We have come to be convinced that grace gives us the ability to do anything not overtly forbidden in Scripture. And we are quite adamant that others should feel that same freedom as well. If another believer does not feel the liberty to participate in a certain activity, we conclude that they are rather stodgy and legalistic.
But the Scriptures tell us of another important factor in our decision making. It involves the role of the conscience. Every human has been hardwired with a conscience (Rom. 2:14-15). It is a pre-programmed sense of right and wrong. The word conscience is a compound word meaning “shared knowledge.” We all know God’s general standards without anyone telling us.
Consider the various conditions of the conscience:
- Good (Acts 23:1; 14:16; 1 Tim. 1:5) – This individual has a healthy conscience that is functioning well. Notice that a good conscience must be maintained.
- Evil (Heb. 10:22) – This individual feels guilty because they know they are living in sin.
- Seared (2 Tim. 4:2) – This individual has persisted in sin and their conscience has lost all sensitivity.
- Defiled (Tit. 1:15) – This individual has a corrupted conscience. They are so twisted that they have come to believe that right is wrong and wrong is right.
- Weak (1 Cor. 8:7) – This individual is overly scrupulous and not able to participate in everything that Scripture would otherwise allow (usually because of something in their past).
The conscience is one of the primary tools God has given us in making ethical decisions. How are you doing at listening to your conscience? The Puritan Richard Sibbes said that the conscience is either your greatest enemy or your best friend. Which is it for you?
Image by Grant Hutchinson