THE WEAKNESS OF THE CONSCIENCE
First Corinthians 8:7 speaks of a weak conscience. A weak conscience is similar to a sensitive conscience, but it is somewhat different. In 1 Corinthians 8, the apostle deals with the problem of eating the sacrifices offered to idols. The mature saints are grown in life, so they have the adequate knowledge and understanding of these things. They realize that for something to be offered to idols means nothing because the idols are nothing; rather, the food that is offered was created by God for us to eat. Those saints are not affected by the idols, and they have the confidence that it is right to eat. The new and young believers, however, are not grown in life, and they do not have the adequate knowledge. They have the thought that the idols are awful and that we should not have anything to do with the things associated with the idols. This is right, in a sense, but this is the conscience of the younger believers. It is a kind of weak conscience. The conscience is weak because their life is young and their knowledge is inadequate. Therefore, the apostle Paul told us that for some believers to eat the things offered to idols is right, but for others to eat the same things is wrong. If one person does it, it is right because he is strong, but if another person does it, it is wrong. The one person is grown and has adequate knowledge, so he has a strong conscience, but the other person is still young.
When I was first saved, I realized that the Lord was truly with me; I had the grace of the Lord and I loved Him. Therefore, whenever I prayed, I had to sit in a proper way, and mostly I had to kneel in a proper way. Otherwise, there was condemnation in my conscience. I can never forget the first time I saw a brother praying sitting on a sofa. That really bothered my conscience. I said to myself, “No, you cannot pray that way. You are too loose. If the Lord were here physically, would you pray in that way? No, you would stand or prostrate yourself.” I was right, but in a childish way. As a child in the Lord I was right. Gradually after many years, I became able to pray at any time, in any place, in any posture. I can pray with the full confidence that nothing is wrong. This is not a degradation; it is a real growth and improvement.
Many years ago my conscience was good, but it was weak. More than thirty years ago, in order to have the peace to open the Bible, study, and pray in the morning, I had to rise, wash my hands and face, and dress. Without washing I was condemned. Once I went to Shanghai to stay with some brothers. I noticed that in the morning they did not wash. They simply put on their robes and read the Bible. I said to myself, “What, are you reading the Bible? How can you pray in this way?” Again, I was right, but in a childish way. This is the weakness of the conscience. With the young believers there is always the weakness of the conscience. We must learn these things; then we will know how to help people. Otherwise, we will damage them.
THE BREACH OF THE CONSCIENCE
If we have condemnation that we never deal with, it becomes an offense. Eventually, this offense causes a breach in our conscience. When we have a breach in our conscience, our fellowship with the Lord is broken. Then we lose our faith, our assurance is gone, and our peace disappears.
In order to deal with our conscience, we must learn all these things—the consciousness of the conscience, the condemnation of the conscience, the offense of the conscience, the keenness of the conscience, the weakness of the conscience, and the breach of the conscience—not only the terms but also the facts.
(Practical Lessons on the Experience of Life, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)