Author: Ron Graham
Knowledge and Ignorance
—Learn Christ or Know Nothing
Your mind can be in one of two states. You can KNOW God and his will for you through his Son, or you can be IGNORANT of the truth about God. Your house may be a mansion, or it may be a humble shed. Your clothes may be new and in fashion, or they may be old and frayed. Such things don't matter much. But the question of whether your heart knows God or is ignorant —that is a matter of absolute first importance.
¶“17I bear witness in the Lord that you must no longer walk in the way that heathen do. Their thinking is futile. 18Their understanding is darkened. They are alienated from God’s life. All this because of the ignorance in them through their hardness of heart. 19They've become unfeeling, given to sensuality, impurity and of course greed. 20That is not the way you have learned Christ” (Ephesians 4:17-20).
1 God Understands Ignorance
The World is full of ignorance about God. Many people are ignorant because they don't want to know God’s truth and they have hardened their hearts. But others are ignorant because they have been brought up so, and don't know any better. God understands this.
God understands that people inherit ignorance from their family, community, and culture. So he works to rescue them from ignorance. Peter and Paul both preached God’s understanding and longsuffering toward people ignorant of his will.
- Peter wrote, ¶“Don't be conformed to your former ignorant passions” (1Peter 1:14). and then went on to say, “You know that you lived in a futile manner which your [earthly] fathers passed on to you. From this you were redeemed [by your heavenly Father]” (1Peter 1:18).
- Peter said to the Jews, ¶“You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this... Now brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.” (Acts 3:15,17).
- Paul said to the Gentiles, ¶“These times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
- Paul also applies this principle to himself: ¶“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief” (1Timothy 1:13).
In Old Testament times, God made a distinction between sins done in ignorance versus sins done in rebellion. He made provision in mercy for forgiving the sins of ignorance (eg Leviticus 4).
Jesus himself felt compassion for those in ignorance, and he helped them to receive the knowledge they needed. ¶“Jesus stepped ashore and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34).
2 God Frowns Upon Ignorance
God’s gracious attitude does not mean that he approves of ignorance —or the sin it causes. One may, with compassion, understand how someone was led to do wrong, yet nevertheless regard the deed as wrong. God may be longsuffering towards the ignorant, but he still frowns upon their sins of ignorance.
The high priest in Old Testament times was able to sympathise with people’s weakness and ignorance, since he himself was human too. But he also had to help them address their sins of ignorance and be forgiven.
¶“Every high priest is appointed from among men to represent them in matters relating to God. The high priest offers gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and go astray, since he himself has weaknesses. That's why he must offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 5:1-3).
As we noted earlier, Peter said, ¶“These times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). God wants sins of ignorance resolved. God doesn't say, “Never mind, it doesn't matter, you didn't realise that what you were doing was wrong”. It is ignorant to think that he does!
3 God Dispels Ignorance
God is longsuffering and merciful, but he doesn't take a layback attitude to sin just because people are ignorant and weak. God steps in with a solution. He imparts knowledge so that the ignorant are enlightened. Then they know they have offended God, and they know how to be reconciled and forgiven.
¶“11For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people. 12Grace teaches us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live a sensible, upright, and godly life in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).
¶“11Can anybody know a person’s thoughts except that person’s inner spirit? Likewise, no one knows the thoughts of God except God’s Spirit. 12Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God. So we understand the things freely given us by God.” (1Corinthians 2:11-12).
¶“13We speak this message in words taught not by human wisdom, but by the Spirit. We explain spiritual truths with spiritual words [taught by God’s Spirit]” (1Corinthians 2:13).
¶“11As Scripture says, 'Anyone who believes in him will never be ashamed.' 12And there's no difference between Jew and Greek. The same Lord of all gives riches to everyone who calls on him. 13[As Scripture says], 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'” (Romans 10:11-13).
¶“14But how can they call on a person they have no faith in? And how can they believe in a person they've never heard of? And how can they hear [about that person] unless someone preaches to them? 15And how can someone preach without being sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good message!'” (Romans 10:14-15).
¶“16Of course, not all [who heard] the good message obeyed it. For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed our message?'17Even so, faith comes from hearing, and hearing comes by preaching the word of Christ” (Romans 10:16-17).
¶“14Later, Jesus appeared to the eleven. They were sitting at the table together. He rebuked their lack of faith and their hard hearts —because they had not believed [the testimony of] those who has seen him after he had risen. 15He then said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16Anyone who believes and is immersed shall be saved. Anyone who does not so believe will be condemned'” (Mark 16:14-16).
And so, by sending out preachers of the gospel, God dispels ignorance and gives people knowledge of his Son. In this way, those who were ignorant are enlightened and able to believe in Jesus, obey his gospel, and be saved.
When it comes to being ignorant of Christ’s message, ignorance is certainly not bliss. By preaching that message we enable knowledge to triumph over ignorance.