Thesis #14 of 95: Spiritual death arises as soon as the conscience is defiled, for that faculty has a spiritual dimension
Rom2:14-15 (New Jerusalem Bible) When Gentiles, not having the Law, still through their own innate sense behave as the Law commands, even though they have no Law, they are a law for themselves. They can demonstrate the effect of the law engraved on their hearts, to which their own conscience bears witness; since they are aware of various considerations, some of which accuse them, while others provide them with a defence
Rom13:8-10 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.
Heb9:14 How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
The three references above cover the essential meaning of this thesis. Paul’s teaching pertains to humanity as a whole and to natural law. The New Jerusalem Bible translation of Rom2 is amongst the more accurate. In terms of Protestant bibles, NASB for example is fine, whereas KJV/NJKV are not so – they amongst others imply Paul is being condemnatory towards the Gentles’ response to conscience whereas it is quite the contrary – they “behave as the Law demands”. Indeed, with the exception of the children of the devil featured in earlier theses, the rest of humanity possess a working conscience and often act upon it. Quoting Paul “through their own innate sense (Gentiles) behave as the Law commands, even though they have no Law, they are a law for themselves”. Anyone who shows compassion to another does just that – fulfilling the spirit of the Law (Rom13:8-10; Mt25:40; 1Jn4:7).
Note, the previous paragraph already covers two spiritual/soteriological categories – those who defer to the faculty of the human spirit we know of as conscience, and those who do not. That correlates with those for whom truth, compassion and integrity matter (albeit they do not consistently practice it) and those who are narcissistic psychopaths. This in turn correlates with those who retain something of God’s image and those who have entirely lost it (1Jn3:8-10). Secular society may apply different language, but they generally recognize such a distinction. Regrettably many Christians are less inclined to, thanks to the binary theology referred to in the previous thesis‘ ditty. According to their understanding (and mine in the past), whilst they may acknowledge degrees of punishment, all who do not respond to the gospel (as the various denominations interpret it) are deemed to be bound for perdition.
Repudiating such a notion is central to this work; for it is an offence to God’s nature and providential care, being a misrepresentation of humanity’s standing before God. Nevertheless, what is true about the above two categories of people is that neither is saved in the gospel sense. But what is such salvation from and what is it for? The “from” was covered in the last few theses: it is to be delivered from what Paul refers to as the body of this death. For whilst through the faculty of conscience working within their spirit, the first category may “joyfully agree with the law of God in the inmost being, they are aware of a different law (principle) in the bodily senses waging war against the law of the mind, making them a prisoner of the law of sin within the bodily members” (Rom7:23-24). The second category on the other hand knows nothing of such inner moral turmoil, nor any guilt or shame for their sin. Their whole being is united in evil – they are quite different from the rest, for they are not “of God” (1Jn3:10).
But thanks be to God, there is a third category who are being saved. And what are they being saved for? The Hebrews text I have quoted refers: “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Such are to be the servants of God on earth – they need to know Him, love Him and serve Him now whilst in mortal flesh, and be fashioned for still nobler service in the future, i.e., immediately Christ returns in glory. For such honourable service they need to be cleansed in Christ’s blood. Peter describes them as “the elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father through a hallowing of the spirit leading to obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus” (1Pet1:2 – to be clarified in later theses). As Hebrews affirms, that is so that their consciences may be cleansed from the works that result in death (as previously defined). Again, this is indicative of the spiritual nature and origin of the faculty of conscience – being as Paul stated, the witness to the Law of God written on the heart. A more substantial post on the role of the conscience is HERE.