The conscience is a monitor. Its function is very important for us to understand.
It is the conscience that determines whether moral actions and reactions that we make, or are considering to make, are right or wrong, based on our personal standard of ethics.
From the basics of these decisions which the conscience makes, the conscience then provides us with a sense of duty to do that which is right and to refrain from doing that which it has determined as wrong. The conscience also provides us with a sense of approval or remorse, depending on whether the course judged as right was followed or not.
R.R. Byrum in his Christian Theology (p300-305) calls these three functions of the conscience discrimination, impulsive, and retribution.
Discrimination — this function of the conscience determines whether certain moral actions and reactions are right or wrong based on the person’s personal standard of ethics.
Impulsive — this function of the conscience feels a sense of duty to do what it has determined as right and to refrain from that which it has determined as wrong.
Retribution — this function of the conscience feels a sense of approval or remorse depending on whether the course judged by as right was followed or not.
It is very important that the conscience be educated by the Word of God so that a persons personal standard of ethics matches what the Word of God teaches.
Most people today are taught that after conversion it is not possible to keep the Word of God. They are taught that we are sinners (present tense) saved by grace and that it is not possible to live a life of obedience, but that willful transgressions of the known law of God are part of the Christian life as long as we are in this sinful body.
This has a negative effect on a person’s personal standard of ethics where they are taught that the Word of God teaches we are all sinners and will continue to sin. Romans chapter 7 is taught as the normal Christian life, where Paul explained his conduct under the law of Moses before he was converted.
Sin-you-must teachers claim that this is the best we can do as Christians. They teach that the Christian is “carnal, sold under sin” (Rom 7:14), that “the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom 7:19), that we are in “captivity to the law of sin” (Rom 7:23), and our testimony is that we are a “wretched man” (Rom 7:24).
They teach that Paul’s testimony as a Christian was that he was a “sinner, of whom I am chief” (1Tim 1:15). In their zeal to approve sin, they forget to look at the context and see that Paul was referring to before he was converted when he “was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious” (1Tim 1:13).
They even go as far as to claim that if a Christian is to testify that we “have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1Joh 1:8), while John clearly maintained that it was those that “saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (Joh 2:4). It is those who did not have fellowship with the Father and Son (1Joh 1:3) that John was describing as deceived if they said without Christ they “have no sin”.
The denial of the power of God and the possibility to be kept from sinning affects what the conscience will and will not allow. If a person’s personal level of ethics is lowered to the place where sin is allowed, this will affect the impulsive and retribution functions of the consciences.
Those that give into this unbiblical teaching and fall into the rut of sinning and repenting will sear they conscience (1Tim 4:2), and if not recovered from their error will completely defile their conscience (Tit 1:15) to the point where their sinning no longer bothers them.
Paul was no sinner (present tense) saved by grace. He reminded the Thessalonians that they were “witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblamably we behaved ourselves among you that believe” (1The 2:20). He testified that the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2). It told the Corinthians that he had “in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God… By pureness” (2Cor 6:4, 6).
Paul also had the wonderful testimony was that he had “always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men” (Act 24:16), and that he had a “pure conscience” (2Tim 1:13).
It is not possible to have a “pure conscience” when you are sinning and repenting. To those that would dare to claim that we can keep a pure conscience if we repent of our sins right away, Paul tells us that we “have always a conscience void of offense” (Act 24:16).
Let us reject all pleas for sinning. Do not be fooled; the reason people plead for sin is because that is their experience, and they know nothing better. Sinning will sear your conscience, and if you persist in your sinning by refusing the power in the blood of Christ (1Cor 10:13), your conscience will become defiled and you will be given over to a “strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2The 2:11, 12).