“But I didn’t know!” Are we really better off to “turn a blind eye” and pass through life blissfully unaware of facts and obligations that might “bother us”? Many have this selfish attitude, and some even offer scriptural “proof” (It is nice to know just enough to know one does not have to know).
Having asked the question, let us look at what Jesus teaches regarding ignorance. Jesus told the Pharisees, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains” (John 9:39-41). The lesson is related to the healing of a man born blind, who had never had the capacity of sight. One mentally incapable of knowing would not be accountable, so, would have no sin.
But when Jesus said (vs. 39), “I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind,” he referred to (1) meek and humble people who had never had the opportunity to perceive truth (Matthew 11:25), whose eyes would now be opened; and (2) those like the Pharisees, who had the opportunity, but who refused to see. A haughty and self-righteous attitude (John 9:24-29,34) compounded their sin and blinded them to truth.
Luke 12:48 reads, “but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few.” This is the portion of the parable regarding slaves and masters when being “cut to pieces” (vs. 46) and “receive many lashes” (vs. 47) were practiced. The purpose of the parable is clearly stated in vs. 48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required” or, accountability goes hand in hand with opportunity (cf. Matthew 25:14-30).
The slave who failed his master was not free of guilt. He was “worthy of stripes” (Luke 12:48). As God’s creatures, pilgrims through this life, we have obligations to our Maker and fellow-travelers — to know and accept our fair responsibilities. In a real sense, the parable teaches that one who fails to use opportunities to learn truth and obey, is worthy of “many stripes” (Luke 12:47).
Paul was “shown mercy,” because he “acted ignorantly in unbelief.” But 1 Timothy 1:13-15 does not equate ignorance with justification.
In 1 Timothy 1:15, Paul says he was “foremost” of sinners. He just says his was no presumptuous or highhanded sin (cf. Numbers 15:27-31). His railing and persecuting was done in good conscience (Acts 23:1) in keeping with what he “thought” to be right (Acts 26:9). The mercy he obtained is available to us in the person of Christ, who died for those who will do what Paul did when he learned the truth (Acts 22:16).
Writings Of Peter
Peter writes of those who allow it to “escapes their notice” of God’s power and judgement (2 Peter 3:5). He admonishes, “do not let this one fact escape your notice” (2 Peter 3:8) for though God is long-suffering, we must all stand before His throne (2 Corinthians 5:10). Beware presumptuous ignorance! (Psalm 19:13).
Finally, “if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized” (1 Corinthians 14:38) is an admonition to cease to cast pearls before one who obstinately rejects the unified revelation of God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:37; Gal. 1:12; Ephesians 3:3). “Let them alone” (Matthew 15:14). There will be no way to “ignore” eternal condemnation (cf. Revelation 6:12-17).
Brethren and friends, ignorance is not bliss!