Joseph's Chastening
Dr. Joe Temple

INTRODUCTION

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Genesis, chapter 42. We have been studying the book of Genesis for some time now, and in our study we have followed the procedure of noticing the lives of the men who occupy its pages, discovering that in the lives of approximately four men the entire story of the book of Genesis is told. Of course there are other men who are mentioned, but these are the outstanding ones. For some time we have been thinking together about the life of Joseph.

We have seen Joseph as he was a boy at home. We have seen Joseph in prison. We see him now in the palace. We have been thinking about the life of Joseph from both a typical and a practical standpoint. In a typical fashion we have been noticing how he illustrates perfectly the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. Things which Joseph did we find are perfect illustrations of the things which our Lord Jesus did while He was on the earth and after He went to Heaven.

We have considered chapter 42 of the book of Genesis from a typical standpoint. We want now to consider it from a practical standpoint. I think it would be well for us to read the chapter, so the information will be fresh on our minds:

Genesis 42:

1Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?
2And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die.
3And Joseph's ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.
4But Benjamin, Joseph's brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him.
5And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan.
6And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.
7And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food.
8And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.
9And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.
10And they said unto him, Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come.
11We are all one man's sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies.
12And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.
13And they said, Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not.
14And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies:
15Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither.
16Send one of you, and let him fetch your brother, and ye shall be kept in prison, that your words may be proved, whether there be any truth in you: or else by the life of Pharaoh surely ye are spies.
17And he put them all together into ward three days.
18And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God:
19If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses:
20But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.
21And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.
22And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.
23And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.
24And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes.
25Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man's money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way: and thus did he unto them.
26And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence.
27And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it was in his sack's mouth.
28And he said unto his brethren, My money is restored; and, lo, it is even in my sack: and their heart failed them, and they were afraid, saying one to another, What is this that God hath done unto us?
29And they came unto Jacob their father unto the land of Canaan, and told him all that befell unto them; saying,
30The man, who is the lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country.
31And we said unto him, We are true men; we are no spies:
32We be twelve brethren, sons of our father; one is not, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan.
33And the man, the lord of the country, said unto us, Hereby shall I know that ye are true men; leave one of your brethren here with me, and take food for the famine of your households, and be gone:
34And bring your youngest brother unto me: then shall I know that ye are no spies, but that ye are true men: so will I deliver you your brother, and ye shall traffick in the land.
35And it came to pass as they emptied their sacks, that, behold, every man's bundle of money was in his sack: and when both they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid.
36And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.
37And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again.
38And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.

We suggested we wish to consider chapter 42 from a practical standpoint. By that we mean we want to learn the practical, spiritual lessons that are contained in the actions of Joseph in relation to his brethren.

You will keep in mind that this chapter is the fulfillment of God's Word. Will you notice with me, please, verse 6:

Genesis 42:

6And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.

Notice the position of Joseph's brethren. They were bowing down before him. Notice in verse 9 Joseph's reaction in the light of their posture.

Genesis 42:

9And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.

Turn back to Genesis, chapter 37, and refresh your minds on the Word of God. We see an illustration of how God's Word, though it seems impossible and fantastic at times, is always proven true.

Genesis 37:

5And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.
6And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:
7For, Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.
8And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.

In Genesis, chapter 37, his brothers were laughing at a simple-minded boy who believed in God's Word. But in Genesis, chapter 42, without realizing why they were doing it, they were bowing down to this same simple-minded boy. He was now elevated to a palace. The basic lesson that we might keep in mind is that God's Word never fails. It always meets fulfillment.

BEING BROUGHT TO CONVICTION OF SIN

If these men were going to realize that, they needed to be brought to a realization of their sins, and they needed to be brought to a consciousness of God in their lives. So we have in Genesis, chapter 42, a very clear illustration of how God deals with men to awaken their consciences and to bring them to the realization of their need. This is the only explanation for Joseph's activity.

Notice verse 7 again:

Genesis 42:

7And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them…

If you were listening as we read this portion of the Word, you know that he did speak roughly, unkindly, to them. If he were living in this dispensation we would say that he spoke to them in an unchristian fashion. Some folk who are troubled about many things that seem a bit harsh in the Word of God are quick to point out that there was something wrong with Joseph's attitude. He was not as loving and as kind as he might have been.

