Christian’s Boast of a Clean Conscience

Lesson Text:  II Cor. 1:12 – 7:16.


Paul has presented several principles of life in an emotional scene involving him and the church.  The title of this lesson is one of the principles.  Other principles will be considered in the following lessons.  We need to understand the drama but only for the purpose of understanding how vital it is for each Christian to be able to boast about our own clean conscience.

The text in the previous lesson presented the basic ethic principles for fellowship in the body of Christ.  Consequently, the text for this lesson is built on the principle of legitimate suffering and comforting people – both the insiders and outsiders (I Cor. 5:12).  The powerful theology of “the Father of compassion and the God of comfort” being in fellowship each Christian in “every step of his or her faith walk” is why Christians naturally boast about our clean consciences.  The point being, if our conscience is not clean the Holy Spirit of God will not accompany us.  God, our creator, comforts us with His presence by the Holy Spirit in our learning experiences while we grow from glory to glory.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  II Cor. 3:17

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  4:17, 18   

We live by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  5:7, 8 

We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.  5:12

The foregoing is spiritual Deities’ sanctification course for the unseen spirit (self) of each Christian.  Our spirits have all come from God and, even though housed in Adam type bodies, are now on their way back to God as His children (Eccl. 12:7; II Cor. 6:17, 18).  This spirit in each of us has developed into our present “self.”  Sanctification is the growth process of putting off the old self the world society “dumped on” us before we could do our own independent thinking and learning.  Our thinking is now according to the divine principles of life; consequently, we are putting on the new self according to life in God’s eternal kingdom (Eph. 4:22-24).  God is with us “in Christ” by the presence of His Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-26).

One principle we want to maintain from our previous lesson is that suffering and comforting is for all Christians.  Although Paul, in the context of his relationship with the Corinthians, used his suffering and his comforting for the church, the principle was for each member (II Cor. 1:7).  It is for each member of the church today. Paul did serve in a powerful manner but his body hurt when it was abused, became hungry and tired.  Jesus Christ felt pain just as Christians do in our service.  Please note how Paul closed his thought in II Cor. 4:7-12 with; “life is at work in you.”  Jesus and the apostles worked for God’s children to experience the life of the kingdom while still on earth, therefore, “All of this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”  II Cor. 4:15.  Overflow is the key thought for us in II Cor. 1:3-7.  The attitude of willingness to suffer and being comforted in the activity of suffering must become emotions in our personalities before they can overflow from us.

We are seeking satisfaction for our innate drives God created in each individual and Jesus Christ is providing the principles for Christians’ success.  Our personality and character is being developed around our successes and failures.  If we will accept by faith the set of attitudes Jesus offered in His sermon on the mount and put them in practice we will be strong happy children of God (Matt. 5:3-10; 7:24).  Happy Christians are salt and light for those who are not happy.  We are privileged to suffer for them in order to comfort them in their learning exercises.  This is love.  This is how each of us develops love.  It is how we know God and we know we have been born again (I John 4:7).  The people Christians try to comfort must know our acts of love are sincere.  This is what this lesson is about.


Definitions from W. E. Vines Greek dictionary of key Greek words in II Cor. 1:12 (NIV):

Now this is our boast.  It has been translated from the Greek word, kauchesis.  Translated “glorying” in the ASV and “rejoicing” in the KJV.  It is used in both a good and bad way.  In this text and in II Cor. 1:14; 5:12; 7:14, it is good.  See Part II, Lessons 2, and 3 to understand how Paul used kauchaomai as a “technical word” in both I & II Corinthians.

Our conscience.  Suneidesis is made up from sun – meaning with and odiato know.  Literally to know with; the witness borne to one’s conduct by conscience. Our spirit can examine ourselves and know ourselves (I Cor. 2:11; II Cor. 13:5).  “Our conscience testifies.”  2:12.  Paul commended his ministry to the church’s conscience (II Cor. 4:2; 5:11).

In holiness.  Greek, hoplotes, a noun, meaning without dissimulation or self-seeking – singleness.  Translated simplicity in KJV.  (The most common Greek word translated holiness is hagiasmos.  See Rom. 6:19, 22.  This is not the Greek word in this scripture).  A derivative of hoplotes is haplous, an adverb.  This is the word Jesus used in Matt. 6:22 – “If your eyes are good.”

And sincerity of God.  Eilikrineia, clearness, purity (moral and ethical purity).  A quality possessed by God.  Translated godly purity in KJV.

Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are of God.  We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.  II Cor. 1:12

In order to fully appreciate the contribution of the conscience, as one of our human capacities of the inner-man, we need a good understanding of the function of a mature conscience after Adam broke covenant.  He caused us all to have the knowledge of good and evil.  This activated the conscience of mature people.  Please review Part IV, Lesson Two.

