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The purpose of conscience

Updated: Nov 23, 2022

In this blog we want to answer anything that may have fallen through the cracks. In life we are, have and will be faced with circumstances and decisions whereby there seems to be a level of uncertainty and subjectivity as to how people respond and act. Our response as followers of Jesus is what does God say about this through his inspired word... we should look for whether there are any prescriptive commands relating to the topic- e.g., should we murder? NO! ‘Thou shalt not murder.’ The second thing we should look for when deciding when something is of God, is descriptive narratives from the Bible, e.g., should we murder? NO! Cain killed Abel, and God’s condemnation of this.

But what do we do when something is not made clear prescriptively nor descriptively? At this point the thought, action or desire is placed within the context of the Conscience.

What does the Bible say about conscience?

1. Conscience is an internal rational capacity that bears witness to our Biblically informed value system.

2. Conscience does not serve as a judge or a legislator; that is a modern take on the concept. Instead, in the Biblical sense, conscience serves as a witness to what we already know. (Rom. 2:15, 9:1)

3. John MacArthur describes conscience as “a built-in warning system that signals us when something we have done is wrong. The conscience is to our souls what pain sensors are to our bodies: it inflicts distress, in the form of guilt, whenever we violate what our hearts tell us is right.”

4. As R.C. Sproul explains, “We have to remember that acting according to conscience may sometimes be sin as well. If the conscience is misinformed, then we seek the reasons for this misinformation. Is it misinformed because the person has been negligent in studying the Word of God? “

A prime example of the way our conscience may lead both Christians and non-Christians to sin is when we violate, or advocate for the violation, of creation ordinances. Among the creation ordinances are the clear injunctions to preserve the sanctity of the marriage bond between one man and one woman.

5. Conscience is to be subordinated to, and informed by, the revealed Word of God.

“Conscience cannot be our final ethical authority because it is, unlike God’s revealed Word, changeable and fallible. Too often, though, Christians reverse the order and attempt to use their conscience to judge God and his Word. Many Christians claim, for example, “I could not worship a God who would say [a clear statement from the Bible]” or “I couldn’t believe in a God who would do [something the Bible claims God clearly told someone to do].” In making such statements they may be appealing to their conscience. But in such cases, their consciences are being informed by Satan, not by God. A person’s conscience may cause them to question a particular interpretation of Scripture. But our conscience can never legitimately judge a holy God or his holy Word. When we find ourselves thinking “Did God really say?” when Scripture clearly says he did, then we know it is the serpent and not the Saviour speaking. (Gen. 3:1)

6. Conscience can accuse when it ought to excuse, and conscience can accuse when it ought to excuse. We all aspire to have a strong and healthy conscience, that excuses when it needs to excuse and accuses when it needs to accuse; this comes only when we align it with Gods word, as we have already talked about. We do not want a conscience seared by unrighteousness that as a by-product supresses truth (Romans 1:18); this will result in God handing us over to these wrong passions.

7. Romans 14 speaks to conscience, giving us the ins and outs, the practicalities of a biblical subordinate conscience that has submitted to the things of God.


Conscience framework:

1. Character | We are defined by our character, it is the measure of who we are, we are called to have good character that is not easily corrupted (1 Corinthians 15:33). Behind character are many traits, these traits that make character bring hope (Romans 5:3-4). Are character is comprised of our actions, do these actions coincide with good character.

2. Act | What is the nature of the Act, is it good or evil? Permissible or beneficial.

3. Motive | Why do you do the thing that you do? “After desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” If you want to know who you are, why you are where you are and where you are going, look at your desires. Desire dictates action, action dictates character, character dictates destiny.

4. Consequence | What are the consequence for the things that you do? If I break a pencil, the consequence exists, but is weak, if I break someone’s neck, the severity of the consequence is great. What is the severity of the consequences of the actions.

1. Philippians 4, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Does what you are doing fall into the category of these things.

2. 1 Corinthians 10, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” What do we do, but moreso why do we do it, your motivations are fundamental in determining what does and does not defile a conscience.

3. Romans 14, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Faith is the origin point for the things that we do, our faith is the causative, faith the seed, our actions the fruit of that seed.

4. Is the thing in question operating in the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

5. 1 Corinthians 10, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” We as Christians often do not think in terms of offence, but defence, our mindset is not what will bring God most glory, but instead, what will bring me most safety. We want to be thinking in terms of what will be beneficial, not just what will be allowed, how does the things that you do bring God ultimate glory?

6. Finally, after you have done the thing, can you stand before God innocent like David did in Psalm 18, can you do the thing you are doing before Jesus? Romans 2:15, God has given us a conscience, engraving true morality in our hearts through the fulfilment of the new covenant that has come through Christ.

Accountability framework:

1. Circle 1: Parents or guardians, for those who do not have Godly, just, and loving parents, there is not much that can be addressed now. But the focus is on those who do have trusted parents and guardians. God has blessed us with parents who are ahead of the race and can give laws to make their children wise, a lifestyle for their children to follow, a light for their children to walk in and love for their children to be grounded in. Parents should be a trusted source of wisdom that should be honoured, and children in return should be a heritage to their parents.

2. Circle 2: Mentors, if you could not pick your parents, we have the blessing from God in picking wise mentors that can keep us accountable. Jesus had the father, the disciples had Jesus, Timothy had Paul, Elisha had Elijah, and, in the epistles, there is a clear commandment that from generation to generation we help each other; those who are older, teach those younger (Titus 2).

3. Circle 3: Trusted friends, Proverbs 27, “A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown by the friends he chooses.” Proverbs 17, “A friend loveth at all times; And a brother is born for adversity.” We do not share all information with all people, but rather, we exercise wisdom, engaging in the blessing of the friendships God has given us, utilising the wisdom of the people closest to us.

- Ecclesiastes 4, “If anyone falls, his friend can help him up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. If two lie together they will keep warm.”

- Matthew 15, “If the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit.”

- Proverbs 12, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but wise listen to advice.”


In anything, what does Gods word say?

1. Prescriptive

2. Descriptive

3. Conscience

- A conscience informed and subordinate to Gods word, this is a healthy conscience.

- Conscience framework

- Accountability framework

If we exercise this care, this caution, then you can be sure obedience will follow and from that, blessing and the glorification of God.

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