The Soul’s Warning System – Our Conscience: Romans 2:14-15

The Soul’s Warning System – Our Conscience: Romans 2:14-15

Large commercial aircraft have what is known as “A ground proximity warning system” (GPWS) that warns the pilot the plane is getting near the ground or mountains. In the late 1980’s a Colombian based airline (Avianca) was flying through the night in Spain. Suddenly a computerized voice said “pull up, pull up.” The pilot apparently ignored the warning. So a second time the voice said“pull up.”Again the pilot ignored the warning and soon after the plane crashed into the hillside killing the pilot, co-pilot, all the crew and all the passengers. The GPWS had warned of danger.

God has given us a soul warning faculty that the Scriptures call the conscience. This word is found at least twenty-nine times in the New Testament. Understanding the conscience is vital to living a healthy Christian life. To constantly ignore or violate the conscience can lead to a life of guilt and even disobedience.

For when Gentiles who do not havetheLawdoinstinctivelythe thingsoftheLaw,these,nothaving the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or defending them.” (Romans 2:14-15)

Romans 2:14-15 tells us three important facts. Paul is stating a divine principle that God will use in the day when He will judge the secrets of men. He states that those (Jews) who are under the Mosaic Law will be judged by the Law and Gentiles who were not under the law will be judged without the Law. (v. 12) He writes three things regarding the Gentiles.

(1) They show the work of the Law written in their hearts. By this he means that the moral law of God is written on the heart. The Jewish people had the written law which included the God’s moral law. But the Gentiles have the moral law written on their hearts. That is, they have an innate sense of right or wrong. All men have this regardless of language or culture.

(2) Man has a conscience. This has been described as a witness within man that tells him he ought to do what he believes to be right and not to do what he believes to be wrong. The conscience monitors our behavior in respect to the standards we have accepted for ourselves.

(3) Man’s thoughts either accuse the person or defends his actions. If a man violates his conscience in his mind he will feel condemned and if he obeys his conscience he will feel exonerated.

The above definition of conscience is important because it shows that the conscience functions according to the standards we have accepted for ourselves. One’s standards can be wrong or misguided. If the standard is wrong the conscience will still function on that basis. So it is not infallible. The advice to follow your conscience is not necessarily good. It is conditioned by culture i.e. customs, habits and prejudice.

So where do our standards come from? They can come from false religions. In countries where a certain religion is accepted by the majority of the people the tenets of that religion becomes the standard for the people.

Other standards come from one’s home, from cults, from legalistic churches, etc. Whatever standard a person has accepted the conscience will function on that standard.

When India was still under British rule there was a practice of burning the widows of their dead husband on a “pyre.” A pyre was a large mound of wood on which a dead husband was burned. This was outlawed many years ago. One day a national came to a British administrator and said, “Our conscience tells us we can burn our living widows on the pyre with their dead husbands.” The administrator responded saying “And, our conscience tells us that we can hang you if you do.”

Both men had different standards and their conscience functioned on both!

When a Japanese man was once asked why he went year after year with an offering to the spirits of departed ancestor he replied, “If I didn’t my conscience would bother me!”

So the big question is “what is the standard for the believer?” It is the written Word of God. God has revealed to us His will for our lives. When we disobey clear commands our conscience and mind will “accuse” us. Romans 13:1-4 outlines our responsibility toward the government. We are to be in “subjection” to this institution established by God Himself. In verse 5 Paul says, “Therefore it is necessary to be subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’s sake.”If we disobey the conscience monitors our actions and in our thoughts we will be condemned.

When Martin Luther stood before church leaders at the Diet of Worms in 1521 he was being pressured to recant his views. He bravely declared,

Unless I shall be convinced by the testimonies of the Scriptures or pure reason… I neither can nor will make any retraction since it is neither safe nor honorable to act against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.


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