But the reason Joseph was doing what he was doing was to bring his brothers to a place of conviction and to bring his brothers to a place of repentance. That his own attitude was right is indicated in verse 24. Remember? He was speaking to his brothers through an interpreter. They had no idea that he was a Jew. They thought he was an Egyptian. They had no idea that he understood anything they said. So they spoke rather freely before him of their past life and their past misdeeds. When Joseph heard what they said, you will notice in verse 24:

Genesis 42:

24And he turned himself about from them [that is, he turned his back to them], and wept…

He wept because he had to do what he was doing. He had to do it to bring them to a place of conviction and repentance. We may as well learn that when we have sinned, when any wrong has been done, there is no opportunity for blessing unless the wrong is recognized and acknowledged before the Lord.

That is what the Spirit of God means in I John, chapter 1, verse 9, when He addresses a word to Christians who are out of fellowship:

I John 1:

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

BEING BROUGHT TO REPENTANCE

Confession never comes if there is not a consciousness of sin. So Joseph's procedure was not because he hated his brethren or wanted to get even with them, but because he wanted to bring them to a place of repentance.

In this chapter there are suggested four things which Joseph did which made them conscious of their sins and brought them to a place of repentance. I would like for you to notice those four things with me because they are illustrations of how God stirs up our memory and brings us to a realization of our particular need.

Notice verse 7 again:

Genesis 42:

7And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food.
8And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.
9And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.

BEING MADE TO THINK

The first thing that Joseph did was to point out to them the real reason they were in the land of Egypt, indicating to them that he did not trust them. They were not trustworthy. As we shall see, when their consciences were awakened they immediately began to say to themselves, “What does he know about us? Why is he treating us as he is?”

The first thing that Joseph did was to treat them roughly, that he might make them uncomfortable and cause them to think. I have suggested to you any number of times that if you are a child of God nothing happens in your life by accident. There is always a reason for it. It would behoove every one of us who professes to know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior to pause when anything happens to ask God the reason for it.

Turn with me in the New Testament to Philippians, chapter 3, a testimony of the Apostle Paul which is an illustration in point. The Apostle is speaking of attaining unto the resurrection of the dead…the resurrection from among the dead, the Rapture of the Church.

STRIVING TO FIND GOD'S PURPOSE

Philippians 3:

12Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

We will stop there for the moment. This is another testimony of the Apostle Paul. He frequently gave voice to testimony concerning his spiritual experience, and this particular testimony is bound up in a word used three times in these verses. I would like to point out those words, and then you will be able to notice the reason for our turning here.

In verse 12 you will notice the phrase, “that I may apprehend,” and also the phrase, “for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” In verse 13 we find, “ Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do.”

This word apprehend is a very interesting one. It comes from two Greek words which mean to seize and to throw down . Our English word tackle used in football is the most apt English word that could be used to translate this original Greek word. If you will think about that for a moment you will see what the Apostle is saying.

First of all, in the last part of verse 12, he said, “I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. There came a day when the Lord Jesus Christ seized me and threw me down. There came a day when the Lord Jesus Christ brought me up short. There came a day when the Lord Jesus Christ stopped me.”

In Paul's particular instance the tackle…I use that term reverently…was very forceful and outstanding. We need not all expect to be tackled in the same way that he was. We have a saying today that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Most of us are not as big as the Apostle Paul, so there is not any use in our trying to have an experience like his.

But you remember that when Paul was on the road to Damascus, persecuting the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and light fell from Heaven and knocked him to the ground, immediately from the ground he said, “Lord, Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?” The Lord Jesus Christ, having identified Himself, gave him His Message. You see, the Apostle said, “As soon as I was apprehended, was tackled, was laid hold of, there was a desire in my heart to lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of.”

STRIVING TO FULFILL GOD'S PURPOSE

That brings us to the second phrase that I would like for you to notice in verse 12:

Philippians 3:

12Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

“That I may apprehend it. I want to lay hold of whatever Christ laid hold of me for.”

Do you see what he is saying? You know most people think that when they receive the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, or when they are saved, the only reason they are saved is so they will not go to Hell. Many, many people make a prefession of faith in Jesus Christ just so they will not go to Hell. But if that is your only reason for knowing Christ, you are living on a very barren level. You have only skimmed the surface of your relation to Jesus Christ. You were saved for a purpose. Have you found your purpose? You were apprehended for a purpose. Do you have any desire to apprehend the thing for which you were apprehended?

LOOKING FOR NEW AREAS OF SERVICE

Then you will notice that the Apostle also says in verse 13:

Philippians 3:

13Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended…

“I don't feel that I have laid hold of everything. I feel that there is much more for me out there ahead, and I am pressing toward the mark.”

I hope that you will never arrive. I feel sorry for Christians who have arrived, who have nothing more to lay hold of. They are in a sad situation indeed.

