Today’s selected reading continues in the first epistle of the apostle Paul in the New Testament which was written unto the saints which were at Corinth. More specifically, the passage is found in verses six through thirteen of the eighth chapter. With these verses the apostle continues writing unto the Corinthian congregation concerning those thugs which were sacrificed unto idols. Within this chapter the apostle Paul speaks very heavily in terms of the conscience of the brethren, and it is worth noting that while every does indeed have a conscience—not every is convicted by the same things. It is worth noting and mentioning within this passage of Scripture the apostle Paul recognizes the conscience that is present within men and how there is a vast difference between the consciences of the brethren, for there are some consciences which are weak, while there are others whose consciences are strong. In all reality, I am convinced there is only one thing that should shape the conscience of men and women within the body of Christ, and that is the word of God. I am going to be very bold right now and declare that no man should ever be responsible for shaping our conscience or how we are convicted or even what we are convicted by. There are a number of men and women among us today who allow the words and wisdom of men to determine the state of their conscience and what they are in fact convicted by. There are men and women among us who look to outside sources for what they should believe in and even what they should be convicted by rather than the word of God.
Perhaps one of the greatest questions I am finding myself asking right now at this juncture is how much time do you spend with the word of God each day? How much time do you actually invest in reading and studying the word of God and allowing it to shape your conscience? How much time do you spend before the word of God and allowing it to guide your conscience within and among the world in which you live? There has always been and there really is only one way to have a conscience that operates the way it should and the way it was intended to, and that is when it is allowed to be governed by the divine word of God. When writing and speaking unto Timothy the apostle Paul wrote how the word of God is profitable for reproof, for rebuke, for correction, and how it should be treated as such. This is what was so dangerous about the temptation to partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for the serpent beguiled Eve to seek a wisdom that came outside of God Himself and the word He had spoken unto Adam. Ever since the garden of Eden we have been seeking to determine and decide between what is good and evil, and we do so according to our own wisdom. I am convinced that ever since the garden men and women have looked within and looked to themselves to be the ultimate source of knowing and understanding what is good and evil.
I cannot help but wonder how many men and women among us to this day continue to partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of course I know that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is no longer present within the earth, however, each time we allow ourselves to be a law unto ourselves we partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There are countless men and women who continually and repeatedly partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil when they seek to be the judge or what is good and what is evil. I am convinced that if we are left to our own devices we may very well find ourselves calling that which is evil good and that which is good evil. If we are not careful we might find ourselves living in the very reality which the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he described men and women who called light darkness and darkness light. There is an incredibly dangerous game we play with the living God when we allow ourselves to be a law unto ourselves and determine what is good and what is evil in our own eyes. It’s worth noting how the serpent beguiled Eve by declaring unto her that in the day she ate of the fruit she would not surely die, but rather her eyes would be opened and she would be like God. Even after Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil we read how the eyes of both were opened, and they immediately recognized their nakedness and were ashamed. Pay close attention to this twin reality—the reality of their eyes being opened, and their potentially being like God knowing good and evil. I am convinced that this twin concept of having our eyes opened and the idea of being like God knowing good and evil must be carefully considered and understood as it pertains to matters of the conscience.
It’s worth noting and considering the exact words which the serpent spoke unto Eve as he attempted to tempt and beguile her before the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Consider if you will the exact words the serpent spoke unto Eve there in the garden concerning the day she partook of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5) YOUR EYES SHALL BE OPENED! YE SHALL BE AS GODS! KNOWING GOOD AND EVIL! There were essentially three distinct realities which the serpent presented unto Eve there in the garden, and it is these three realities which the serpent has attempted to beguile and tempt us with ever since then. Ever since the garden the serpent has been deceiving and tempting men and women into believing themselves to be as gods knowing good and evil. For centuries upon centuries we have been treating ourselves as gods—some have even treated themselves as God Himself—determining and judging that which is good and that which is evil in their own eyes. It’s worth noting the serpent’s deception of Eve concerning their eyes being opened for it is that concept of open eyes that has plagued us ever since. The danger that surrounds and lies behind our eyes being opened is that we continually proceed to determine what is good and evil based on what we see and perceive with our own eyes. The danger with our eyes being opened is that we either do what is evil in our own eyes, or we do what is good in our own eyes.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the prophet Isaiah spoke, which are recorded for us in the fifth chapter of the book which bears his name. If you begin reading from the twentieth verse of the chapter you will find the following words: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Wow unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:20-21). These words written and spoken by the prophet Isaiah are actually quite intriguing when you take the time to consider them, for the prophet speaks of men being a judge unto themselves concerning the contrast between good and evil, the contrast between light and darkness, and the contrast between bitter and sweet. There is an inherent danger within each and every one of us to define that which is good and that which is evil, and to do so based on our own interpretation of what is good and evil, what is right and wrong, and what is light and darkness. Ever since the garden we have been faced with the temptation to live as gods among men. Pause for a moment and consider that reality—the reality of actually thinking we can live as gods among men. What’s more is not merely seeking to live as gods among men, but attempting to be like God—not only knowing good and evil, but also defining that which is good and evil. I am convinced it was one of the serpents greatest strategies to bring us to the place where we live as gods among men—that place where we believe ourselves to be able to define what is good and what is evil in our generation. When we speak of the temptation of Eve within the garden of Eden we must recognize and understand that it was tailor made to bring them into a place where they themselves—and not God—determined that which was good and evil.
