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Romans 8:29-30—This “golden chain” begins with love and ends with glory
(September 06 2017)

14—Summary principles on the conscience.

This chapter presents the greater part of Paul’s teaching on the believer’s conscience. To consolidate what we have learned, I now list several takeaways on this important topic. We must keep in mind that the issues do not pertain to doctrine or morality, but instead to “matters of conscience”—matters “about which the Bible is silent and others are divided,” as Charles Swindoll puts it.

On matters of doctrine or morality, each person’s conscience, whether strong or weak, must yield to the truth of God’s word, and the church must enforce that truth. On matters of conscience, each believer must learn to follow his or her conscience while being guided by love in the community of the saints. Here are the applicable principles we have gleaned from this chapter:

  • A strong conscience, which knows objectively how to distinguish between right and wrong behavior according to biblical principles, helps a person feel confident, thankful, and free. A weak conscience is subject to doubt, self-condemnation, and judgment of others.

  • The conscience is trainable and flexible. We can anticipate that our sincerely held convictions will change over time as our understanding of the gospel matures. Our list of taboos may change, as some things we once thought wrong we now enjoy whereas other things we formerly enjoyed our conscience now forbids.

  • A sensitive conscience is to be treasured, because it warns us against sin. It sharpens when we heed it; it dulls when we ignore it.

  • On morally neutral issues where the Bible does not speak, the believer must follow his or her conscience or be guilty of sin. Douglas Moo says, “Violation of the dictates of the conscience, even when the conscience does not conform perfectly with God’s will, is sinful.”

  • Scripture is essential both to renew our minds and to train our consciences. RC Sproul advises that we continually “refine our own moral codes to bring them into conformity to the mind of Christ, so that we don’t have this problem of not knowing what God approves and what God forbids.”

  • Our conscience is tethered to both mind and emotions, and our mind may understand the truth before our emotions and conscience do. Be gentle and patient with your conscience—and with your brother’s and sister’s!

  • Don’t be your sister’s Holy Spirit. Leave it to the Spirit to convict other believers of sin and lead them to the truth. We need to give one another space to grow in the Lord. Some teachers and ministries set themselves up to police the beliefs and worship practices of other believers. Avoid them.

  • Don’t be bound by your brother’s conscience. We are to love and not offend our brother with a weaker conscience, but on the other hand we must not let the weaker brother rule over the church, and we must be on guard against behavior that compromises the gospel’s message of Christian liberty.

  • In public settings we need to be mindful of the effect of our actions on others. If our goal is to faithfully serve our Lord and love others, we are not being hypocritical when we do certain things in private that we would not do in public.

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