In the last chapter we studied man's fall into sin. God put into the hand of innocent Adam a very simple command and Adam failed to obey it. Adam's act of disobedience is spoken of in Romans 5:19: "For as by one man's ____________________________ many were made __________________" What were some of the consequences or results of Adam's fall into sin (see the last chapter)?
The second dispensation has been called "the dispensation of conscience." As
we begin this dispensation men are no longer INNOCENT. Men are fallen, sinful creatures
who are in great need of the GRACE of God (see Genesis 6:8). The dispensation of
conscience extends from the FALL to the FLOOD.
What was the name of the tree whose fruit Adam was told not to eat (Genesis 2:17)? ____________________________________________________________ In Genesis chapter 3 Satan came along to tempt Eve. Satan wanted her to think that God was not really being good to them and that they were really missing out on something. In Genesis 3:5 the devil told Eve that three things would happen to them in the day when they eat the forbidden fruit:
- Your ____________ will be ______________________
- Ye shall be as God ["gods" should be translated as "God." It is the word "Elohim" as in Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God..."]
- Ye shall know "good and _________________"
The devil wanted to make them think that they would GAIN from eating, but God had told them that they would LOSE (Genesis 2:17). Temptation is like a mousetrap or a fishing hook. The bait in the trap looks good to the mouse and the worm on the hook looks good to the fish. The mouse and the fish think that they are going to GAIN something but they end up big LOSERS! Eve got trapped and ended up a LOSER!
What verse in Genesis chapter 3 tells us that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit? _______ In Genesis 3:7 we learn about the state of Adam and Eve immediately after they ate:
"And the ___________ of them both were ___________________ and they ____________ that they were naked." (Compare Genesis 2:25)
Did God need to tell Adam and Eve that they had sinned or did they know this themselves? ____________________________________ Adam and Eve KNEW SOMETHING immediately (Genesis 3:7)! They knew that they had done evil and failed to do good. They were aware of their sinful and shameful condition before a holy God. They were conscious of their failure and of their sin. They were not in the dark about this. Their EYES WERE OPENED and they knew about their sin. They KNEW that something was wrong!
When it was too late Adam and Eve saw the folly of what they had done. They saw the happiness they had fallen from and they saw the misery they had fallen into. They saw the good they had missed and they saw the evil which they had committed. God knows all about evil even though He has never experienced it. Adam and Eve learned about evil because they EXPERIENCED it. Before he sinned Adam never really knew evil.
Think of a young child who is strongly warned by parents not to touch a hot stove. In spite of the warnings, however, one day the child touches the stove and is burned. The young child now knows something that he never knew before. He now knows how good the stove feels untouched and how terrible it feels when touched! He never really knew this until he touched it and EXPERIENCED the pain. Likewise, Adam and Eve never really knew good and evil until the time when they sinned (SEE GENESIS 3:22"to know __________ and ________").
As we learn in the case of Adam and Eve, God has given to man the capacity or the ability to KNOW when he has sinned or when he has done right. Every person has a certain awareness or sense of what is right and what is wrong. This is something that God has built into man FOR MAN'S GOOD. God wants man to know when things are not right in his life so that man might fix whatever is wrong. When man sins or does wrong, God wants him to feel bad about it and to feel guilty about it. If man felt good about sin then man would never want to get the problem fixed!
Think about the physical body that God has given to us. God has built into our body certain indicators that tell us when things are not right. These are called NERVES. When something is wrong with the body or when the body gets injured, we feel it! It hurts! Are nerves helpful to man or harmful? None of us really enjoy PAIN, but if we think about it, we should be very thankful for the nerves that God has put into our body. What if you put your hand on a hot stove and did not feel any pain and did not even know that the stove was hot? Your hand would burn up without you even knowing it. The reason this does not happen is because the nerves send a quick message to the brain which says, "OUCH! REMOVE HAND FROM STOVE RIGHT AWAY! IT HURTS!" Did you know that if you had no nerves you might chew up and eat your own tongue (thinking that it's just part of your sandwich)? But with nerves working properly we do not need to worry about this. We may bite our tongue once, but that is all! It hurts! God wants us to know when things are not right with our body.
God also wants us to know when things are not right with our soul. This is why God has given to man a CONSCIENCE. The conscience is to the soul what nerves are to the body. The conscience lets us know when things are not right. When we sin the conscience triggers bad feelings. We know we have done wrong and we feel guilty about it. Animals do not have a conscience. An animal has no knowledge of good and evil. They live according to the instinctive patterns that God has built into them and they can be trained to do what men want them to do, but they do not have a conscience as men do. If a dog eats something that he should not eat or if a dog messes on the living room rug, he does not feel guilty about it (although he may have been trained to fear punishment if he does such things).
