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Nasher
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Watford, UK

 The Conscience and the Heart

Romans 2:14-15
For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) (KJV)

Questions:

1. Which nature is Paul talking about here?
2. Has the law written in their hearts been defiled by Sin?
3. How does this passage compare with:

Jeremiah 17:9
Crooked [is] the heart above all things, And it [is] incurable -- who doth know it? (YLT)


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Mark Nash

 2004/9/23 2:57Profile
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 Re: The Conscience and the Heart

i'll have a stab,
Paul is talking about even the gentiles have within them the sense of right and wrong even without OT law.God's law being made alive to them in ignorance.

Quote:
1. Which nature is Paul talking about here?

basic human nature
Quote:
. Has the law written in their hearts been defiled by Sin?

Yes,from adam.
Quote:
3. How does this passage compare with:the Jer; verse,17 v 9,

I think it compliments the above and confirms it :-)
hope this starts the ball rolloing! I think we can also look at Rom 1;18-20
then onwards to conviction of sin atc


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derek Eyre

 2004/9/23 4:22Profile
Nasher
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 Re:

Quote:
Paul is talking about even the gentiles have within them the sense of right and wrong even without OT law.



If our hearts are crooked etc., how come they have the law of God written on them?


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Mark Nash

 2004/9/29 13:50Profile
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 Re:

Quote:
If our hearts are crooked etc., how come they have the law of God written on them?


They actually have the 'work of the law written within their hearts'. This is not the letter of the law as given in tablets of stone, but rather the substance of that law. Even though they do not have the law they have the impact of the law ie 'what it produces' (its work) written within their hearts. They do know what is required of them even though it has not been given to them in the precise words of Sinai.

The conscience bears witness to that inner knowledge but, in the words of your analogy, does not say 'pull up, pull up'. Rather, when the inner knowledge says 'pull up, pull up' the conscience says 'you know he's right'. The conscience bears witness to truth as it is known, because the 'work of the law is written in the heart' the conscience can bear witness to it. The Lord used the image of bearing witness and sealing what had been heard.
He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. (Joh 3:33 KJV)
Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. (Joh 6:27 KJV) We still use the language of giving something our 'seal of approval'. This is what the conscience does; it gives its 'seal of approval' to an inner knowledge.

Here is an interesting verse; Howbeit there is not in all men that knowledge: but some, being used until now to the idol, eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
(1Co 8:7 ASV) The conscience clearly reacts to inner knowledge 'in all men'. Not all men have the same degree of knowledge, but all have the 'work of the law written in their hearts'. If the conscience does not have a specific clear 'inner knowledge' relating to a specific area of choice, it cannot voice its approval and becomes weak. If they do the thing without the witness of their conscience, the conscience itself becomes defiled and ceased to be the sensitive instrument it was designed to be. Consciences can also become seared or cauterized when they bear no witness at all.

How did that 'inner knowledge' get onto the inside? Well, perhaps this is a clue;
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (Joh 1:4 ASV)
There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world. (Joh 1:9 ASV)

The true light has 'enlightened' every man. But in Christ it was not the beams but the light itself who arrived. Everyman has some 'enlightening' even though they don't know where the enlightening has come from. What a man does not know he is not responsible for, unless he ought to have known it.

The conscience adds its 'amen' to the inner knowledge but even then the man must make his choice. Conscience never compels but only bears witness. In that sense the choice is the final 'seal'.

This not a high level theological definition, but in Patricia St.John's 'Treasures of the Snow' a girl becomes increasingly irritable and contentious. "I think its your conscience' says the grandmother. 'What is conscience?' asks the girl. "It's a little thing that keeps getting in the way", says grandmother.


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Ron Bailey

 2004/9/29 15:23Profile
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 Re:

Hi Ron, how does the "inner knowledge" function?

Can you explain more about the "substance of the law"

Thanks.


