According to the Bible there are 2 kinds of ignorance. The first being innocent ignorance and the second being willful ignorance.
Innocent ignorance is still considered to be a sin, according to Jesus. In Luke 12:47,48, the Lord tells this story.
And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
In our common law which is based on Biblical law, citizens are expected to know what the law says, in general terms even if they do not know particulars.
Ignorantia juris non excusat is latin for ignorance of the law is no excuse. This is a legal principle which means that a person who is unaware of a law, may not escape liability for violating that law, just because they were uninformed concerning that law.
“Ignorantia Legis Neminem Excusat“, Manitoba Law Journal, Vol. 2, Issue 10 (October 1885), pp. 145–157
The Bible makes this principle clear in Numbers 15:22-30. Innocent ignorance is still considered a sin. Not as bad as willful disobedience but never the less, a sin.
But suppose you unintentionally fail to carry out all these commands that the LORD has given you through Moses. And suppose your descendants in the future fail to do everything the LORD has commanded through Moses. If the mistake was made unintentionally, and the community was unaware of it, the whole community must present a young bull for a burnt offering as a pleasing aroma to the LORD. It must be offered along with its prescribed grain offering and liquid offering and with one male goat for a sin offering. With it the priest will purify the whole community of Israel, making them right with the LORD, and they will be forgiven. For it was an unintentional sin, and they have corrected it with their offerings to the LORD—the special gift and the sin offering. The whole community of Israel will be forgiven, including the foreigners living among you, for all the people were involved in the sin.
If one individual commits an unintentional sin, the guilty person must bring a one-year-old female goat for a sin offering. The priest will sacrifice it to purify the guilty person before the LORD, and that person will be forgiven. These same instructions apply both to native-born Israelites and to the foreigners living among you.
But those who brazenly violate the LORD’s will, whether native-born Israelites or foreigners, have blasphemed the LORD, and they must be cut off from the community. Since they have treated the LORD’s word with contempt and deliberately disobeyed his command, they must be completely cut off and suffer the punishment for their guilt. TLB
Innocent sin is lesser in comparison to presumptuous sin, which is knowing something is wrong but in pride rejecting doing what is right or what the word says, due to weakness of the flesh.
Innocent sin is a lack of deep understanding of the seriousness of the sin involved. For example, the unbelief of the lost may in some cases be due to innocent ignorance, but is still considered to be sin according to God. This is because as Paul points out in Romans chapter 1, nature itself is a witness to the Creator plus nature teaches what is right and what is wrong. To defy God’s natural laws by rejecting them as untruth can be innocent ignorance but also may be willful ignorance, depending on the situation.
Willful ignorance is a graver sin. It is not as bad as presumptuous sin or deliberate sin, but it is sin never the less. Willfully ignorant is a legal term which means one who lacks the information or facts because they refuse to acknowledge them.
In criminal cases, willful ignorance is meant to substitute for actual knowledge: When the defendant does not actually know , but was willfully ignorant of it, courts may treat her as if she actually knew. Global-Tech, 131 S. Ct. 2060 at 2070.
Its the same principle in the Bible. The anti Christ spirit may be changing God’s laws today in order to excuse sin, but God’s law always trumps over the devil’s lies.
For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law. Romans 2:12
Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:7,
And Balaam said to the Angel of the LORD, “I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back. Numbers 22:34,
God calls unbelief a sin. Thomas had innocent unbelief. He was not there when Jesus appeared to the other disciples, and was not going to take their word for his resurrection. When Jesus showed up he proved himself to Thomas, then Thomas believed. Jesus however, spoke into his unbelief. “Do not doubt but believe.” (John 20)
Scriptures tell us that without faith, that is trust in God’s word, the scriptures, it is impossible to please Him. Many say they “believe in Jesus” but they willfully reject his word. They deny his power, his deity, his laws.
To reject scriptures because one is told they are not relevant for today, or God doesn’t do that any more, or God approves of me anyway, or they put man’s word above God’s word, can be depending on the situation, innocent ignorance or willful ignorance. Either way, it is still sin.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6
But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. James 12:32
However, they did not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God. 2 Kings 17:4
Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins. John 8:24
So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:19
In order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. 2 Thessalonians 2:13
But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. Revelation 21:8
The spirit of pride is behind taking offense to God’s word. Many today in churches out right reject the Bible. Some reject portions of the Bible. They even persecute those who have faith in God’s word.
So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 1 Peter 2: 7,8
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. Matthew 24: 9,10
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Mathew 5:10-12
The Bible tells us to be innocent of evil but to wise concerning what is good. Romans 16:19
We are called to pray for our understanding to be enlightened, so that we can know what is the hope of our calling, what is the riches of God’s inheritance that he has provided for us and to know what is the exceeding greatness of his power towards us who BELIEVE. Ephesians 1:18
We are called to walk, not in willful ignorance and unbelief, but by faith in Jesus Christ who loved us and gave himself for us!
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. Ephesians 4:18
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6 thoughts on “IS IGNORANCE A SIN?”
This really spoke to me personally. I’ve been pondering on whether ignorance is a sin or not and trying to balance my theology and God led me here. Considering that I am a Lawyer and you used some of our legal language explained everything I needed to know. Thank you for this, thank you for yielding to God and allowing Him use you to write this. God bless you.
You are welcome! God bless you with his grace. Before I retired I worked as a paralegal then a paralegal instructor in a community college. I still love to research but now its for Jesus! 🙂
That’s wonderful ma. Well done, I appreciate you
🙂 God bless!
Excellent. Spot on.
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