Cauterizing the Conscience (Revisited)

Cauterizing the Conscience

Robert Wurtz II

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:1, 2)

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).

Seared Conscience

When the conscience is seared the mind is no longer summonsed to consider the truth of an action or idea. The Greek word is the root for our word cauterize. This makes the person dangerous to the churches because they normalize sin. When a person refuses to agree with God’s word they are searing their conscience. If there is no repentance the conscience will lose its influence upon the behavior. Where once the sinful behavior wore on the mind, now the person can sin without any pain of conscience. This is a dreadful state of being. They go on sinning and rebelling against God and have no sense that they need to confess and repent. They are given over to their sin. 

Synchronized Knowledge

Some refer to an aspect of the conscience as sequent; that is to say, it follows action. God placed in all human beings the ability to measure right from wrong. This allows man to have a faculty of judgment. The effects of conscience are first seen when Adam and Eve had sinned and then clothed themselves with fig leaves and hid themselves from the Face of Jehovah (Genesis 3:8). They knew God’s will and that they had transgressed God’s will. It was before their minds. The pain of conscience followed their action. Knowledge of God’s will informs the conscience to function properly. This is why it is important to rightly divide the word of truth. The conscience is being programmed.

All human beings are born with this moral sense because they are created by God in His image. (Romans 1) The conscience may be buried under years of rebellion and darkness, but everyone started out with a sense of what is “fair.” Unless the conscience is completely seared, people know how others ought to behave and how they ought to behave. This is as simple fact, but it is amazing how easy it is for some people to dismiss the golden rule. They treat others in ways they would not want to be treated. This is evidence of a seared conscience.

Conscience and the Nervous System

Everyone is born with a basic sense of right and wrong. The conscience simply weighs our actions against what we sincerely believe is right. It is like an umpire in our heart making judgment calls. It is unaffiliated with our own desires. Some have said that God placed the conscience in man to give Himself a voice in our heart. 

The faculty of conscience is tied directly to our hard wiring as human beings. As it has been said, “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) When we go against our conscience it can be detected electrically — if we are attached to the right type of equipment. What then is a seared conscience? When the “smoke alarm” has been transgressed to the point that it no longer functions properly. In a figure the room is full of smoke — but the detector remains silent.

Refusing to Agree

When a person refuses to agree with God they are not allowing Him be true. They are calling Him a liar. (1 John 1:10) They then substitute their own false religious views for His. 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) These are man-made laws such as the Gnostic’s would adhere to. They have nothing to do with God, but are an example of how paganism can gain entrance into Christianity under the guise of being “spiritual.” This is an ancient lie. Understand that it is impossible to improve upon the Spirit-filled life. No amount of rules can improve on someone walking in the Spirit and thereby establishing the law. 

As we have seen in the so-called Catholic priesthood, celibacy may give a show of wisdom in will worship, but it actually opens the door to much greater sins and evil. Why? Because God did not place 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 to lie against the truth; the one path leads to legalism and the other to license.

Modern Application

A few years ago, Dr. Carl F. Henry, founder and editor of Christianity Today, sent out a questionnaire to what he called, “Twenty of the leading intellectual preachers in the country.” And the question that he sent out was this: “What do you see for the church of Jesus Christ by the year 2000.” I remember only one of the replies, it was given by Elton Trueblood, the Quaker philosopher. He said this amazing thing: “By the year 2000 the church will be a conscious minority surrounded by an arrogant, militant paganism.” (Leonard Ravenhill)

One only need look at the plethora of posts on social media lauding the fining and jailing of Christians who refuse to support the gay agenda to see that Elton Trueblood was speaking prophetically. One lady wrote concerning the jailing of the clerk in Kentucky, “now lets go after those cake people!” For her, fining the folks that refused to bake the gay wedding cake was not harsh enough. These militant pagans not only want the right to marry as homosexuals, they want to force that view on everyone else “jailing” the opposition. What is worse is that some Christians have depatred from the faith and joined the ranks of those who agree with practicing homosexuals. Some may have been grievous wolves all along just waiting to come out of the closet themselves. Listening to some of the things I hear Christians saying it’s hard to know who is on what team these days. Do they agree with God or the gay agenda? Do they support God’s people or this present evil world? Do they think they can straddle the fence? 

