It seems increasingly rare to hear the word conscience nowadays. People simply decide what’s good and what’s bad according to their own views, and the conscience doesn’t seem to factor in at all. But God doesn’t want us to live that way, especially once we’re saved. After all, He created us with a conscience, which has a very important role in our lives both before and after we receive the Lord.
So it’s important for us to see what the Bible reveals about the conscience, and why having a good conscience is so crucial when it comes to our relationship with the Lord.
In this blog post, we’ll read some key verses and study notes from the Recovery Version on this important subject.
What is the conscience?
First, let’s talk about what the conscience is. Many verses in the Bible speak of the conscience. Every human being, whether they’re saved or unsaved, and regardless of their culture, ethnicity, or background, has a conscience. God created us with a conscience so that we would know right from wrong, what He approves of and what He judges.
Romans 2:14 and 15 say:
“For when Gentiles, who have no law, do by nature the things of the law, though they have no law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness with it and their reasonings, one with the other, accusing or even excusing them.”
In verse 14, note 1 on by nature in the New Testament Recovery Version says:
“The nature of man, as created by God, was originally good and corresponded with God and with His law. Although it was poisoned by the fall, this good nature remains within man. Hence, if anyone lives according to his nature and does by his nature the things of the law, the evil in him will be restricted.”
Now let’s read note 1 in verse 15 on conscience, which explains the relationship of this God-created nature with the conscience:
“Man’s conscience corresponds with the God-created human nature and enables man to know what God justifies and what He condemns.”
By their conscience, people can perceive what God justifies, or approves of, and what He condemns. Even without knowing God or the Bible, their conscience enables them to know right from wrong.
This is how a person can know he’s a sinner.
When we were still unsaved, at some point we heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through those words, our conscience convicted us that we were sinful and needed to be saved. So we repented to God and accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior.
Our conscience after we’re saved
When we repented and received the Lord Jesus, He came to live in us, and our conscience became more sensitive and active than before.
It’s important to know that although we’re saved, we still have our sinful flesh and fallen nature. This means we still commit sins despite our best intentions. Our conscience lets us know when we’ve offended God by sinning or disobeying Him.
To illustrate, our conscience is like a smoke detector installed in a building. If there’s a fire in the building, the detector sounds an alarm. But if all is well, it remains quiet. In the same way, our conscience alerts us when we’ve done something wrong and remains quiet when God has no problem with us.
We’ve all experienced these “alerts” from our conscience whenever we do something that doesn’t correspond with God’s holy and righteous nature. For instance, if we lose our temper or say something unkind to someone, our conscience fulfills its role to sound the alarm. And no matter how we try to reason it away, our conscience persists in condemning us.
This is actually a good thing! Without our conscience alerting us, we’d be like a burning building without a smoke detector. We’d be unaware when we’ve incurred God’s disapproval, and our relationship with the Lord would suffer.
Just like we need to take action when we hear a smoke detector, we need to respond to, not ignore, the alert from our conscience when we’ve done something wrong.
A good conscience
How we respond to the feeling from our conscience determines whether or not we have a good conscience.
The phrase a good conscience is used in 1 Timothy 1:5:
“But the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and out of a good conscience and out of unfeigned faith.”
Part of note 3 on this verse in the Recovery Version explains what a good conscience is:
“A good conscience is a conscience without offense (Acts 24:16).”
This note references Acts 24:16, which is part of the apostle Paul’s testimony when he was brought before Felix the governor. Paul declared:
“Because of this I also exercise myself to always have a conscience without offense toward God and men.”
So a good conscience is a conscience without offense, that is, one that doesn’t condemn us for offending God.
How can we remove offenses in our conscience?
So what should we do when our conscience alerts us that we’ve offended God? How can we remove the offense that triggered the alarm?
Our conscience certainly won’t be quieted by excuses. And making up our mind to be better or doing good deeds can’t outweigh or remove an offense either.
Only one thing can completely expunge that offense and purify our conscience: the precious blood of Christ.
Hebrews 9:14 says:
“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
Our conscience can only be purified by the blood of Christ. To experience this purifying, we must confess our sins and wrongdoings to God. When we confess, God immediately forgives us, and the blood of Jesus cleanses away the stain of sin. God is satisfied with the blood of Jesus, and we feel peaceful because we have a good conscience once more.
Of course, after we’ve confessed our sin to God, we also need to apologize to anyone we hurt or offended.
Why is having a good conscience so important?
When we’ve offended the Lord, our fellowship with Him is interrupted, and we no longer have peace with God. And if we ignore the voice of our conscience, we have no way to go on in our relationship with the Lord.
In 1 Timothy 1:19, we see the importance of having a good conscience and the serious consequences if we don’t:
“Holding faith and a good conscience, concerning which some, thrusting these away, have become shipwrecked regarding the faith.”
Here, the apostle Paul says that we need to hold not just faith but also a good conscience. The first part of note 1 on this verse explains:
“Faith and a good conscience (see note 53) go together. Whenever there is an offense in our conscience, there will be a leakage, and our faith will leak away.”
None of us want our faith to leak away. Since faith and a good conscience go together, the state of our conscience affects our faith. When we allow an offense to remain undealt with, our faith leaks away. This leakage can cause us to eventually lose faith in the Lord, even to such an extent that we become “shipwrecked” regarding our faith.
Note 2 on shipwrecked explains what this means:
“This shows the seriousness of thrusting away faith and a good conscience. To hold faith and a good conscience is a safeguard for our Christian faith and life. The word shipwrecked implies that the Christian life and the church life are like a ship sailing on a stormy sea, needing to be safeguarded by faith and a good conscience.”
The apostle Paul’s use of this vivid imagery of a shipwreck shows us how dire the consequences are of ignoring the feeling from our conscience. We certainly don’t want to become shipwrecked regarding our faith. What a sobering word!
So to go on with the Lord in our Christian life, we must maintain a good conscience by being right with God and man. And when we fail, we simply need to confess our sins to be forgiven and cleansed, so that our conscience has nothing to condemn us about.
Thank the Lord for His clear word in the Bible concerning our conscience! Let’s pay attention to our conscience and learn to live our Christian life holding faith and a good conscience.
If you live in Europe, you can order a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version here.