Conscience for us Christians
What is our conscience, what does it do, what is its purpose. These are all real questions that need to be answered. But let’s first start with conscience in the bible. Conscience is 30 times in the New Testament and 0 in the Old Testament. Surprised? I was! But before we go any further, let’s look at all the conscience in the New Testament;
In the Greek New Testament the word used for conscience is always;
suneidesis #4893 in strong's concordance
4893 suneidésis: consciousness, spec. conscience, Noun, Feminine, Short Definition: the conscience
Definition: the conscience, a persisting notion.
4893 syneídēsis (from 4862 /sýn, "together with" and 1492 /eídō "to know, see") – properly, joint-knowing, i.e. conscience which joins moral and spiritual consciousness as part of being created in the divine image. Accordingly, all people have this God-given capacity to know right from wrong because each is a free moral agent (cf. Jn 1:4,7,9; Gen 1:26,27). ["Conscience (4893 /syneídēsis) is an innate discernment, self-judging consciousness" (A-S).]
John 8:9 But hearing, and being convicted by the conscience, they went out one by one, beginning from the older ones, until the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the middle.
Acts 23:1 And looking on the sanhedrin, Paul said, Men, brothers, I in all good conscience have conducted myself toward God to this day.
Acts 24:16 And in this I exercise myself to have always a blameless conscience toward God and men.
Romans 2:15 who show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience witnessing with them, and the thoughts between one another accusing or even excusing,
Romans 9:1 I tell the truth in Christ, I do not lie, my conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit,
Romans 13:5 Because of this, it is necessary to be subject, not only on account of wrath, but also on account of conscience.
1 Corinthians 8:7 But the knowledge is not in all; but some being aware of the idol eat as an idolatrous sacrifice until now; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
1 Corinthians 8:10 For if anyone sees you, the one having knowledge, sitting in an idol-temple, will not the weak one's conscience be lifted up so as to eat things sacrificed to idols?
1 Corinthians 8:12 And sinning in this way against your brothers, and wounding their conscience, being weak, you sin against Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:25 Eat everything being sold in a meat market, examining nothing because of conscience,
1 Corinthians 10:27-29 And if any of the unbelievers invite you, and you desire to go, eat everything set before you, examining nothing because of conscience. But if anyone tells you, This is slain in sacrifice to idols, do not eat, because of that one pointing it out, and the conscience; for "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness of it." But I say conscience, not that of himself, but that of the other. For why is my freedom judged by another's conscience?
2 Corinthians 1:12 For our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we had our conduct in the world in simplicity and sincerity of God, not in fleshly wisdom, but in the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.
2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor corrupting the Word of God, but by the revelation of the truth commending ourselves to every conscience of men before God.
2 Corinthians 5:11 Then, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, and we have been known to God; and I also hope to have been known in your consciences.
1 Timothy 1:5 but the end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience, and faith not pretended,
1 Timothy 1:19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having thrust away, made shipwreck concerning the faith,
1 Timothy 3:9 having the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.
1 Timothy 4:2 in lying speakers in hypocrisy, being seared in their own conscience,
2 Timothy 1:3 I have thanks to God, whom I worship from my forebears in a pure conscience, how unceasingly I have remembrance concerning you in my petitions night and day,
Titus 1:15 Truly, all things are pure to the pure, but to the ones being defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but even their mind and conscience has been defiled.
Hebrews 9:9 which was a parable for the present time, according to which both gifts and sacrifices are offered, but as regards conscience, not being able to perfect the one serving
Hebrews 9:14 by how much more the blood of Christ (who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God), will purify your conscience from dead works, to serve the living God!
Hebrews 10:2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered? Because those serving did not still have conscience of sins, having once been cleansed.
Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts having been sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our body having been washed in pure water;
Hebrews 13:18 Pray for us, for we are persuaded that we have a good conscience, in all things wishing to behave well.
1 Peter 2:19 For this is a grace, if because of conscience toward God anyone bears grief, suffering unjustly.
1 Peter 3:16 having a good conscience, that while they speak against you as evildoers, they may be shamed, those falsely accusing your good behavior in Christ.
1 Peter 3:21 Which antitype now also saves us, baptism (not a putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ;
Spurgeon on conscience; sermon #1095; Romans 7:13, the monster dragged to the light
….This is due in part to that dullness of conscience which is the result of the Fall. Though I have heard 10,000 times that conscience is the deputy of God in the soul of man, I have never been able to subscribe to that dogma; it is no such thing! In many persons conscience is perverted; in others only a fragment of it remains, and in all it is fallible and subject to aberrations. Conscience is in all men a thing of degrees dependent upon education, example, and previous character; it is an eye of the soul, but it is frequently partly blind and weak, and always needs light from above, or else it does but mock the soul. Conscience is a faculty of the mind, which like every other has suffered serious damage through our natural depravity,
and it is by no means perfect. It is only the understanding acting upon moral subjects, and upon such matters it often puts bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter, darkness for light, and light for darkness…..
