Making Biblical Decisions: Training Your Conscience, Part 4 – June 7, 2024

As we study God’s Word and allow it to train our conscience, we find two opposite actions take place simultaneously. We discover that we add restrictions to our conscience. We find that certain beliefs or actions we did not take seriously are, in fact, to be taken seriously. At the same time, we discover that we remove restrictions from our conscience. We learn that some specific actions are not sinful but were engrained into us through tradition or held due to a misunderstanding of God and His Word. Last week we examined what it looks like when we allow God’s Word to train our conscience that some things we previously thought were sin are not sin.

On the other hand, training our conscience also involves adding to our conscience. Sometimes, our conscience should bother us regarding sin, but it fails to do so as we have seared it. It is necessary in these cases to allow Scripture to inform us that our views need to change. We must conform our conscience to God’s Word by refraining from these actions.

Corinth was known in the ancient world for its sinful atmosphere. As a result, the Corinthian church often had to adjust their conscience so that their conscience would convict them of sin. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul takes the church to task for such an incident. Apparently, a church member became engaged in gross, incestuous immorality. Instead of addressing the issues, the church celebrated the fact that this was taking place. The individual did not view his action as a sin. The church members took pride in including this individual. Rather than mourn over sin, they rejoiced over sin. Their conscience was so misinformed and seared it allowed this evil. Paul instructed the church to purge the evil from their midst and to seek righteousness.

Unfortunately, these kinds of instances happen often in the church today. Rather than confine sex to marriage, churches celebrate when couples move in with one another. We allow our feelings and excitement to inform our conscience rather than God’s Word. Instead, we should instruct our conscience with texts like Hebrews 13:4 and seek purity. Only when we fill ourselves with God’s Word can we stand with a clear conscience against the world’s corruption.

As our world becomes more politically divided, we find ourselves falling back into the pattern seen in the Roman Empire. While we indeed should obey God over man, and there are times to resist our government leaders when they violate clear Scripture, we must always seek to honor our government leaders. Yet, honoring bad civil leadership goes against our natural tendencies. We must train our conscience with texts like 1 Peter 2:17 so that our conscience will sound the alarm when we are tempted to engage in conversations and actions that denigrate our civil leaders. As we come to understand God’s Word better, we will arrive at more opportunities to add rules to our conscience and weed out bad rules from our conscience because we will come to a greater understanding of what pleases God.

However, we must understand the difference between training our conscience and violating our conscience. Naselli and Crowley give two excellent indications of the difference between the two. We violate our conscience when we refuse to listen to our conscience when we believe it is correct and still ignore it. We train our conscience when we become convinced by God’s Word that our conscience is incorrect in its warning and, therefore, engage in the action.[1] Your church elders or a wise spiritual mentor can also assist you in differentiating between the two in any given situation.

[1] Naselli and Crowley, Conscience, 64–65.