Scripture clearly sets limits on the conscience, but those who are desperate to excuse worldly lifestyles will often resort to exalting “liberty of conscience” to a ludicrous degree. However, conscience is not the ultimate determiner of moral truth and how we should live out our Christian lives as pilgrims in this world, rather than feeling at home in it. Though the testimony of conscience holds weight, it can never be completely free to determine what is right and wrong, which would be reverting back to the time of Judges when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
When the conscience is given final authority, the door is opened for the justification of all sorts of compromise. Because such an unbiblical pretense of “liberty” degenerates into licentiousness when one deifies the conscience and de-emphasizes the authority of Scripture. And sadly, this is becoming rampant today, even among those who were once stewards of… the faith once delivered to the saints.
Sadly, we live in a time where even those who claim to believe in the absolute sovereignty of God and who even renounce the false “freewill” doctrine of man, will now often put human conscience on par with God’s Word. As a result, conscience becomes as authoritative as the Bible when one believes they have the unlimited right to act simply as their conscience dictates. Champions of the faith have often stood against the absolute freedom of man’s will (which would make man supersede God), yet they completely capitulate when they turn around and promote the absolute freedom of the conscience!
Apostle Paul made it clear that our consciences are to be bound by the absolute verdict of God and His Word, rather than becoming the final court of appeal, for he stated, “I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Cor. 4:4). Like the fallible, limited will of man, our fallible and limited conscience is not to be exalted above the absolute, unlimited freedom and authority of God. Human conscience is fallibly relative and may be overly-sensitive and over-reactive, or it may be under-sensitive and under-reactive, because according to Scripture, it may be seared, misguided, weak or defiled (1 Tim. 4:2, 1 Cor. 8:1-13, Titus 1:15).
Today, even many so-called “faith-based” operations are using conscience-searing procedures that are often performed through sins of omission, such as failing to expose heresy and its promoters, or by leaving out the seriousness of sin and judgment, which shows that they are not working under the operation of the Holy Spirit, Who comes to reprove the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (Jn. 16:8). Such systems leave people with no reason to turn whole-heartedly to Christ. Instead, they are led to a false christ that praises self-esteem, cultivates pride and allows them to indulge in a worldly lifestyle that desensitizes them to evil and creates a false sense of peace in their conscience.
The motto of worldlings with a seared conscience is, “We are delivered to do all these abominations” (Jer. 7:10). Some even try to compare apples to oranges by misusing Romans 14 or Colossians 2:21 as an excuse to indulge in illicit sins, or to be entertained by those who do, which makes them guilty of the same sins (Rom. 1:32). Abuse of God’s grace has nothing to do with “liberty of conscience.” But when warned, they’ll often try to use the excuse that it’s only God’s job to convict of sin, for they are willfully ignorant of the fact that God uses means…biblical correction, human accountability, warnings, etc.
Apostle Paul stated:
“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Cor. 6:12).
Christians can do whatever they want, but their wants have been changed. They no longer view conformity to Christ as restrictive, but rather view it as instructive on how to follow Him and not be conformed to this world. Paul even deepens this point…
“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (1 Cor. 10:23).
Our focus is to now to be on what edifies our brothers and sisters in Christ, not on pridefully and unlovingly flaunting liberty in ways that could cause them to stumble in their faith of Christ (Rom. 14:15). Just because Christians have liberty in the sense that we are no longer in bondage to legalistic restrictions that have nothing to do with true obedience from a regenerated heart, it does NOT mean that worldly things still take a top priority in our lives.
“And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).
Christians are to be focused on redeeming the time. Paul made clear that we’ve wasted too much time already on worldly things, trying to please people and our own flesh….
“Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:2-3). Also see Gal. 5:13).
While it’s true that the testimony of conscience carries weight when it’s within the bounds of Scripture, its subjective nature prevents it from being biblically qualified as a final authority in determining right and wrong. For instance, though we are to always strive to have “a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16), there are times when we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29), which offends man.
In such cases, one will have to be very familiar with God’s objective Word, in order to know the difference and to overcome the devils attempts to manipulate the Christian with false guilt for standing for the cause of Christ, which will always offend those who are conformed to the world and its false religious systems.
Another example, is where one’s conscience may be excessively exposed to false guilt trips from pulpits that repetitively blow one single Bible verse completely out of proportion, such as Hebrews 10:25, by constantly harping on the need for Christians to assemble in fellowship, while leaving out the fact that Scripture contains literally hundreds of verses warning about compromising with evil, false doctrines, teachers and missionaries that slip in, rip-off and corrupt many churches. If such pretenders really believed what they harped on, they would not restrict Christian fellowship to such a treasonous turf.
There are times when one must obey a higher command of God, and only by being immersed in Scripture, rather than the mere dictates of conscience, can one know when those times are, due to the weaknesses and limitations of mere conscience that can be blinded by social and cultural conformity.
