Cauterizing the Conscience
Our passage deals with events that would take place after the writing of the text, in latter times. The words could be translated ‘latter seasons’. These times will go on until the coming of Christ at the second advent; times of great deception that are characterized by some departing the faith as a result of demons animating false teachers with both power and doctrine. Paul warns Timothy and then adds, If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. (1 Timothy 4:6 KJV) We need to be aware of the fact that the enemy seeks opportunities to introduce falsehood into the churches of God to get folk to ‘depart from the faith’. That is his primary objective and standard operating procedure (modus operandi).
Nevertheless, all peoples have a moral sense as they were created by God in His image. (Romans 1) It may be buried under centuries of darkness but men and women have a sense of what is ‘fair’, and unless their consciences are completely seared they know how people ought to behave towards them and how they ought to behave towards others. This is as simple as anything, but it is amazing how easy it is for some people to diss the golden rule. We have a knowledge of what ought to be and we can compare it to what is happening.
Conscience and the Nervous System
Everyone knows basic right and wrong. The conscience simply weighs the actions against what is believed to be right. It is like an umpire in our heart making judgment calls. The strange thing is that it is unaffiliated with our own desires. God placed it there as if to give Himself a voice in the heart. This is tied directly into our hard wiring as human beings. “Lie detector tests are based on the science that although we may be very proficient at telling lies, whenever we do so we trigger a kind of spiritual smoke alarm which alters the rhythms of our bodies. This universal sense of right and wrong was sharpened in the Ten Words given to Israel and it had a God-wards factor too in making God the centre of our affections and allegiances.” (R. Bailey) To think that the disruption internally is such that it can be picked up electrically. What then is a seared conscience? When a person has so abused this mechanism through self-deception and repeated unconfessed sin, that they have effectively cut off some of the sensors and it does not detect like it should. It has been circumvented in one of more areas.
Refusing to Agree
When a person refuses to agree with God about something they have done they are going to suffer the consequences. God says one thing about a behavior or action and they say something else. They will not let God be true. They then substitute their own false religious views. Paul gives an example of this when he writes of those who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:3) I am inclined to believe that these manmade laws give a show of wisdom in will worship, but actually open the door to much sin and evil. Why? Because God has not placed these restraints on man, Satan has done it in order to give himself an occasion to tempt men for their lack of self control. (1 Corinthians 7:5, Colossians 2:20-23) A concomitant of legalism and mysticism is asceticism. It is the pseudo-spiritual position that revels in rules of physical self-denial. Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch! These prohibitions increase from not handling to not even touching. This same legalism was manifest in Eve’s carnal exaggeration, “You must not touch it, or you will die.” (BK Comm. Genesis 3:3; cf. Genesis 2:16-17) This is not what God said. To say more or to say less than what God said is the same crime; the one path leads to legalism and the other to license.
Satan and his demons use people that have a seared conscience. He empowers and counsels them to deceive the churches of God. Men either name the name of Christ and refuse to depart from iniquity or they name the name of Christ and add all manor of manmade requirements to the faith. God’s precepts are carefully articulated to fit the man He created. They are a perfect match. To alter them is to invite disaster; one way or the other. Many with a seared conscience think God’s word is legalism. They don’t see worldliness as a problem. They can behave as sinners with no pain of conscience by simply putting a ‘christian spin’ on what used to be flagrant compromise. Others err on the opposite side as do the Catholics and forbid the priest or the nun from marriage setting themselves up for horrific scandal.
Satan uses teachers who’s lives do not match their profession. He uses them to alter the face of genuine biblical Christianity. Such is the way of Satan; put the car in the ditch on the right or the left. It matters not so long as it is off the road. Keeping the conscience informed and sharp by spending time in sincere study and reflection in the word of God will provide us with a good conscience. Agree with God. Don’t allow your own personal preferences to trump God’s word. You will sear your conscience and in time be a candidate for use by Satan. He is always looking to deceive. He is looking to provoke or lead believers to depart from the faith.