Is a guilty conscience a 

bad thing?


A healthy conscience helps us make good choices between right and wrong actions. It is an integral part of discernment, something that is all too often lacking in churches today. Christians and unbelievers have consciences, it’s not exclusive to believers, but is part and parcel of our God-given capacity to make moral choices.

HOWEVER, our conscience is not always as reliable as it ought to be when it comes to judging what is right or wrong, because our consciences can be:

Weak: 1 Cor. 8 v 7

Insensitive: 1 Tim. 4 v 1 - 2

Evil: Heb. 10 v 22

Variable from person to person:  1 Cor. 8

So, just because our conscience doesn’t trouble us over a particular action, does NOT necessarily mean that the action is right! Our personal conscience does NOT make laws about what is right or wrong, all it does is reflect the moral values that we already have. 

An evil conscience

Let's look at two criminals in prison: one is not troubled at all by his conscience regarding his crime. The other criminal is deeply sorry he committed his crime.

Which of these prisoners has an evil (bad) conscience? 

The criminal who is not troubled by his conscience has the evil conscience. This is obvious! What is more, he is very likely to re-offend since he doesn’t accept that he has done anything wrong. 

A guilty conscience

The criminal, who is aware of his crime, has a guilty conscience. 

This is actually a good thing even though it can be very uncomfortable, since his guilty conscience and regret means that he has become repentant and so he’s less likely to re-offend!

A clear conscience                                                                                           A clear conscience is one that has been made clean by the cleansing and forgiveness of Jesus work on the cross. A clear conscience is sensitive and controls our actions by making us feel so uncomfortable about sin that we repent straight away. Even better is the conscience that is so sensitive to God’s standards, that it can prevent us from sinning while sin is only at the thought stage. If you have a conscience like this, don’t regret it. Thank God.

In summary, a guilty conscience is a good conscience that is in the process of provoking repentance. However, if we don’t repent, little by little our conscience will become less and less sensitive. 

An evil conscience is one that is no longer capable of provoking repentance, because it has been deceived, or has lowered its standards because of false doctrine or because of an habitual failure to repent. Also an evil conscience fights against us in that it refuses to let us accept pardon and forgiveness, it keeps kicking us when it should be silent because our sin has been dealt with by Jesus.

We can see how important it is to keep our conscience in good working order! The aim of the ‘modernistic theology’ seems to be to replace cleansing from sin, with a sleeping pill for our conscience.

The Bible tells us what behaviour offends God, and what pleases Him. So, we need to constantly realign our conscience with Scripture. The standard is not what pleases us, but what pleases God. Jesus has dealt with the issue of our sin and the issue of original sin too, but we live in a dirty world, we make mistakes and must regularly wash away the dirt that clings.

We can read in 1 Tim. 4 v 1 – 2 that evil doctrine, which is often demonic in origin, is recognisable by its attempts to stifle the conscience of Christians. Satan doesn’t want us to repent; in contrast, GOD desires that we repent and turn from our sinful ways, see Acts 17 v 29 – 31. If we examine the ‘new theology’ we see that this situation is reversed. The ‘new age’ gospel tells us that as Christians we are free from the need to repent. 

Jesus life, death and resurrection didn’t happen in order to put our conscience to sleep! The indwelling Holy Spirit isn’t there to make sure that our conscience stays asleep! These things are the missional aims of Satan!


If, for instance, you accidentally run over someone’s foot with your supermarket trolley, what do you say? You say, ‘I am SORRY!’ Of course there are hooligans who wouldn’t bother to apologise. Do we treat God with enough respect to say SORRY if we offend Him? Or has the Church become a bunch of hooligans too?

Out of respect, reverence and love for God, we MUST REPENT when sometimes our actions spoil His ongoing work in our lives.

So what is the problem?

I once had a car with a problem: the oil pressure warning light would come on at odd times: sometimes just flickering on and off, and at other times it would remain on for a whole journey. I knew that this could mean that there was something seriously wrong with the engine. So I took the car to the garage where they checked the oil pump and changed the filter. After this, the car was fine for a few days then the problem started all over again. I took the car back to the garage. When I went to collect it, I enquired whether or not they'd fixed it; I was told that they had dealt with the trouble and that I would have no further problem because they'd taken the bulb out of the warning light!

I was astounded. What an incredibly dangerous thing to do. 

It's the work of Satan to try and desensitise our awareness of right and wrong by taking the warning light out of our conscience. 

What possible harm can it ever do to say sorry? NONE! 

Saying sorry does not produce a guilty conscience, it relieves it! Repentance shows humility and respect.

NOT saying sorry leaves open the possibility that we have caused offence. If we can’t repent, we’re simply trying to protect our pride, it's basic immaturity. What sort of person would not want to say sorry anyway? Not apologising when we have done the wrong thing doesn’t make any sense, and its one of the greatest causes of bad relationships and war in the world!

I’m going to stick with repentance, it works and it’s great!

Martyn Cunnington                                                    

© Martyn Cunnington revised 2021