Scripture Sense Of The Term
“My conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost.”‑Paul.
The etymology of conscience illustrates the Scripture sense in which conscience is used.
The Greek is, “Suneida seos,” the knowledge of two or more things together‑a knowledge with one’s self‑also a joint knowledge. The Latin is, Con, with, and scio, to know. Literally, to know with another or joint knowledge; or knowing together; or, knowledge in common with another. So it is Paul speaks of his conscience bearing him witness in the Holy Ghost. That is, his sanctified conscience makes a decision in the fear of God, a decision which is rational, reasonable, and justifiable; and, ordinarily, the decision of a sanctified mind, when empty of self, and God’s glory alone is eyed, in said decision, may generally be relied upon as a safe expression of the “voice of God”; or, it is practically the same as God himself would wish; or, it is the same as God’s judgment would be if audibly spoken on a given matter. Though this procedure would ordinarily be safe for holy and conscientious people, Paul does not satisfy himself with this, allowable and right though it may be, for sanctified minds, which are thoroughly conversant with the word of God.
Paul says, I do not act on the decisions of my conscience alone. Once I claimed to live in all “good conscience,” according to my light, but my conscience led me astray (as in the case of consenting to Stephen’s death and persecuting the church) and now even though it is illuminated, and purified, and reasonably safe to follow, still, I do not trust its decisions alone. I must have confirmation from heaven on all of the decisions of my conscience. So he says, “My conscience bears me witness in the Holy Ghost.” That is, not only am I conscientious and sincere in my decisions, but as it were, on the top of them, I have the direct witness of the Holy Ghost, also assuring me that the decisions I make by conscience are right and well pleasing to God. I no longer decide anything by conscience alone, but by conscience and the Holy Ghost. Here, clearly, is seen the joint knowledge (or knowing together, or with another) function of conscience. By conscience Paul knew, according to his best light, in the fear of God, he was moving in the right direction. And by conscience also realizing the approving witness of the Holy Ghost he also knew he was right.
This two‑fold witness would seem to make the decisions of conscience infallible, but to this “knowing together” meaning of the term there must be another element admitted in the decisions of conscience, to render it perfectly safe, and infallible as a guide. Paul said herein
(Acts 24:16) he worked himself up to have always a conscience void of offense, toward God and man. The ”herein” had reference to the agreement of his conscience with all things written in the law of God.
The restrictions on conscience multiply. It is never sufficient in itself nor safe to follow alone Only when it has the Pauline accompaniments which briefly are: Conscience is an infallible guide where the following things concur in its decisions. The testimony of one’s own sincere, purified conscience:
“My conscience bearing me witness.”
The testimony of the, Holy Ghost confirming the decisions of his conscience:
“My conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost.”
I The agreement of these to all things written in the word of God. “I exercise myself to have a conscience void of offense toward God,” according to the law of God. He would not act on the decision of conscience unless the Holy Spirit witnessed to the correctness of said decision. Nor would he trust even this. He is not satisfied until he has a “thus saith the Lord” to further confirm and strengthen the rightness of his decisions.
Manifestly the Scripture sense of a “conscience void of offense” embraces the following points:
First-‑Conscience is right to our own best judgment.
Second-‑Conscience right toward men, coinciding and agreeing with the examples of holy men and giving no reasonable offense in its liberties to any man.
Third-‑Conscience having the witness of the Holy Spirit to the rightness of its decisions.
Fourth-‑Conscience agreeing with the word of God.
Any one who violates these necessary safeguards to the decisions of conscience is insincere in his protestations of being all right because his conscience does no condemn him and he is but using conscience as a dodge to justify himself in wrong doing.
“The fact of the existence of conscience in man is, and has been, admitted from earliest ages. Even Infidels and Atheists are compelled not only to admit its existence but to acknowledge its power.”