“Once out of school, nearly 60 percent of all adult Americans will never again read a single book.” Larry Wolwode, Youth Worker Update, Signs of the Times, October, 1992.
The 1828 Noah Webster’s Dictionary provides a good definition of the word “ignorance”. Ignorance: “the want, absence or destitution of knowledge; the negative state of the mind which has not been instructed in arts, literature, or science, or has not been informed of facts. Ignorance may be general, or it may be limited to subjects. Ignorance of the law does not excuse a man for violating it. Ignorance of facts is often venial.
The Biblical Doctrine of Ignorance
The Hebrew word for ignorant is shagah [shaw-gah’], want of knowledge. The idea is to go astray, to err, to swerve, meander, roll.
In the Old Testament there were sins of ignorance or sins which were unintentionally committed such as error (Lev. 5:18), straying (Psalms 119:10), and stumbling (Job 4:4). These sins still incurred guilt (Lev. 4:13, 22, 27), but could be atoned for (Lev. 4; 5:5-6).
In the Old Testament there were presumptuous sins were high handed and an affront to the Lord. The Law made no provision for presumptuous sins (Num. 15:30-31; Prov. 19:27). Presumptuous sins incurred guilt and required a sacrifice. Study Leviticus 4:13, 22, 27
The Greek word for ignorant is idiotes [id-ee-o’-tace], and refers to a private person, someone rude, and unlearned.
The word “ignorant” is used 17 times in 16 verses in the Authorized Version.
The Psalms confessed how foolish and ignorant he was for being led astray by sin. He had acted like an irrational beast rather than a rational man, made in the image of God. “So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee” (Psalms 73:22).
There is no honor in being an ignorant person. This is especially true of God’s people, for then self, and others are hurt. “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber” (Isaiah 56:10).
The Gentiles of the earth can rejoice when God reveals Himself to them, though the people of the Covenant know them not. “Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O Lord, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting” (Isaiah 63:16).
The world mocks Christians whom they consider to be ignorant. The slander does not matter. What is important is for the world to concede that a believer has been with Jesus. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
The apostle Paul did not want the people in Rome to be ignorant, or uninformed about his heart’s desire, which was to be with them. “Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles” (Rom. 1:13).
It is not uncommon that, when a person does not know what someone else is thinking, they ascribe to them motives they may not have. Paul did not want the Church in Rome to think he was unwilling to be with them or was avoiding the congregation.
Those who do not know the Lord, are ignorant of His righteousness. As a result, individuals try to establish their set of virtues. “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3).
Under the divine influence of God the Holy Spirit, Paul did not want Christians to be ignorant about specific spiritual matters.
The apostle Paul did not want the Gentiles to be ignorant of the Mystery of the Blindness of Israel. Specifically, it was only temporary. It shall last “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Romans 11:25).
The apostle Paul did not want the Corinthians to be ignorant of the Doctrine of the Baptism of Moses. ““Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea” (1 Cor. 1:1). Study Hebrews 6:1-4
The apostle Paul did not want the Church to be uniformed about spiritual gifts. “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” (1 Cor.12:1).
The apostle Paul did not want the Church in Corinth to be unaware of the great struggles which came to him in Asia. “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life” (2 Cor. 1:8).
Sometimes, it is just nice to know that someone cares about the troubles you have seen, or, are going through.
The apostle Paul did not want the Church to be afraid of the future, or uninformed about the resurrection and the Second Coming of Christ. “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).
There are gospel truths some people will never become informed about due to unbelief, and the hardening of the heart. Such people are to be left to themselves, after appropriate efforts have been made to enlighten them in the things of God. “But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant” (1 Cor. 14:38).
The Lord does not want Christians to be uninformed about the many devices of Satan to ensnare the heart to sin. “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor. 2:11).
Christians should have compassion for those who do not know Christ. “Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity” (Heb. 5:2).
Christians are not to be ignorant about time. “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).
There are many who are willfully ignorant of God and the gospel. “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water” (2 Peter 3:5). They simply will not listen.
Professional golfer Tommy Bolt was playing in Los Angeles and had a caddy with a reputation of constant chatter. Before they teed off, Bolt told him, “Don’t say a word to me. And if I ask you something, just answer yes or no.” During the round, Bolt found the ball next to a tree, where he had to hit under a branch, over a lake and onto the green. He got down on his knees and looked through the trees and sized up the shot.
“What do you think?” he asked the caddy. “Five-iron?”
“No, Mr. Bolt,” the caddy said.
“What do you mean, not a five-iron?” Bolt snorted. “Watch this shot.”
The caddy rolled his eyes. “No-o-o, Mr. Bolt.”
But Bolt hit it and the ball stopped about two feet from the hole. He turned to his caddy, handed him the five-iron, and said, “Now what do you think about that? You can talk now.” “Mr. Bolt,” the caddy said, “that wasn’t your ball.” ~Crossroads, Issue No. 7, pp. 15-16.