I am currently working through John MacArthur’s study guide for the Gospel of John and ran across this, “Key to the Text,” regarding the Holy Spirit:
“The Holy Spirit is the divine agent who creates, sustains, and preserves spiritual life in those who place their trust in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is not merely an influence or an impersonal power emanating from God. He is a person, the third member of the Trinity, equal in every way to God the Father and God the son…Since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has indwelt all believers, illuminating their understanding and application of God’s word. He fills them, seals them, communes with them, intercedes for them, comforts them, admonishes them, and enables them to resist sin and to serve God.”
As I was reading this description, my mind instantly jumped to what I understand my conscience to be…which I acknowledge isn’t correct because nonbelievers also have a conscience, because we all have God’s moral law written on our hearts since we are made in His image. So, I wonder about how the Holy Spirit is described in such “active” terms, but how do I as a Christian, commune with the Holy Spirit? Is fellowship with the Holy Spirit something that I feel? I know that since I decided to follow Christ, my eyes have been opened to sin in my life, resulting in having more of an “internal conflict” with myself as I confront sin and struggle to deny myself–seemingly all day every day. Is that communing with the Holy Spirit or is that wrestling with my own conscience?
Would anyone be able to enlighten my thought process or guide me to Scripture that would cover this subject matter?
@khogan16 My short answer would be: our conscience is informed by what we have been taught / put into practice throughout our lives. At times, our emotions can overpower our conscience - like when we are being shamed by others (we feel shame even though we’ve done nothing wrong). The Christian way of having a well informed conscience is to learn God’s Word / sit under sound teaching and put what we learn into practice. As we do those two things, the Spirit empowers us and guides us into all truth.
If we read I Corinthians 8/10 and Romans 14 we find that even within the Christian community peoples’ consciences must be taught by sound teaching. As Paul says, there is nothing wrong with eating meat sacrificed to idols because all belongs to God, but we should not violate our conscience or other peoples’ conscience. A less mature Christian’s conscience can be violated by something that is not actually wrong - like eating meat sacrificed to idols. In the same way, a person’s conscience may not be violated by something that is wrong.
So how is our conscience informed? How do we become mature? The Biblical answer is by practicing sound teaching that we receive from others. Check out this passage in Hebrews:
Hebrews 5:11-14 - We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
The author of Hebrews was frustrated because these folks were not learning how to discern good from evil. Their conscience was still in its infancy (as a Christian). And what was wrong? They were not studying and putting into practice what they were being taught. They were not even trying to understand.
So I believe that: Our conscience is informed by God’s Word / sound teaching and the Holy Spirit brings to remembrance what we have been taught and empowers us to live a godly life.
Romans 8 / Galatians 5 are great places to check out the work of God’s Spirit in our lives:
empowers us to live the Christian life (Galatians 5:16-25, Romans 8) of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control
turns our minds to the things of God (Romans 8:5-6)
gives us power to overcome sin and live a righteous life (Romans 8:12-13)
testifies that we are God’s children (Rom 8:18)
helps us to pray (Rom 8:26-27)
The Case of Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10)
In this case, we see that Peter, who was a devout Jew, had to learn what it meant to be allowed to eat certain foods as a New Covenant Christian. To his conscience these things were unclean because he grew up keeping the dietary laws. But God had to teach him - not through a feeling - but through words - that it was in fact okay to eat it. This teaching prepared him to enter the house of a Gentile who was ready to receive God’s salvation.
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”