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The Seared, Defiled or Weak Conscience.

1. Primary Definition - 1 Timothy 4:2.

The Bible says there is a state in the human condition where the conscience can be seared with a hot iron. It is said that this comes about because:

* some will depart from the faith,

* giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,

* speaking lies in hypocrisy (listen to hypocritical liars )

Out of this condition, people will

* forbid to marry,

* command to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving.

It is said that those whose conscience is not seared:

* know the truth. ( And believe that ) For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

The full scripture follows.

(1 Tim 4:1-5 NKJV) "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving;for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer."

2. The Seared Conscience has been defiled.

Another way of expressing this is that the conscience is defiled, because the state of having one's conscience seared means that ungodly thoughts, words and actions will be present. Defilement can come in many other ways. Some more causes of defilement are given below in point 5. People who are defiled or whose conscience is seared will display ungodly attitudes or looking away from God and Bible as the proper authority. It also may mean they are judging the Bible rather than let the Bible judge them.

3. What is the conscience?

The "conscience" is a person's painful reaction to a past act which does not meet the standard. A person can react wrongly because of wrong information, wrong environment, and wrong habit. Yet Paul would have said that, in spite of these liabilities, a person's conscience must be obeyed. Paul, however, would not have said that a person has no other guide. If past actions have not been such as to produce painful reactions, the person is said to have a "pure conscience" (1 Tim. 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:3).

When sensitive and active in judging past acts, the conscience is said to be "good" (Acts 23:1; 1 Tim. 1:5, 19; 1 Pet. 3:16, 21; Heb. 13:18) or "void of offence toward God" (Acts 24:16).

If the conscience is not active in judging past acts, it is said to be "weak" (1 Cor. 8:7,10,12) and may be wounded (1 Cor. 8:12). When the conscience is insensitive, it is "seared" (1 Tim. 4:2). The sinful conscience is "defiled" (Titus 1:15) or "evil" (Heb. 10:22).

In 1 Corinthians 4:4, Paul used the verb from which the word for "conscience" is derived. He wrote: "For I know nothing by myself." This phrase means "my conscience does not accuse me." Paul completed the sentence by saying: "yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord." Paul, in short, taught that a pure conscience is valuable, but that Christ is the final standard by which a person is judged.

For the purposes of this discussion, the critical point is that when the conscience is insensitive to sin, it is "seared" (1 Tim. 4:2). This means that the conscience is not able to distinguish between right and wrong. In other words, the person with a seared conscience sins and do not know they sin. Thus their sinful conscience is "defiled" (Titus 1:15) or "evil" (Heb. 10:22).

4. How does a person get to the point where their conscience is seared or defiled?

4.1. By Receiving Spiritual Lies.

Spiritual error is seldom due to innocent mistakes. It is more often due to the conscious strategies of God's spiritual enemies. The teachings of demons are false doctrines taught by people in error whose views are instigated by demons. Satan and his demons do not normally confront their victims with error. Instead they work:

* through people who speak lies about scriptural truth.

* through the false teaching of deceiving spirits and demons.

As the scripture says:

* giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,

* speaking lies in hypocrisy. ( Listen to hypocritical liars )

4.2. By Speaking out of an Evil Heart

(Mat 15:18-20) "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. "These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man."

4.3. From Sexual Interference

(Gen 34:2 and 5) And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her. And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter. Now his sons were with his livestock in the field; so Jacob held his peace until they came.

4.4. From Illicit Sex and Lustful desires

(Ezek 23:17 NKJV) "Then the Babylonians came to her, into the bed of love, And they defiled her with their immorality; So she was defiled by them, and alienated herself from them.

4.5. From Perverse Sexual Relations or other Abominations to God

(Jer 32:34 NKJV) 'But they set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to defile it.

4.6. From Unforgiven Sin leading to bitterness (and defilement)

(Heb 12:15 NKJV) looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;

4.7. From Ungodly Words, Attitudes and Actions - even for believers.

(2 Pet 2:7 8 NKJV) .... Lot, .... was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds); (Jude 1:8 NKJV) Likewise also these dreamers (false teachers) defile the flesh ........ (Jude 1:18 NKJV) ..... mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts.

4.8. From a Lack of Knowledge of truth

(1 Cor 8:7 NKJV) However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

4.9. By worshipping or Acknowledging Idols.

(Ezek 23:30 NKJV) 'I will do these things to you because you have gone as a harlot after the Gentiles, because you have become defiled by their idols.

5. The consequences of having a seared conscience.

People with a seared or defiled conscience are ready to do Satan's bidding. i.e.. When their consciences are rendered beyond feeling and they increasingly lose their sense of right and wrong. Sadly, people whose consciences have been seared, never have their sin forgiven, because:

* They are unaware of their sin in the first place.

