Request to God for a Good Conscience
1. How did God’s patience wait in Noah’s day? How is it so now?
THE apostle Peter reminds that “the patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days, while the ark was being constructed”. (1 Pet. 3:20, NW) Since A.D. 1914 we have been living in the ‘day of Jehovah’s preparation’, because from 1914 till the universal war of Armageddon is the “time of the end” of this world, “the consummation of the system of things.” (Nah. 2:3) All the circumstances prove that these days are like those of Noah, and again Jehovah God is exercising his patience, waiting—waiting. Since the orders to construct the ark were issued to Noah when his sons were now married, God must have patiently waited some decades of years. Correspondingly, in these days of the presence of Christ Jesus in the heavenly kingdom we have already lived more than three decades since 1914. How much longer God’s patience will wait till he lets loose the baptism of fire upon this world for its destruction we do not know, for it has not been granted to us to know the exact day and hour.
2. Why does God’s patience not mean slowness as to his promise?
2 We are not to interpret this as meaning that God is slow as respects his promise to establish the new world of new heavens and a new earth in order to bless all the families of the earth, living and dead. He has set the day and the hour, and he will hold to his time schedule. Nothing that Satan the Devil has already done or can yet do will cause him to move the day and hour back and delay the fiery baptism upon this world. For this reason Peter says that that “day of Jehovah” will be suddenly upon this unbelieving, scoffing careless world like a thief in the night. So we do not want to be thrown off guard, but want always to be found in the “ark” and be found there, baptized into the Greater Noah, at the awesome day and hour. From the apostle Peter’s viewpoint we are to “consider the patience of our Lord as salvation”. We should see that he is patient toward us, giving us time to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Part of this work consists in trying to help as many “other sheep” as possible to come to repentance that they may seek God’s haven of protection and be saved from the destruction ahead. He does not want any of these to be destroyed but desires them all to attain to repentance that leads to salvation in the ark. Educating and leading them into the ark’s system of things takes time, and Jehovah has been kind enough to be patient for a sufficient time. But that time is hastening to its end at his fixed day and hour.—2 Pet. 3:9, 15.
3, 4. (a) On earth what did Noah and his family have to put up with? (b) What must we put up with, but who is most tolerant?
3 The preflood days of Noah were days in which the earth was filled with violence. Human flesh had corrupted its way of life and its moral relations, and angels from heaven were participating in the debasement of mankind, and giantlike Nephilim were bullying human creatures and making a name for themselves, like heroes. With religious hypocrisy men were misusing Jehovah’s name and bringing reproach upon it. Noah and his family had much to put up with.
4 Likewise we must put up with the violence of these times, and the corruption of human society, besides the brutality of totalitarian dictators who are like Nephilim spreading their own renown and abusing their power to bully mankind. For our collaboration with Christ Jesus, the Greater Noah, in his work we have to endure the ridicule and reproach that is cast upon us by worldly religionists, while religious hypocrisy in Christendom still deceives the gullible people. Under these times that are “hard to deal with” we must put up with a lot, while God himself ‘tolerates with much long-suffering the human vessels of wrath which were made fit only for destruction’. Americans and others may boast of the religious toleration which is granted in their Bills of Rights, whereas their treatment of Jehovah’s witnesses everywhere proves they do not exercise it. When it comes to toleration, Jehovah God has exercised the greatest religious tolerance for much longer than American history or history of any other modern nation, for 4,319 years now, or since Babylon was founded shortly after the flood. This divine patience has allowed for honesthearted persons to escape from false religion before it finally goes down and its stubborn devotees along with it.
5. What is the Flood’s counterpart? Who may expect it in their time?
5 The modern counterpart of the flood is the battle of Armageddon. The early Christians lived as though it would occur in their generation and they would survive it in the Christians’ ark. But we today are the ones who are warned by prophecy and its fulfillment to be prepared for it to occur within our generation. The presence of the “great crowd” of other sheep with us gives added proof to the certainty of this. We do not want to experience the baptism of fire which 2 Peter 3:7-12 describes and which is reserved for the wicked heavens and earth that now exist. So it is urgently necessary that we hold to the true baptism. But how?
