How aware are you of your sins? You may have been taught in the past that to be more humble you must maintain a constant awareness of your own sins and shortcomings; and that to do otherwise would be a sign of arrogance and pride. I had been taught that before, and that teaching led me down a very dark road of pain and despair, as I would constantly remind myself of how bad I was and all of the ways that I was not measuring-up to God’s perfect standard – all the while thinking that by me doing this, I was pleasing God by staying humble, when in-fact I was actually practicing false-humility.
Today in this study, we are going to be examining this common misconception and wrong belief of remaining sin-conscious, and how Jesus Christ has actually set us free from this bondage; free to be truly humble by exalting Christ instead of our own efforts.
Let’s begin by reading 1st Timothy 1:18-20:
“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on you, that you by them might war a good warfare;
Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.”
In verse 18, Paul is instructing his spiritual protege Timothy in how to wage a good warfare. And in verse 19, we see what is advised: holding faith and a good conscience.
Many times when we speak of warfare, we tend to slip back into the realm of carnality and flesh, thinking that we must fight against this fleshly temptation or that fleshly desire, and we fall right back into works and demand-mentality of the Old Covenant. But here, Paul is reminding Timothy (and us) that the real warfare is in the realm of the soul, your mind, your emotions; he says to wage good warfare is to hold faith, and a good conscience.
A quick note on verse 20, because there is a fairly common misconception that this verse is speaking of an unpardonable sin, or a loss of salvation. But this could not be an unpardonable sin, because Paul said here that he delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan that they may learn… There would be no point in learning anything if they were unrecoverable. Furthermore we know that these were unbelievers because Hymenaeus is mentioned in 2nd Timothy 2:17-18 as teaching heresies regarding the resurrection, and Alexander is mentioned in 2nd Timothy 4:14 as doing Paul “great harm.” So these men did not lose salvation – they never had it.
So what exactly is “holding faith”? Biblically speaking, it means to hold onto the truth of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for you. To grab hold of and remain steadfast in the faith of His righteousness that has been granted to you, and to never let go of that truth. It is your new reality in Christ Jesus. The more of Jesus that you see and that the more of His love that you receive, then the more you will have a good conscience.
What then is a “good conscience”? To answer this questions let’s now turn to and read 1st Timothy 4:1-3:
“Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the 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;
Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.”
Verse 1 tells us that in the latter times (which I believe we are in today) some will depart from the faith. These are they which have heard the information regarding Jesus, they have heard the word of truth about His salvation, but they depart from it, they reject it. Instead choosing to listen to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.
Now there are many seducing spirits in the world, however one very big one in the church is pride and self. This comes into believers in the form of religiosity: “You need to love God more. Prove to Him that you love Him through obedience.” or my personal favorite: “You need to walk worthy of Jesus.”, which is misapplying Colossians 1:10.
Through this seducing spirit of pride and self-effort, this gives rise to a particular demonic doctrine which brings people back under the Old Covenant mentality of merit by works. Why is this happening though? Why do so many depart from the grace of Christ and fall back into Law? The answer is in verse 2, they are speaking lies in hypocrisy; and their conscience is seared with a hot iron.
You see my friends, it is a lie straight from hell to bring people under the bondage to the Law, telling them that God will be pleased with them for keeping it, when the scriptures clearly state that the Law was never intended to save (Romans 5:20), that the Law is not for believers (Galatians 3:24-25) and that the grace of Jesus and the Law of Moses cannot be mixed or intermingled (Matthew 9:16-17, Romans 3:21, Hebrews 12:18-22).
Furthermore, it is hypocrisy to claim adherence to the law is necessary when that person themselves can not keep it; for someone to bring people under a yoke of bondage that they themselves can not carry. The scriptures even call that tempting God, because the Father sent Jesus to free people from the yoke and bondage of the Law (Acts 15:5-11).
Still we must ask why… why are they doing these things? Why are they speaking lies in hypocrisy and bringing people into bondage? The answer is in the second-half of verse 2: their conscience is seared with a hot iron.
Now if you have ever heard a sermon on this in the past it probably sounded something like this:
Be careful that you don’t let your conscience become seared! If you have a seared conscience you won’t feel the guilt of your sin anymore! The Holy Spirit won’t be able to convict you of your sin and there will be no hope for you!
That kind of preaching condemns people into what we talked about in the opening, constantly making you aware of your sin and bringing condemnation. It may surprise you then to learn that this is totally opposite to what the Bible actually teaches.