The conscience is that ability in man to make judgments about himself. When Adam sinned God did not need to appear to him and say, "YOU HAVE SINNED AND I WANT YOU TO KNOW THIS!" God never had to say this to Adam because Adam already knew it. Adam was able to make a self-judgment: "ADAM, YOU ARE GUILTY! YOU HAVE SINNED AND DISOBEYED GOD!" As we learned from Genesis 3:7, Adam was very much aware of his sin.
The conscience is like a "warning system" which God has built into man. It alerts us to the fact that something is wrong and something needs to be fixed!
The conscience can be compared to the red light or warning light that is found on the dashboard of many cars. This light was built into the car as a warning system to let the driver know that the motor is getting too hot (or that the brakes have a problem or that the engine needs service, etc.). When the red light flashes this means that there is a problem that needs to be fixed. The wise driver will heed the warning and do something about the problem. He will open the hood and get to work or bring the car into the auto repair shop!
The foolish driver might say, "I hate that little red light that keeps flashing. It bothers me!" He then takes a hammer and smashes it! But does this really solve the problem? This is like touching the hot stove without nerves in your hand! The foolish driver may keep driving and he may be glad that the annoying light no longer flashes, but later he finds that his car will not work at all (because of over-heating or some other problem). He failed to realize that the red light was his friend not his foe.
There are many people who try to use this "hammer method" on their conscience. When their conscience bothers them, instead of fixing the problem they try to get rid of the bad feelings which the conscience has triggered. This is like smashing the red light with a hammer. They may try using pills or drugs or alcohol or shock treatments or other things, but none of these things are helping to fix the real problem. If Adam had gotten drunk, he may not have felt so bad, but he would still have the same problem!
If a person keeps hitting the red light with his fist, the day might come when the red light does not work at all! It is broken and no longer sensitive. The motor might get very hot due to a broken fan belt, but the light will not even go on. The Bible tells us that people can have the kind of conscience that no longer works as it should. Notice 1 Timothy 4:2-- "speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their _______________________ seared with a hot iron." The word "sear" means "to brand, to burn or scorch with intense heat." A man's conscience can be seared and branded with sin and wrong so that it does not convict him or judge him as it should. The conscience has been so burnt that it no longer sends out the right signals. It is like the red light that no longer flashes even though there might be something very wrong with the car.
It is wise for a person to listen to his conscience. The story is told of a man who was sleeping, but his dog was barking so loud that the noise woke him up. He kept trying to go back to sleep but the dog keep on barking. The dog's owner, who was half asleep, was so annoyed that he finally took a gun and shot his dog. The next morning he discovered that there had been a major robbery in the lower level of his home and in his garage. The dog was trying to warn him about the robber but the dog's message was not well received. Instead he shot the messenger. So also many people refuse to listen to the voice of conscience when it warns them against doing the wrong thing.
The conscience may be compared to weighing scales. We can think of the conscience as a scale of SELF JUDGMENT. We need to weigh our actions and our words and our deeds, and before we act or speak we need to make a judgment: IS THIS RIGHT OR WRONG? IS THIS GOOD OR EVIL? SHOULD I OR SHOULD I NOT? Also after we act or speak the conscience makes a judgment: WAS THIS RIGHT OR WRONG? SHOULD I HAVE DONE THIS OR NOT? To get the right answers we must have an accurate scale.
We must notice that the scale's accuracy depends on how good the standard weight is. Suppose the standard weight was labeled as 3 pounds but actually only weighed 2 pounds. When the scale is balanced, how many pounds of salt will you really have measured out? _____________ You will only have two pounds of salt but you will think that you have three pounds. If you were to really put three pounds of salt on the right hand side, then the scale would be out of balance (because the weight on the left hand side really only weighs 2 pounds). This will lead to problems.
The conscience is like a scale. In order to weigh things accurately it needs an accurate standard of truth. If the conscience does not have the right information or if it lacks an accurate knowledge of good and evil, then it will not weigh things properly. Something may be wrong that is judged right or something may be right that is judged wrong. The conscience can only work with the information which it has. A scale can only work well if it has accurate weights. The more a person learns and understands God's Word, the more accurate his scale will be.
God has put into men a basic knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. Man must judge his behavior in light of this basic knowledge that he has. A man's conscience is only as good as his own knowledge of good and evil.
