Conscience, our inner judge ∙
The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. – 1 Timothy 1:5
14 Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it.
15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.
Tyrants fear faith. Their greatest hatred is reserved for those forms of Christianity which teach people to obey conscience. And this is for a good reason. Few world systems can stand the scrutiny of Biblical faith. Wherever the Scriptures liberate minds, laws are transformed, and governments are forced to yield or fall.
Perhaps Communism has the most reason to fear Christianity of all the world systems. Its atheism is diametrically opposed to faith in God. It is a strange paradox that Marxist principles are a pale imitation of Christian doctrine and eschatology. Communism fears conscience based upon faith.
In Russia, on the 23rd of January 1918, the Bolsheviks issued a decree separating church and state. This was welcomed by evangelical Christians, who had suffered terribly under Orthodox persecution. Under Vladimir Lenin, evangelical Christians enjoyed a certain amount of freedom. After Lenin’s death, that policy was reversed.
The Soviet constitution embraced atheism. The teaching of religion in schools, private or public, was prohibited. Church property was confiscated by the state and rented back for sums beyond the ability of congregations to pay. Home churches were outlawed. The printing of the word of God became illegal. Preachers were considered “nonproductive citizens.” If congregations wished to support their pastors, they first had to pay an excessive tax greater than the minister’s salary.
Christians who refused to obey these laws were sent to labor camps, where many died. Every impediment to worship which could be contrived was introduced. Despite this, pockets of faith survived. The children of the King boldly proclaimed, “Suffering is testimony to Jesus.” Rather than pray that their sufferings be relieved, they prayed for strength to bear up under them (https://www.christianity.com).
What is conscience?
Humanly speaking, conscience is our inner sense of right and wrong. It either approves or disapproves actions or thoughts based on people’s standards. If our standards are not aligned with the Father’s standards, our moral compass is distorted. What people deem to be right or wrong becomes entirely skewed.
Worse yet, the conscience can become “seared,” that is, rendered ineffective, numb, and desensitized (1 Timothy 4:2).
1 Timothy 4:2 Consciences are seared.
The Greek word translated as seared is kausteriazo. Kausteriazo means to be or become unfeeling, unresponsive, or callous as if it has been burned with a red-hot iron.
Consequently, this clause can be rendered as “whose hearts that decide between right and wrong are dead, as if . . .” or “they have completely lost their ability to decide between right and wrong as if a hot iron (or something very hot) has seared their minds” (UBS).
The English word cauterize is derived from this Greek word. “People with ‘cauterized’ consciences have reached a point in their life where their conscience no longer bothers them, and who therefore live and act as if their conscience does not exist at all” (UBS). To make matters even worse, the Greek verb is in the perfect tense.
The Greek language has several past tenses. One of them is called the perfect tense. The perfect tense describes an action that occurs in the past at a single point in time with continuing results into the future.
Once the conscience has been seared, the implication is there is no cure. It has been permanently and irrevocably damaged.
The human conscience is like an impartial judge. It adjudicates and either approves or disapproves. The outcome of its decisions is only as good as its standards of measure.
Many consider the inner voice they hear to be the Father’s voice. This is a common misunderstanding.
Your conscience may condone what the Father does not condone. And it is equally possible that your conscience may condemn you for what the Father does not. The Father alone has final judgment in all things. Therefore, Paul cautions each child of the King.
1 Corinthians 4:5 So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time – before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.
However, when making decisions, it is wise to consider our conscience. To reject the voice of our conscience is asking for trouble.
1 Timothy 1:19 Cling to your faith in Christ and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.
REFLECT & PRAY
The conscience does not “know” anything. It has no content within itself. Instead, it assesses what we know or think we know about right and wrong and then passes judgment: yay or nay.
Father encourage me to learn Your Truth, and exchange it for my “truth.” Help me make wise and right decisions based upon Your standards and not my own.
“The conscience functions something like a computer. A computer is programmed to respond in specific ways to specific information. Also, it responds to information based on the commands it has been programmed to follow . . . The conscience is a responder as well. It responds to certain input just as it has been programmed” (Stanley).
Romans 2:15 They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them.
Written in their hearts may be rendered as “exists in their hearts” or “is found in their minds.” Thus, the conscience within our heart or mind “speaks.” Each of us has a conscience, our inner sense or consciousness of right or wrong that acts as a witness in court before the judge, giving testimony. It alternately accuses or defends.
The Greek word translated as conscience is suneidesis. Suneidesis comes from two other Greek words sun – with and oida – to know. It can be literally translated as “a knowing with.”
In Paul’s thinking, it is as though we have a split personality. It seems as if we are divided within ourselves. There are opposing forces inside our own hearts and minds. Constant arguing and debate are going on within us regarding moral conduct. As a result, one condemns while the other condones.
The conscience operates based upon the light and truth that we have. “We cannot reject the voice of conscience with impunity, but we can modify the highest standard to which it relates by gaining for ourselves a greater understanding of the truth” (Kruse). The more Truth we know from the WORD of God, the better informed our conscience becomes. Consequently, our moral compass over time correlates with the Father’s standards. And the children of the King are enabled us to make better decisions.
© Dr. H 2022