Deadly Decisionism Comes Home to Roost

The evangelistic methods of the last 100 years are now coming home to roost. In modern times we are suffering terribly from the effects of decisionism. Multitudes have prayed a prayer, raised their hand, signed a card, etc., but have not been regenerated. Their conscience is still seared even though they have made a profession of faith. Had they been regenerated (in the biblical sense) they would feel differently about sin. The unregenerate have a carnal mind that sees God’s word as foolishness. The carnal mind is at enmity with God. It’s a simple question, but “if a person refuses to agree with God’s word, how can the Spirit that inspired the word be living inside of them?” This is common sense. 

If a persons’ attitude towards sin has not changed they cannot possibly be born again. For it is written, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them (…) Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. (Ezekiel 36:26–27, 31 NKJV) Focus on the words Then you will remember…” The born again experience that comes in the New Covenant radically alters a person’s attitude towards sin. They may have been proud of their sinful life before, but once the new heart and spirit come in they view their sin completely different. 

In these latter times we don’t need another healing revival. We don’t need another smooth-talking inspirational speaker spouting out platitudes and hopes for financial prosperity. We need the Gospel to be preached as it was once delivered to the Saints. We need the Gospel that changed the world in the book of Acts. We need to strip-off the doctrinal grave clothes of generations that are binding the minds of multitudes — preventing them from being born of the Spirit. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in latter times some shall depart from the faith. What faith? The faith as it has been preached for the last 100 years? No! Multitudes have departed from the faith that was once delivered to the saints. They have forsaken the faith that we are supposed to be contending for (Jude 3). This is the faith that can reverse the effects of a seared conscience. Nothing else will do it. Nevertheless, many will continue giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron. The Spirit has expressly spoken this and it is happening. Our only hope is to make sure we don’t fall prey to it.  

Salt Losing its Saltines (Salt has Lost its Savor)

Salt Losing its Saltiness
Robert Wurtz II

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. (Matthew 5:13 KJV)

Everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another. (Mark 9:49–50 NKJV)

In Lev. 2:13 God commanded that all grain (meat in KJV) offerings be sprinkled with salt before offering them. This example and many others along different lines illustrate the importance of salt for daily life, worship, and its use as a symbol in covenant relationships. “The salt referred to in verse Mark 9:50 is probably the humility and dedication that is reinforced by trial and testing. If the believer loses this salt he or she is not easily renewed (v. 50a), but by maintaining this salt, Jesus’ followers can more easily be at peace with one another (v. 50b). The simple purity of dedication to Jesus that does not seek its own advantage enables one to be a servant to fellow disciples, and thus promotes peace.” (Larry W. Hurtado, Mark, New International bible Commentary 18 vols.; Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1989, 156.)

Jesus told the disciples, Ye are the salt of the earth […]” In other words, God designed His people to be living expressions of right relationships before this present evil world. In John 13:35 Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” If we have love for one another, we will be pure examples of how relationships are supposed to work–examples of how God intended human beings to treat one another. If we don’t we have become good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men (Matthew 5:13b). 

