Last week we began looking at Kyle’s question regarding sins that would put a person “beyond the point of no return,” so to speak. That is sins that would make it impossible for God to save a person. As we pointed out last week, there is no such thing as a sin that is so bad that God can’t or won’t forgive it. With God, there is no such thing as a “point of no return.”
However, on our part, we can become so callused to sin that we won’t repent and turn to God for the forgiveness He desires to give us. If we have crossed a “point of no return,” it is on our part, not God’s. In that way, it is not any specific sin that causes us to be beyond God’s saving grace but a classification, or category, of sin that will prevent us from being saved. We started out last week looking at one such classification, the sin unto death. We’ll go on this week to look at another condition of heart that might cause us to be beyond “the point of no return.”
The Seared Conscience
Paul uses this term to describe those who would lead the prophesied apostasy (1 Timothy 4:1, 2).
The picture is that of flesh that has been branded and, therefore, has lost all feeling. It has reference to someone who has gotten to the point that their conscience has lost its “guilt” reflex over sin.
The only way the imagery works is if the person under consideration knows that they are contradicting the word of God and they just don’t care. They have no pangs of conscience over it. They feel no guilt for going against what they know to be right.
When we believe that something is wrong, God has given us a built-in safe guard against violating our conscience. Its the guilt reflex. It is because of this guilt reflex that we will repent when we know we have done wrong.
There are two reasons that a person’s guilt reflex won’t bother them when they do wrong. First, it won’t bother them if they don’t know that what they are doing is wrong. For the guilt reflex to work on our conscience we have to know the difference between right and wrong.
Paul’s conscience didn’t bother him when he was persecuting the church because he believed he was doing the right thing (Acts 23:1). It was only after he learned that he had been going against the will of God that he considered himself a sinner (1 Timothy 1:15). However, this is not the kind of person Paul is talking about in 1 Timothy 4:2.
The other reason a person’s conscience won’t bother them when they do something they know to be wrong is that they have become hardened to that thing through repeated offenses. When a person does something they believe to be wrong for the first time they really struggle with their conscience.
However, the next time they do it, it doesn’t “hurt” as much. Eventually, they will get to the point that it doesn’t bother them at all.
They may even convince themselves that there isn’t really anything wrong with it anyway. That person has “seared” their conscience through repeatedly “burning” themselves in the fire of sin.
In the text it refers to those who willingly and wantonly contradict the word of God and lead others to do the same. It may have bothered them early on but through their repeated transgression against God’s will they have lost any feeling of guilt over doing such.
They continue moving farther and farther away from the word of God and it doesn’t bother them a bit. They are not going to repent of it because they don’t feel the “cutting to the heart” of the word’s rebuke (Acts 2:37). Their conscience has become just like the unfeeling flesh seared by the brand.
Again, this “seared conscience” doesn’t refer to any specific sin. Rather, it is a condition of sin. It could be any sin that a person has lost all feeling of guilt over. As long as they are in that condition there is no way they can be forgiven. For that person to be forgiven they would have to confess their guilt, which they don’t acknowledge, and repent.
Next week we’ll look at The Willful Sin and Blaspheming The Holy Spirit.
As always, I look forward to your feedback and questions.
Norm Fields is the minister for the Church of Christ Northside meeting at 1101 Hogansville Road in LaGrange. He may be reached at 706-812-9950 or BibleQnA@NormFields.com.