Summaries of Hebrews. The Hope of a Pure Conscience.

Key Notes: Conscience, the Holy Spirit, and the Law written on the heart are different. Why we may choose not to have a clear conscience. Set the mind on the things of the Spirit.

The New Testament is our primary source of information about conscience. The word is not used in the Hebrew or Greek OT. In OT, the person stands in direct relation to God (Psa. 139) and the word "heart" fills the place of the conscience. (II Sam. 24:10; Job 27:6). Greek society did not have a clear concept of conscience until the 1st century BC. Then it was portrayed negatively, as the condemnation of past evils. The philosophers were interested. Pythagoreans offered this formula to their disciples:

"Thou shalt not take sleep to thy gentle eyes until thou hast considered each of the day's acts: where did I fail? What was a right act? What was left undone? Begin with the first and go through them, and finally when thou hast done wrong, rebuke thyself and when thou hast done good, rejoice."

Paul's writing establishes conscience not only as a condemning judge, but the moral consciousness of the person.

•What the conscience is:
"They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them." (Rom. 2:15).

From this key passage we learn that conscience is different from the law written in the heart. There is an internal dialogue going on, so that conscience is the person looking over his own shoulder--really two centers of moral consciousness, with the law as the standard by which the conscience may judge the self.

•The conscience is not the Holy Spirit "I am speaking the truth in Christ —I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit…." (Rom. 9:1–2).

•Injury to the conscience is serious.
"However, not all possess this knowledge {about the non-existence of idols}. But some, through being hitherto accustomed to idols eat food as really offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled." (1Cor. 8:7). "Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ." (1Cor. 8:12).

"But he who has doubts is condemned, if he eats, because he does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." (Rom.14:23).

"...some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared...." (I Tim 4:2).

"By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith...."(1Tim. 1:19–20).

•The possibility of a clear conscience
"And Paul, looking intently at the council, said, 'Brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience up to this day. '" (Acts 23:1)

"So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward God and all people". (Acts 24:16).

•The goal of a clear conscience.
"Whereas the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith." (1Tim. 1:5)

•How to get a clear conscience.
"Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body; but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ...." (1Pet. 3:21)

"According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper...." (Heb.9:9)

"…how much more shall 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!" (Heb.9:14)

"...let us draw near 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)

•The clear conscience is based on the cleansing of salvation through the sacrifice of Christ. All Christians should therefore have a clear conscience. Before God we are clean, seen in the robes of Christ's righteousness -- "Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne".

But many Christians still suffer from the pangs of guilty conscience. We ruminate over past foolishness, selfishness, pride, anger, cold-heartedness, silly talk. Why do we want to remember what God has forgotten?
"I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more." (Heb.10:17).

•Intuitive people are aware that they can use their ruminations about past sins to keep themselves from repeating them. ("O God, I will never do that again.") They may be depressed meditating on their inadequacies. They may also punish themselves, emotionally beat themselves, to remind themselves of their weakness and badness.

A therapist was working with a severely depressed young woman."How good would you have to be to be OK, to be satisfied with yourself? As good as God?"
There was a long pause. "Maybe".

Another very depressed young person said "If I go out into the country I cannot look at a newly plowed field, or smell the blossoms on the trees, or hear the birds sing because I am not worthy."

•The Bible has an entirely different method to keep us from repeating sin.

"Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee." (Psa.119:11)
" set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace." (Rom.8:6).

"looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith...." (Heb.12:2; KJV).

"and we all with unveiled face, beholding (as in a mirror) the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another, and this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. " (II Cor.3:18)

God's method of dealing with our sinful nature is healthy; ours is sick. Let us turn from the chains of old sin to freedom of the conscience in Christ.


There is an excellent article on the conscience in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.