Conflicts of Conscience

How can mature believers wholly subject to God and able to hear His voice not be able to come to the same conclusions within an assembly when faced with a practical dilemma?

Is there not One God and Witness among us?

For example, we know that the bible is of no private interpretation [not subject to many interpretations, for there is one interpretation that is authored by God]:  therefore, how can these differences in doctrinal understanding and discernment be explained? 

Everyone has natural filters that can temporarily blind us from the truth, the mature and immature alike. 

What are these blind spots? 

  • Emotional trauma

  • Cultural experiences

  • A lack of sound doctrine

  • Exposure to false teachings

These blind spots represent strong holds of the enemy in our lives that are not the consequence of personal sin.    

Here is an example from the life of Peter:

From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.  Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.  But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.  Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 

–Matthew 16:21-24

We can love God, and, due to our own ignorance, be wholly opposed to His will in a particular matter. 

This does not make us unfit to serve in His kingdom or unworthy of continuing with the brethren. 

It certainly did not make Peter unfit to be an apostle or worthy to be condemned.    

People need time to process an experience with God [time for the Holy Spirit to teach us the meaning of the scriptures, as they relate to our current experience]:  this is the renewing of our minds by which we lay down our worldly beliefs and understanding and begin to walk in those truths the Holy Spirit is revealing to us.     

What should believers do when discernment differs and consciences collide within an assembly? 

  • Meditate and pray.

  • Explain our scriptural convictions clearly and fully once. [“But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil,” (Matthew 5:37).]

  • Make an individual decision that allows us to continue on in peace with God. When we abdicate our responsibility to go to God alone for direction [and instead demand corporate agreement where none exists], we reveal much about where our confidence lies—in numbers—or with God.

  • Trust God to work in each individual’s heart over time to bring illumination and agreement about the basic truths of the gospel and the broader counsel of scripture.

  • Do not speak evil of other brothers and sisters on the basis of their private convictions (Romans 14; Galatians 6:10; Titus 3:2; ).

  • Count our inclusion in the body of Christ as important as our inclusion in a local fellowship:

    • We have responsibilities to both our local brethren and the larger body of Christ as a whole: these are not competing allegiances. 

    • Even as we are the body of Christ and members in particular, so are we also the body of Christ and localized ekklesias in particular: our significance is based solely upon our union with Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27).  This implies that we have nothing to fear—for we already possess all things in Christ—and therefore, are wholly sufficient to face every storm. 

    • Contention is the fruit of personal ego and a private ownership mentality, neither of which are appropriate motivators within the local assembly and universal body of Christ.    

  • Our focus should be upon supporting one another in continuing on with Christ: comforting, encouraging, and strengthening one another in our personal walk. 

  • If we continue with Christ, we will continue with one another in the Spirit of Christ, whether we do or do not fellowship regularly with one another [for a season or longer].

2 thoughts on “Conflicts of Conscience

  1. Can I add one more potential natural filter that might blind us from the truth?

    I was thinking of how some have personally harbored various “preconceived ideas or beliefs” about others (whether real or imagined) that allow for or steer their thoughts about said person or groups of people. We find this to be true with those who might or have harbored various prejudices toward other ethnic groups other than their own in order to justify their hatred or racist views. For example, even though their was not a legitimate reason for the German people to have enmity or hate toward their Jewish neighbors, they were taught and conditioned to believe something foreign to reality- that their was a “higher good” to be obtained by acting in a fashion that contradicted even their own consciences. This is only exasperated all the more as groups of people adopt such views creating a sort of mob mentality where all reason is thrown to the wind. The end of these things is death of course- both for the recipients of the abuse and eventually in those who harbor the results of of their own choices who have to live with them.

    As a believer in Jesus, personally I would be prone to a similar fate if not careful- that of harboring my own preconceived notions toward those who fail to align with my own personal convictions at times. Initially this may have been as simple as rejecting those who had differing religious affiliations and later in life from others who refused to align themselves with my own personal views i.e.; the manmade invention of all things “church” which are unfounded in the Scriptures. Once I choose to adopt one of these positions without actual Biblical merit or justification, it won’t be long before those drive me into places that only hurt and not help others who also claim the love of God and have proven by their actions their own desire to serve Him.

    You’ve offered many good points herein Mark. I’ll add an additional comment after a little more thought and prayer about this issue. Thanks for another very thought provoking post every true believer ought to read and take to heart. Excellent.

  2. After a re-read I couldn’t help but notice how Jesus specifically addressed Peter’s words toward Him that conflicted with the will of His Father:
    1. He called Peter himself an “offense”
    2. He noted how Peter savorest the things of men- by utilizing his human reasoning that always wants to save itself from harm (in this case Jesus from death)
    3. Jesus offered THE solution to keep in mind and in one’s actions the things of God- Peter’s and indeed all men’s need to die to themselves via a personal cross. It wasn’t just Jesus’ cross to bear but also Peter’s, the other disciples as well as all who would follow Him.

    Is Jesus’ solution to any personal or corporate dilemma any different than the one we find here? How could it be? The personal ego and private ownership mentality to which you speak above cannot exist where the source of those things has been crucified. These can only stem from those who have refused to die and sell themselves wholly to the will of their Father.

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