Let us go back to Genesis, chapter 42. We really did not get off the path. Joseph had to tackle his brethren. He had to apprehend them. He had to bring them down. He had to cause them to wake up to their need, so he treated them roughly. I have never known anyone to tackle someone gently. I do not know how that is done. You fall hard! Joseph had to treat them roughly.

A TIME TO REMEMBER THE PAST

Going back to Genesis, chapter 42, will you notice the second thing that Joseph did:

Genesis 42:

17And he [Joseph] put them all together into ward three days.

The word ward here means prison . He put them into prison. He put them into a pit for three days. What do you think they thought about? Well, as you are going to see when we get near to the end of this story, they thought about the time that they did the same thing to Joseph. Keep in mind, now, they did not know that this man who put them into prison was Joseph. But they did know that they had taken their brother who had not done them any harm and put him into a pit and left him there. Remember what we read in Genesis, chapter 37, verse 23:

Genesis 37:

23And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;
24And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.

‘I am sure, as subsequent revelation will reveal, that while they were in that pit they were thinking about the time they had put Joseph into a pit and cared not for a thing that he said.

PRICE RECEIVED FOR JOSEPH

Back in Genesis, chapter 42, notice in verse 25 the third thing that Joseph did:

Genesis 42:

25Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man's money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way: and thus did he unto them.

Notice this strange thing that he did. He put their money back into their sacks, their twenty pieces of silver. When they opened their sacks and saw that silver, their consciences were awakened. What do you think they thought about? Well, when you have time, refresh your minds on what is in chapter 37 of the book of Genesis. If you will glance at verse 28 you will remember that they sold Joseph into the hands of the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver, and they remembered it.

SEEMING LOSS OF BENJAMIN

I would like for you to skip over to Genesis, chapter 44, for only one verse because that is the last of the four things that Joseph did to awaken the consciences of these men and to bring them to the place where we are going to see them:

Genesis 44:

1And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put every man's money in his sack's mouth.

Notice:

Genesis 44:

2And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack's mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken.

Why do you suppose he had his silver cup put into the sack of the youngest son? Do you know why? Remember, Benjamin was the own brother of Joseph. Their old father said, “I cannot stand for the only son of Rachel I have left to go down there to Egypt. The same thing that happened to Joseph will happen to him, and I do not want to lose him.” What do you think they thought when they found that cup in that sack? Immediately they thought, “Oh, the same thing that happened to Joseph is going to happen to Benjamin. By different hands, of course, but our father is going to lose Benjamin just as he did Joseph.” And their hearts were broken and contrite before the Lord.

Will you go back to Genesis, chapter 42, and notice how their consciences became awakened, how they came to a realization of their need:

Genesis 42:

21And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother…

That is the reason Joseph treated them roughly. He wanted them to recognize their sin. They said, “We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us, and we would not hear. Therefore is this distress come upon us.”

Old Reuben, who was one of those “I told you so” people, did not make them feel any better. He said:

Genesis 42:

22…Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.

CONFESSION OF JOSEPH'S BROTHERS

Genesis 44:

16And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? [He was speaking directly to Joseph now] what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord's servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found.

Can you visualize the contrition of heart that these men faced when they said, “How shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of his servants.” In these two verses of Scripture, which represent the confession of Joseph's brethren, there are the essential ingredients of divine retribution…the reason God deals with all of us to bring us to the place of repentance and to bring us to the place of confession.

STEPS TO BRING US TO CONFESSION

First of all, God involves our memory. It would be a wonderful thing if we could forget, wouldn't it? I do not expect you to answer this question audibly, but I am asking it, trusting the Holy Spirit will use it as a provoking thought. Aren't there some things that you would like to forget? Aren't there some things you wish you could forget? Don't they come back to mind a number of times?

Well, Joseph's brethren remembered. They said, “We are guilty. We know why God has let this thing come upon us. We know why. We remember what we did to our brother.”

Memory is not without imagination. If it were simply a memory of fact it would not be so bad, but facts are always covered with imagination. Do you remember that in verse 21 they said, “We saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us and we would not hear.”

If you will take the trouble to read this account again, you will find that they had been quite a distance from the pit where Joseph was, and if Joseph called out to them it would have been impossible for them to hear. But they were thinking, “Oh, he must have suffered out there in that pit. He must have cried out and asked and begged and pleaded with us not to leave him in that pit. He must have suffered an awful lot.” They imagined everything that he endured. It is good that their imagination convicted them even more of their guilt.