Upon our consciences there rests, first of all, a sense of past sin. Even if a man wishes to serve God, until his conscience is purged, he feels a dread and terror of God which prevent his doing so. He has sinned and God is just and, therefore, he is ill at ease. The Law is not to be trifled with—it is sent into the world armed with terrible sanctions—and the conscience, when awakened, makes us know that we cannot sin with impunity. "God is angry with the wicked every day, if he turns not, He will whet His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready." The sinner, knowing this, asks, "How can I serve this terrible God?" He is alarmed when he thinks of the Judge of all the earth, for it is before that Judge that he will soon have to take his trial. He is as a man in chains, reserved unto the hour of terrible execution—how can we serve this dreadful God? We tremble in the Presence of an angry God, for that anger threatens us with destruction! Sin, like a dark cloud, darkens our spirit and shuts us out from joy. It is impossible for any man to rightly serve God with a living, loving worship while he is conscious of guilt. Therefore, Brothers and Sisters, we need the atoning Sacrifice of Christ to purge the conscience, for the Lord will not be served by convicted criminals, neither can condemned rebels wish to serve Him. He cannot look upon the rebellious with any pleasure till their iniquity is put away and their sin is covered. You see, then, that the first hindrance to holy service is our sense of guilt and from this we must be wholly delivered—we must receive a new consciousness—a consciousness of perfect pardon and complete reconciliation, or else we cannot serve the living God.
Next we will consider what brothers like Spurgeon, Bunyan and Newton said on the subject of conscience
John Bunyan on conscience;
Conscience hath its place in the soul, where it is as a judge to discern of things good or bad, and judge them accordingly. Romans 2: 14. This conscience is that in which is the law of nature, I Cor. 11: 14, which is able to teach the Gentiles that sin against the law is sin against God. Now this conscience, this nature itself, because it can control and chide them for sin who give ear unto it—must it therefore be idolized and made a god of? O wonderful! that men should make a God and a Christ of their consciences because they can convince of sin.Thou sayest, He that convinces of sins against the law, leads up to the fulfilling of the law.. Friend, thy conscience convinces of sins against the law: follow thy conscience, and it may lead thee under the curse of the law, through its weakness; but it can never deliver thee from the curse of the law by its power. For if righteousness come by obedience to the law, or by thy conscience either, then Christ is dead in vain. Gal. 2: 21.
A GOOD CONSCIENCE.
This must needs be a blessed help in distress, for a man to have a good conscience when affliction hath taken hold on him; for a man then, in his looking behind and before, to return with peace to his own soul, that man must needs find honey in this lion. This is the way to maintain always the answer, the echoing answer of a good conscience in thy own soul. Godliness is of great use this way; for the man that hath a good conscience to God-ward, hath a continual feast in his own soul: while others say there is casting down, he shall say there is lifting up; for God shall save the humble person. Some indeed, in the midst of their profession, are reproached, smitten, and condemned of their own heart, their conscience still biting and stinging them because of the uncleanness of their hands; and they cannot lift up their face unto God, they have not the answer of a good conscience towards him, but must walk as persons false to their God and as traitors to their own eternal welfare. But the godly upright man shall have the light shine upon his ways, and he shall take his steps in butter and honey. The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness, and assurance for ever. "If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God."
A TENDER CONSCIENCE.
A tender conscience is to some people like Solomon's brawling woman, a burthen to those that have it; but let it be to thee like those that invited David to go up to the house of the Lord.
A GUILTY CONSCIENCE.
"And Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God." These latter words are spoken, not to persuade us that men can hide themselves from God, but that Adam and those that are his by nature will seek to do it, because they do not know him aright. These words therefore further show us what a bitter thing sin is to the soul; it is only for hiding-work, sometimes under its fig-leaves, sometimes among the trees of the garden. O what a shaking, starting, timorous evil conscience is a sinful, guilty conscience: especially when it is but a little awakened, it could run its head into every hole, first by one fancy, then by another; for the power and goodness of a man's own righteousness cannot withstand or answer the demands of the justice of God and his holy law. There is yet another witness for the condemning transgressors of these laws, and that is conscience: "Their consciences also bearing witness," says the apostle. Conscience is a thousand witnesses. Conscience! it will cry amen to every word that the great God doth speak against thee. Conscience is a terrible accuser; it will hold pace with the witness of God, as to the truth of evidence, to a hair's breadth. The witness of conscience, it is of great authority; it commands guilt and fastens it on every soul which it accuses. Conscience will thunder and lighten at the day of judgment; even the consciences of the most pagan sinners in the world will have sufficient wherewith to accuse, to condemn, and to make paleness appear in their faces and breaking in their loins, by reason of the force of its conviction. O the mire and dirt that a guilty conscience, when it is forced to speak, will cast up and throw out before the judgment-seat. It must out; none can speak peace nor health to that man upon whom God has let loose his own conscience. Cain will now cry, "My punishment is greater than I can bear;" Judas will hang himself; and both Belshazzar and Felix will feel the joints of their loins to be loosened, and their knees to smite one against another, when conscience stirreth.