* They are not obedient to 1 John 1:9. So their sin remains unforgiven. The consequences of this unforgiven sin are:

* The Lord does not hear them ( Psalm 66:18 )

* They are not able to abide in Christ and bear fruit ( John 15:4 )

* Show they do not love Christ ( John 14:21 )

* They cannot expect to learn all things ( John 14:26 )

* They cannot expect to be guided into all truth ( John 16:13 )

* They cannot remain in Christ's love ( John 15:10 )

* Their joy cannot remain full ( John 15:11 )

* They cannot be completely set free from the law of sin and death. ( Romans 8:2)

* Christ cannot give life to their mortal bodies ( Romans 8:11 )

* They will remain carnally minded and live in death. (Romans 8:6 )

* They walk in darkness and cannot and do not practice the truth. (1 Jn 1:6 )

* They cannot have proper fellowship. ( 1 john 1:7 )

* They deceive themselves and the truth is not in them. ( 1John 1:8 )

* They hate their brother and are blind. ( 1 John 2:11 )

* They cannot love others for God does not abide in them. ( 1 John 4:12 )

Although long, this list is not exhaustive. Thus it shows the extreme state to which one falls when the seared conscience prevents the cleansing of confession. Scripture says that this is situation is likely to occur as Christ's return approaches - in the later times - the present times.

6. Another Method of Defilement - 1 Corinthians 8.

Another place defilement of the conscience is mentioned. Whereas in the 1 Timothy verses the defilement comes about because of evil influence ( people and/or demonic ) the defilement of the conscience in Corinthians 8 comes about through it being weak through a lack of knowledge. The chart below provides scripture, an explanation of each verse and the general principle that can be assumed from the But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.

 

Address  Scripture  Explanation  Principle 
1 Cor
8:1-3 
Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.

And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.

But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.

 
Love is more important than knowledge.

We should not be too sure about what we know and don't know.

If we love God, then God will know us.

 
No matter what the subject or topic, our expression of love is always more important than the knowledge we may have. 
 1 Cor
8:4-6
 Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one.

For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.

 Idols are nothing in the world, although there are many of them, as the only God that is important is the One we know.

Eating food that has been sacrificed to idols is in itself inconsequential.

Christ alone is everything to us

 If we know that idols ( and other things we may do ) cannot harm us - because of our relationship with God, then doing things in relation to these things will not harm us.
 1 Cor
8:7-8
 However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.

 If some people are not so knowledgeable so as to know that they cannot be harmed by eating the meat offered to idols, then their conscience will be defiled if they do partake. If they had seen the idol was nothing, they could have eaten the idols meat with impunity.

But to those with knowledge there is no harm done either way.

If because of lack of knowledge our conscience is then weak we can be defiled by doing something we think may be wrong. But for those with knowledge there is no harm done either way 
1 Cor
8:9-11
But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.

For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols?

And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?

We should be aware our liberty of eating meat offered to idols, can lead others into difficulty.

If a person with a weak conscience sees us partake they may think that it will not hurt them too. So the conscience of weak believer was seared.

The person with a weak conscience for whom Christ also died may perish.

When we with knowledge and a stronger conscience do things that may be harmful to others, then we must be careful that we do not lead them to try this same thing that would harm them.
1Cor
8:12-13
But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.

Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Paul calls this leading of others into doubtful things a sin against Christ.

I should never eat meat offered to idols if that action would lead my brother to stumble. To be arrogantly indifferent to the needs of weaker Christians wounds their weak conscience and has us sinning against Christ.

Wherever our actions lead other weaker people to wound their conscience then the sin is ours against Christ. So I should never do anything that would lead my brother to sin.

 

 Another way of expressing this is that the conscience is defiled, because the state of having one's conscience seared means that it is full of ungodly thoughts and attitudes or looking away from God and Bible as a proper authority. It may mean they are judging the Bible rather than let the Bible judge them.

(Mat 15:18-20) "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. "These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man."

(Jude 1:18 NKJV) how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts.

(Dan 1:8 NKJV) But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

(Gen 34:2 and 5) And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her. And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter. Now his sons were with his livestock in the field; so Jacob held his peace until they came.

(Heb 12:15 NKJV) looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;

(Jude 1:23 NKJV) but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

(Jude 1:8 NKJV) Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.

(1 Cor 8:7 NKJV) However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

(Ezek 23:17 NKJV) "Then the Babylonians came to her, into the bed of love, And they defiled her with their immorality; So she was defiled by them, and alienated herself from them.

(Ezek 23:30 NKJV) 'I will do these things to you because you have gone as a harlot after the Gentiles, because you have become defiled by their idols.

(Jer 32:34 NKJV) 'But they set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to defile it.

For Discussion

Q. In my life, by any of my actions, do I lead people to wound their weak conscience?

Q. Do some people around me have such limited knowledge, that I may inadvertently lead them to stumble?

Q. How do some depart from the faith?

Q. How does it happen that some give heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons?

Q. How do some speak lies in hypocrisy?

Q. How is a defiled or seared conscience connected with a root of bitterness?

Q. How is a defiled or seared conscience connected with unforgivness?

Ken Walker - August 1997