It is interesting to note that in Revelation 2 the Ephesisians “left” their first love; but in Matthew 5 we are warned of “losing” our saltiness. The rabbis used salt as a symbol of wisdom; hence, the Greek word for “lost its saltiness” actually means to become foolish, insipid, or dull. The renowned late Greek scholar Marvin Vincent said the word means to play the fool. Our Lord refers here to the familiar fact of salt losing its pungency and becoming useless. Dr. Thompson (“The Land and the Book”) cites the following case: “A merchant of Sidon, having farmed of the government the revenue from the importation of salt, brought over a great quantity from the marshes of Cyprus — enough, in fact, to supply the whole province for many years. This he had transferred to the mountains, to cheat the government out of some small percentage of duty. Sixty-five houses were rented and filled with salt. Such houses have merely earthen floors, and the salt next the ground was in a few years entirely spoiled. I saw large quantities of it literally thrown into the road to be trodden under foot of men and beasts. It was ‘good for nothing.’ (Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament)

Foolishness, ambition, and greed, are merely three things that can cause salt to lose its savour. In a figure, these are the very things that destroy Christians ability to fulfill God’s design for His people to be living expressions of right relationships before this present evil world. When we behave like the world, treat people as would an unbeliever, conduct our business like greedy–insensitive sinners, we become worse than the world. Why? Because the world needs to see the thing God designed, but their expectations are dashed. 

I sometimes think of passages like Matthew 5:13 and losing our savour and becoming good for nothing. Others stinging verses like 1 Cor. 5:1 where the Corinthian fornicators were doing things that sinners don’t even do. Then there is 1 Tim. 5:8 where Christians who refuse to properly love their needy family members by meeting their needs have denied the faith and are worse than infidels. Or the Ephesian church whose fiery love had almost gone out–to the point that Jesus was near to removing their dark and dying lamp stand. Why not? Who needs a darkened lamp stand to stumble over in an already darkened world? Perhaps Laodicea is the worst. Jesus said to them, Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit thee out of my mouth.(Revelation 3:16 YNG) How much worse can it get that backslidden believers would be likened to spittle or vomit? 

These are the things that happen when believers play the fool. They stop behaving like Christians ought and become a law unto themselves–operating by their own rules. What diabolical influence would give a group of Christians the notion that they can behave and do things that are worse than the world? It is shameful. Jesus warned over and over about the importance of loving every one and treating people the way we would want to be treated. This is how relationships are supposed to work. There is hardly a week goes by that I don’t have to answer a report for how rude a so-called Christian is acting in public to people who work in the public. Pick up the salt shaker at their favorite eating spot, act out, and wist not that they have lost their savour. It’s a disgrace. What happens to them? Jesus asked, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” 

Imagine being trodden under foot and then saying to yourself, “this is God’s will for me!” But it’s exactly what happens. People lose their savour–begin treating people worse than they could expect from sinners, and then when they lose friendships, relationships, congregational members, et. al. they blame the Devil or even God. This is why it is essential to understand that the word “lost its savor” literally means “to play the fool.” 

Nabal (a man whose name means “fool”) is a case study on “playing the fool.” He was an irrational alcoholic who was nearly killed by David and his mighty men for his folly. Nabal’s servant’s perspective is insightful, “For evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he (Nabal) is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him.” (1 Samuel 25:17 KJV) This is a prime key to playing the fool; you won’t listen to people who have sense. Nabal’s wife took it a step more when she rode out to meet David to beg for mercy; Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him! (1 Samuel 25:25 NKJV)

In other words David was being asked to do what everyone around Nabal does, “overlook him.” This is how he has lived to the age he has because so many people in his life took his meanness, tolerated his rudeness and irrationality–overlooking it for one reason or another. Now, his wife Abigail is begging David, the man of God, to overlook him once more. David did overlook him, but God did not. We read, “But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died. And when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, Blessed be the LORD, that hath pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and hath kept his servant from evil: for the LORD hath returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own head.” (1 Samuel 25:37–39 KJV)

Men may overlook it; Christians may overlook it; family members may overlook it and make excuses for it; but God does not. Eventually the salt that loses its savour will be trod under foot (as salt), removed like a cold dark lamp stand, or spit out of the mouth of the Lord Jesus. As surely as God dealt with Nabal, he will deal with the ones that people continually have to overlook because of their folly — especially those who name the name of Christ.   


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