The Work of Our Conscience
When we did something wrong, we should feel the wrong of what we had done through our conscience. But how does our conscience work?
Conscience judges our actions whether they are in agreement with our internalised moral standards (1 Sam 24:5; 2 Sam. 24:10). Our conscience executes that judgment within a person's soul as guilt, shame and estrangement from God (Psa. 32:4; Prov. 20:27). With internalised standards, conscience serves as a check on our behaviour ... urging us to do that which we recognise to be right and restraining us from doing that which we recognise to be wrong.
Conscience is not an infallible guide to behaviour because
it works according to the standards we have adopted.
However, conscience is not an infallible guide to behaviour because it works according to the standards we have adopted. Therefore, it is important that the rules internalised are biblical and not legalistic or sub-biblical.
In 1 Cor. 8:7, some had a weak conscience due to ignorance and failed to understand that everything is clean ... thus feeling guilty when they should not. Nevertheless, that weak conscience should not be violated (1 Cor. 8:10-13) because to act contrary to one's own conscience is sin (Rom. 14:23).
At the other end, are those with a seared conscience that has lost its sensitivity through repeated disregard of its promptings and through persistent embrace of evil. In the context of 1 Tim. 4:2-3, the evil is spiritual pride based on false asceticism.
A guilty conscience is relieved only by confession of sin and the acceptance of God's forgiveness (1 John 1:9). It is important that we do not wallow in guilt and self-depreciation but to trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross.