Can Your Conscience Guide You?
The conscience is a part of man that tells him whether his actions are right or wrong. It is the part that indicates whether something ought to be done or ought not to be done. Augustus Strong stated “conscience is the moral judiciary of the soul.”
The job of the conscience is to “bear witness.” “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)” Romans 2:15.
Just because you have a conscience does not mean your conscience is working properly. For example, before his conversion the Apostle Paul (then called Saul) thought he ought to persecute Christians. “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” Acts 26:9. Here, the word ought shows us the nature of Saul’s conscience at that time.
I Corinthians 8:12 reminds us that there is a weak conscience. This verse shows us that not everyone’s conscience is as good as the next person’s. Apparently, there is a weak conscience; if that is the case, there must also be a strong conscience.
I Timothy 4:2 speaks of a seared conscience, and Titus 1:5 speaks of a defiled conscience. Some people have apparently fought against the truth and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit for so long that their conscience no longer works properly.
I Peter 3:21 speaks of a good conscience. After they are saved, Christians are commanded to be baptized; and when they obey this command, they have a good conscience. Having a good conscience, or a clean conscience, is the result of obeying the commands of God. It seems to be a built-in reward for doing right.
Hebrews 10:22 speaks of a purified conscience. This verse contains the very encouraging phrase “having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.” This verse seems to teach the idea that a conscience that is not working well, that is, one that is seared or defiled, can actually be cleansed.
It seems that God has provided us with multi-faceted machinery so we are truly without excuse (Romans 1:20) in knowing right from wrong. We can see God’s handiwork in nature; many people in the world have access to a Bible; many people in the world have access to Bible preaching; we are given a conscience; we experience the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.
Each person has the duty to be sure his conscience is in good shape, to be sure his conscience is guided by the Bible. Once he is sure of that—and not before—then he should allow his conscience to help him determine the difference between right and wrong.
Simply put, a biblically guided conscience can be a great help in determining right and wrong; but a seared or defiled conscience is of no help in knowing the difference between right and wrong. A conscience that is working well can provide you with a sense of assurance after you have obeyed God’s command. But a conscience that is not working well could, as it did to Saul of Tarsus, lead you to believe that wrong is right.