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Mark Nash

 2004/9/30 9:12Profile
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 Re:

Hi Mark
One of the verbs which is used with 'the conscience' is 'bear witness' or 'testify'; apparently this is what the conscience 'does'. A witness is not the creator of information but the recorder of it. The conscience then is not self-functioning. It must always have something to work on. It is not the initiator of an action but does respond to an action.

The Greek word for conscience is only used once in the Septuagint where it is the translation of a Hebrew word which usually means 'knowledge or thought'. (Eccles 10:20) The Septuagint translators obviously saw it as connected with thought processes. In Hebrew psychology this would put it into the realm of the 'heart';And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen 6:5 KJV)

One of the surprizing things about Paul is that he always had a good conscience, even when he was doing bad things.
And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. (Act 23:1 KJV)
And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men. (Act 24:16 KJV)
even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; (1Ti 1:13 NASB)

This latter verse is interesting because Paul says 'he acted ignorantly'. He claimed that the Athenians had done the same For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. (Act 17:23 KJV) and that God therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, now enjoins men that they shall all everywhere repent, (Act 17:30 Darby). It seems very plain that God does not hold us accountable for what we are 'ignorant of'. (unless we ought to have known.. 'have ye not read..' etc) It seems that when Paul was persecuting the Christians he was 'ignorant' of the fact that he was persecuting 'Jesus'. (Acts 9:5) and really did believe that he was 'rendering service to God'. Without contrary 'inner knowledge' his conscience was perfectly at ease with this behaviour.

This is a sobering confirmation of the Lord's own words; They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. (Joh 16:2 ESV) That word 'think' is dokeO which means to 'judge'. I 'think' this is how conscience works. Dependent upon the information it has, it makes a 'judgement' and we hear its verdict. It says true or lie. If the information is lacking it cannot make a judgement. This is important because if the conscience is 'out of the loop' we make decisions without real conviction. I think evangelicalism has many people who make decisions without real conviction. (I don't mean in the sense of sin consciousness) People make choices about 'following Christ' with no more 'conviction' than they might have in choosing their curtains.

It is interesting that Paul never outpaced another man's conscience; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.(2Co 4:2 KJV) Paul would never have urged people to come to the 'place of decision'; he knew that unless their conscience 'bore witness' to what he was saying any such decision would be 'without conviction'. In other words just a change of opinion which could be just as easily reversed in a day or two. A man convinced against his own will, of course, is not convinced at all. You may have won the argument but not the soul. This is why it is always better to let the 'appeal' come from the congregation rather than from the pulpit; Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? (Act 2:37 KJV)

So how does this 'inner knowledge' get there? It must be by revelation. When God had given the Law to Israel they were responsible for that knowledge and could no longer claim ignorance; The secret things belong unto Jehovah our God; but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deu 29:29 ASV) The 'revealed things' says Deuteronomy are 'ours'. Those who have received 'the revelation' are under greater responsibility; You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities. (Amo 3:2 ASV) But we can only be held responsible for what is 'ours'. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. (Luk 12:48 KJV)

For the Old Covenant Israelite their greatest treasure was their greatest liability; What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. (Rom 3:1-2 KJV) For the Athenian God had different ways of depositing treasure in their 'inner knowledge'; For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. (Act 17:28 KJV) We are back to the 'light that enlightens every man'; this 'light' comes from Christ. But in the incarnation we have not the beams but the source itself. Every man has received 'light', everyman has received 'knowledge', although not the same detail of knowledge. This is where I would see the reference to 'the work of the law';For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, (Rom 2:14-15 NASB) Men who live the pattern of life expected with the Law but who do not have the (letter of) the Law have obviously got their model from somewhere.