6. With what did Peter associate baptism for salvation and how did the natural Jews try to gain this thing?
6 When Peter mentions baptism as the thing that now saves, he comments upon it, saying: “Not a putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request [made] unto God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 3:21, Ro; Mo) There has always been a difficulty in translating Peter’s words here to bring out the exact sense, as well as in explaining them. But the point is this: For attaining salvation a good conscience toward God is absolutely necessary. The natural Jews tried to attain it. They tried to avoid defilement of their flesh by not eating and drinking this and that, and by various washings of various utensils and clothing and parts of the body, to keep away the filth of the flesh. Also they offered up sacrifices of clean, unblemished animals on the holy altar at Jerusalem’s temple, but it never made those Jewish worshipers perfect as respects their conscience. They still had an inward consciousness of being condemned sinners in God’s sight. The continual need for them to repeat these washings, cleansings and sacrifices only reminded them again and again of this disturbing fact. (Heb. 9:9; 10:1-3) But now such a good conscience toward God is attainable by means of the Greater Noah, Christ Jesus. Through him we get rest for our consciences and we enjoy peace with God.
7. If not by putting away fleshly filth as tried by the Jews, how is a good conscience gained, as the apostle Paul shows?
7 This good conscience toward God is what all lovers of eternal life crave and request in their prayers toward God and in all their efforts. We long to have a consciousness of being no longer sinners but to have a righteous standing with him and be at peace with him. Now it can be won, not by just putting away fleshly filth as the Jews tried to do in an effort toward self-righteousness, but by faith in God and in his provisions through Christ Jesus. The blood of the animals which the God-fearing Jews sacrificed worked only as far as cleansing their flesh in a typical or pictorial way, but those animal sacrifices all pointed forward to the real, effective sacrifice of God’s High Priest, Jesus Christ. Hence, says Paul, “how much more will the blood of the Christ, who through an everlasting spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to the living God?” Then he encourages us believers, saying: “Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with sincere hearts in the full assurance of faith, having had our hearts sprinkled from a wicked conscience and our bodies washed with clean water.”—Heb. 9:14; 10:19-22, NW.
8. How are works of self-justification dead works, as illustrated in Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus?
8 God’s forgiveness of our sins is now possible only through Christ’s blood. Any of our own works for justifying ourselves by merely cleaning up our flesh outwardly are dead works; they have no life-giving quality about them. They do not make us alive toward God and his proper service, no more than the “rich man” in Jesus’ parable made himself righteous and alive toward God by wearing purple and linen over his bathed flesh, in contrast with the beggar Lazarus covered with ulcers. The “rich man” came under a baptism of fire afterward. Faith in Christ’s sacrifice and faith in God’s promise to Abraham respecting Christ as the Seed for blessing all the families of the earth is the vital thing.—Luke 16:19-31.
KEEPING IT GOOD
9. After gaining a clean conscience, what is necessary, and why?
9 But here, now, is an important point for all who want to enjoy the real baptism for salvation. After we have a good or clean conscience before God which relieves us of the consciousness of being condemned sinners and outside of his favor, we must keep our consciences good and clean. This requires more than mere faith in Christ’s sacrifice. It requires real baptism into him now. Why? Because, though you may bear his name and confess him with your lips, you can disown him by the way you live. You can show you do not belong to him by your works, works which are not like his example and which he never commanded as your Master and Owner, who bought you with his own blood. Jesus never had any consciousness of sin in himself. He said to his accusers: “Who of you convicts me of sin?” (John 8:46, NW) And Saul of Tarsus, after accepting Jesus as his Ransomer and then getting into Jehovah’s true service, said to the Roman court: “I have hope toward God, . . . that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. In this respect, indeed, I am exercising myself continually to have a consciousness of committing no offense against God and men.” (Acts 24:15, 16, NW) Can we say that about ourselves?
10. To make a confession like Paul’s, to what must our consciences bear witness?
10 If we want to be able to make the honest confession that Paul did in court, then we need to have our own conscience bear witness to the way we are living. Paul said to those he helped into the truth: “The thing we boast of is this, to which our conscience bears witness, that with holiness and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but with God’s undeserved kindness, we have conducted ourselves in the world, but more especially toward you.” (2 Cor. 1:12, NW) Like Paul, we must have the inward consciousness that we are not copying the world or keeping in friendship with it while we are in it but that we are sincere in what we are doing in a godly way, having more than just a form of godly devotion.
