They have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong (Hebrews 5:14)

Yomelijah Yomelijah
Yomelijah
Published in
10 min readApr 11, 2024

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The Path of Soundness of Judgment by a Good Bible-trained Conscience

“But solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong” (Hebrews 5:14). The expression “perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong”, seems to allude to conscience. In another letter addressed to Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul gives a definition of the conscience which decides between right and wrong: “For whenever people of the nations that do not have law do by nature the things of the law, these people, although not having law, are a law to themselves. They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts, while their conscience is bearing witness with them and, between their own thoughts, they are being accused or even excused” (Romans 2:14,15). The apostle Paul defines in this text, a conscience in the general sense, as a divine gift for all of humanity. This awareness needs to be nurtured more specifically within the framework of family with the biblical spirituality or the will of God (2 Timothy 3:16,17).

A matter of conscience

The person who sincerely desires to please God by applying biblical principles may find himself faced with situations that are not always easy to make the best decision. This is why it is appropriate to take Jesus Christ as a pattern and mentor, in order to know how to make the best decisions, especially when biblical principles collide. This is why, first, we will classify the laws and commandments of God into several categories to understand the scale of priorities in the decision to be made.

Jesus Christ showed that the commandments and the laws of God have a point of convergence, love for God and love for our neighbour: “On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets” ( Matthew 7:12 (the golden rule); 22:36–40). Jesus Christ spoke of this same point of convergence, with different words, but which are aspects of the timeless commandments of God, based on love: “You have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23). Therefore, for each complex decision to be made, when a timeless (or eternal) principle (commandment) and a circumstantial law collide, it is the principle (the timeless commandment) that will prevail (we will illustrate this point little further).

Let us talk about the difference between a timeless commandment (principle) and a circumstantial law. In Genesis it is written that God forbids eating of the fruit of a tree: “But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). In this text there are two elements: the eternal commandment is obedience to God (not written). The circumstantial law is not to eat the fruit of the tree. Which of the two elements is superior? If the question may seem strange, it will allow us to always have in sight the most important aspects in the difficult decisions to be made because, in exceptional situations, a circumstantial law can collide with a timeless command. Of course, in this situation it is obedience to God that is most important, while the ban on this tree can only be temporary, since a tree is not eternal and moreover, at any time God could lift the ban.

There are timeless circumstantial laws (commandments) that cannot change (this time written). The best example are the ten commandments in Exodus chapter 20. Why are these “circumstantial” laws? When Adam was sinless, did he need these laws? Not at all, because he naturally did good, without any need to legislate (to write these laws) to guide him towards good conduct before God. It was the appearance of sin in the world that made these laws necessary (Romans 5:12). In Romans chapter 7, it is written that sin causes humans to act wrongly before God. Circumstantial laws act as indicators for doing right before God. However, when humanity will have no more sin, at the end of the thousand year reign of Christ, these laws, although permanent or eternal, will no longer need to be part of a written code (or to be made explicit) because humanity will apply it naturally. Regarding the Prophecy of Jeremiah, about the new covenant, it is written that the law will be written in the hearts (or minds) of humans (Jeremiah 31:31–33). We are currently experiencing the fulfillment of this situation throughout the Christian congregation (Luke 22:20).

Finally, there is the provisional circumstantial law, for example the Mosaic Law, under the aspect of the laws regarding the sacrifices in the biblical books from Exodus to Deuteronomy. The purpose of this law was to show the necessity of human sacrifice, to redeem all of the offspring of Adam: “So the Law became our guardian leading to Christ, so that we might be declared righteous through faith” (Galatians 3:24). These sets of laws having served their purpose, they came to an end (Romans 10:4).

Let us see how Jesus Christ made his decisions in ambiguous or complex situations. While Jesus Christ, is in the presence of a man who has a withered hand, he asks the following questions about the Sabbath: “After departing from that place, he went into their synagogue, and look! there was a man with a withered hand! So they asked him, “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath?” so that they might accuse him. He said to them: “If you have one sheep and that sheep falls into a pit on the Sabbath, is there a man among you who will not grab hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do a fine thing on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man: “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored sound like the other hand” (Matthew 12:9–13). The Sabbath was the day when all work was absolutely forbidden. However, if an animal and a human were in distress, it made sense to rescue them, even on the Sabbath. In this case, it was the timeless principle of mercy that prevailed over this Sabbath commandment, as Jesus Christ reminded us in Matthew 23:23. Common sense helps to understand where the priorities are in the decisions to be made (2 Timothy 1:7).

