Rom. 9:3-5 “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”
The second spiritual marker is the conscience. According to Romans 2:14-15 everyone has conscience. We all have an inner sense of right and wrong. God has placed in each one’s heart a moral barometer that is constantly accusing or defending our motives and our actions. For some people this operates at a primitive or uninformed level, but it is there just the same. Some people suffer what the Bible calls a seared conscience in 1 Tim. 4:2. A seared or callous conscience is one that has been ignored so long that it cannot be felt. It is there but it has been rendered ineffective through neglect. Once you become a child of God, the conscience has a new significance. It becomes a divine tool. It works like a megaphone in the hands of the Holy Spirit. It becomes the means by which the Holy Spirit reveals the will of God to the mind of the believer.
Paul directed attention to the unique relationship between the Holy Spirit and the conscience. Rom. 9:1-2 “I tell you the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.” In the next few verses Paul makes a radical statement. He was so burdened over the lost condition of Israel that he was willing to give up his salvation. He was actually willing to trade places with the nation of Israel in Rom. 9:3-5 “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” This was a very extreme statement. He was not kidding. Paul believed that if he was stretching the truth just for the sake of making his point or lying, the Holy Spirit would have been displeased and would have shown His displeasure by disturbing Paul’s conscience. Since his conscience was clear, Paul knew that the Holy Spirit had cleared everything. See how he trusted his conscience.
God has written or programmed His moral code into the heart of every man and woman. We are born with it. When our actions or thoughts are contrary to that code, the conscience responds by sending a ’no’ message to the brain. On the other hand, when a person chooses to go along with the programmed moral code, the conscience says ‘yes’. We experience this every day. Sometimes it is nothing more than an inner hesitancy. At other times, it is plain old guilt. There are times when an opportunity to do good comes along and something on the inside urges us to follow through. That something is the conscience. Notice in Rom. 2:14-15 that Paul says our thoughts sometimes defend or point out the legitimacy of certain actions. When that happens, if the actions are in line with the law of God written in our hearts, the conscience gives the go-ahead.
When you become a Christian, a change takes place in your conscience. The basic moral code that you were born with is overhauled or reconditioned. The Spirit of truth takes up residency in your heart. Then whether you are aware of it or not, He reprograms your conscience. You had a general sense or right and wrong, but after you become a believer the Holy renews your mind to more specific and complete truths according to 1 Cor. 2:10-13 “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no-one knows except the Spirit of God. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”
You take part in this renewal process every time you read your Bible, every time you attend worship, memorize a verse, or pray. The Holy Spirit uses all this input to reprogram the database through which your conscience evaluates every opportunity, every thought, every invitation, every word, and every deed. As this process goes on, your conscience tunes in with the moral code of the Holy Spirit, a code reflecting the moral and ethical standards of God. All of this makes you sensitive not only to God’s moral standards but to the will of God as well. This why new Christians are sometimes offended by things that never bothered them before. Sometimes it is a sudden change and sometimes it is a gradual change.
The Holy Spirit energizes the conscience to act as an accurate evaluator and discerner. Once the conscience is empowered by the Holy Spirit, it can discern and evaluate what is and what is not of God. In 2 Cor. 5:11 it is clear that the believers in Corinth were not sure of Paul’s ministry. Paul was sure that God had approved of what he was doing, he wanted the Corinthians to trust him too. “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.” The term ‘manifest’ means ‘clear’, obvious’, ‘apparent’, or ‘self-evident’. Paul was saying: ”It is clear to God what I am up to. I hope your consciences will make it equally clear to you.” Paul asked them to evaluate his ministry based on the message they received from their consciences. He believed by doing this they would line up with the truth.