Conscience: Seared, Past Feeling, No Longer Blushing

God has created within us a “warning light” (a conscience).  This “warning light,” when programmed with the correct information (God’s word), can be helpful.  It can caution us about doing wrong.  It can motivate us, with a sense of oughtness, to do that which is right.

However, this “warning light” can become damaged.  Let’s consider a few passages –

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith… having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

The conscience of some would no longer give warning.  If a “warning light” is ignored for long enough, it will eventually go out.

Denny Petrillo comments, “The idea is that they are completely free from sensitivity… It is like the place where the branding iron left its scar on the animal.  The spot has no more feeling in it” (Petrillo, Commentary on 1, 2 Timothy & Titus, p. 54).

This is a frightening passage to me.  It is possible to become hardened, and insensitive to sin (cf. Hebrews 3:13; Ephesians 4:19).

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk… who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Ephesians 4:17-19).

Some people are “past feeling.”  The original word means “to cease to feel pain or grief… to become callous, insensible to pain, apathetic: so those who have become insensible to truth and honor and shame… in Ephesians 4:19” (Thayer).  The N.A.S.B. and the E.S.V. translates the original word “callous.”

Someone has compared the conscience to a triangle in the heart which turns each time one goes against it.  It turns with each sin, and the corners of the triangle produces pain.  In time, if one continues to go against the conscience the corners of the triangle get worn down.  Sin no longer bothers one .  One becomes desensitized.

Foy E. Wallace Jr. comments on the above passage, saying – “Continual rejection of Christ and his gospel can result in a conscience no longer able to function.  What is the conscience?  The best definition is that given by R.L. Whiteside in his commentary on Romans: ‘Conscience is that feeling of pleasure when one does what he thinks is right and that feeling of pain when one does what he thinks is wrong.’  A key word in the definition is ‘thinks.’  Conscience alone is not a safe guide.  No one should go against his conscience, for it is a tender thing, easily damaged, but one’s conscience cannot prick one concerning something of which he is ignorant.  He must fill his mind with God’s will as revealed in his holy scriptures, and then heed the conscience.  God’s will revealed in His word is our only safe guide” (Wallace, Commentary on Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, p. 205).

Were they ashamed when the committed abomination?  No!  They were not ashamed; Nor did they know how to blush” (Jeremiah 6:15; 8:12).

The conscience can produce certain involuntary physiological responses.  Some people blush (their skin turns pink or red – especially their face, ears, and neck – when embarrassed or ashamed).  [The polygraph (lie detector) is a machine which attempts to detect lies by measuring certain physiological changes (blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and skin conductivity).  It may accurately measures physical changes.  However, its accuracy in detecting lies is a controversial matter.  Some place its accuracy as high as 90%, others place it as low as 70%].

The point in the passage above is that the inhabitants of Judah (generally speaking) no longer were ashamed of their sin.  It no longer bothered them.

These things were written for our learning (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11).  May we not lose our ability to feel shame, and blush over sin.

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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