Dear Saints of Grace congregation,
The matter of a believer's conscience IS proclaimed within God's Holy Scriptures. Faith and conscience go hand in hand through the life of a Christian. When it comes to an individual's understanding (or confession) of God's Word, it is most specifically expressed through a person's Confession of Faith (namely, what body of doctrine they are attached to or associate with, by being a confessing member of whatever denomination to which they belong or attend).
Inevitably there will be variances of how the conscience of different believers is affected when it comes to the teachings of God (meaning some will hold fast to a doctrine, while others will be indifferent about that same doctrine). The variances of each believer's conscience can only be based upon God's Word working on them. This understanding is revealed as God writes through St. Paul to the Christians in Rome:
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with, with cheerfulness, diligence; he who shows mercy
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in hornor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinin.
- Romans 12:1-16 (emphasis mine)
Throughout this text we hear of how God is at work on the conscience of a Christian. There is, without a doubt, a "renewing of your mind" that is taking place, but only, "AS God has dealt to each one a measure of faith." So, again, there WILL BE variations in the level of how someone's conscience weighs on differing things.
It's important, however, to point out verse 16 in the above, bolded text. Clearly God desires that, amidst the varied growing of a Christian's conscience, having "the same mind toward one another" still holds its place as important.
This understanding, is not only put forth to the Roman Christians, it is also proclaimed by God through St. Paul to the Christian in Corinth:
10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement.
- 1 Corinthians 1:10 (emphasis mine)
It is also proclaimed to the Church in Ephesus:
17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind,
18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
- Ephesians 4:23-24(emphasis mine)
The Christians in Colosse were also given this proclamation from God:
9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
- Colossians 1:9 (emphasis mine)
God reveals how sources outside of God's Word will attempt (and succeed in some cases) to affect the power of HIS living and active Word on someone's conscience. Hear these words of Jesus as He explains one of His parables (the bolded words mark the outside sources affecting the conscience):
19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. 20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 23 But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, soem thirty."
- Matthew 13:19-23(emphasis mine)
God's aim, undoubtedly, is to renew the mind (or conscience) of those HE brings in to HIS fold. To what, then, is every Christian conscience bound that it may know or examine itself (or be examined by others) to measure whether it is thinking properly or be revealed being in need of further teaching from God's Holy Scripture? The simple answer is: Every Christian conscience is bound by God and His Holy Word!
A Christian's conscience cannot be a 'just believe in Jesus and do whatever you want regarding everything else' understanding! Such a free-for-all conscience would be at risk of being led astray from God's truth. The above texts (and others with them) speak against such a misunderstanding. Every believer's conscience is very susceptible as the world, the devil and sinful flesh EVER tug at it to abandon God's Word.
Luther, obviously, took the binding of his conscience (by the power God's Word) quite seriously. He displayed this, in 1521 at the Diet of Worms, as Prince Charles V (and the others) at the Diet asked him to recant his writings. Luther concluded his lengthy reply with these words,
"Unless I am convicted [convinced] of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted [convinced] by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God's Word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me."
It is understood that different consciences will be at varying levels of understanding. Again, this is revealed through Romans 12:3. That doesn't mean Christians are allowed take an attitude that says, "I don't care to be taught by God's Word anymore. I 'think' I know enough."? No! To refuse to be taught by God's Holy Scripture is to refuse the Triune God who is at work through that Holy Scripture (especially the Holy Spirit, who is titled as a Christian's Teacher). That would be putting oneself at risk.
The very fact that there are varying levels of understanding is revealed through the varying Christian denominations. These all reveal varying confessions of faith (based upon their exposition of God's Holy Scripture). Varying confessions of faith need to be rightly recognized in order to establish proper Fellowship (which, scripturally, always means Altar Fellowship). If you are not in agreement on doctrine, then Altar Fellowship should NOT be taking place (for you are NOT of the same mind).
May the Saints of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, by the grace of God, always be open to, and guided by the teaching of God's truth through His Holy Scripture - no matter where it brings her to steadfastly stand and confess!
Preserve Us in Thy Word, O Lord!
"The Inspired and Inerrant Word of God in
the English Language"
Gordon Campbell's celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible in 2011 resulted in his historical book titled "Bible: The story of the King James Bible". After the 6 Companies had completed their tasks, it was the job of the Revision Committee to fact check, correct and even complete some of the missing parts. They soon found out how difficult that was to be as accurate to the original.
The Old Testament was written in the languages of Hebrew and Aramaic (Daniel 2:4b-7:28). The texts in these languages are not altogether stable (manuscripts offer tiny variations in the readings). In Hebrew, the meaning is not always straightforwad because the ancient text was written with only consonants, no vowels. In order to determine tenses, the letters had to be sounded out which produced more challenges as even one wrong vowel would change the meaning altogether.
Fortunately the pronunciation of Hebrew was preserved over many centuries (through which Hebrew ceased to be a living language). During the Middle Ages, vowel signs and accent markings were integrated with the consonants. From the 6th to the 10th century A.D., margin notes know as the Massorah ('tradition') where compiled by Jewish grammarians known as Massoretes, and the text that followed is known as the Massoretic text.
The alternative version which they could use for translating the Old Testament is called the Septuagint, a Greek version prepared by Alexandrian Jews in the 3rd Century B.C. Using both, the translators assumed that they could come even closer to the original text, and believed that to be an authoritative text. Many scholars write that only the Hebrew and Aramaic text is the original. To those scholars, the Hebrew text is considered to be the authoritative one.
The Revision Committee took into account other texts including the Syriac Bible, (the Peshitta), translated in the first and sencond centuries A.D. They did not rely solely on the Byzantine texts Erasmus used that dated back to the 13th century. They also reviewed the Targums (Aramaic paraphrases), early Latin texts (including the Vulgate and quotaions from the church fathers), and the Samaritan text of the Pentateuch.
Gordon Campbell writes that the more learned committee members could also venture into the 'daughter translations' of the Septuagint (into Coptic, Ethiopian and Arabic) and the Peshitta (into Persian and Arabic). These languages may now seem to be the domain of the specialists of today, but in the 17th century, they were well versed in these ancient languages.
Another resource was an edition of the Hebrew Bible (1534-5) published within a Latin translation by Sebastian Munster. In a verse made famous by its incorporation in to Handel's 'Messiah', the translators rendered the Hebrew as 'he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed".
Respectfully submitted by George Melke,
Lay Member, Grace Lutheran Church
San Mateo, CA.