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What Paul Says About the Conscience

Dear Friends,

In the Bible we see instances of consciences that are clear, weak, evil, defiled, seared, corrupted, witnessing, testifying, good, and cleansed. It would be easy to draw a conclusion that a good, clear, and cleansed conscience would reflect God’s absolute moral law and those that followed their consciences would not be guilty. Sometimes that is true, and sometimes that is up for question. Here are two of Paul’s statements:

Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace. (2 Cor. 1:12)

My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Cor. 4:4)


In the first instance, Paul is innocent. However, in the second he says that a clear conscience does not guarantee innocence.

We also have another criterion for our actions. It is other peoples’ consciences.

On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor. 4:2b)


But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake—the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?... do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. (1 Cor. 10:28-29, 32-33)

So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. (Acts 24:16)

We are to pay attention to our consciences. As we grow, we are to make it more and more sensitive and acute by the Word of God, the Holy Spirit and constant use. “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

In Our Lord Jesus Christ,

Jim Wilson

Written February 1995.

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