Your conscience is your consciousness of what you believe is right and wrong. It's a generally reliable instrument, so as a general rule you should follow your conscience. But general rules have exceptions. That voice in your head is not necessarily God's voice. Sometimes your conscience may be theologically incorrect. That was the case for Christians in Rome in the middle of the first century. Some of those Christians had a weak conscience in three specific areas:
- They ate only vegetables (Romans 14:2, 21).
- They valued some days more than others (Romans 14:5a).
- They abstained from wine (Romans 14:21; see also Romans 14:17).
So you can have a weak conscience in a particular area — that is, you may be theologically incorrect (but not heretical) about a particular issue.
The terms "strong" and "weak" in Romans 15:1 imply that a strong conscience is more desirable than a weak one. Why wouldn't you want your conscience to be as scripturally informed as possible?
Calibrating Your Conscience
Moving from weak to strong on a particular issue requires that you calibrate your conscience. Just like you may calibrate a clock or a scale that is a bit off, you may need to align your conscience with the standard of God’s Word so that it functions accurately.
So how do you know the difference between sinning against your conscience and calibrating your conscience?