Conscience Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Conscience

Conscience is an aspect of our God-given human consciousness that is focused on self-awareness. Specifically, it signals our awareness of moral right and wrong. This should not be confused with the popular understanding of an angel or devil hovering over our shoulder. It is important to see conscience as a human capacity that is by its very nature unreliable by itself. Conscience can be weak or strong, valid or invalid, reliable or unreliable. The conscience is formed by many things, including one's upbringing, friends and acquaintances, and sources of moral authority, as well as one's own response to its voice. Even though the conscience is a universal aspect of human consciousness, Christians are called to pay attention to the voice of their consciences. This is because the Christian conscience is informed by the Word of God, and therefore it functions as a God-given early warning system against wrongdoing. Paul writes of a conscience that is not an independent moral entity, but one that is informed by the Holy Spirit. "I am speaking the truth in Christ — I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 9:1). In correspondence with the Corinthian church, Paul often brings up matters of conscience. Some in the congregation are scrupulous about meat sacrificed to idols; others are not. Paul calls the former a "weak" conscience and the latter a "strong" one. The weak conscience needs to be further informed about the freedom the gospel provides; the strong, better-informed conscience needs to be respectful of the weak. That respect is necessary because of the importance of not violating conscience. A "clear conscience" (2 Tim. 1:3) is an important goal in the Christian life. To live with a bad or evil conscience spells danger for the Christian because it means that we are overlooking or disregarding what our conscience tells us is wrong (Titus 1:15). A clear conscience also promotes our relationship with God: "[L]et us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:22)"

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.