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The Sin of Ignorance

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Though having briefly written on this subject in a previous article, it seemed needful to address it again as a number of other thoughts began to surface. Of course, we can never be too thorough, neither exhaust the endless flow of truth to be found in the scriptures. May the Spirit enlighten both writer and reader as we ponder the depths of the Eternal Word.


“Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” I Cor. 2:6-8. Wisdom is presented in two unique categories: the wisdom of this world, and the wisdom of God. The wisdom of this world is identified with darkness; the wisdom of God, with Light. “. . .light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.” Further we are told, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” John 3:19-21. Notice the basic contrasts: the wisdom of this world; darkness, evil. The wisdom of God; light, truth.

" forgiven, dispelled!"

“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” Eph.2:1-2,5. We were quickened by the Spirit that the scales of darkness might drop from our eyes; that our senses be awakened to the light of the gospel; that faith might find Christ as its object.

Let’s compare I Corinthians 2 with Ephesians 2:

“walked according to. . .

“the wisdom of this world” “the course of this world”

“the princes of this world” “the prince of the power of the air”

further, it is “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience”

Is Satan beguiling? Is he crafty? Is he full of deceit? Does he have the wisdom of this world at his disposal? Yes. But do you know what he does not have? He does not know the wisdom of God. Let’s say it again: Satan is blinded to the wisdom of God; he has no discernment of the Holiness of God. What did we just read in I Corinthians chapter two? “the wisdom of God. . .hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world. . .Which none of the princes of this world knew [and here’s the evidence:] for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” Satan was bent on killing Jesus. To say that he was obsessed with His destruction would be a gross understatement. He is operating strictly within the bounds of his own “wisdom.” Are there any who are so totally without understanding as to suppose that he would labor to crucify our Lord if he knew that the plan and purpose was of God; that our Lord’s death on the cross was for the redemption and reconciliation of lost sinners to Himself -- and that Christ would rise victoriously from the grave? If he did not know, being void of any spiritual wisdom, then so must his followers be. It is “the blind leading the blind” if you please. “they know not what they do” for they “walk according to. . .the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”

My dear friend, if ever we needed a reason and a motivation to seek the Lord and to search out the Divine Truths of the scriptures, it is this: that we being quickened unto eternal life, have been imparted the wisdom of God. Let us read afresh Ephesians chapter six: the warfare, the armour of God, being girt about with the truth, taking the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Again, in all his “wisdom” Satan does not have the wisdom that is of God! The Truth is a mighty fortress, a bulwark which stands fast against the weaponry of the evil one.

We know of course, that the Bible is complete. But what we do have, if we might be permitted a play on words, is a reveal-ation of the revelation.

"Father, forgive them. . .

It is on the highest pinnacle of communication; not as a lawyer, not as an officer of the court: He enters into the private chambers of the Eternal Judge; enters as the only begotten Son--and may we not well say that He has the ear of His Father?!!

“Father, forgive them. . .” If Jesus would ask this of the Father then we must reason that His heart was one of compassion and forgiveness; else would he be found to be a hypocrite of the worse magnitude. Oh the wonder of it all! “. . .in due time Christ died for the ungodly. . .while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Rom. 5:6b,8b.

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do?” What is Jesus asking? Father don’t hold them accountable; just let their sin slide by; forgive their sin: because they don’t realize that what they’re doing is wrong? Father forgive them on the basis of their ignorance; they really don’t mean it!

NO!!? What if one goes through this life thinking he’s a good person; he sincerely believes his good deeds are sufficient to gain him entrance into heaven; he’s ignorant of the fact that he is a sinner. Then God can forgive him for he knows not what he is doing. Right? Wrong. Dead wrong. Eternally wrong.

It a l m o s t sounds like Jesus is petitioning the Father to do something that He cannot possibly do, doesn’t it? But we know that that is not possible either! So. . .what IS Jesus asking of the Father? Can the God of all Righteousness. . .just. . .overlook sin. . .pretend it’s not there? We KNOW better! But this world apparently doesn’t! “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood, and without shedding of blood is no remission” Heb. 9:22.

Thus do we consider it appropriate to see the Savior at this point as our Intercessor.

During his earthly ministry our Lord had shown great compassion: entering into the suffering of many, healing them of their infirmities, pronouncing the forgiveness of their sins. Now the time has come; now he is entering the ministry of the cross. Now is the fulfillment of the pattern of the Tabernacle. He would be High Priest and Sacrifice. He would enter in through the veil (which is himself) into the Most Holy Place, He would sprinkle His blood on the Mercy Seat (again Himself, our Propitiation), He would thereby satisfy with the offering of Himself, the only Holy and Righteousness God, who would (and does) reconcile us to Himself! Christ Himself, the means by which fallen man might find Eternal Restoration in the eyes of a Holy God.

"for they know not what they do"

Inasmuch as Jesus was giving himself to be the ultimate and final sin offering in our stead, being the Great High Priest, Intercessor and Propitiation, he was well qualified to petition the Father. He was the fulfillment of the law; his appeal was legal and lawful and in accordance with the Eternal Covenant and the Divine will and purpose of the Eternal God. For confirmation let us examine Leviticus chapter four.

“Speak to the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord. . .” The priest was to offer a sacrifice without blemish; it was to be before the Lord; it was to be brought unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.” “And the priest shall make an atonement for all the congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them; for it is ignorance;” And it shall be forgiven all the children of Israel, and the stranger that sojourneth among them; seeing all the people were in ignorance. . .” “Ye shall have one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel and for the stranger” Numbers 15:24-29.

Old and New Testament linked together and in absolute agreement!

“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle partition between us. . .that he might reconcile both unto God. . .For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” Eph. 2:12,13,14,16a,18.

Christ then is the fulfillment of Leviticus chapter 4: He is the Priest, the Intercessor, now to offer the sacrifice of Himself, who lawfully may pray, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do; the sin of ignorance! And this being for the stranger as well as the Jew! Now may Jehovah forgive sin, extending mercy, acting in grace--and do it in a way that is totally consistent with His unwavering righteousness!

Yes, but how does this tie into New Testament teaching? How does the “sin of ignorance” fit into the picture? In Acts chapter 3 Peter is charging those before him: “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob. . .hath glorified His Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up. . .denied in the presence of Pilate. . .denied the Holy One and the Just. . killed the Prince of life whereof we are witnesses.” “And now I wot [know, understand] that through ignorance ye did it, as did your rulers.” “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. . .”

Consider the testimony of the apostle Paul as he wrote to Timothy: “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” I Tim. 1:12,13. As Paul had been a Pharisee and was well versed in Old Testament scriptures, we must believe that he was aware of that portion found in Leviticus chapter four. He undoubtedly knew the strength of the saying of Christ; that he, Saul, was included when He cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

Jesus never prayed in vain, His petitions always being in accordance with the Father’s will and eternal purpose. And this prayer is certainly no exception! Christ Himself was the fulfillment of the law concerning the sin of ignorance. He was the sacrifice of which the Old Testament scripture pre-figured! The charge against those to whom Peter was preaching? “ye delivered up. . . denied the Holy One and the Just . . .killed the Prince of life whereof we are witnesses.” The Apostle’s own admission of guilt: a blasphemer, a persecutor, injurious. . .“But I obtained mercy!!! And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant. . .”!!! In light of this, there is hope for the vilest of sinners!

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