“Morning by morning, O Lord, you hear my voice”

Psalm 5:3

Conscience, the Umpire Within

(Please read Acts 23:1 and 24:16)

September 23

It isn’t easy to define the conscience, and perhaps isn’t necessary. There are several New Testament passages containing a variety of indications as to functions of the conscience but no actual definition of it. There appears to have been an assumption that readers understood what the conscience was.

Our text and its context indicate that Paul thought he was doing right when he persecuted the church, so he had a clear conscience about it. Other passages indicate that people can have consciences that are good, or weak, or guilty, or corrupted; and some evil men were said to have consciences that had “been seared as with a hot iron.” So apparently people in New Testament times thought of the conscience about the way we do now – that it sort of monitors our conduct and nudges us when we are acting in conflict with what we know to be right.

But this doesn’t quite support the popular expression, “Let your conscience be your guide.” Look what his conscience guided Paul into. He believed he was doing right, but that didn’t make it right. To have a more reliable conscience, we need more knowledge as to what is right and what is wrong. Hebrews 5:14 touches on this point when it mentions mature Christians “who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good and evil” (NIV).

Before Cruise Control was commonly in use, some cars were equipped with buzzers which sounded when their speed passed a preset figure. A well-informed conscience can work that way and save us from spiritual wreckage and heartaches. Thank God for the conscience.

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