Conscience and Innocence
NCW 11, August 1994
Q. Why do you keep trying to persuade me that your doctrine is right when I already know the truth? I live with a clear conscience and know that I am in the true Church because my heart tells me it's right [from a Mormon].
What may appear to be right one day may prove to be wrong the next. There is no stability or absolute assurance in testimonies based in any degree on feelings; rather, true feelings follow in the wake of spiritual knowledge.
Paul understood this problem when he said to the Corinthians: "My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges..." (1 Cor.4:4). To have a clear conscience does not automatically imply freedom from guilt, sin or wrong belief -- to have a clear conscience means that we are acting in a way pleasing to God with the knowledge that we have. However, if God then reveals either through the Scriptures or through a revelation to the mind and heart that what we previously through was right is, in fact, wrong, then that same conscience that once justified us in fact now begins to condemn us.
Throughout my life I have believed in various church or theological systems because their teaching was consistent with my spiritual knowledge at that moment in time, and I lived with a clear conscience. But when I found that my church's teachings actually contradicted the Word of God my conscience was disturbed. At that point in time we have one of two choices: we can either ignore the testimony of our conscience and consciously live a lie, or we can respond by making adjustments in our life, even if that means leaving the church denomination we are associated with behind. If we deny our conscience then we also cut off any further possibility of divine revelation or ministry by the Holy Spirit, for God will not be mocked. If we deny the witness of the Holy Spirit through our conscience, then that Spirit will not return until we have repented.
Our responsibility as sons and daughters of God is to continue searching for truth and to make necessary life adjustments. No church system -- its doctrine and practice -- is the truth, for only Christ is the truth (John 14:6). No church is perfect, and this is amply testified to by the fact that every church without exception has made adjustments to its doctrine and practice over the years, even churches claiming to be "the truth" or "the one and only true Church." The tragedy is that these adjustments made because of error are usually explained away using various devices which attempt to deny responsibility for error by blaming individual church members and leaders (usually dead ones, never the living!) whilst absolving the Church, as though the church were some kind of omnipotent independent entity with an independent life all of its own.
It is good to live by one's conscience (Acts 23:1) because this is God's will, even if we are ignorant, for man is justified [made right with God] when he does (1 Cor.8:12). But when a greater light comes, then the former weak conscience (1 Cor.8:7) will be displaced by a higher one, and the individual is under an absolute moral imperative to be obedient to the new conscience (1 Tim.1:5, 19; 3:9).
The conscience is not an absolutely infallible spiritual device but one of many spiritual measuring tools the Lord has given us. There are times when our consciences must be "purged...from dead works" (Heb.9:14, AV). We must pray for our conscience, that it may always be right (Heb.13:18).
For a fuller treatment of this subject, we recommend you study 1 Corinthians 10 and the following literature produced by the New Covenant Church of God:
This page was created on 24 April 1998
Last updated on 24 April 1998
Copyright © 1987-2008 NCCG - All Rights Reserved