Our concern in this lesson is about the integrity of a Christian.  This means, when we speak about what we are planning to do, those to whom we are speaking believe it will happen, if humanly possible.  They are depending on our integrity.  Likewise, when we speak to people about what has already happened they believe we are speaking the truth.  It is what happened according to our understanding of the facts we had in our possession.  We are not lying.  People who lie about their past and present situation are not trusted to speak about what they will do in the future.  They lack integrity.  They do not have their life “put together.”  Instead of serving people, they are prone to use people.  Paul served people with integrity (II Cor. 12:14).

His integrity was being questioned in the text for this lesson.  People are not always able to do what we say we will do, but we must be able to explain why we were not able.  Sometimes we may need to just confess our sin for failing to do what we said we would do.  Thankfully, God is able to do what He said He will do; therefore, He can and does comfort Christians if we will accept His presence (Rom. 4:20, 21).  Paul had not sinned according to the testimony of his conscience.  But even so, he had a lot of explaining to do if he would maintain a good character rating with the people he wanted to comfort.  This is what he did in the text of this lesson.  Integrity is one trait of good character; however, relationships and a positive attitude about God and His creation are also attributes.  Paul will also work on his relationship problem with the church in this text.  This will be studied in the next lesson.

Paul’s declaration about the testimony of his conscience was inspired by some church members who had been spreading the word that he was guilty of duplicity in the planning of his itinerary.  We can imagine Satan and his workers had a hand in spreading the duplicity charge behind the scenes.  Some people merely “shrug off” a charge of this nature with, “so what.”  Or, perhaps, by quipping, “That’s life, wake up.”  In fact, lying has been the culture of the world realm since Satan deceived Eve (II Cor. 11:3; Rev. 12:9).  Adam and Eve used rationalization, one form of lying, immediately after they became covenant breakers.  Lying comes in many forms; duplicity and insincerity are two.  The lie is Satan’s genius.  Jesus said, “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  John 8:44.

Lying is a condition of the “self.”  People unwittingly tell what we may term as “white lies” to protect our psyche (soul) from the guilt imposed upon ourselves by the mature functioning of our conscience (Rom. 2:14, 15).  One of Satan’s schemes against the church is to create a scenario described in II Corinthians chapters one and two (II Cor. 11:13-15).  They had become involved in the “blaming game” based on the lie.  Paul’s admonition was to accept the fact that Christians don’t always choose the good we know we ought to do; therefore, we need to forgive as we have been forgiven (II Cor. 2:10, 11).  We are sinners saved by grace if we will confess our sins in godly sorrow (I John 1:7; II Cor. 7:9-11).  See Part II, Lesson Five for the exegetical details for our text.

Why people lie cannot be fully appreciated unless we understand how it relates to our God-given need for glory as a child of God.  We need the sonship level of glory because this is why God created all people.  Sin’s degradation of our personal glory, as well as our glory for God as His children, is what caused Jesus to be sacrificed as our sin offering.  Animal sacrifices did not cleanse repentant sinners’ consciences of guilt (Heb. 10:1-4).  Guilt robs people of glory; therefore, the guilt of sin is a powerful motivational force for lying.  People have a problem accepting ourselves as non-glorious; therefore, we lie to ourselves and to others about our sin.  Paul said he would boast about his weaknesses but for most of us this attitude may be difficult to master (II Cor. 12:5).  We try to keep our weaknesses hidden away, even from ourselves.  It is a serious psychological problem.  For more details Google “the shadow” by Carl Jung.

We want glory, honor and peace for our inner man.  We need satisfaction for these needs God created in us in order to be happy, but at this point in time and place, they are our goals (Rom. 2:7).  We have hope.  Hope is a part of the definition of faith.  The full satisfaction will come on Judgment Day (Rom. 2:10). The character we develop while learning to satisfy our needs are treasures we are laying up for eternity with God (Matt.6:20).  These things should be understood to be able to appreciate why Paul dedicated so much space in this letter to move the church to accept his appeal for a pure conscience.

 Paul based his claim of maintaining a guilt-free conscience, in spite of the fact he did not keep his appointment, on two points; his holiness and sincerity.  Please note “holiness” in the word definitions is from a Greek word meaning “singleness of intent.”  Paul claims he did not make changes in his schedule or perform the service of his ministry, except to serve them.  He did “not peddle the word of God” for his own profit.  He had a single purpose and it was to save and serve the lost in the name of Jesus.   The following is an excerpt from my book entitled the “Sermon on the Mount,” Part IV, Introduction.  Jesus used the same Greek word Paul used, only as an adverb.

A single eye, or mind, verses a double-mind is an attribute of character.  Jesus had Christian character in mind and how it relates to our practicing our righteousness in different aspects of our daily lives and in our services to God.  Christian character was His subject in our study in Part III. 

