As Paul writes to Timothy, he mentions that the Holy Spirit revealed to him that during the latter times many would suffer from a conscience that is seared with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:1-4) Three critical questions arise:
1) What is a seared conscience?
2) How is the conscience seared?
3) What are the effects of a seared conscience?
The term “conscience” is translated from the Greek word syneidēsis, which is defined by Strong’s as “the soul as distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter, commending one, condemning the other”. Hence, when Paul employs the illustration of something being cauterized by a hot iron it is self-evident that he is alluding to a dreadful spiritual condition, one in which a person’s moral sense has become desensitized to sin.
In other words, said person expresses no hesitation in behaving sinfully and demonstrates no remorse after he’s sinned because his conscience is seared. Some have commented further, claiming that the text also implies that the person’s soul is branded by sin, an acceptable explanation.
We’ve answered what a seared conscience is and its effects. Still, how does it occur? The response could be very detailed, but for the sake of brevity let’s condense it: Indulging in sinfulness.
Note that in the quoted passage Paul mentions that some will depart from Christianity because they are seduced by deceiving spirits and because they have heeded doctrines of demons. Giving space to immorality and dabbling in the diabolical are one and the same. Therefore, it is imperative for the Christian to put off all traces of sin from his life so as to not risk a seared conscience.
A word of warning for the reader: When we mention a destroyed conscience, do not make the mistake of mentally defaulting to the typical crimes and criminals associated with a seared conscience – murderers, serial rapists and the like. Although these things are the products of a seared conscience, many others whom suffer from a it have not physically murdered or raped anyone. Nevertheless, the effects are quite disastrous.
Consider those who approve of and practice abortion, the feminizing and hatred of men, fornication, sodomy in all its forms, hypocrisy, covetousness, strife, irreverence, blasphemy and many other sins. (Romans 1:32) How did they become so depraved, if not for indulging in wickedness?
The Bible couldn’t be any clearer in its admonishment to refrain from sin. The key is in heeding the Biblical counsel to
“Test [examine] all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:21
Are you doing everything you can to refrain from evil and stand firmly in that which is good?