The dictionary defines ignorance as a lack of knowledge, education, or awareness. Ignorance is unsafe in spiritual as well as in other matters. Even in earthly governments, people’s ignorance of the law does not excuse them from its violation. And those, who are ignorant because they allow something to stop them from knowing the truth, are more guilty (2 Thessalonians 2:10) than those that don’t have the chance to know it. The Lord urges us to seek for the truth (2 Timothy 2:15) that we may find it. Failure to do that is a sin. “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:17).
Jesus’ Prayer for the Ignorant
Jesus prayed for the ignorant sinners that nailed Him to the cross saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). What incredible love! Jesus pleaded mercy from the Father for the Romans, the Jews, and in a general sense, for all sinners through the future generations. However, His prayer would not, in itself, take away their responsibility.
The Jewish leaders had made their conscious verdict against Christ, although they knew all the prophecies that clearly pointed to Him as the Messiah (ex. Isaiah 53). As they rejected the truth, their hearts became hardened. And they became spiritually blind to discern the awfulness of their act (John 12:39,40).
In comparison, the common people had less knowledge of what was taking place, and their statements of mockery to Jesus at the cross were made in ignorance. They blindly followed the example of their leaders (Matthew 23:16). And the Roman soldiers had even less knowledge of what they were doing. Nevertheless, the Centurion and those with him were moved by the words and actions of Jesus at the crucifixion and they confessed, “Truly this was the Son of God!”(Matthew 27:54).
At Pentecost, Peter told the Jews, “I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:17). Although people may sin due to lack of knowledge, this ignorance is not a good appeal for the justification of their sin. The sin of ignorance must be forsaken, abandoned, and repented of as any other sin (Acts 3:19).
When preaching to the gentiles, Paul said, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked…” (Acts 17:30). God’s holiness has pointed out man sinfulness, but His rich mercy has made it possible for all to find forgiveness based on repentance (2 Peter 3:9). God passed over man’ sins so that His full retribution would not fall upon him. He showed infinite patience and kindness to man (Romans 3:25; Mark 1:15).
The Lord partially excused the whole pre-Christian period as being based on lack of knowledge of the true God. “But now (God) commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained” (Acts 17:31).
In His service,