Why we are Without Excuse
“The conscience is the tool that God the Holy Spirit uses to convict us, bring us to repentance, and to receive the healing of forgiveness that flows from the Gospel.”
We all struggle with sin and the guilt that it can make to a believer is so devastating. There was a time when my wife and I argued about something and I tried everything I can just to justify my side even to the point of hurting her feelings. There’s good in showing what the truth is, but if we cross over the line and pride overrules us it becomes a sin. My conscience after our argument was shouting on me and it grieved me. It’s like a knife stabbed deeply in my heart. I despair over it not just because it hurts my wife’ s feeling but most especially I know it hurts God’ s.
In reality, the fact that the presence of sin bothers us at all is an indication of God’s presence. We are no longer blind to sin; we are no longer numb to its piercing pain because the cause of assurance is not that there is no sin but that there is a real struggle with it. A real struggle indicates the real presence of God in us, so everyone are without excuse.
The truth that is found in Scripture reveals that even the lost know that what they’re doing is wrong. The Apostle Paul writes, “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:15-16). Everyone has a conscience. That means nobody has any excuse before God.
Paul knew that he was once without excuse as he was ravaging the church of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:1-3) and so considered himself the least of all saints and the chief of sinners. What humility. In reality, Paul was probably highly obedient in his life and went where God sent him. How disobedient could Paul be, so often chained to Roman guards? Who was once the church’s greatest enemy became the churches greatest blessing. Paul wrote that the lost only “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:16) since “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).
Good and Evil
Almost every culture on the planet has certain moral laws where society punishes those who break the laws. So even without a written law, it is just as Paul says: “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:15). None of us are good in ourselves (Romans 3:10-12), but a good God has allowed evil on His Son, Jesus Christ, but for our benefit (John 3:16). Sadly, “’there is no peace,’ says the LORD, ‘for the wicked’” (Isaiah 48:22). Not so for the children of God, who are at peace with God (Romans 5:1, 8:1).
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is called the Holy Spirit, possibly because His work is to help us grow in holiness. This doesn’t mean complete holiness, which isn’t possible this side of heaven (Romans 7), but growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and having our minds renewed by the Spirit of God (Romans 12:1-2). Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said that “when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8), but He will also speak to us when we’re thinking about sinning. We never want to suppress that prompting by the Spirit because if you resist the Spirit, the conviction may be harder to notice the next time. Then if it leads to sin, you’ll have a harder time hearing the voice of God through your conscience. That’s not good.
God does speak through His Spirit. Not in an audible voice because the real voice of God would make us all fall to the ground in sheer terror. God whispers, somewhat, through our conscience; but sometimes He yells, “No, don’t do that!” It’s His job and I don’t want to interfere.