That is an excellent question, for the Spirit’s work in the believer (and the unbeliever too!) is definitely connected with our conscience at times. What is our conscience and what purpose does it serve? Our “conscience” is what gives us the ability to “know the difference between right and wrong.” When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit from the “tree of the KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL” (see Genesis 2:16-17 with 3:1-6) they acquired a CONSCIENCE. We read that the moment they ate the fruit “the eyes of them both were opened, and THEY KNEW THEY WERE NAKED” (3:7a, b). Before they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they were in a state of INNOCENCE and saw nothing wrong with being naked, but upon eating of the tree they now possessed a CONSCIENCE which told them that it was NOT GOOD TO BE NAKED. They were immediately ashamed and tried to cover up their nakedness by making aprons out of fig leaves (3:7c, d).

We read of the work of the conscience in Romans 2:12-15, “For as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For 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: Which 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 passage teaches us that though one may never have read the Ten Commandments, they still have a SENSE OF RIGHT AND WRONG BECAUSE OF THE CONSCIENCE that they were born with. So, the Law said “Thou shalt not steal,” but even the one who is ignorant of the Law will know instinctively, by virtue of his/her conscience, that it is WRONG TO STEAL. The conscience then serves as an “inward monitor” and when we do something WRONG our conscience will ACCUSE US; if we do something RIGHT our conscience will EXCUSE US.

So, how is the work of the Holy Spirit connected with our conscience? Perhaps you are familiar with the story of the adulterous woman who was caught in the very act of adultery and then religious leaders took her to the Lord Jesus to see how He would react to her sin, knowing that the Law commanded that she should be stoned (in John 8:1-5). We read in verses 6-7 that “Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground” and then He said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” How did the religious leaders respond? “And they which heard it, being CONVICTED BY THEIR OWN CONSCIENCE, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last” (verse 9). Now it was their conscience that ACCUSED THEM of their many sins committed throughout their life but THEIR CONSCIENCE WAS AROUSED BY THE WORD THAT JESUS SPOKE. This means that it was the “Word of God” (for Jesus is God!) that “enlightened their conscience” and brought conviction of sin. Now let’s read John 16:7-8, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when He is come, He will REPROVE THE WORLD OF SIN, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” As we saw from John chapter 8, the Lord Jesus proclaimed God’s Word in order to “reprove (convict) the world of sin” but now that the Holy Spirit (who is the Comforter…see John 14:15-17, 25-26) has come, He too proclaims God’s Word in order to REPROVE THE WORLD OF SIN. When the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of men and women, He brings them to “conviction of sin”; the Word He proclaims causes them to be “convicted by their own conscience” (as we saw in John 8:9). We see then that the Holy Spirit’s work in reproving the world of sin through the Word of God is vitally connected with the conscience.

Now you may be thinking, “Wait a minute, we saw in Romans chapter 2 that the conscience is able to ACCUSE US when we sin without the Word of God, so why is the Holy Spirit and the Word of God needed to bring conviction of sin?” Ah, because the conscience can be compromised; that is, it can lose its ability to convict one of sin. In 1st Timothy 4:1-2 we read, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, HAVING THEIR OWN CONSCIENCE SEARED WITH A HOT IRON” (NKJV). This passage teaches us that one, whose conscience may have been tender at one time, may become hardened through sin and by listening to the “Father of lies” (see John 8:44). When one refuses to listen to the Word of God their conscience becomes insensitive to what is right and wrong. When this happens, their conscience will no longer “accuse them or excuse them.” The tragedy is they may think they are “doing right” and even say, “my conscience doesn’t condemn me,” but they are deluded. I’ve heard people say, “My conscience is my guide” but we have just seen that if the conscience becomes “seared” it is no longer operating. The only sure way our conscience will be “doing its job” is to have it being enlightened by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. If we are truly subject to the Holy Spirit’s teaching by the Word of God, we can be sure that the Holy Spirit “is working in our lives and not just our conscience.”  (456.3)  (DO)