11. How can we keep our consciences clear and recommend ourselves to other people’s consciences as ministers?
11 We are not trying to display human worldly wisdom to blow up ourselves in people’s estimation. We humbly conduct ourselves as persons who have received God’s undeserved kindness and we do not want to waste it by missing the good purpose for which it was conferred upon us. A big part of that undeserved kindness is expressed by God’s putting us in the ministry, to serve out the good news to other people. If we are conscientious about the way we carry on this ministry and use it right, not to gain power over the people or to make money off them or to live off them, then we shall not only have a clear conscience ourselves but also recommend ourselves as God’s ministers to the consciences of people who hunger for the truth. That is the way Paul felt about it, for he said: “Since we have this ministry according to the mercy that was shown us, we do not behave improperly, but we have renounced the underhanded things of which to be ashamed, not walking in craftiness neither adulterating the word of God, but by making the truth manifest recommending ourselves to every human conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Cor. 4:1, 2, NW) Use tact indeed, but be truthful.
12. How is there danger of our getting a seared conscience?
12 We are living in the “later periods of time”, in fact, in the last period of this world. So there is danger of our getting a seared conscience, one marked as with a branding iron so that it is like scarred tissue that has no sense of feeling. We can get such a conscience by becoming a hypocrite and remaining one, using underhanded worldly ways and devilish wisdom and adulterating God’s Word so as not to give the straight truth to friend and foe but trying to please them and excuse them by what we say. If we do this, we cannot stir up their consciences toward righteousness and truth and we grow more feelingless in our own inward sense of right and wrong, like Christendom’s clergy. God’s inspired utterance showed how some would get that way, saying: “In later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons, by the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, marked in their conscience as with a branding iron.” In their shamelessness they have no sense of guilt to drive them to sew fig leaves together and make aprons for their loins and then hide themselves among the trees.—1 Tim. 4:1, 2, NW.
13. How is it easy to get a defiled conscience? So in Paul’s letter to Titus what are we told to do?
13 We have to get our consciences enlightened and cleansed by the truth of God’s Word. It is so easy to develop a defiled conscience, one that condemns what is pure in God’s sight. How? If we follow man-made standards of self-righteousness and hold fast to them and do not advance with God’s advancing light on his arrangements for salvation. The religious Pharisees got defiled in this way, so that they saw nothing clean in what Jesus and his disciples did and taught. And how did they get that way? By accepting religious fables and commandments of men in place of those of God. So we are told to “be healthy in the faith, paying no attention to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn themselves away from the truth. All things are clean to clean persons. But to persons defiled and faithless nothing is clean, but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They publicly declare they know God, but they disown him by their works, because they are detestable and disobedient and disapproved for every good work”. What a terrible condition for self-righteous persons to get into! It is something for us to avoid.—Titus 1:13-16, NW.
14. So to what things must we pay no attention? What is the objective of God’s mandate to us to do this?
14 To avoid this we must pay no heed to religious fables or to fleshly family trees which fill us with pride and cause social distinctions and unchristian disunity among us. We are under God’s command to do this. His purpose in issuing such a mandate is to have us show sincere love for God and our brothers out of a good conscience, an inward consciousness that we are doing what is good. “Command certain ones not to teach different doctrine, nor to pay attention to false stories and to genealogies which end up in nothing, but which furnish questions for research rather than a dispensing of anything by God in connection with faith. Really the objective of this mandate is love out of a clean heart and out of a good conscience and out of faith without hypocrisy.”—1 Tim. 1:3-5, NW.
15. For what does Peter make a strong plea to his readers, and why is this necessary to our baptism into the Greater Noah?
15 The apostle Peter makes a strong plea for a good conscience in us who are baptized into the Greater Noah in this “time of the end”. We cannot be baptized into him within the ark unless we go after a clean, good conscience, for Christ Jesus always had and kept such a conscience, through all his sufferings. The self-righteous hypocrites accused him, but he knew he was suffering for no wrongdoing of his own but for doing the good will of God. As followers of his we must suffer, especially in this time of his second presence as the Greater Noah. But when we suffer at men’s hands, let us make certain that we do not suffer for our own wrongdoing. “Let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a busybody in other people’s matters.”—1 Pet. 4:15, NW.
