Referee of the Soul (5)
I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit… Romans 9.1
The work of the Spirit
We have mentioned the Spirit of God in conjunction with the conscience. Let’s elaborate on that a bit more.
The Spirit, we said, renews the works of the Law of God on our heart by teaching and enabling us to obey the commandments of the Lord. What years of neglect and sinful works had obscured, the Spirit, Who comes to us at the moment of salvation and strives to renew uis, taking up the work of God again and writing the Law on our soul so that we might live honorably and in love to God and man (Ezek. 36.26, 27). As He sets the Law in its proper place in our heart, as the rule book for loving God and neighbors, He provides the means whereby the conscience can referee between thoughts and feelings for obedience to God’s Word.
If we understand Paul aright, it is the work of God’s Spirit to confirm to the conscience that it is functioning in line with the good and clean purposes of God. When we are loving God and our neighbors, when heart and mind are properly aligned, and when we are acting in such a way as to glorify God in all things, we should expect to know some confirming word from the Holy Spirit, assuring us that we have chosen correctly and acted according to the requirements of a good and clean conscience. As with Paul, we expect our conscience to bear witness to the choices, decisions, and actions we have taken, that they are either wanting according to God’s will or properly aligned with Him.
The work of the Spirit is, first, a work of conviction – that is, of establishing the best priorities and values – and, second, a work of transformation, of putting those values and priorities into action via a good and clean will (Jn. 16.8-11; 2 Cor. 3.12-18; Phil. 2.13). But it is also a work of confirmation, which is what Paul mentions in our verse.
A work of confirmation
Keep in mind that we are talking about spiritual essences which ultimately remain mysteries to us. All we can do is consider them according to what is revealed in God’s Word, and make sure we are nurturing our soul for a well-kept heart, a sound mind, and a good conscience.
As the conscience operates in line with the convicting and transforming work of the Spirit, we may expect the Spirit to confirm – or as Paul has it, bear witness – that all is well in our soul and that we are conducting ourselves in a manner expressive of God’s love.
For example, whenever we feel convicted of sin so that we confess, repent, and turn our feet back to the paths of God’s Word, we can know that the Spirit has been moving to pique, stir, and move our conscience back into line with God’s will (Jn. 16.8-11; Ps. 119.59-61). As we confess our sin, repent, and return to the Lord’s path, the Spirit will confirm us by an inward assurance.
It behooves us, therefore, to make time in our lives to listen for this work of the Spirit as He moves to shape and mold our soul, including our conscience, toward goodness (Ps. 139.23, 24).
We should expect some sort of spiritual affirmation from the Holy Spirit whenever our natural, self-centered bent gives way for the fruit of the Spirit to come to expression (Gal.5.22, 23). Bringing forth such fruit in us is a work of the Spirit of God, which we seek, and which we achieve in conjunction with His working in our lives (Phil. 2.12, 13). We will only show good spiritual fruit in our lives as we value and nurture such fruit, and as the desire to live this way provides the bit and bridle for our thoughts and affections.
And when that happens, we can know that the Spirit has made His indwelling presence known, and we can expect Him to bear witness to our choice for confirmation.
Gifts, witness, worship
The same is true with the exercise of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12.7-11). As we make ourselves available to serve, using the gifts God’s Spirit brings with Him, we show that our values and priorities are what they should be, that the Spirit of God is working in us in specific ways, and that our conscience is good and clean before the Lord and men. The Lord wants us to receive, develop, and use His gifts to serve others in love. The Spirit will bear witness with our conscience as we stir up those gifts and put them to work, assuring us that our conscience is clean and we are functioning according to the Lord’s agenda.
Bearing witness to Christ is also a priority and work of the Spirit (Acts 1.8) We will only choose such a work when the Spirit has made it a priority in our lives. When it is, our conscience will be good and clean before God and men, and we will act accordingly.
Finally, when we are filled with the Spirit, so that we overflow with thanksgiving and worship, and make ourselves the servants of others for their good, then we can know that God’s Spirit is shaping our soul – mind, heart, and conscience – to reflect and practice the true spiritual values of the Lord.
Thus, in all these ways – our daily walk, bearing spiritual fruit, exercising spiritual gifts, and bearing witness for the Lord – the Spirit bears witness that our conscience is either straying from the Lord’s path (conviction) or hewing to it assiduously (confirmation). The more He bears confirming witness to us, the stronger our soul becomes in heart, mind, and conscience before the Lord.
The nurture of our conscience depends on our ability to follow the lead of the Spirit as He convicts and teaches us the things of Christ, transforming us increasingly into His image, beginning in our soul.
Let us therefore seek the Spirit diligently in all our ways, that we may know His transforming and confirming Presence and power within us.
For reflection or discussion
1. Meditate on Ezekiel 36.26, 27 and John 16.8-11. Why do we need the Law of God in our souls for the Spirit to do His best work in us?
2. What do we mean by saying that the Spirit affirms or confirms or bears witness in our conscience? Why does this matter?
3. Meditate on Psalm139.23, 24. Suggest some ways you might practice the teaching of this passage throughout the day.
Next steps – Transformation: Review each of the ways the Spirit of God works with your conscience, as we have seen in this article. In each area, indicate one way you’d like to see more growth in your walk with and work for the Lord. What can you do to help that become a reality?
T. M. Moore
What is the Law of God and how should we learn and obey it? Two books can help. The Law of God arranges the statutes and precepts of God’s Law under their appropriate number of the Ten Commandments. This book is an excellent tool for meditating on God’s Law and thinking about its application in our time. The Ground for Christian Ethics, on the other hand, explains why the Law matters and how we are to use it. You can order free copies of each of these here and here.
All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here.
Our book, Vantage Point, can help you learn to think with the mind of Christ, work for a good conscience, and see the world and your life as He does. Order your free copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.