Lack of Conscience (Overcoming Sin through Christ)

Lack of Conscience

Overcoming Sin through Christ

A Comprehensive List of Sins

(Alphabetically Arranged)

Richard Hollerman

The plan of this study is simple.  We will look at a large number of sins, one by one, alphabetically.  We will define the sin, describe it, and comment on it, along with noticing Scripture references on the particular entry.  Some illustrations will be offered along with the description.

Lack of Conscience

Lack of a good conscience is often linked to sin, thus it is important that we make sure what the Scriptures teach about the conscience.  Conscience comes from the Greek suneidesis, and this comes from sun, “with,” and oida, “to know,” thus, it literally means “to know with.”[1][1]  Vine says that it means “a co-knowledge (with oneself), the witness borne to one’s conduct by conscience, that faculty by which we apprehend the will of God, as that which is designed to govern our lives.”[2][2]  Mounce adds that “the conscience is that part of the mind that performs moral judgments and ethical evaluations; it refers to one’s moral sensibilities.  Thus, it can refer to one’s ethical reflection regarding one’s own actions (much in line with the modern English usage) as well as one’s ethical reflection regarding the actions of others (something foreign to common English usage).”[3][3]

Paul says that even the Gentiles (those without the written Law of God) have a conscience: “When Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternatively accusing or else defending them” (Romans 2:14-15).  This seems to say that when an unbeliever, a sinner, murders someone or lies to someone, his conscience will testify to his heart that this is wrong and sinful.  If he commits adultery or commits fornication, the conscience (when it is functioning properly) will tell the person that he is sinning.  However, we know that the conscience is only a reliable guide when it has been properly educated by the truth of God.  Paul was able to say to the Jewish council, “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day” (Acts 23:1).  But even though his conscience didn’t hurt him, Paul was openly sinning against God, for He said, “I acted ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13).  The conscience is a reliable guide only insofar as it reflects the truth of God.

Paul was able to write, “The testimony of our conscience” was that “in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you” (2 Corinthians 1:12).  He said that he was “commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (4:2).  He believed that the conscience of others would testify to his sincerity and truth.  To Felix the governor, Paul testified, “I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:16).  Peter said that his readers should “keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:16; cf. 2:19).  The conscience of the unbeliever will tell him that believers are doing good and not evil people. When we do right, our conscience tells us that we are right with God.  Paul was able to say that he was telling the “truth in Christ” and was not lying, his “conscience” testifying with him in the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1).

It is utterly important that we keep a good conscience.  When one comes to Christ for salvation, he is baptized into Christ which serves as “an appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:21).  When one is Scripturally baptized into Christ, his conscience is cleansed and he has a good conscience.  Paul says that the goal of his instruction was love but how does this love come?  He answers that it comes “from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).  We must not think that genuine love comes in any other way.  He then says that we must keep “faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (1:19).  Those who reject a good conscience thereby give up their faith!  They turn from that moral faculty that can judge their beliefs, words, and actions.  Servants of the assembly must hold to “the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” (3:9).  The Hebrew writer also shows how vital it is that we maintain a clear conscience: “We are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things” (13:18). It is even “for conscience’ sake” that we obey the governing authorities of the land (Romans 13:5).

Lack of Conscience

The point we wish to emphasize here is that we must keep a “good” conscience or a “clear” conscience in order to please God.  When we violate our conscience and knowingly do wrong, we will have a defiled and seared conscience.  Paul says that for the “defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience is defiled” (Titus 1:15).  If one has a “defiled” conscience, he cannot please God.  The apostle in another place speaks of the “hypocrisy of liars” who are “seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Timothy 4:2).  This must mean that the conscience has been “desensitized and rendered ineffective” by their “rebellion against the gospel.”[4][4]  The lack of a good conscience is a terrible and tragic condition.  It is only through the death of Christ Jesus for our sins that our conscience can be cleansed “from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14; cf. 10:1).

The believer should do all he can to study Scripture so that he has a clear understanding of what God desires of us.  With this accurate view of God’s will, his conscience will be formed to be able to made good judgments.  The believer’s senses will be “trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).  Without a knowledge of God’s will, he will be left to his own improperly educated and trained conscience.  He may be doing something wrong that his conscience doesn’t even detect, thus it will not be able to give warning of the wrongfulness of the act.  Solomon warned, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

If you had a car that had a dangerous engine problem and the dashboard warning light began to flash, what would you do?  Would you ignore it?  Would you be irritated and smash the light so you wouldn’t need to look at it?  If so, you would be foolish indeed.  We must not destroy the warning light but heed its warning if we wish to save our car’s engine.  Similarly, if the “light” of our conscience tells us that we have a serious spiritual or moral problem, do we just ignore it or try to deaden it?  Wouldn’t that be foolish—and destructive?

To change the figure, suppose that the warning light isn’t working properly and can’t really indicate when there is a problem.  It is unreliable and we must not depend on it.  If our conscience isn’t working well and not educated by God and His Word, we can’t depend on the conscience to tell us when we are in spiritual and moral trouble.  Like a car that has a warning light that is not functioning properly, a conscience that doesn’t properly warn us can’t accomplish all that God would want.  Be willing to repent of all your sins and seek God’s help to sharpen and sensitize your conscience so that you will be able to choose the right and reject the wrong.

 

[1][1] W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary.

[2][2] Ibid.

[3][3] Expository Dictionary.

[4][4] ESV Study Bible note.

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