The moral aspect of the Law was unique application, to the people of Israel, of universal revelation. For them it had a unique application in that 'keeping the law' was part of the tenancy agreement regarding the land. Have you noticed how Paul refers to the 'universal revelation' and in so doing detaches the tenancy aspect of this particular commandment? The 10 Commandments were time and place specific; I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. (Exo 20:2 KJV) and the commandment runs thus; Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. (Exo 20:12 KJV) But when Paul quotes this to the Ephesians he strips out the specific tenancy agreement; Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. (Eph 6:2-3 KJV) It is no longer 'the land of Israel' which is in view but the moral imperative has remained with a much more generalised 'promise'.

So in Paul's Roman explanation; the Jew and the Gentile have the same moral imperative but the Jew had it in unique stewardship and with great detail. The man, not having the Sinai Law, but instinctively (by nature) behaving as God commanded Israel is showing that he is not without light even though he is without the Law. He is his own personal version of the universal law; a law unto themselves (which means something quite different to the way the world uses that phrase). He does not have the Law written in stone but he does have the 'end product' of the law written in his heart. He is behaving as he 'knows' he ought to behave, and his conscience 'judges' what he 'knows' and says 'true'. Now that he has his 'inner knowledge' and the testimony of his conscience in line, he must 'do' what the double witness of inner knowledge and conscience have agreed on. If he doesn't his conscience will not pronounce the verdict nearly so clearly the second time, and ultimately may pronounce no verdict at all. Conscience is a delicate instrument and easily damaged.

WKIP. I told you, you were getting into deep water with the conscience. ;-)


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Ron Bailey

 2004/9/30 11:49Profile
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 Re:

Hi ron, I am starting to understand now...

I would still say however that the analogy of the plane's automatic warning system can still work.

I'm not quite sure exactly how a plane's automatic warning system works but I would guess it is like this:

There are monitoring devices within the plane that detect if someone is wrong based on pre-defined parameters.

If these monitoring devices detect that a parameter has been exeeded then it sends a signal to the AWS which processes the data in the form of a voice command, e.g. "pull up".

Therefore (I imagine) there are 3 parts to this:

1. Pre-defined parameters
2. The monitoring device
3. The voice command

I would analogise that the pre-defined parameters are the beliefs we have (i.e. it is wrong to steal), the monitoring device is the mind/soul (I'm not quite sure), and the voice command is the conscience.

The conscience is an automated response, it either accuses you (pull up) or excuses you (well done).

If a person ignores their conscience, the voice (pull up [if they have broken what they believe]) will become quieter and quieter (a defiled conscience?) until it cannot be heard (a seared conscience).

Please tell me if I have gotten it all wrong...


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Mark Nash

 2004/9/30 13:12Profile
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 Re:

If you feel your plane illustration works, by all means use it. Spurgeon used to say that illustrations were like windows; their purpose was to let in light. Beware, he said, of building a house on a foundation of glass. In other words, be sure your analogy is illustrating the truth and not the other way around. However the conscience can really only say 'right' or 'wrong'; it can't give commands.

Quote:
The conscience is an automated response, it either accuses you (pull up) or excuses you (well done).

You're going to wish you had never started this...
according to Romans conscience and thought are distinguishable; Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) (Rom 2:15 KJV) The conscience bears witness, but their thoughts accuse or excuse.


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Ron Bailey

 2004/9/30 13:33Profile
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 Re:

Hi Ron, aaaargh! ;-)

and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;

This accusing or excusing, is it before or after they have commited/not comitted the act?


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Mark Nash

 2004/9/30 14:08Profile
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 Re:

Quote:
and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;

This accusing or excusing, is it before or after they have commited/not comitted the act?


in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, (Rom 2:15 NASB)
I suppose this could be either or both. It seems to put the possibility of conflict (if that is the implication) in the thoughts rather than in the conscience.

We have been regarding the conscience as re-active but it could just as well be pro-active if we 'consult' it. What I mean is when faced with a possible action we might pause to consult our conscience. By the way have you looked at the word 'conscience' in the Greek. It means synchronized-perception, or to co-see. This is almost as though the conscience is acting as a second opinion to the inner knowledge.


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Ron Bailey

 2004/9/30 14:16Profile





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