Remember what we read earlier in 1st Timothy 1:19, that part of our “good warfare” is holding onto faith and a good conscience. Remaining steadfast and rooted in the truth of Christ and His perfect righteousness on us. We also read that some reject that faith and good conscience. Here in verse 2 we see that they reject it because their conscience is seared with a hot iron, which contrary to popular belief does not mean a conscience that does not feel the guilt of sin any longer, but instead means the exact opposite. The phrase “seared with a hot iron” used in verse 2 is one Greek word: kaustēriazō, which means “to be permanently marked by sin” or “carry perpetual consciousness of sin”. This isn’t someone who has no consciousness of sin, but has a perpetual consciousness of sin! This is a person who always has sin and guilt on their mind, so it’s evident in their lives, their beliefs and all that they do. And pastors and leaders who have a seared conscience will teach this way as well. They will teach from a perspective of guilt and sin rather than Christ who came to conquer such things.
Turn with me now to Hebrews 10:1-2, as we explore this further:
“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.”
Verse one here is making a distinction between the Law, which only has a shadow of the good things to come, and Christ Jesus which is the very image of the goodness and glory of God. Think of it like a dinner banquet, you can look at a photograph of fantastic banquet, and you can see some of the details of the different dishes being served, but much is lacking – the aroma of the food, and of course you cannot actually partake of it in the photo. But when you are actually at the banquet, it’s all there for you to enjoy. (This very analogy was used by Jesus Himself in Luke 14:15-24.)
Here in verse 1 of Hebrews chapter 10 the same distinction is being made. How many understand that if a man is hungry, in need of nutrition, it would be very wrong to give him the photo instead of actual food.
All of the offerings of the Old Covenant: the burnt offerings, the grain offerings, the sin and trespass offerings – all of them were just shadows, just photos, of the true eternal offering of Jesus Christ. The verse continues on to say that those things can never with those sacrifices which they offered year after year continually, make those who come perfect. So the people would offer the sacrifices each year continually, but these sacrifices can never make any of the people perfect.
This perfection being spoken of here is not perfection in outward obedience – but perfection in your conscience; this is made clear in the previous chapter of Hebrews 9. Your conscience matters to God… He cares about every aspect of your life, and when He came to give you peace, He gave you peace completely. His Divine peace for you is all-encompassing; it does not leave any area out, including your conscience. Look at verse 2 of our text as it continues… For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sin.
This verse is plainly saying, if the old sacrifices of the Law had worked, then the people would have had no more sin-consciousness. Their conscience would have been cleansed. Why feel guilty for something that has been done, paid-for and forgiven? But the Old Covenant sacrifices did not actually cleanse, they only covered for one year. However, Jesus’ sacrifice did not merely cover, but completely cleansed and removed all of your sins for your entire life! This is why you can be completely free! This is why you can never lose your salvation!
Unfortunately there are many believers who (ironically) do not believe this truth. If you robbed someone of $100 and started feeling guilty about it, and if I as your rich friend went and paid back to the person $1,000 and not only cleared but overpaid your debt for you, and I came to you later and said to you “Don’t worry about it I took care of it for you, and the other person is totally fine with it now, they forgive you.” – if you don’t actually believe what I said, the debt will still be on your conscience, even though it is paid. There are still a large number of believers who are in this doubtful area. They don’t actually believe that Jesus not only paid, but overpaid their sin debt. So their conscience still afflicts them for things that Jesus did away with.
And when you don’t really believe that your debt is paid, it leads to an artificial distance between you and God, not really there because indeed Christ did do what He said and paid your debt. However with this wrong belief of doubting your forgiveness, you become vulnerable to the schemes of the enemy, where he can bring you back under bondage to the Law and crush you with condemnation. The enemy will say things like, “Of-course God is upset, He’s also Holy you know, He cant tolerate sin and so you have to clean yourself up before He will accept you. After all the scriptures say ‘be holy for I am holy!”
The enemy will put those thoughts in your head, bringing you back under bondage, and many have fallen victim to that trap, failing to hold on to faith and a good conscience as we have read in our scripture text today.
My friends, the real Bible truth is that as we have read today, Jesus Christ has cleaned your entire life. His sacrifice absolutely has worked! So now, hold onto that faith, and hold onto the good conscience which Christ Jesus has paid for you to have! Don’t let anyone talk you out of this truth! I say that because the enemy will send you thoughts like “Oh, I really messed up this time, surely God is angry with me.” and he will use legalistic, misguided people to convince you that somehow you still have a debt to God even after Jesus, and that is just plain evil. That is the warfare that you must war against as we read in 1st Timothy earlier.
Your ledger is clean. Your debt is paid. Take a deep breath. Relax. Release it to God. And live the rest of your life with His Divine peace, knowing that it is accomplished. Give all the glory to Jesus.