There is within the human mind something that acts as a moral judge. It tells people what is right and wrong, urges them to do right, and gives them feelings of either innocence or guilt, depending on whether they obey or disobey it. This moral judge we call conscience (Rom 2:15-16; 1 John 3:19-21). Although the Old Testament does not mention the word ‘conscience’, it certainly refers to the activity of conscience (Gen 3:7-8; 2 Sam 24:10; Job 27:6; Ps 32:3; 51:3-4). Conscience is not a perfect judge, because sin has affected the conscience as it has affected every other part of human nature (Luke 11:35; Eph 2:1-3).

Therefore the conscience, like the rest of human nature, needs cleansing from the effects of sin, and this comes about only through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ (Heb 9:14; 10:22). The conscience also needs instruction, because it can only make judgments according to the knowledge it possesses (Rom 2:14-15; 1 Cor 8:7,10). Christians must therefore train and discipline the conscience so that it is well instructed, pure, active and sensitive (Acts 24:16; Eph 4:17,23; 1 Tim 1:5,19; 2 Tim 1:3).

When people ignore conscience, it can easily become defiled, hardened or dead (1 Tim 4:2; Titus 1:15). A properly developed conscience will lead people to do what is right, whether a written law demands it or not (Rom 13:5; 1 Peter 3:16). Christians must be careful to keep the conscience clear in all that they do (2 Cor 1:12; Heb 13:18). At the same time they must realize that a clear conscience does not necessarily mean they are faultless (1 Cor 4:4-5). Sometimes the conscience may be clear in relation to something they want to do, but they decide not to do it because of the bad effect it could have on others (Rom 14:22-23; 1 Cor 10:28-29). The conscience must be clear before God, not just clear according to standards people set for themselves (Acts 23:1; Rom 9:1).

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