Then you will notice the third thing that is always included in divine retribution…memory, imagination and conscience. You will notice that they said, “Therefore is this distress come upon us.” Their conscience was fully awakened now. Their conscience accused them and brought them to the place where they were willing to make things right.

WORKING OF THE CONSCIENCE

In this chapter that we are thinking about together, we have one of the clearest illustrations of the working of the conscience that we have in the Word of God. I would like for you to think a little bit with me about your conscience. It is something that we do not hear much about any more. It is something that we are prone to dismiss, and if we do not dismiss it, most of the time we misunderstand. So I think it would behoove us to learn exactly what the Word of God has to say about the conscience in the human heart.

I would like for you, if you will, to turn with me to chapter 8 of the Gospel of John. I want you to notice there an illustration of the two things that the conscience was meant to be.

The word conscience in the original text comes from two Greek words. One of them, sun , means with , and the other, eido , means to know , or to perceive with . The meaning, then, is perceiving with or agreeing with . Your conscience is that factor within your being which causes you to agree with, to perceive with, to know with certainty facts that bring about inevitable results.

As I said to you, a conscience was meant by God to do two things. In John, chapter 8, we have the story of the woman who is taken in adultery and brought to the Lord Jesus Christ. The people expected Him to say something that would result in her death, but instead He stooped down and wrote on the ground. We do not know what He wrote, but whatever He wrote spoke to the hearts of the people who were standing there. Notice verse 9:

John 8:

9And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

Notice, being convicted by their own conscience . What does that mean? Well, turn to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 18. In verse 15 we find instructions about how to settle disputes among the brethren:

Matthew 18:

15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

Now will you notice a phrase in verse 15, tell him his faults . That phrase is the translation of the word which is translated convict in chapter 8 of the Gospel of John.

When we say that your conscience convicts you, what do we mean? We mean that your conscience was meant by God to tell you what is wrong with you. It was meant by God to tell you your faults. That is the negative side of it.

Will you turn with me, please, to Romans, chapter 9, and notice again a testimony of the Apostle Paul concerning his kinsmen, as he puts it, according to the flesh:

Romans 9:

1I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
2That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
3For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

So Paul says that a conscience is meant by God not only to tell you your faults, but to give you assurance as well. He said, “I can say this and my conscience perceives with me. My conscience agrees with me.” That is the meaning of the word conscience . He continues, “I am right in my attitude in this thing.”

HAVING A DEPENDABLE CONSCIENCE

If we were to stop right there you could be misled, because a conscience is like a compass. If the points of a compass are not accurate, then the compass is not going to be accurate. If the points of your conscience are not accurate, then your conscience is going to be thoroughly undependable. So I would like for you to notice with me what the Bible has to say about the conscience. We learned what it is for. It is to rebuke. It is to encourage. But we need to know a little bit about it.

So will you turn with me, please, to Romans, chapter 2, as we remind our hearts that every person born into the world is born with a conscience. No one is born without a conscience. Every individual born into the world is born with a conscience. That conscience with which they are born at the very beginning is something that can guide them to God.

Notice Romans, chapter 2, verse 11:

Romans 2:

11For there is no respect of persons with God.
12For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
13(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
14For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
15Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

This one paragraph presents a theological question that could take several discussions if we tried to understand everything whthin these verses. So let us for the moment put that in the background of our minds and recognize the basic thing for which we have read this paragraph…namely, what is found in verse 15, that every man is born with a conscience which (notice carefully what I am saying), if left exactly as it is when he is born, would cause him to know when he is doing wrong and when he is doing right.

Now notice, I made a condition in that statement. I said if it is left exactly as it is when he is born. In other words, here is a man who has never heard of the Ten Commandments. He has never heard anyone say, “Thou shalt not steal.” But the moment he steals , his conscience says, “That is wrong!” Here is a man who has never heard, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” But he does and his conscience says, “That is good!”

That is what this verse of Scripture is saying. The conscience with which every man is born is a guide. But alas, consciences are not left the way they are when a man is born and for that reason they are not a safe guide. They are not dependable. What can happen to a conscience?

A WARPED CONSCIENCE

Turn with me, please, to Paul's letter to Titus, chapter 1:

Titus 1:

15Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

Do you see what can happen to a conscience? It can become defiled. Your mind can become so occupied with those things that are impure, that are defiling, that even your conscience can be defiled. It can be marred from its original state, and can become thoroughly undependable, so that a man can do things which his original conscience could not have agreed with, and have no compunction of conscience at all.

