THE WEAKNESS OF THE CONSCIENCE
We have clearly said before that Christ is the standard of holiness for our life. Even though the conscience is important, it is not the standard. At the same time, even though the conscience is not the standard of holiness, it is the standard that testifies whether or not we please God in our daily living. In other words, the conscience is the standard of the present level of our holiness. If we can live every day according to the leading of the conscience, we have attained to the level we presently should attain to. If we maintain a good conscience, we will not fall behind in our spiritual journey. Thus in our daily path of walking according to the spirit, the conscience is a very necessary factor. In whatever our conscience guides us, if we disobey it, we will be rebuked, lose our peace, and be temporarily cut off from God in our fellowship. It is indisputable that we should follow the spirit completely through all the guidance of the conscience. But is the leading of the conscience perfect? This question still remains.
We know that the conscience is controlled by its knowledge. It can only guide people according to what it knows. Then if men do not obey, it condemns. It does not condemn something that it does not know. Therefore, if we compare the standard of the conscience with the standard of God’s holiness, the standard of the conscience is very inferior. It has at least two shortcomings. One, as we said before, is the limitation of its knowledge; it can only condemn the wrongdoings that it knows. Consequently, since our conscience does not possess certain knowledge, we allow many things that are not according to God’s will to remain in our lives. God knows, and believers who are more mature than us also know, that our shortcomings are numerous. But since we have not received the light, these shortcomings remain. Is this not a big defect? This, however, is permissible because God does not condemn what we do not know. Even though we are at fault, God is well pleased, and He fellowships with us because we have acted according to the leading of the conscience.
There is still a second defect which can hinder the fellowship of the believer with God. A little knowledge can not only lead the believer to condemn something that should be condemned, it can also lead him to condemn something which should not be condemned. What should we say then? Has the conscience led wrongly? No, the leading of the conscience cannot be wrong and should be obeyed by the believer. But the measure or degree of knowledge differs. Due to a believer’s lack of knowledge, there are many things which he will be permitted to do when he possesses more knowledge, but these things are not allowed at the present time because of the lack of knowledge. If he were to do them, the conscience would condemn, and he would have sinned. This is the immaturity of the believer. This means that many things are fully permissible for the fathers because they have the knowledge, experience, and position. But if the children were to do what the father does, it would definitely not be permitted due to their lack of knowledge, experience, and position. This is not to say that there are two criteria for right and wrong, but that it is impossible for the criteria for right and wrong not to be different according to each one’s position. This is true in spiritual things as well as in physical things. Many things, when done by the mature believer, are completely in accordance with the will of God. However, if a young believer were to follow and do the same, to him it would be a sin.
(Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), Chapter 21, by Watchman Nee)