All of us have a conscience. Have we stopped to consider what it is?

The Bible speaks a great deal about the conscience. Sometimes it is called the heart. The Bible urges believers to "keep a good conscience" (1 Pet. 3:16). Many people, however, have a bad conscience that accuses them before God. Freedom from this burden can be attained through faith in Jesus. The conscience needs constant care. In order to be able to care for it properly, we must know what the conscience is.

The conscience is a judge. It tells us what's right and what's wrong. The judgements of the conscience are not, however, always right. This is apparent from the fact that one person's conscience can render a judgement on a matter that differs from the judgement of another person's conscience on the same matter. The judgements of the conscience are based on a person's knowledge of what is right and wrong. If our knowledge is wrong, our conscience renders a wrong judgement. It is therefore extremely important that we receive the right information concerning what is right and wrong. A Christian lets the Bible guide his conscience. God is above the conscience. When we have been taught the will of God, our conscience agrees with God's voice. However, we should not take it for granted that this is so. We must constantly check to see that we have not departed from God's Word.

We cannot equate the voice of our conscience with God's voice. There are some who still teach that the conscience is God's voice in a person. The Bible, however, does not teach this. Neither did our Reformer, Dr. Martin Luther, define conscience in this way. The teaching is of later origin. If the conscience were God's voice it would act in the same way in all people. This is not the case, as we know. The teaching that the conscience is God's voice has had far?reaching results. Some have acted according to their "inner light" without determining whether or not their beliefs are in harmony with the Bible. The result has been that the Bible has been abandoned. From lack of knowledge the conscience of some has not been able to develope, with the result that its area of activity remains limited. On many matters the conscience remains silent even though there would be reason for a judgement. By relying on the "inner light" some have also caused their conscience go astray. That which is wrong is considered to be right, and that which is right is considered wrong. Therefore it is important that our conscience continues to "tremble" at God's Word (Is. 66:2), so that we will not be led astray.

It is possible for the conscience to err. However, a person must never act contrary to his conscience. For if a person knowingly does what he believes to be wrong, he sins even though the outward act is not wrong. An example: Someone may believe that it's wrong to eat meat. According to the Bible all foods are clean, and we can eat meat with a good conscience (Mark 7:19). But he who doesn't have this knowledge and eats contrary to the voice of his conscience, sins. The person who compels someone to act contrary to his conscience also sins, even though he doesn't compel the other person to do something that's wrong. This leads to the principle of freedom of conscience. Christianity defends freedom of conscience.

May God help us to be serious people of conscience. Christ has atoned for our sins. May His forgiveness cleanse our conscience and lead us to serve Him with all good works.