The Seared Conscience

Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron … (1 Timothy 4:2)

We ended our last post with this verse. Let’s look at this in a few other versions:

These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead. (NLT)

By means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron. (NASB)

They will also be fooled by the false claims of liars whose consciences have lost all feeling.

Such teachings are spread by deceitful liars, whose consciences are dead, as if burnt with a hot iron.

In hypocrisy speaking lies, being seared in their own conscience.(YLT)

The word translated “seared” in this verse is kautériazó. This could also be translated “brand (sear) with a red-hot iron or cauterized. It literally refers to the branding process that sears the flesh of an animal and deadens the nerves. The end result is a lack of feeling in the area that has been branded.

We have talked about the goodness of God which draws us to Himself. He reveals Himself in creation and through the preaching of His Word. If we resist His wooing and persist in sin, we will sear our conscience and lose the ability to hear the voice of our spirit.

And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men. (Acts 24:16)

Paul said that he “exercised” himself to always have a “conscience void of offense”. Notice this verse in the New Living Translation:

So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.

Paul made a conscience effort to keep His conscience clear before God. He understood that do otherwise could result in it becoming “seared” and unable to sense God.

For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:6-10)

We do not have to commit atrocities to “sear” our conscience. The “carnal” mind is a mind focused on natural things. A Christian who spends more time watching sports, news broadcasts, television sitcoms, or with anything else than the time they are spending time with God will be carnally minded. I am not saying these things are sin but they will deaden our spiritual senses and this is why so many struggle in their relationship with God.

If we go back to Romans 1, we will see the end result of resisting the call of God to pursue our own desires.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:28-32)

Paul is talking about people who “did not like to retain God in their knowledge”. These people were born with an intuitive knowledge of their creator but chose to pursue carnal desires more them Him. They may be what we call “pillars” of society but the road away from God always ends badly.

The sins Paul lists are all a result of continuously ignoring the voice of our conscience. This results in a gradual loss of a sense of right and wrong.

God’s goodness is drawing us to Him. We have a choice of whether we will respond or continue to reject Him. If we choose not to respond then we will find ourselves moving further away from Him into carnal pursuits and sin but this does not mean we will ever be without hope!

It does not matter how far into sin a man or woman sinks. God will always have a hand extended to draw them too repentance. Even though there have been some who became so hardened that it would have been impossible for them to repent, I do not believe that there are many who have.

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