by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2 Lincolnton, NC June 5, 2005
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.
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.