MAKING THE CONSCIENCE INSENSITIVE

Will you turn, please, to Paul's letter to Timothy and see something else that can happen to a conscience:

I Timothy 4:

1Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

You know what happens to flesh when you sear it with a hot iron? It becomes insensitive to feeling. It is possible for your conscience to depart from the original state it was in when you were born and become defiled. If it continues to become defiled, it is possible for your conscience to become seared as with a hot iron so that you do not feel anything. How often have you heard someone say, or you may have said it yourself, “Oh, my conscience does not hurt me. I am not doing anything wrong. My conscience does not hurt me”?

Well, that is no sure and certain sign because your conscience could be thoroughly undependable because of these things we have been discussing, unless something else happens to it. What can happen to it? Turn with me to Hebrews, chapter 9, verse 14. In verse 13, Old Testament sacrifices are described as pointing to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. Though they were good as far as they went, they did not go far enough. So by way of comparison, we read in verse 14:

Hebrews 9:

14How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

A CONSCIENCE RESTORED BY CHRIST

Remember that when you are born, you are born with a conscience that reassures you when you are doing right and convicts you when you are doing wrong. But that conscience may become defiled and seared until you are insensitive to it. Then you receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, and when the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, figuratively speaking, is applied to your heart, to your personality, to your being, your heart is cleansed and your conscience is cleansed. It is awakened and it is ready then to respond to what God has in store for you. But it has to have its points of conscience to guide it.

The points of conscience are the Holy Spirit who comes to live in your heart the very moment you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, and the Word of God which God has given to every individual Christian.

A CONSCIENCE GUIDED BY GOD'S WORD

Listen closely to what I am saying. If you are familiar with the Word of God and if you are yielded to the Holy Spirit, your conscience will either rebuke you or agree with you on the basis of what is in the Word, ministered by the Holy Spirit of God.

Here is an individual who ignores what is in the Word of God. If he is a person who is controlled by the Holy Spirit, immediately his conscience will convict him, and he will recognize that what he is doing is wrong. If he is living in accordance with the Word of God, no matter what anyone else says, no matter what other standard anyone else has set as a basis for judgment, if he is living according to the Word of God his conscience reassures him and he has nothing to be concerned about.

So the Apostle has spent quite a bit of time suggesting that you and I should be concerned about our consciences We will not have time to follow this in detail, but when you have time, read Acts, chapter 24, and notice the obligation of the child of God to maintain a conscience that is void of offense, a conscience that is such that no one is offended by his life and by his testimony. A conscience that commends itself to every man's conscience in the sight of God is encouraged in II Corinthians, chapter 4, verse 2.

In other words, if your life is yielded to the Holy Spirit and you are living in the light of the Word of God, your conscience will give you assurance as other people look at your life, and you will not need to be convicted of anything that would cause anyone else to stumble.

Paul reminds Timothy that he has an obligation to maintain before God, always, a pure conscience…a conscience that is pure, that is not defiled.

SUFFERING FOR CONSCIENCE'S SAKE

Peter adds this final thought, and with this we will close. If you are interested in living by your regenerated conscience, you may have to suffer for it.

Have you suffered for conscience's sake? Have you? Well, I would say to you that if you go very far in what is taught in the Word of God, and you try to implement it to any great extent in your life, you will find yourself suffering for conscience's sake. I do not mean, necessarily, that you are going to be thrown into prison, and I do not mean that someone will punch you in the nose, but there will be something that you will recognize as costing you because it is against your conscience.

The Apostle reminds the Corinthian believers, and through them reminds us, that we do not want to go to seed on this thing. There are some people, you know, who are so conscience-stricken about everything that their lives have become a maze of legalism that has robbed them of all joy.

There was a problem in the early days concerning eating meat that was offered to idols. There were some Christians who were saying, “It is against my conscience to eat meat offered to idols.” What they meant was that they thought that if they ate such meat they would be helping support idol worship.

There were other Christians who said, “That does not bother me at all because when I go down to the marketplace to buy meat, I am simply buying meat because I like meat. I have nothing to do with idol worship.”

One had a conscience against it and the other did not. Now the Apostle said that the happy medium was for the individual who had no conscience against it, if he found that it was causing his brother to stumble, to lay it aside gladly and not make an issue of it. On the other hand, he said if someone invites you to dinner and you get ready to cut your steak you do not just stop and say, “Wait just a minute. Where did you get this meat? Did you buy it down there at the marketplace where they sell it for idol worship? If you did, I cannot eat any of it.” Paul says if you do that, you are making too big a thing of your conscience. Do not ask for conscience's sake.

Do you see what I am talking about? Your conscience is a God-given faculty of your personality to act as a guide, a check that you may be able to comprehend that for which also you are apprehended of Christ Jesus.


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