Guard Your Conscience
Chris' Corner -- Sunday, May 30, 2021
Everyone is familiar with the conscience. We all have one. We experience that sinking, nagging feeling when we violated the thought, “I ought to have…” or, “I ought not to have...” done this or that.
As Paul explains, this is how the conscience works, “...their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves, their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)” (Romans 2:15).
We should be grateful to have these feelings. Our conscience is a precious gift from God to help steer us in a morally upright and happy life.
Our inborn conscience doesn’t automatically know what is right or wrong. It has to mature and be educated. The con-scconscienceience doesn’t make laws and regulations. It simply reacts to what it has been taught.
Paul illustrated this in his own life. Before he became a Christian, Saul/Paul persecuted the saints. He hunted them down, arrested them, and had them killed (Acts 26:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:12-14). Paul did all of this without batting an eye—without a twinge of guilt in his heart.
Later in life, he defended his Christian life and work as an apostle. He told the Jewish council, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1).
Paul acknowledged, both before and after his conversion, he had not violated his conscience. The difference was in what he had learned along the way.
Before the cross of Christ, those in authority could put to death anyone leaving the law of Moses (Hebrews 10:28).
But when Jesus died on the cross, he established a new law. Paul was now following Christ’s law, not Moses’ law (Colossians 2:13, 14). All along, his conscience was guided by what he had been taught at the time.
How has our conscience been taught? We can use our judgment. But human reasoning, regardless of where we learned it, is inferior and condemning. “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Paul said, “For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:4).
God’s teaching is ultimately superior and critical in the education of our conscience. The conscience is only a safe guide when God’s Word guides it. His Word is sufficient in every way (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). As Paul said, “This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16).
In the discussion of Gentile religious practices (eating meats sacrificed to idols), Paul pointed out there was nothing wrong with that meat. It was a neutral issue. Christians could eat if their conscience were clear (making no religious connection). But Paul admonished, a Christian must “be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).
A clear conscience does not make a wrong act right, but a violated conscience can make a right act wrong for those troubled by it. When we go against our conscience, it becomes hardened. It no longer functions as it should (Ephesians 4:19; 1 Timothy 4:2).
Yes, we all have a conscience. Even though it is not the final arbiter of right and wrong, we must listen to it and use it properly. Make sure it speaks where the Bible speaks! Whatever we do, clear it with God’s Word, then act with a clear conscience.