“Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” 1 Corinthians 10:33; 11:1.

Many characters both in scripture and in history are remarkable for what they endured “for conscience sake”. The legendary endurance of the Christians under Roman persecution and more recently the faithful steadfastness of our brethren and sisters under great adversity during times of war and religious oppression are examples for sober reflection to us who have not really yet “resisted unto blood, striving against sin”. This issue of The Lampstand deals very practically with situations which could well confront us in the near future matters of conscientious objection to military service, relations with the State, our behaviour in the world generally and in connection with its laws and authorities.

Paul tells us in Romans 13:3 that “rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good”. Paul gives us two reasons for being “subject to the higher powers”—fear of the consequences of disobedience and conscience toward God. When the letter to the Romans was written Paul had always received favourable treatment from the Roman officials. But it is noteworthy that in later epistles, when the situ¬ation had dramatically changed, the same direction is repeated. Writing to Timothy, Paul says, “I exhort, therefore, that, first of all supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:1,2). So Peter also says, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully” (1 Peter 2:19).

Brother H P Mansfield has made the following interesting comment in relation to those in authority:

“How would the preaching of the Gospel have fared throughout the ages if the excesses of which human nature is capable, had not been held in check as they have been by constituted authority? Brother Thomas has shown, in both Elpis Israel and Eureka, that it has been the efforts of men, destitute of the Truth, but prepared to fight for freedom of speech and of worship, that has assisted in the proclamation of the Gospel. So long as the Ecclesia remained faithful to its testimony, and spoke out boldly in exposition thereof, there was always somebody prepared to defend their right to do so. In these latter times we have found this to be so in our stand as conscientious objectors”.

There is another aspect to the matter of conscience which is of equal importance—the conscience of another. The principle involved is set down by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:24—“Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth”, on the basis that “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not”.

Our consistency in life is not just to demonstrate when we appear before a public tribunal that we have developed a conscience but for their sakes, and that those in authority might see what the power of the Truth has done in our lives.

In accordance with this principle the Apostle says:

“If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other… Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Ecclesia of God”. The obvious question arises, “… why is my liberty judged of another man’s con¬science?” and the crux of Paul’s response is that all might be done “to the glory of God” (verse 31).