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by Wayne Blank
A conscience (not to be confused with conscious, which simply means to be aware i.e. to be awake) is often regarded as something that only good people have, but according to the Scriptures bad people have as much "conscience" as those who strive to live according to God's Word. The difference with the unholy is that their "conscience is defiled" (Titus 1:15 KJV) and they have a "conscience seared with a hot iron" (1 Timothy 4:2 KJV). Their conscience is based on self-righteousness (in effect, moral anarchy; see also I Did It My Way...), not true righteousness, which can only be defined by God (see the Fact Finder question below).
"Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil"
The first incidence of the consequences of human conscience occurred when Adam and Eve ran and hid from The Lord after they knew that they had done wrong. Ironically, they only became capable of knowing wrong because they had done wrong.
"And The Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil" (Genesis 3:22 KJV)
When "the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery" and wanted to have her stoned (see also Stoning), Jesus Christ uttered His famous "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." Their good conscience was enabled when they were revealed, in their own eyes, to be hypocrites. In defending the woman, The Messiah wasn't condoning her sin because He told her afterward "go, and sin no more" (John 8:11 KJV), something that her accusers should also have done before they became her accusers.
"So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one" (John 8:7-9 KJV)
The apostle Paul (see also Paul's Ministry) knew the difference between good and bad conscience, and that good conscience is based on being "void of offence toward God" (for how God says to do that, see the Fact Finder question below):
"I have lived in all good conscience before God" (Acts 23:1 KJV)
Fact Finder: What is the basis of having "a good conscience toward God"?