Returning to the book of Hebrews for this lesson, one of the themes of the book is the difference in how the old and new testaments make an impression on our consciences. Our conscience is the instrument given to by God to prove or disprove the actions we are about to take. It is that voice in our head that says, “you should” and “you shouldn’t.”
Qualities of Conscience
It’s Role. Romans 2:14-15 describes our consciences as the law we have even when we don’t know God’s law. Our thoughts accuse or affirm our actions separate from a written set of laws. Paul writes of it as the law being written in their hearts. Furthermore, in Romans 9:1, the conscience bears witness to your and my conduct. II Corinthians 1:12 reinforces this by speaking of the testimony of conscience regarding how we behave among the world and the brethren. Our conscience convicts us, either positively or negatively, regardless of what others may tell us about our behaviors. In Acts 23, Paul is telling the Sanhedrin that he lived in good conscience even when in enmity to God’s word. It is not a faultless guide. We should temper it with God’s word. Finally, Romans 14:23 warns us that violating our standards of conscience brings sin into our lives.
The Conscience We Want. I Timothy 1:5 tells us we should want a pure conscience in harmony with God’s law. In Acts 24:16, in another of Paul’s defenses, the apostle says he has always worked to maintain a clear conscience toward all men. I Timothy 3, among the qualities of elders and deacons, Paul again speaks of a clear conscience, and Hebrews 8-9 describes a perfect conscience that can only be obtained through Christ’s sacrifice. He provides us a clean, pure, and guiltless conscience in Hebrews 9:15, 10:2, and 10:22.
Damaging Our Conscience. I Timothy 4:1-2 describes individuals who have seared their consciences. They have trained that inner voice to silence itself or adjust its standards. Our consciences can become calloused and insensitive to right and wrong. We may know our error, but we cease to care because of the calloused burns containing our consciences. Titus 1:15 writes of defiled, or contaminated, consciences. They are corrupt and unclean. In I Corinthians 8:7 and 10, Paul speaks of sensitive consciences that can lead to moral contaminations, sin through violations of moral convictions.
Hebrews 10:22 tells us we must cleanse our consciences, drawing near to the throne of God. Peter, in I Peter 3:20-21, describes baptism as an appeal of a good conscience toward God. These examples harken back to Exodus 24 when Moses sprinkles blood on the temple implements as well as the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant.” Hebrews 9:14 calls upon us to cleanse our consciences in the blood of Christ. Then, as stated in I Peter 3:15-17, we must continue to educate our consciences properly and exemplify that standard in our lives.
If my conscience is not blameless, fault does not lie with my Savior – with His sacrifice or with His blood. The fault is mine for violating what I know is moral and true. Jesus’ blood washes us clean, and our responsibility is to keep our conscience clean from that point forward.
lesson by Tim Smelser