Another biblical example where a law and a principle can exceptionally collide. In Joshua chapter 2 we can read that Joshua sent two spies to the city of Jericho. They hid in the house of Rahab. The soldiers knocked on her door to ask her if the spies were at her house: “The king of Jerʹi·cho was told: “Look! Israelite men have come in here tonight to spy out the land.” At that the king of Jerʹi·cho sent word to Raʹhab: “Bring out the men who came and are staying in your house, for they have come to spy out the entire land.” But the woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said: “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And at dark when the city gate was about to be closed, the men went out. I do not know where the men went, but if you quickly chase after them, you will catch up with them.” (However, she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them among stalks of flax laid in rows on the roof.)” (Joshua 2:2–6). Rahab was faced with a dilemma, either to tell the truth and the two men would have perished, or not to report their presence and save their lives.

Going back to the three eternal principles of Matthew 23:23, mercy, justice and faithfulness, Rahab prioritized the eternal principle of the justice of God, to make this right decision: “In the same manner, was not Rahab the prostitute also declared righteous by works after she received the messengers hospitably and sent them out by another way?” (James 2:25).

Consider a last example where these three eternal principles were enforced over the Sabbath law. This passage will fully summarize what was previously written: “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples got hungry and started to pluck heads of grain and to eat. At seeing this, the Pharisees said to him: “Look! Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them: “Have you not read what David did when he and the men with him were hungry? How he entered into the house of God and they ate the loaves of presentation, something that it was not lawful for him or those with him to eat, but for the priests only? Or have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbaths the priests in the temple violate the Sabbath and continue guiltless? But I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. However, if you had understood what this means, ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless ones. For the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath.”” (Matthew 12:1–8).

Now let us look at how to make a correct decision, based on biblical principles with a question as example: Can the Christian take drugs? One way to have a clear and precise answer is to ask the question what decision would Jesus Christ have made? It is interesting to note the decision that Jesus Christ made at the place of his execution: “They gave him wine mixed with gall to drink; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it” (Matthew 27:34). Jesus Christ wanted to have control of his mind until his death. The use of drugs acts on the mental state but also pollutes the human body. Here is what it is written: “Therefore, I appeal to you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason” (Romans 12:1). The service we render to God requires a self-control of our mental state by using our reason. Our body and our mind must be holy. Based on these two timeless biblical principles, holiness and the use of reason, allow us to know what decision to take.

Sometimes, on more complex questions, we can seek advice from Christians who have a long experience of applying biblical principles: “When there is no skillful direction, the people fall, But there is success through many advisers” (Proverbs 11:14). Of course, the adviser will bring out biblical principles with the aim that the person knows what he must do (and without necessarily “telling” him what he must do, but rather bringing him to “understand” what he must do based on the biblical principles involved). The goal of the adviser is to teach to find the biblical principles so that the person who reaches maturity can be autonomous in his ability to make decisions on complex situations, and no longer need, eventually, to constantly ask advice (Hebrews 5:14).

One last point, Jesus Christ showed that even if we are in our right, sometimes it is necessary to take into account the feelings of others, so as not to be a stumbling block for others. Here is the decision that Jesus Christ took in renouncing his right so as not to offend the person: “After they arrived in Ca·pernaum, the men collecting the two drachmas tax approached Peter and said: “Does your teacher not pay the two drachmas tax?” He said: “Yes.” However, when he entered the house, Jesus spoke to him first and said: “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth receive duties or head tax? From their sons or from the strangers?” When he said: “From the strangers,” Jesus said to him: “Really, then, the sons are tax-free. But that we do not cause them to stumble, go to the sea, cast a fishhook, and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth, you will find a silver coin. Take that and give it to them for me and you”’ (Matthew 17:24–27) Jesus Christ made Peter reason that he did not have to pay this tax. However, he did not want to trip up these men who did not have all the information to understand why he should have been exempt from this tax.

Of course, in the context of Hebrews 5:14, the “perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong” or the conscience “exercised in distinguishing between good and evil”, is the result of both a long life experience based on the application of biblical principles. He or she who has reached Christian maturity, on the basis of divine knowledge, discernment, insight and wisdom given by God, will demonstrate before God and men, that he has a well educated and well exercised conscience, to do the difference between good and evil, in ambiguous, intermediate and complex situations, a little like King Solomon and like Jesus Christ. In doing so, by his behavior full of divine wisdom, he will give glory to God: “You are the light of the world. A city cannot be hid when situated upon a mountain. People light a lamp and set it, not under the measuring basket, but upon the lampstand, and it shines upon all those in the house. Likewise let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens” (Matthew 5:14–16).

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Yomelijah Yomelijah
Yomelijah

“But as these things start to occur, stand up straight and lift up your heads, because your deliverance is getting near” (Luke 21:28) http://yomelyah.com/