Faith and Conscience
First, a disclaimer: The idea for this post came, as many do, from our morning coffee time. This particular day, Bethany brought a verse from her bedtime reading and suggested it might be the basis for a post. She was not wrong. However, as I shared the growing post in subsequent morning coffee times, the consensus was it was too much… for one post. So, here we begin The Shipwrecked Series.
We have talked about Faith extensively, such as in Faith Is, and with good reason. We regularly touch on Conscience in some form and get specific in Our Conscience Testifies. Today, Paul brings “Shipwrecked” to our attention in relation to both.
“…fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and thereby shipwrecked their faith.” 1 Timothy 1:18,19
Shipwreck, from the word nauageō: meaning to be stranded or a failure in navigation leaving you shipwrecked. I can’t say if I have ever directly quoted the Amplified translation before, but here it is not only accurate but helpful: “…some [people] have rejected [their moral compass] and have made a shipwreck of their faith” (Amplified). Rejected their “Moral Compass.” I find that visual extremely useful. It also reveals an important detail many doctrines and, frankly, many translations of the Manual have “let go.” This also brings in our discussion on Conscience.
“Suneidēsis: co-perception, that is, moral consciousness: – conscience” (Strong’s). Webster’s 1828 says this about Conscience: it is “Internal or self-knowledge,” “the power or principle within us,” our “moral sense” “an original faculty of our nature.” Finally, “The conscience manifests itself in the feeling of obligation we experience, which precedes, attends and follows our actions.” I think this makes our case. Our conscience is the thing built into our design, our inner self that directs our actions, guides our actions, and judges our actions. It is here that we decide to either follow God and His instruction or deny Him and rebel. I really think this should go without saying but, as I just said, some have let it go, so, no “well-dah’s.” When the word conscience is used in the Manual, it is referring to an inner occurrence. When outer acts are listed, as in this case, and then the word conscience is used, the Holy Spirit is intentionally and specifically tying the Act of the body to the Thought that accompanies it. So! If your doctrine or translation takes the liberty to “add” the word “practices” to the instructions preceding verse 19 or to “add” words that create a separation between the thought and the act that the Manual does not recognize, then… they are taking you off course!
This brings us to Faith and how that is directly tied to Conscience. We have shown without question that Faith Is, “walking in Truth.” I want to take a quick look at one piece of evidence used to come to this conclusion. From the definition of the word pistis, that is Faith, we pull these two words, “moral conviction.” Our Conscience is what looks at a situation or a decision and evaluates what “walking in Truth” is. So, our Conscience is the assessment tool of the sincerity of our Faith. The connection between Conscience and Faith is circular. If we follow our Conscience guided by God’s Instruction, then our Faith will prove True and Sincere, and, if our Faith is Sincere, we will have a clear Conscience. Therefore, a “Good Conscience” is not possible without a “Sincere Faith,” and neither are possible without strict adherence to the course laid out in the Manual. So, the point of Paul’s instruction to Timothy in the 1rst chapter is to say: “The goal of our instruction is the love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a sincere faith.” (v:5) and to uphold the same.
Which brings us to another point, “Love that comes from…” I think we tend to breeze past this part and focus on the familiar terms that follow, but this is important. This statement sets a distinct difference between the course set by God and the one set by the world. If our goal is to Love as God Loves, then our course is not tolerance of an impure or unclean heart/kardia (spiritual self). If our goal is to Love as God Loves, then our course is not tolerance of a foggy or damaged conscience. If our goal is to Love as God Loves, then our course is not tolerance of an insincere faith tainted by hypocrisy. If…“The goal of our instruction is to Love as God Loves,” then our course is not tolerance of sin in ourselves or other believers but a dedicated commitment to stay the course. As we have pointed out before, Paul makes clear the law is not for the “Righteous” but for the “rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful.” For “those with a broken compass.” Paul points out that he was included in this group of the “ignorant” (lacking knowledge) and “unbelieving” until “the grace of our Lord overflowed to me, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (v:14) Until “the moral conviction, the moral conscience that are in Christ’s ‘cup overflowed’ to me.” From there, Paul’s course was set straight, his compass was “true,” and his ship would be safe from wreck.
Sticking with Paul’s theme, shipwrecked, what else can be said on the matter? Well, back in the day, a ship’s captain set his ship’s course by charts and maps that depicted both the safe route and the dangerous obstacles along the way. I think it is fair to say… actually we are told… that the teachings of the Holy Spirit that Paul wrote about in his letters and the rest of the Scriptures are a Spiritual equivalent to those charts and maps. The difference being that the author of these charts and maps is flawless, as is His work and His direction. Something Paul often talks about is who is interpreting our charts. Are we listening to His teachings as presented, or are we placing our safety in the hands of False Navigators? You know, the guy who knows a “short cut” or a “faster route.” The problem with this approach is, there are no short cuts, no faster routes; there is only “the Way.” Every probability and possibility in our voyage to our promised destination are contained in the Spirit’s Charts, in God’s Manual.
Paul never instructs us to question the Charts, but he does instruct us to “test” the navigator who interprets them for us.
Pause for a Brief Tangent:
From Webster’s 1828: Navigator, “one who directs the course of a ship, or one who is skillful in the art of navigation.” Today, the world is filled with skilled navigators, but their destination is not the believer’s destination. Therefore, their courses cannot be followed by the believer. Unfortunately, today, the churches are filled with unskilled navigators with broken compasses and the courses they set are too often adapted from the charts “of the world.”
He also instructed Timothy and Titus and us to study, know, and live the Charts ourselves and that if anyone claimed to be a navigator, or even just an informed sailor, and even suggested a course that was not identical to that Chart, to rebuke them. To do otherwise is to go off course, to wander from our “walk in Truth,” to show a flawed Faith, and to doom our Ship to Wreck.
© Scott A Caughel 3/24/2021