7 However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. (1 Corinthians 8:7–8, NKJV)
Paul addresses the situation of Christians who had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,” yet their conscience had been trained to honor the idol as real (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9). Their conscience toward eating things offered to an idol was weak (that is, it was not yet developed and trained according to the truth that there is only one God, v. 7). If they were to eat things offered to an idol (even though an idol is nothing, and even though food does not commend us or condemn us to God, v. 8), their conscience would be defiled. We rightly conclude from this passage that violating one’s conscience defiles it. Even though the conscience is not our standard of truth and error, we must not disregard it, violate it and thereby sear its ability to operate (1 Timothy 4:2). A seared conscience is unresponsive and cannot be trained by a knowledge of the truth. Therefore, we must not violate our conscience, including when it has not been fully trained by the truth. Instead, let us continue to grow in knowledge of God’s will and training our conscience toward the true God with it.