16. So because of what should it be that we suffer, and with credit?
16 Do not suffer because of going after “flesh for unnatural use” and committing fornication with one whose flesh does not belong to you in marriage relationship. Such things went on outside of Noah’s ark at the end of the ancient world, when men, Nephilim and married materialized “sons of God” committed such things in disobedience to Jehovah God. (Jude 6, 7, NW) Be sure that when you are forced to suffer at the hands of men in power and others in worldly authority it is because you requested a good conscience from God and you are trying to hold it by keeping His commandments. In that way men will be able to find no fault in you except that you are obeying the law of your God. In that case there is credit to you for such suffering, because you are preserving your integrity toward God. Then you are like your Exemplar, the Greater Noah Christ Jesus, for he was a model for us in suffering for conscience’ sake.
SUFFERING WITH CREDIT TO OURSELVES
17. What does 1 Peter 2:19-23 say on this?
17 “For,” says 1 Peter 2:19-23, “if someone because of conscience toward God bears up under afflictions and suffers unjustly, this is an agreeable thing. For what merit is there in it if, when you are sinning and being struck blows, you endure it? But if, when you are doing good and you suffer, you endure it, this is a thing agreeable with God. In fact, to this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely. He committed no sin, nor was deceit found in his mouth. When he was being reviled, he did not go to reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go to threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.” (NW) That One judged Christ Jesus to be innocent.
18. So, for our baptism to be to salvation, what must we preserve, and thus how can we answer our foes who inquire of us?
18 For our baptism into the Greater Noah to be for our salvation we need to preserve our inward consciousness of being blameless according to God’s laws and commands. So, then, when you are called up to make a defense before Communist and totalitarian authorities and officials who demand to know the reason for your hope by which you live, you can look them squarely in the eye. You can feel free of guilty fear and can answer them with the courage which your own innocence and God’s approval give you.
19. Thus, in the face of enemies who speak against us, how will we pledge a good conscience toward God?
19 “Hold a good conscience,” says Peter, “so that in the particular in which you are spoken against they may get ashamed who are speaking slightingly of your good conduct in connection with Christ. For it is better to suffer because you are doing good, if the will of God wishes it, than because you are doing evil. Why, even Christ died once for all time concerning sins, a righteous person for unrighteous ones.” (1 Pet. 3:16-18, NW) If we do this, then when we come before God himself for questioning we can make an answer to him out of a good conscience, pledging to him a good conscience. Then he will judge us with approval through Christ Jesus. It may be, too, that some honesthearted person who sees you are willing to suffer for the sake of holding a good conscience toward God will be impressed and will be led to see that your God is the living, true God and so will turn to Him for salvation.
20. (a) Why does baptism for salvation now rest with Christ because of his position? (b) In the day of the baptism of fire, for what shall we be hid from Jehovah’s expressed wrath?
20 In these wicked days, when the baptism of the wicked with fire is impending, may we wisely guard against any misbehavior toward God and man. Let us be baptized in Christ’s example, for he is the Greater Noah in the ark of a new system of things for salvation. He died innocently because of the wrongdoing of others, but in the completing of his baptism into death he was resurrected and is now at God’s right hand in heaven, angels, authorities and powers being made subject to him. There is every reason, then, why baptism for us to be saved now rests with Christ Jesus. The day is at hand that will burn as a furnace. The nations are being gathered, the kingdoms of this world are being assembled, for God to pour out his indignation and fierce anger upon them. Then “all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of [his] jealousy”. That baptism of fire will envelop both the wicked earth and the satanic heavens and will reduce them to ashes and smoke. Our safe course, then, is to seek Jehovah and his righteousness and meekness and to take up his pure language and serve him with his people with one common consent. (Mal. 4:1, 2; Zeph. 3:8, 9; 1:18; 2:1-3; 2 Pet. 3:7-12) So by all means let us request and keep a good conscience toward God. In that way we shall be hid in the day of Jehovah’s anger when expressed in baptizing the wicked and the proud with fiery destruction. We, however, shall gloriously realize the purpose of our baptism into the Greater Noah for our everlasting salvation.