The Difference between Rules and Conscience

There is often confusion between obedience to rule and conscience:  in fact one is the opposite of the other.

When we have rules there is an obligation to obey, without any consideration of right and wrong.  On the other hand, conscience gives us a instinctive sense of right and wrong, following some inscrutable law

Man acquired the judgment of right and wrong following the fall. He became, as God put it, ‘as one of us knowing good and evil’ (Gen 3:22).  Prior from that he was not as God.   He was not holy for he could not abhor sin.  Sin was not in him, so he was unable to judge it.  He was under a law ‘do not eat’ which he had only to obey.

But grace has bought us out of the law, but put us under the authority of Christ as Lord.  Our obedience to Him is therefore not a matter of conscience.  But conscience does come in as we distinguish between what is right and wrong: looking to Christ as a model

In summary there are three things:

  1. Our responsibility to obey God – that is law.
  2. Our sense of good and evil – that is conscience,
  3. Our self-judgment, or repulsion of heart, when an evil act is contemplated – that is holiness.

Based on J. N. Darby: ‘Conscience’ – Notes and Comments Vol. 1, p 104


August 2016

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