HOW IS YOUR CONVERSATION OR CONDUCT?
By Wayne S. Walker
We often speak of having a “conversation” with someone. Our modern word “conversation” is defined as “An informal talk with another or others; colloquy.” However, in 1611, when the King James Version of the Scriptures came out, the word had a different meaning. The dictionary says: “Obs. Manner of life; conduct.” The English word “conversation” appears eighteen times in the King James Version of the Bible. It is used to translate three different words from the original language.
The word in the original that is most often used is translated “conduct” in the New King James Version. “For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13). Either conduct can be out of harmony with God’s will, as was Paul’s former conduct in Judaism, or it can be in harmony with God’s will. So we ask, how is your conversation or conduct?
“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul told Timothy, “Be an example,” and one specific area that he mentioned is “in conduct.” While this instruction is given to a preacher, it is a fact that Jesus wants all His disciples to be examples to others. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Therefore, our conduct in this world before men needs to be exemplary so that the enemies of Christ will be able to lay no blame upon us. “In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you” (Titus 2:7-8)
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13). Where do we obtain wisdom? Wisdom does not necessarily come from this world, a secular education, or the philosophy of men. It comes from God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).
Why is it important to have wise conduct? There are at least two reasons. Since our time is limited, we need to make sure that we use our time on earth wisely. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). Also, we must make sure that we are the kind of examples that we should be to outsiders, as we discussed previously. “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time” (Colossians 4:5).
“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:13-16), What does it mean to be “holy”? Peter’s command is based on an Old Testament passage (Leviticus 11:44-45). The context has to do with unclean animals.
This shows that the basic idea of being “holy” then is being undefiled and separated or sanctified so that one is different from the world and identified as belonging to God. “Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 20:7). So, how do we have holy conduct? We must put off the “old man” which is identified with the world, and put on the “new man” as we read in Ephesians 4:22-24, “That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”
“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12). What does it mean to be honorable? The literal meaning is “good.” There are two words in original language for “good.” Vine says the one, “describes that which, being ‘good’ in its character or constitution, is beneficial in its effect.” But the word used here, he says, “denotes that which is intrinsically ‘good,’ and so ‘goodly, fair, beautiful.’”
The same word is found in 2 Corinthians 8:21 where t he King James Version has “honest things” and the New King James Version reads “honorable things.” How do we have honorable conduct? Since honorable conduct is holy conduct, it first involves separating ourselves from sin (“abstain from fleshly lusts”), but since it is also exemplary conduct, it then involves having a positive influence for good. “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).
“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear” (1 Peter 3:1-2). What does “chaste” mean? Marshall’s Interlinear gives the word “pure” as its translation, but it is not the usual word for pure. It obviously has some connection to morality. “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2).
The word is most often used with reference to women, as in Titus 2:3-5, where young women are to be admonished to be “to be discreet, chaste.” What then is “chaste” conduct? Being “chaste” is manifested when women “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation” (1 Timothy 2:9-10). While these specific instructions are given to women, the fact is that all those who are children of God, whether male or female, should be characterized by a pure heart that is manifested by chaste conduct. “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (1 Peter 3:15-16). What is “good” conduct? This passage uses the other word for “good” that means having a beneficial effect. Notice the connection that Peter makes—we have a “good” conscience because we are characterized by “good” conduct. “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck” (1 Timothy 1:18-19).
What must we do to have good conduct? It stands to reason that we must do that which leads to a truly good conscience, or in other words, what is morally honorable, pleasing to God, and therefore beneficial. “For ‘He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it'” (1 Peter 3:10-11). Again notice first the negative (“turn away from evil”) and then the positive (“do good”).
As you can probably tell from the similarities in the definitions and applications, these are not six different kinds of conduct, but simply six different descriptions of the kind of conduct that God wants to characterize His people. Why is our conduct so important? “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” (2 Peter 3:10-11).
—taken from Biblical Insights; June, 2015; Vol. 15, No. 6; pp. 28-29