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Matters of conscience

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Scripture gives guidance on matters of conscience, particularly in cases where believers may reach different conclusions on certain matters of moral or spiritual choice.

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Having a right attitude to Christians with different opinions

Consciences may differ

Romans 14:2 NIV
2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.

Different conscientious decisions must not be condemned

The gospel dispenses believers from all prohibitions concerning food. Those who are strong in faith realise this, and joyfully accept this liberty. Yet others are hindered from accepting this, on account of scruples about food inherited from their past life. Paul asks those with a clearer grasp of the gospel to respect anyone whose “faith is weak”, so that, in their own time, they may come to share the fulness of the liberty of the children of God.
See also ; ;

God accepts and supports people who reach different conscientious decisions

Romans 14:3–4 NIV
3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

God alone must judge whether decisions of the conscience are right or wrong

Romans 14:12–13 NIV
12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. 13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.
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Decision-making

Decisions should honour Jesus Christ

Romans 14:6 NIV
6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.
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Decisions should arise from convictions

Romans 14:5 NIV
5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.
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Decisions should be based on good doctrine

1 Corinthians 10:25–26 NIV
25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

Consideration of others

Regard for another’s position

1 Corinthians 10:23–24 NIV
23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
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Restraint of freedom for the sake of another

“The weak” are Christians who have yet to grasp the full implications of the gospel. At this stage, they are likely to be scandalised by the full public exercise of Christian freedom on the part of those who are more mature in their faith. Paul’s advice is to respect the sensitivities of the weak, and wait for these fellow believers to become spiritually mature. Paul is not suggesting that Christians should cease to exercise the liberty of faith. Rather, he is asking for pastoral sensitivity.
See also ; ; ; ;

Appeals to conscience

; ; Peter argues against circumcision for Gentile believers; ; ; Consciences are not infallible.
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