One of the most intriguing realities surrounding this concept of conscience, as well as the temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden is that it is not only a matter of knowing what is good and evil, but also determining and defining that which is good and evil. I am convinced that many of us don’t merely seek to know what is good and what is evil, but we also seek to define what is good and what is evil. The problem that surrounds this within our lives is that more often than not the Bible is not the ultimate and final authority on what is good and evil within our hearts and lives. There are a number of men and women who attempt to define that which is good and that which is evil outside of and apart from the sacred Scripture. We are a danger to ourselves when we seek to define that which is good and evil based on our own imagination and based on our own thoughts—a reality I am convinced the serpent has sought to exploit ever since the garden. I am under the belief that if the serpent was successful in causing men to come to the knowledge of good and evil, he could then manipulate the concept and reality of good versus and evil and seduce men and women into defining their own sense of good and evil. It is absolutely and incredibly dangerous when we not only seek to understand good and evil, but also when we from that place of understanding seek to define what is actually good and evil. One needs only look at and examine this nation and country in order to see what defining good and evil, as well as defining what is right and wrong looks like. The problem with seeking to define good and wrong from that place of understanding is that we seek to redefine both based on our own imaginations and ideas. There is a particular passage that is found within the Old Testament book of Judges which I am convinced presents us with a tremendous picture of not only doing that which is evil in the sight of the Lord, but also doing what is right within our own eyes. Consider if you will the words which are found within the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Judges beginning with the tenth verse:
“And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger. And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtoreth. And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed. Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the Lord; but they did not so. And when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the Lord because of their groaning by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way. And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and He said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not heartened unto my voice; I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: that through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. Therefore the Lord left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered He them into the hand of Joshua” (Judges 2:10-23).
There is a particular verse that is found within the fourteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Proverbs which I am convinced perfectly describes and applies to this concept—not only of understanding what is good and evil, but also defining that which is good and evil. If you direct your attention to the twelfth verse of this particular chapter you will be confronted with the following words written by Solomon—“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12). This same reality is written and expressed in the sixteenth chapter of the same chapter, and is found in the twenty-fifth verse—“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25). When considering these two verses written for our consideration and understanding within the book of Proverbs I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus spoke which are recorded for us in the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. If you turn and direct your attention to the thirteenth and fourteenth verses of the seventh chapter of Matthew’s gospel you will find the following words spoken by Jesus—“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and man y there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). The problem with seeking to be our own “God” when it comes to understanding good and evil, right and wrong, light and darkness is that there is a way which might very well seem right unto us, and yet the end of that road—the end of that path leads to death and destruction. There is a tremendous danger when we allow ourselves to act independent of the word of God and to define our own concept of right and wrong, and when we seek to define and perhaps even transform our own morality.
I am reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first epistle which he wrote unto his spiritual son Timothy beginning with the tenth verse—“But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longersuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all gods works” (1 Timothy 3:10-17). I am also reminded of the words which the author of the epistle unto the Hebrews wrote which are recorded for us in the fourth chapter of the epistle. Consider if you will the words which the author wrote in the twelfth and thirteenth verse of this particular chapter—“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:12-13). Within these two passages we not only learn that the word of God—Scripture—is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness, but we also learn that the word of God pierces to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Based on these two verses alone we are quickly confronted with the reality that we cannot, we dare not, we should not, we must not attempt to define good and evil apart from and outside that which is contained within the word of God.
When we seek to speak of conscience, we know and understand that that which stands at the forefront of conscience is morality and the concept of good and evil. Conscience is essentially that part of us which is most in tune with the concepts of good and evil, as well as right and wrong. There are a number of men and women whose consciences are in a state of disarray because their concept of good and evil is in such a mess. There are men and women whose consciences have become as the apostle Paul wrote—seared with a hot iron—because they no longer know and understand that which is good and that which is evil. There are men and women who can no longer trust their consciences because they have from a place of understanding good and evil sought to define and redefine that which is good and evil. There are men and women among us who cannot trust their conscience because their consciences have not been shaped and governed by the authority of the word of God. Such men and women have redefined their own morality and are living their life outside of, apart from and separate from the truths which are set forth in the word of God. The more I consider the words of the apostle Paul written unto the saints which were at Corinth, the more I am convinced that one of the greatest offenses and affronts to the consciences of those around us is when we allow ourselves to not only define what is good and evil, but also seek to redefine that which is good and evil. What’s more, is that it is even worse when this is found among those who are in trusted places and positions of leadership among us, and should be instructing us in righteousness. You will notice the apostle Paul wrote of Scripture as being profitable unto us for instruction in righteousness, for it is the word of God alone that should instruct us in all manners of righteousness within and for our lives. It’s worth noting that within this particular passage in the eighth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian congregation we find the apostle speaking of knowledge, and how knowledge does indeed and does in fact puff up.
