Bible Discussion: "The Conscience"
Q: How do we know the difference between right and wrong?
- Allow people to give as many ideas as possible…
- Some possible answers are:
- the reaction of others to them;
- Parental instruction;
- Laws of the country;
- Peers and Friends;
- Ten Commandments;
- Conscience… etc.
Watch CLIP #1 from ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’: Kronk is the servant of an evil woman who wants to take over the Empire. He finds himself in a moral dilemma and ends up speaking with his ‘shoulder angel’ and ‘shoulder devil’….
- Kronk was supposed to kill the emperor but mistakenly drops the body in the river….
- What do the little ‘Kronks’ represent?
- Can you relate to that?
Watch CLIP #2 from ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’: Kronk is speaking with his ‘shoulder angel’ and ‘shoulder devil’ again…
Yzma has tossed Kronk a knife and ordered him to finish off Kuzco and Pacha—and again Kronk hesitates. Why?
Q: What is a conscience?
Again, allow people to give as many ideas as possible…
13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
- What does the conscience do here? (It accuses and defends)
- Does everyone have a conscience? (Yes, even though it seems like some people don’t).
- How is it that someone without the Law, can be like someone with the Law? (They can have a sense of right and wrong.)
- What is the requirement of the Law? (To obey it.)
- What is going to happen on Judgment Day according to the Bible? (Everyone will stand before God.)*
Q: Where do our consciences come from?
- (We are taught by our parents, experience, culture, society, etc.)
What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “do not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
- What happens to our innocence if we know the difference between right and wrong? (Eventually we choose the wrong thing…)
- What did Paul mean by ‘being alive before the law came’ and that ‘when he sinned, he died’? (Doing wrong is something that happens in our hearts and consciences)
- Can you think of a rule that you learned, that later tempted you? (swearing, drinking too much, gossiping, etc.)
- How did you feel as a child if someone said, ‘Don’t look in the cupboard’? Why?
Q: Can we trust our consciences? Can someone have a clear conscience and still be wrong?
Let’s consider the example of Saul, who was also called Paul…
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
- What does your conscience say about Paul’s actions?
- How would you feel if you knew he was in the neighbourhood looking for us?
[Paul has now become a Christian and is standing in from of the very same authorities who gave him their permission to persecute the followers of Jesus]
The next day, since the commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them. Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.”
- How did Paul view his past actions up until this point? (A: he had a good conscience).
At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!”
Those who were standing near Paul said, “You dare to insult God’s high priest?”
Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’”
- If Paul had known it was the high priest would he have rebuked him? (No, he would have shown him respect). This is a great example of having a clear conscience but still doing the wrong thing… i.e.,
- Could Paul say he was innocent? Who is the only one who can accurately judge us?
Q: So how can we train our consciences?
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
- What human relationship involves teaching, rebuking, training and correcting? (A: parenting). God trains us through his word.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
- If a teacher gave you the answers to the final exam and it was OK for you to look at them—would you?
- What should our attitude be towards God’s word? We should want to know it, so that we understand God’s will for our lives.
*These points are optional depending on the needs of the participants.