Conscience Toward God

The Apostles Peter and Paul use the phrase “conscience toward God”, or “before God” several times in the Scriptures. Paul speaks this way when testifying before the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:1) and before Felix (Acts 24:16), and Peter does so twice in his first epistle (I Peter 2:19 and 3:21) as he encourages Jewish believers who were suffering the attacks and roars of those around them motivated by their adversary, the Devil. So what does “conscience” mean in these contexts?

We often hear that Adam gained a conscience when he sinned in the Garden of Eden and came to know good and evil, and this is certainly true in part. The Pharisees who brought the woman taken in adultery to the Lord Jesus in John 8 were convicted by their own conscience and went out from His presence, because they knew good and evil, and that knowledge of their own sinfulness condemned them, in spite of their self-righteous legalism.

However, conscience is more than simply that knowledge. It is also an innate sense of responsibility toward one’s Creator, for man was created a moral agent of whom obedience is expected implicitly. For the unbeliever this is in itself a condemnation, for he knows he is responsible to obey God, but has no desire or motivation to do so. He has, therefore, an “evil conscience” (Hebrews 10:22) which can only be cleansed by the blood of Christ. A true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ now has his conscience purged (Hebrews 9:14), and has “no more conscience of sins” (ch. 10:2), meaning that he lives in the full enjoyment that every claim of a thrice-holy God against himself for his disobedience has been met by the perfect sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. He has fully met our responsibility before God, and our conscience is purged (purified) once for all, bringing us into the supremely blessed position of worshipers.

But we began with the phrases in Acts and Peter, which refer more properly to the believer’s sense of his responsibility to his God on a practical level, and speak of a life of faith and sensitivity to the claims of God upon himself. We will continue with this line of truth in the next installment.

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