2002-01-14 - Private Conscience and the Word of God
2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.
There were three basic understandings about the Christian faith in the saints from bygone days. I intend to focus on the second, but remember that both the second and third rest and have their foundation on the first. The first was the authority, sufficiency, and supremacy of God's Holy Word. The second was the right of private conscience. The third was the doctrine of justification by faith apart from works of the law. Since justification by faith alone is so hotly debated today, if you don't agree with that doctrine, read on, because in discussing personal conscience or private judgment, you might be pleasantly encouraged by what you find here today.
"Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good," 1 Thessalonians 5:21. If we hold to the Word of God as being our authority, then we have a right to let our conscience help, aided by the Holy Spirit, us understand it. However, this is not an excuse for simply believing whatever suits our fancy. We must study the Bible and be able show from Scripture why we believe what we do. Freedom of conscience, rather than giving us license to believe as we like, gives a responsibility to own in life, deed, and speech what it is we have become convinced of. "The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves," Romans 14:22
Private judgment or private conscience means that we have the right to judge ourselves by the Word of God. Rather than giving us freedom to believe whatever we want, our freedom of conscience allows us to be bound to God's Word and not whatever we hear on the radio, read in books, or even in devotionals. Freedom of private judgment means we are free to take what we are given and confirm it according to God's Word. We are not to simply believe whatever pleases our ears. The principle is that we "prove all things," by the Word of God.
It is a Christian cop-out to say such and such is true because Billy Graham says it is. It is a sloppy student of God's Word who says, "Since Max Lucado says it is true, it must be." Insert any name you like, it is unworthy of the high calling of faith in Christ to believe something simply because so and so said it; no matter who they are. We confirm everything by God's Word and to do anything else is to set ourselves up to be led astray by a slick spoken wolf in sheep's clothing who is telling us some truths mixed with lies. May the Lord lead us in His truth as we prove all things according to His Holy Word.
To close, I thought I would reproduce the quote that got me thinking of this subject. It is from Bishop Jewel and this is something he said in 1583. He probably says it better than I have:
"The people of God are called to try the truth, to judge between good and evil, between light and darkness. God hath made them the promise of His Spirit, and hath left unto them His word. They of Berea (Acts 17:11), when they heard the preaching of Paul, searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so as he taught them, and many of them believed. So do you: give heed to instruction and yet receive not all things without proof and trial that they are not contrary to the wholesome doctrine of the word of God."
Soli Deo Gloria,