What is conscience? How can one have good conscience? Can your conscience be reliable as a true guide? This article will shed lights on these and many questions on conscience. Conscience is the moral sense of right and wrong, chiefly as it affects one’s own behaviour.
1Pe 3:16 KJV Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
The Greek word for conscience in that text is “suneidesis” and according to Thayer Definition: the consciousness of anything, the soul as distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter, commending one, condemning the other
Strong’s Definition: From a prolonged form of G4894; co-perception, that is, moral consciousness: – conscience.
The Greek word “Suneidhsiv” which is use for conscience, does not occur in the gospels, unless Joh 8:1-11 be admitted into the text. Nor is it a word familiar to classical Greek. It is compounded of sun, together with, and eiJudenai, to know; and its fundamental idea is knowing together with one’s self. Hence it denotes the consciousness which one has within himself of his own conduct as related to moral obligation; which consciousness exercises a judicial function, determining what is right or wrong, approving or condemning, urging to performance or abstinence. Hence it is not merely intellectual consciousness directed at conduct, but moral consciousness contemplating duty, testifying to moral obligation, even where God is not known; and, where there is knowledge of God and acquaintance with him, inspired and directed by that fact.
A man cannot be conscious of himself without knowing himself as a moral creature. It is define as “the consciousness man has of himself in his relation to God, manifesting itself in the form of a self – testimony, the result of the action of the spirit in the heart.” And further,
Conscience is, essentially, determining of the self – consciousness by the spirit as the essential principle of life. In conscience man stands face to face with himself.” Conscience is, therefore, a law. “Conscience does not only offer itself to show us the way we should walk in, but it likewise carries its own authority with it, that it is our natural guide, the guide assigned us by the Author of our nature; it therefore belongs to our condition of being; it is our duty to walk in that path and follow this guide.”
Conscience again is that principle by which we survey, and either approve or disapprove our own heart, temper, and actions, is not only to be considered as what it, in its turn, to have some influence, which may be said of every passion, of the lowest appetites; but likewise as being superior; as from its very nature claiming superiority over all others; insomuch that you cannot form a notion of this faculty, conscience, without taking in judgment, direction, superintendency.
Conscience is a faculty. The mind may “possess reason and distinguish between the true and the false, and yet be incapable of distinguishing between virtue and vice. We are entitled, therefore, to hold that the drawing of moral distinctions is not comprehended in the simple exercise of the reason. The conscience, in short, is a different faculty of the mind from the mere understanding.
Conscience is a sentiment : i e., it contains and implies conscious emotions which arise on the discernment of an object as good or bad. The judgment formed by conscience awakens sensibility. When the judicial faculty pronounces a thing to be lovable, it awakens love. When it pronounces it to be noble or honorable, it awakens respect and admiration. When it pronounces it to be cruel or vile, it awakens disgust and abhorrence. In scripture we are to view conscience, not in its abstract nature, but in its practical manifestations. Hence:
it may be weak (1Co 8:7; 1Co 8:12 ),
It may be un- authoritative, and awakening only the feeblest emotion.
It may be evil or defiled (Heb 10:22; Tit 1:15 ), through consciousness of evil practice.
It may be seared (1Ti 4:2 ), branded by its own testimony to evil practice, hardened and insensible to the appeal of good.
On the other hand, it may be pure (2Ti 1:3 ), unveiled, and giving honest and clear moral testimony.
It may be void of offense (Act 24:16 ), unconscious of evil intent or act; good, as here, or honorable (Heb 13:18 ).
The expression and the idea, in the full Christian sense, are foreign to the Old Testament, where the testimony to the character of moral action and character is born by external revelation rather than by the inward moral consciousness.
Modern philosophical definitions of conscience is the ‘principle of reflection in men by which they distinguish between, approve and disapprove, their own actions’. It is a purely practical statement of how the moral consciousness works. The moral quality of a man’s actions is attested to him, according to the Old Testament, by the heart, specially as that is aided and enlightened by the revelation of God’s law, or quickened by the application which the prophets (‘the conscience of Israel,’ as they are called) make of the facts of redemption. In the New Testament it is by a light within the man (Mat 6:33; Luk 11:34-36), or by this inner witness, termed conscience in the Epistles, by which is meant primarily a ‘consciousness which the man has of himself in his relation to God,
Conscience has to be educated in the light of the New Covenant in order for it to be a true guide for a Christian. The heart needs to be fed with the word of God.
Open source commentaries of the Bible
King James Version of the Bible