Paul is dealing with a clash of values within an individual. Confronting a situation in which two distinctly different moral or ethical alternatives exist can produce puzzlement and fear. Such a situation has the potential to leave a person conscience-stricken after doing what he permits himself to do.
If there were no differences between what a person is permitted to do and what he actually does, there would be no self-doubt or self-condemnation to be concerned about. However, the reality is that differences arise. This often occurs when the individual has learned a value in his past, but he is challenged by a different value in the present. This leads to a number of overlapping questions that we need to consider:
» What is the source of what we permit ourselves to do?
» Where did our values originate?
» Where did we form our values?
» Are we sure we are right even when we are not conscience-stricken? This last question is necessary because people can be absolutely wrong while sincerely thinking that they are right.
We should ask these questions of ourselves in areas such as business ethics, education, entertainment, athletics, fashion, diet, child-training, and marital relations—in other words, the entire framework of life, not just in the obvious areas of morality. Acts 18:25-26 reminds us that Christianity is a way of life, a course of conduct encompassing every aspect of life.