The simple or single eye, translated from “haplous,” is used in a moral sense in Matthew 6:22 and Luke 11:34.  Furthermore, it is said of the eye; “singleness” of purpose keeps us from the snare of seeking a treasure in two places and consequently a divided heart.

“Haplous” is translated “generously” in the NIV, NASB and liberally in the KJV.  It carries the idea of God giving wisdom liberally with singleness of heart, that is, a single purpose in James 1:5.  From “haplous” we find “haplotes” translated “He who gives, with liberality” (NIV) in Rom. 12:8.  In II Cor. 11:3 we have the same word translated “Your minds may somehow be led astray from the sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”  Also see liberality (NIV) in II Cor. 8:2; 9:11, 13.   In Eph. 6:5 and Col. 3:22 a derivative of “haplos” is translated “sincerity.”

If, indeed, Matthew 6:22, 23 is the central principle Jesus applied to the other principles of life He taught in chapter six, we need to know what He meant in His simple analogy about how we see life.  And then how the way we “live in physical/spiritual reality” affects what we do.  The key to understanding “haplous” is in its opposite, “diplous.” It means double (I Tim 5:17).   Double is a good thing when it comes to honor; however, when it speaks of a “double-mind” it speaks of weak character (Jas 1:8).     End of excerpt.

The reason for using this excerpt is because Jesus used the Greek word haplos in His simple declaration:

The eye is the lamp of the body.  If yours eyes are good (haplos), your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!  Matt. 6:22, 23

The conclusion of the matter is, Christians do suffer to comfort people; however, as Paul said in I Corinthians 13:1-3, “If I have not love, I am nothing.”  According to Jesus, if my eye is not “single,” my life is full of darkness.  Therefore, if Christians don’t do what we say we will do we may not have integrity.  “Why did I not do what I said I would do?” This is the question Paul is working to answer in our text.  The answer to this question is the difference between maintaining integrity and “losing face.”  He made a promise.  If his or our promise is based on holiness and sincerity we have integrity.  Jesus said we are full of His light and this translates into life (John 1:4).  Christians who have a guilt free conscience can serve our Lord Jesus Christ.  We do the right we know to do and walk by faith in the blood of Jesus so we can be counted as righteous in regard to our ignorance and weakness (Jas. 4:17; II Cor. 5:21).  Consequently, there is no excuse for a Christian feeling guilty about our self.

Paul’s second claim for a pure conscience was his “sincerity that is from God.”  Jesus did not “joke around.”  This is not to say, He didn’t have fun, He did.  It is as Paul said, “We do not write anything you cannot read and understand.” II Cor. 1:13.  There were no hidden meanings in his oral or written messages to the church.  He kept his ministry transparent – open and above board.  “As you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.”  II Cor. 1:14.  God is light is synonymous with “godly purity.”

People who want to suffer for and comfort others are Christians – Christ-like.  “Whoever claims to live in Him (God) must walk as Jesus did.”  I John 2:6.  This is how we become love.  “But if anyone obeys His word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.  This is how we know we are in Him.”  I John 2:5.

Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.  II Cor. 7:1                

The gospel Christians preach and teach is “’Yes’, in Christ.”  We cannot be “’Yes, yes’ and ‘No, no’” people and serve God.  “… and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”  Rev. 21:8.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why is it important for Christians to understand the historical setting and the tension between   the characters as we read a letter in the New Testament?
  2. The fact that God is “the Father of compassion and the God of comfort” for Christians places certain responsibilities on us.  Please list one.
  3. How does the word “overflow” connect our previous lesson with the need for a Christian to boast about his or her clean conscience?
  4. What caused the activation of a mature conscience in all human beings?
  5. Explain the meaning of integrity.
  6. Paul committed himself to visit the churches in Achaia at some time before he wrote II Corinthians.  He did not do what he said he would do.  What did he need to do to maintain a good character rating with the churches?
  7. According to Jesus, what is the nature of Satan?
  8. How does the world usually feel about lying?
  9. Why do people lie in situations without the intent of hurting those to whom they lie?
  10. Lists the two attributes of Paul on which he based his claim for the testimony of a clean conscience.
  11. How did Jesus’ use of the Greek word “haplous,” translated “good eye,” give importance to the Paul’s declaration that his relations with the church had been in holiness (hoplotes)?
  12. Why is it important for people who Christians try to serve to believe we have integrity?
  13. When a Christian tells someone he or she will meet them at a given hour but fails to arrive on that hour, what do they need to do to maintain a good character rating with the person?
  14. Explain Paul’s “second claim” for boasting about his clean conscience in relation to the need for each Christian to live a transparent life.
  15. Why does a lair not appreciate liars?
  16. Why is not reasonable to think liars will inherit God’s eternal kingdom?

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