As you read the eighth chapter of the first epistle of the apostle Paul written unto the saints which were at Corinth you will discover the apostle Paul speaking of there being one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we be Him. What makes this so interesting is that the apostle Paul goes on to write how there is not in every man this knowledge, for some with conscience of the idol eat meat as a thing offered unto an idol. The apostle Paul goes on to write how their consciences being weak are defiled based on this very reality. I continue to be confronted with the tremendous concept of that which has been permitted to govern and shape the conscience within us. I have already asked the question regarding how invested we are in the reading and studying of the word of God, and it is absolutely imperative we openly and honestly acknowledge this fact, for our consciences rely and depend on it. In all reality, I would dare say that if aren’t governed by the word of God, we dare not, we cannot, we should not, we must not even think of trusting our conscience. What’s more, is that I am convinced that there are men and women who seem to believe the lie and the false illusion that they can trust their conscience over and above the word of God. There are men and women who treat their conscience as if it is the ultimate and final authority for what is right and wrong, and yet a conscience that is not governed by the authority of the word of God can indeed and can in fact lead us astray. Oh, how many men and women among us today are being led astray by their conscience because their consciences have not been and are not being governed by the divine word of God. In all reality, I would dare say that our conscience might very well be described as a vessel that needs to be and can be filled up—not with our own imaginations and ideas of righteousness and what is right and wrong, but with the divine word of God. A conscience that is not governed by the divine word of God is a conscience that cannot be trusted, and that individual who allows themselves to be led by that conscience can and will indeed be led astray.
It’s actually worth noting that when we read the words written by the apostle Paul in this particular passage of Scripture that he goes on to speak of men and women being emboldened because of that which they watch and witness us doing and partaking of. Consider if you will that which is recorded beginning with the ninth verse of this chapter—“But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; and through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make thy brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Corinthians 8:9-13). The words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation speak not only of weakened consciences being offended, but also by men and women becoming emboldened by observing that which others do and how they act. Perhaps the questions that I must ask—not only of myself, but also of you—is not only whether or not we are offending the consciences of others, but also if our words and our actions are causing others to stumble. Are we even cognizant and mindful of our actions, our behaviors, our words, and whether or not such are acting as a stumbling block in the lives of others. How much are we truly aware of how the conducting our lives directly influences and impacts others—whether positively or negatively?
I am completely and utterly gripped with the words found within the Old Testament book of Genesis, for I can’t help but wonder how many of us are a conscience unto ourselves rather than the word of God. I believe that when Adam and Eve sinned against the Lord by disobeying the commandment given unto Adam a knowledge of good and evil entered into us which has allowed us to be a law unto ourselves. I would dare say that there is nothing more dangerous than that man or that woman who is a law unto themselves and who cannot be brought under the authority and truth of the divine word of God. What has been so dangerous since the garden of Eden is not necessarily possessing the knowledge of good and evil, but what we actually choose to do with it. What’s more, is that with the possession of the knowledge of good and evil it is now possible to define morality—right versus wrong, good versus evil—according to what our own conscience dictates. I am convinced that this is one of the greatest reasons why the giving of the law unto Moses atop Sinai is so incredibly important for it provided the law according to that which was defined by the Lord alone rather than men. It is necessary that we recognize and understand that even our conscience can lead us astray when it doesn’t have at the very center of it the divine council and divine authority of the word of God. Think about it—how many times have you attempted to be a law unto yourself and have attempted to define that which is right and wrong based on your own conscience? I would dare say that one of the single greatest needs we have within our lives is to surrender our conscience unto the Lord and to the divine inspiration and authority of His holy word. There is a tremendous need for our consciences to be utterly and completely transformed by the power and authority of the word of God, for there is no other way to trust what our conscience reveals as right and wrong apart from it.
Are you willing to surrender your conscience to the divine authority and inspiration of the word of God? Are you willing to reverse what was done in the garden of Eden when men sought to become as gods knowing good and evil? Are you willing to relinquish all authority, all dominion, all control over your conscience, and to no longer be a law unto yourself? Knowledge of good and evil can be a blessing within one’s life but if and only when that individual allows the Spirit of the sovereign God to have full authority and influence over it. I am convinced that there are a number of men and women who have to be utterly and completely exhausted from seeking to be a law unto themselves—much like the children of Israel had to be exhausted from trying to obey all six hundred plus commandments which were given atop the mountain of God in the wilderness. The problem with allowing ourselves to be the judge of what is right and wrong and what is good and evil is that we always have to monitor it and correctly judge which is which. There is a great need to surrender ourselves to the divine authority and inspiration of the word of God, and to allow the word and the Spirit of God to dictate and reveal what is right and wrong. We play a very dangerous game with God when we attempt to separate conscience from the word of God, for more often than not conscience wins out each and every time. We potentially do more damage than good when we rely on our conscience to instruct us rather than the word and commandment of God, which is why the temptation in the garden was so incredibly deadly and lethal. Becoming as gods among men is a dangerous game for we begin to operate in the realm of conscience rather than under the influence of the word of God.