Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
1901 ASV Translation:
2 through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron;
Textual Notes: There are two textual differences between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26 in 4:1-5. Both are spelling differences consisting of the addition/omission of a single letter in the spelling of the words translated "seared" in 4:2 and "received" in 4:3. The spelling issue does not affect the meaning at all.
June 5, 2005
- I. The Question: What is the Conscience?
- A. The word group is used to refer to an "inner check" that sponsors a "witness" to the truthfulness or falseness of a declaration of mouth or pen (Romans 9:1), or of a course of action taken (Romans 2:15).
- 1. For the unregenerate, this witness uses the internal Law, written on the heart, as a backdrop for its impressions upon the conscious thought of the individual.
- 2. For the regenerated believer, this witness involves the internal ministry of the Spirit of God as it generates an impression upon the conscious thought of a person (Romans 9:1).
- B. This "inner check" involves a mentally viable "accusation" of fault when a person has done something that is considered wrong by his "inner moral compass" (John 8:9).
- C. This "inner check" can be fundamentally flawed so that the signals that it sends out are not "true" in respect to reality (1 Corinthians 8:7, 10). This is true of believers who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This means that the Spirit does not over-ride the ignorance that is in us as long as we are uninformed. This means that there is no particular way a believer can tell if this "inner check" is from God or not as long as he has no understanding of revealed truth to address the issue involved.
- D. This "inner check" must not be rejected or abandoned -- even when it is in error through ignorance -- because such rejection or abandonment causes "faith" to fail (1 Timothy 1:5, 19; 3:9; and Titus 1:15). It is because people cannot "trust" God when they sense His displeasure and the conscience seems to be how they "sense" this. Thus, Paul made it a key issue in his functioning day by day to give heed to this "inner witness" (Acts 24:16).
- E. It does damage to a person to act on the basis of someone else's "conscience" when their own is not "convinced" (1 Corinthians 8:7-10).
- II. The Function.
- A. Paul first claims that those who are instruments of demons in the lives of others are those who have been "deceived".
- 1. The word indicates movement down a false path.
- 2. The translators of the AV indicate an understanding that people only go where they have predispositions to go: one can only be "seduced" by something that is appealing to them.
- B. Then he claims that these same people are "hypocrites": there is a deliberate level of "acting" going on.
- C. He then goes further and says that they "lie": beyond the "acting" (which is a form of lying).
- D. And he finally addresses how they can do all of this wickedness: they are those whose consciences have been "seared".
- 1. The word used has both a primary meaning and a primary application involved in it.
- a. The primary meaning has to do with taking a very hot piece of metal and touching it to living flesh.
- b. The primary way this meaning was applied was in the form of "branding" so that a person could not escape and live unnoticed.
- 2. This primary application ought to be set aside.
- a. The issue in the text is "how" a person can function wickedly and still be said to be "deceived". Jesus said if we were blind we would have no sin (John 9:41).
- b. The "answer" to this question is in Paul's explanation that the person has cauterized his own conscience (the Perfect Passive Participle can be understood as a Perfect Middle Participle).
- c. The issue is how the conscience has been "shut down" so that the person is both "deceiving and being deceived" (1 Timothy 3:13).
- 3. The warning is clear: do not start down the path of denying the witness of the conscience.
- a. This is a tricky issue because we have no "power" in ourselves to keep from sinning, nor to "correct" our ways.
- b. The biblical method of maintaining a clear conscience is not to "keep from sinning", nor to "correct our sinning"; but, rather, to "confess" our sins and "depend" upon the Holy Spirit to enable whatever action needs to be taken.