RE-FORMATION THESIS #33
Thesis #33 of 95 - The guiding principle or engrained law within the human's spirit is the conscience
Rom2:15 – (Gentiles) show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts either accusing or defending (their actions)
Rom7:23 – But I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members
Jn1:9 – (Christ) was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world (NKJV/KJV)
Like Paul in Rom7 (vv15-25), this thesis is contrasting the law of the human spirit with what the apostle refers to as the “law of the bodily members”. Clearly, the latter law must pertain to the brain, for the bodily members in themselves cannot possess moral law. With that in mind, the language in Rom7:23 quoted above is particularly interesting. For Paul writes that the law in his body “wages war against the law of my mind”. What “mind” can he be referring to? It cannot be the brain – that gives rise to “the law of the bodily members” with which his mind is at enmity. What I mean is, a man’s eyes see a beautiful woman – he lusts after her. His eyes see desirable, luxurious objects – he craves them and envies those who possess them. But of course, it’s not really the eyes – it’s the brain that processes the images they capture.
This will appear to be stating the obvious, but bear with me, the implications have significance to what recent posts have been covering: the three rather than two components of man and the three rather than two soteriological categories of the soul. For answering my own question, it is the mind of the human spirit which Paul is saying is at war with the mind that controls the body. The “law” (or motivating principle) that governs the body is the brain; the “law” governing the spirit is the conscience. And it is God’s Law (Rom2:15 above), to which even those who do not know the Creator in a religious sense nevertheless defer. Their consciences either approve or accuse them with respect to a particular action (Rom2:15b). And as the previous verse affirms, they often do by nature the things contained in God’s Law. They often suppress the urge to lust after another woman and remain faithful to their wives; they may observe luxuries they do not possess but remain content and thankful for what they have. As a result, they are at peace with themselves. However, when they knowingly transgress, they develop “a guilty conscience”. However, as considered in the previous post, there is a category of person who does not possess such a guiding principle, for their spirit is dead and their conscience fails to function. For like Cain they are not “of God” (1Jn3:12; cf. Rev10:7). But as Paul affirms, especially in Rom2 and Rom7, that is not man by nature, Christian or otherwise. Hence there are three soteriological categories with distinct moral characteristics and divergent eternal destinies.
The mind of the spirit
Subsequent posts/theses will focus on the conscience itself – what I am principally drawing attention to in this post concerns the two minds within man that Paul alludes to in Romans7. But so in effect does Jesus in His teaching on the subject. The self-mutilation passages recorded in Matthew5:28-30 and Mark9:43-48 are referring to the need to control the bodily members so that the soul or “heart” is not polluted. It is clearly allegorical for it is obvious that cutting off an arm does not make someone a better person: they will still find a way to steal if that is their inclination. Jesus is highlighting the need for a disciple to keep his bodily members under tight control otherwise the whole person (soul) will be damaged and require post-mortem purification (i.e., salting – earlier post). However, the key point I am making regarding Jesus’ teaching pertains to His use of reflexive pronouns: “If your eye offends you pluck it out; if your arm ensnares you hack it off” etc. As with the apostle’s teaching, this pertains to the disparate moral dispositions of spirit/heart and body. The “you” that is offended, ensnared or led into sin is the spirit/soul/heart, being that which is from God and survives physical death; the offenders or ensnarers are your bodily members driven by the physical senses processed through the brain pertaining to the temporary earthly tent or vessel.
Again, it may appear inanely obvious to mention it, but it is something that eluded my thinking prior to the revelations I received. That is that the brain, being part of the mortal body is buried or incinerated at physical death – yet that part of us that continues into eternity clearly has a mind of its own, even before any resurrection. For it is the body including the brain that Paul and Peter refer to as our vessel or tent. And what usually is more important in everyday life – the vessel or what it contains? In anthropological terms, the precious content of the earthly vessel is the eternal soul and spirit. In terms of our time on the current earth, what differentiates the Christian from everyone else is that the believer has been provided with the spiritual resources to “possess his own vessel in sanctity and honour” (1Thes4:4). And by cooperating with divine grace the Christian is enabled to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom8:13). That is so as to Live, love and serve the living God even whilst in mortal flesh – and to have souls ready prepared for something still more unspeakably glorious in the ages to come (Rev3:21).
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