God gave the children of Israel the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) and other laws so that they would know what is right and what is wrong. They knew that it was wrong to murder and steal and covet (desire what belongs to someone else), because their written laws clearly spoke against all these things.
But what about people who never had God's written law? Do they know what is good and what is evil? Do they know what is right and what is wrong? The surprising answer to these questions is found in Romans 2:14-15. Paul is talking about the Gentiles who "have _______ the law" (Romans 2:14). These are people who have never seen the Ten Commandments. But Romans 2:15 says that the Gentiles "show the work of the law _____________________ in their _______________________, their __________________________ also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing ("YOU'RE GUILTY! WHAT YOU DID IS WRONG!") or else excusing ("YOU'RE NOT GUILTY! WHAT YOU DID IS RIGHT!") one another."
In these verses we learn that even in the hearts of those people who do not have the written law, God has put a knowledge of right and wrong. When they do RIGHT their conscience applauds them and cheers. When the do WRONG their conscience condemns them and says "boo!" Their conscience (the "nerves of their soul") works very well.
Here are two examples of people who did not have God's written law, but who certainly knew right and wrong:
In Genesis 26:6-16 we have the story of Isaac and Abimelech. Abimelech was a Philistine king. He was a Gentile king who did not have a copy of the 10 Commandments and he did not have a Bible.
Isaac lied to this man and told him that Rebekah was his S________________ (Genesis 26:7) even though she was really his wife. When Abimelech discovered that she was married to Isaac he was very concerned. If one of his men had taken Rebekah as a wife, this would have been ADULTERY! A man must never take a woman who is already married! Did this king know that adultery was wrong (see Genesis 26:10-11)? _______ This man was not saved and he did not have the 10 Commandments, but he knew that adultery was wrong! He had the works of the law written in his heart and his conscience condemned the idea of taking a woman who already was married.
In Acts 28:1-6 we learn about a group of friendly barbarians or foreigners who lived on the island of Melita. These were unsaved people who had no Bible and who had no copy of the Ten Commandments. They were ignorant of God's written law, but they had the works of the law written in their hearts. What creature bit Paul on the hand (Acts 28:3)? ___________________ When the barbarians saw this they said, "No doubt this man is a _____________________" (Acts 28:4). These people knew that it was evil and wrong to murder and they also knew that murderers deserve to die! They thought that Paul was getting just what he deserved. They thought they were witnessing the penalty being carried out, so they assumed the crime. They soon found out that they were wrong about Paul (Acts 28:5-6), but they were right in their knowledge of good and evil. They knew that murder was evil because they had the works of the law written in their hearts! They also knew that the death penalty was appropriate for murderers (compare Genesis 9:6 and see our study on Capital Punishment).
All men, whether Jews (those who directly have the written Old Testament law) and Gentiles (those who do not have the written Old Testament law) are responsible for their actions before God. This is because God has revealed to all men what is right and what is wrong.
Think again of the red warning light in the car. This light was made to work well and to warn people when the car has a problem. It is possible, however, for this light to give the wrong signal. For example, suppose there is some kind of electrical problem. This might cause the light to go on even though there is nothing wrong with the car. The signal says, "Something is wrong!" but when you open the hood you see that everything is fine. The problem was with the light and not with the car.
It is possible to have a conscience that does not work quite right. In 1 Corinthians 8:1-8 we learn about some believers who thought that it was wrong to eat things that were offered unto idols. Their conscience was W_________ (1 Corinthians 8:7) and they needed more knowledge. What they were doing was not wrong in itself, but they thought it was wrong, and when they did it their conscience condemned them and made them feel guilty.
Some people today feel it is wrong to kill animals. If they step on a beetle or swat a fly they feel real bad about it. They should not have a problem with this but they do because their conscience (in this particular area) is weak. Another person could slaughter a pig and not feel bad about it at all (assuming he was doing this for the right reason, and not just to be cruel to animals).
Saul of Tarsus (also known as Paul) had a conscience that was sending signals based on wrong information. He thought that persecuting Christians was the right thing to do (Acts 26:9-11)! He actually thought that he was serving God by waging war on Christian believers (compare John 16:2)! Later Paul received some needed information (Acts chapter 9) and he realized how wrong he had been!
In most cases, however, men know what is right and what is wrong and their conscience sends them the right signal. Adam and Eve and their children had a conscience that worked very well. They had a keen awareness of the difference between right and wrong.
Man had a knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:22). With knowledge there also comes responsibility. Man was responsible to live according to the knowledge which he had. Man was obligated to do what was good and to refrain from doing what was evil. Man was to do what his conscience would approve and man was to avoid doing what his conscience would condemn.