In these last days, it is especially important for Christians to diligently study God’s Word in order to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:18), so that one will not be subverted by a false “church life.” It’s very easy to be taken captive by a corrupt system if one continues to try to work from within that system, which is why it is so crucial to obey God’s higher command to come out and be separate.
“And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:16-18, emphasis mine).
As a result, one will grow more and more in discernment, whereas, if one stays in compromised churches they will not be able to see the big picture in order to make the right decisions, due to being too close to the problem within the context of “church.” Worse yet, an unbiblical concept of “love” will likely be held in contention with spiritual knowledge and discernment when authoritarian, hierarchal systems try to appeal for tolerance of evil.
Saving knowledge of the true Lord and Savior is the foundation of true, spiritual and biblical love. According to Scripture, all of these must precede true, biblical love: saving grace, faith, knowledge of God, peace in Jesus, diligence, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, Christian kindness….. and THEN Christian love (2 Pet. 1:1-7). The fruits of the Spirit begin with love…love unto the glory and praise of God through Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:11, Gal. 5:22-23), that then leads to a true, biblical love and knowledge that edifies others. And this true love and saving knowledge of God does not come by mans wisdom.
“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (Jas. 3:13-18, emphasis mine).
So it’s also important to beware of any who emphasize the love of God, more than His holiness. It is crucial to turn from those who say or imply that love is more important than this knowledge, for it would be an unbiblical concept of love that would leave out the fact that true Christian love is predicated upon a solid foundation of a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the only way one can escape the sinful pollutions of the world.
And that initial God-given knowledge grows and deepens over time. However, it is still the same spiritual knowledge, not just a worldly, Arminian take on spiritual things, because saving knowledge concerns the heart, NOT mere speculative knowledge that involves only the intellect, which is all Arminianism really is. True, spiritual knowledge grasps the truth of Scripture, while godly wisdom applies it.
“And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment [discernment]; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere [not hypocritical] and without offence till the day of Christ. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9-11, emphasis and brackets mine).
Furthermore, if one ever hears from a pulpit, that those who stand for the particular aspects of what Jesus accomplished on the cross for His people are being “perfect knowledge advocates”….then RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN TO THE DOOR!! Because… the particulars of what Jesus accomplished at the cross are not to EVER be considered “secondary issues” that can be compromised on!!
Sadly, the slander of true Calvinists being called “perfect knowledge advocates” is also becoming an all too common excuse for counterfeit Calvinists to capitulate when it comes to calling Arminians to repentance. If one ever hears from a pulpit about how everyone is at “a different level of knowledge” when it comes to the gospel, or how love is more important than knowledge anyway, or how we must be patient with those who don’t have “as much knowledge as we do”…run for the Bible and a prayer closet as quick as you can, because that kind of mind-set would be the height of spiritual pride! Besides, true love rejoices in the knowledge of the truth (1 Cor. 13:6).
True, historic Calvinists know better…that it’s not about “perfect knowledge”….it’s about the gospel!! UGH!! Arminianism is not simply a lack of “perfect knowledge,” WHICH NONE OF US HAVE!! It’s a lack of repentance and belief in the true gospel!! Jesus saves because He is perfect…NOT because our faith, repentance or knowledge of His truth is perfect! Arminians believe in an incomplete and imperfect savior that can’t save anyone! It is a different faith, a different spirit and a different gospel!!
True Christians do grow in grace and faith, but it is still the SAME GRACE AND FAITH!! Whereas, Arminianism represents a DIFFERENT KIND of grace and faith, the kind that cannot save anyone! There are differences in DEGREE when it comes to true Christian grace and faith, but there are NOT differences in KIND. God’s free gifts of saving grace and faith are of His divine power that actually accomplishes His purposes, rather than providing mere common aids for one to save themselves!!
It IS CRUCIAL TO REMEMBER the difference… there is only ONE FAITH that saves!! And it is God’s free gift of faith in the true Christ of Scripture and what He ACTUALLY ACCOMPLISHED at the cross.
To compromise on this is treason against Christ!
Copyright ©2020 by Lee Anne Ferguson.
Calvinist Charles Spurgeon once asked, “Do you not know that a person who is silent when a wrong thing is said or done may become a participator in the sin?” WWi148
“It is well to understand that we are to be “first pure, then peaceable.” Our
peaceableness is never to be a compact with sin, or toleration of evil.” ME155
“I fear that, sometimes, in our endeavours to be sweet in disposition, we have not been strong in principle. “Charity” is a word that is greatly cried up nowadays; but, often, it means that, in trying to be courteous, we have also been traitorous.” 2826.170
“It is a wonderfully forgiving world if you will but quit your protest against it.” 1794.437
“Do not say of such-and-such an error, “Oh, it is a mere matter of opinion.” If it be a
matter of opinion to-day, it will be a matter of practice to-morrow. No man has an
error of judgment, without sooner or later having an error in practice.” 434.94
“To pursue union at the expense of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus.” DG34