When conscience is once thoroughly awakened, as it shall be before the judgment-seat, God will need say no more to the sinner than Solomon said to filthy Shimei, "Thou knowest all the wickedness that thy heart is privy to." As who should say, "Thy conscience knows, and can well inform thee of all the evil and sin that thou art guilty of." To all which it answers even as face answers a face in a glass; or as an echo answers the man that speaks: as fast, I say, as God chargeth, conscience will cry out, "Guilty, guilty, Lord; guilty of all, of every whit; I remember clearly all the crimes thou layest before me." Thus will conscience be a witness against the soul in the day of God.
John Newton on conscience, from A, grace in a blade;
……The natural conscience and passions may be indeed so far wrought upon by outward means, as to stir up some desires and endeavors; but if these are not founded in a spiritual apprehension of the perfection's of God, according to the revelation he has made of himself in his word, they will sooner or later come to nothing; and the person affected will either return by degrees to his former ways, 2Peter 2:20, or he will sink into a self-righteous form of godliness, destitute of the power. Luke 18:11…..
Conscience in John Bunyan’s book the Holy War;
Then did the Prince call unto him the old gentleman, who before had been the Recorder of Mansoul, Mr. Conscience by name, and told him, That, forasmuch as he was well skilled in the law and government of the town of Mansoul, and was also well-spoken, and could pertinently deliver to them his Master's will in all terrene and domestic matters, therefore he would also make him a minister for, in, and to the goodly town of Mansoul, in all the laws, statutes, and judgments of the famous town of Mansoul. 'And thou must,' said the Prince, 'confine thyself to the teaching of moral virtues, to civil and natural duties; but thou must not attempt to presume to be a revealer of those high and supernatural mysteries that are kept close in the bosom of Shaddai, my Father: for those things knows no man, nor can any reveal them but my Father's Secretary only. 'Thou art a native of the town of Mansoul, but the Lord Secretary is a native with my Father; wherefore, as thou hast knowledge of the laws and customs of the corporation, so he of the things and will of my Father. 'Wherefore, O Mr. Conscience, although I have made thee a minister and a preacher to the town of Mansoul, yet as to the things which the Lord Secretary knoweth, and shall teach to this people, there thou must be his scholar and a learner, even as the rest of Mansoul are. 'Thou must therefore, in all high and supernatural things, go to him for information and knowledge; for though there be a spirit in man, this person's inspiration must give him understanding. Wherefore, O thou Mr. Recorder, keep low and be humble, and remember that the Diabolonians that kept not their first charge, but left their own standing, are now made prisoners in the pit. Be therefore content with thy station. 'I have made thee my Father's vicegerent on earth, in such things of which I have made mention before: and thou, take thou power to teach them to Mansoul, yea, and to impose them with whips and chastisements, if they shall not willingly hearken to do thy commandments. 'And, Mr. Recorder, because thou art old, and through many abuses made feeble; therefore I give thee leave and license to go when thou wilt to my fountain, my conduit, and there to drink freely of the blood of my grape, for my conduit doth always run wine. Thus doing, thou shalt drive from thine heart and stomach all foul, gross, and hurtful humours. It will also lighten thine eyes, and will strengthen thy memory for the reception and keeping of all that the King's most noble Secretary teacheth.'
Conscience a character in John Bunyan's book The Pilgrim’s Progress
Then Mr. Honest called for his friends, and said unto them, I die, but shall make no will. As for my honesty, it shall go with me; let him that comes after be told of this. When the day that he was to be gone was come, he addressed himself to go over the river. Now the river at that time over-flowed its banks in some places; but Mr. Honest, in his lifetime, had spoken to one Good-conscience to meet him there, the which he also did, and lent him his hand, and so helped him over. The last words of Mr. Honest were, Grace reigns! So he left the world.
One book that helped John Bunyan immensely in this struggle was Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians. He said, “I prefer the book before all others as most fit for a wounded conscience.”
"I will stay in jail to the end of my days before a make a butchery of my conscience." By John Bunyan.