Consider Genesis 4:2-5. Which man did what was good (compare Hebrews 11:4)? ___________________ Which man did what was evil (compare 1 John 3:12)? _____________ After Cain did the wrong thing he was angry and depressed (Genesis 4:5). These bad feelings which he had were triggered by his conscience and he should have recognized them as "warning signals." Something was wrong with his life that needed to be fixed!
God came to Cain and gave him an opportunity to get things fixed (Genesis 4:6-7). Cain had two choices. He could "do W________ " (Genesis 4:7) or he could "not do well" (Genesis 4:7). He was responsible to DO WELL (do what is right and good). Failure to DO WELL would mean that SIN (his old sin nature) would be lying at the door like a wild animal ready to pounce on him and destroy him! Did Cain do well or did he go and do evil (Genesis 4:8-9)? _______________________________ Cain refused to heed God's warnings and he refused to heed the "warning lights" of his own conscience.
In Genesis chapter 6 we read about the sad failure of man in the days before the flood. What was "very great" in the earth (Genesis 6:5)?_________________________________ What kind of thoughts did man continually form in his mind (Genesis 6:5)? _____________________ We also learn that the earth was __________________ (spoiled) before God and the earth was filled with ___________________ (Genesis 6:11). This corruption was the rule and not the exception. It was a corruption that had spread among all of humanity: "for ______ flesh had _______________________ his way upon the earth." (see Genesis 6:12).
These days were very dark, but there were a few bright spots. There were a few people who "DID WELL" and who believed God. In Hebrews 11:4-7 we have the names of three men who lived during this time and who pleased God. What were their names?
There were a few godly men in these days, but not many. In Jude 14-15 we read the words of a message that godly Enoch preached to the people of his day. How many times do you find the word "UNGODLY" in verse 15? _____________ Enoch was a very godly man who lived in a very ungodly world!
What was the judgment that God brought upon this world which had become so corrupt (Genesis 7:11,12,23)? ________________________________________________________________________________ How many people were spared this judgment (1 Peter 3:20 and 2 Peter 2:5)? _______ At the end of this dispensation there were only ______ people left! Will such a judgment (WORLD WIDE FLOOD) ever be repeated again (Genesis 9:11,15-16)? _____
Even though the dispensation of conscience ends, men continue to live under conscience. The conscience is something that all men possess regardless of when they have lived on the earth. In every dispensation (including today) men are responsible to follow that which is good and avoid that which is evil. This is what Job did (Job 1:1"eschewed" means "avoided" or "departed from"). This is what we are commanded to do today (Romans 12:9 and 1 Peter 3:11). God does not want us to "let our conscience be our guide." The Word of God (the Bible) is our guide. It is the Bible that tells us what is good and what is evil. It is the Bible that we should follow. Jesus said, "Thy Word (God's Word) is ______________" (John 17:17). Remember the scale illustration. That which is true and right needs to be added to the scale so that we can more and more weigh accurately the right and the wrong. If a person's conscience has been enlightened by God's Word, then it will approve what God's Word approves and condemn what God's Word condemns. In other words, it will send out the right signals. The scale will be very accurate.
The "happy" person, according to Romans 14:22, is the person who does only what his conscience will approve of. It is never safe to do something that your conscience will condemn. Only do it if your conscience gives a green light. If it gives a red light or even a yellow light (CAUTION!) then you better not do it. "Whatsoever is not of ___________________ is __________" (Romans 14:23). This verse means that it is very dangerous for a person to do what he believes is wrong. It is dangerous to ignore the signals that come from your conscience. In some cases it is possible that your conscience might be weak and sending the wrong signals. Additional knowledge or information from God's Word will correct this. You may discover that what you thought was wrong was not wrong at all and what you thought was right was not right at all. Always be careful to follow this rule: NEVER DO WHAT YOU BELIEVE IS WRONG! ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU BELIEVE IS RIGHT!
How accurate is your conscience? How keen is your sense of right and wrong? When you need to weigh right and wrong (and we need to do this every day), how accurate is your scale? Are you reading the Bible to find out what is really right and what is really wrong? Are you giving your scale the kind of information it needs to weigh things accurately? A little child cannot make adult judgments. A little child may take candy from a store and not even feel bad about it. An older child may do this but his conscience will probably bother him because he knows that what he is doing is wrong.
May our scale be an accurate scale, and may we be careful to do what we know is good and avoid what we know is evil.