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The Importance of Conscience – Uses of the Law: The Law Defines Sin (3)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011, 0:01
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The Importance of Conscience

Uses of the Law: The Law Defines Sin (3)

Hebrews 9:14

…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

The Scriptures teach that the soul, or the spirit, of a human being is comprised of three interacting, overlapping, and wholly integrated components: heart (affections), mind (thoughts), and conscience (values, priorities).

The soul is thus a kind of reflection of the Trinity. Each of its components is distinct, yet each is fully the soul. Each has a different function, but each is as important as the other and, in many ways, is virtually indistinguishable from the other.

Paul says, in Romans 2:15, that one of the functions of the conscience is to steer people in moral matters. It serves either to accuse them of doing wrong or to excuse (vindicate) them as doing good. The conscience does this as a witness to the work of the Law of God, which is written on the heart of every person. Thus, the more we appeal to the Law for questions of morality and for defining sin, the more we can expect to resonate with the hearts of all people.

Now the conscience only functions as it should when it has been purified through the redemption that is ours through Jesus Christ. He gives us a new heart—a new soul—and, thus, sets the conscience on an upright course, so that it may begin to acquire the values and priorities necessary to aid the work of the heart and mind in determining how we must live.

In the unsaved person the conscience has become encrusted with evil works. Like barnacles growing on the hull of a ship, those works of lawlessness “slow down” the soul’s progress, creating a drag on the conscience and its ability to know right from wrong. As believers, we add to this unhappy situation whenever, in the face of a moral issue, we fail to appeal to the Law as a standard for defining sin.

Nevertheless, God can work on the conscience, even of the unsaved, so that they “feign obedience” to Him in spite of their not being redeemed (Ps. 66:3; 81:15 NASB).

Thus, we may have confidence that that God can purify our own consciences, so that we may be able to discern right from wrong, and He can appeal to the consciences, even of the lost, to see in His Law a standard for defining sin.

For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the life of faith, get The Ground for Christian Ethics by going to and click on our Bookstore, then Church Issues.

In the Gates is a devotional series on the Law of God by Rev. T.M. Moore, editor of the Worldview Church. He serves as dean of the Centurions Program of the Wilberforce Forum and principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He is the author or editor of twenty books, and has contributed chapters to four others. His essays, reviews, articles, papers, and poetry have appeared in dozens of national and international journals, and on a wide range of websites. His most recent books are The Ailbe Psalter and The Ground for Christian Ethics (Waxed Tablet).

Scripture quotations in this article are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, (c) copyright 2001, 2007 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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