Is Ignorance an Excuse?

having not heard the gospel they make thir own

“What will happen to those who have never heard the gospel nor had an opportunity to obey it?” Is ignorance an excuse? Usually the one posing theses questions is asking about those ignorant of the gospel and will reference someone in the jungles of South America or the Dark Continent (Africa). They seem to think there are some tribesman who will never be able to hear the gospel proclamation because of politics or being so far back into the jungle.

It is pointed out these have no modern conveniences with which to hear the gospel (Romans 10:15). They seemingly forget the statement of Paul in Colossians 1:23, “if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven…” But let us leave that thought for the moment.

What the one asking the question is really trying to ascertain is whether or not ignorance is an excuse. Keep in mind that ignorance, as defined by Webster is not necessarily the lack of ability to know but the lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.

Actually there are three classes of people who are ignorant. Some people are ignorant of various ideas and concepts having never been taught. Others are ignorant because they have never taken the time to learn or are unwilling to take the time to learn. Neither of these first two categories of people are ignorant because of inabilities. The third class of people are those who are ignorant because of inabilities. These fit into the same realm as innocent children—safe in the arms of Jesus. Those who we are concerned with in this article are those who fit into one of the first two categories, but the bottom line is “Is ignorance an excuse?”

Those Who Know Not God

Because the Bible provides “to us everything pertaining to life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1:3), we can expect to find a Bible answer to this question. One passage that bears on this thought is 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 where Paul wrote, “it is only right…to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”

Surely, all realize those who are ignorant of the gospel message do not know God. Therefore, those who are ignorant of the gospel message are those who Christ will take vengeance against. Remember Colossians 1:23? At one time everyone has the opportunity to hear. Because someone rejected that opportunity in the past does not excuse someone today.

To an unknown God. Is ignorance an excuse?

When Paul entered into the city of Athens, he passed by an altar with the inscription, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD” (Acts 17:23). In his address to the Athenians on Mars’ Hill, he said that “having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30). Because Paul said “all people,” this admonition excludes no one and because he said “everywhere,” it matters not where they might live.

As Paul begins the book of Romans, he deals with the sins of Jews and Gentiles. Concerning the Gentiles he wrote, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). In this passage Paul notes God manifested Himself in the things that He created. This same line of reasoning can and should be applied to all men. No man is without excuse because we can look inwardly and know that God exists. And we can look at the universe and know that God exists. Since we can know that God exists, we have a responsibility to Him to do His will.

One Way of Salvation

The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one way of salvation and that is through Jesus. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Undeniably, Jesus is the only way to the Father. Since He is the only way, there can be no other way. He is not just the provider of the way, but is Himself the way. Nor is He just the proclaimer of the way for, again, He is the way—the one and only way. If ignorance is an excuse, then there would be two ways of salvation—ignorance and Jesus. Therefore, because Jesus is the only way, ignorance cannot be a way.

Further, Luke records in Acts 4:12, “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Again the emphasis is placed on Jesus as being the one and only way of salvation. Heaven’s door is open because of His atonement, because of His blood, and because of His sacrifice. Thus, “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED” (Romans 10:13). If we for any reason do not call upon the name of the Lord, there is no salvation. Only in Him is redemption found. It cannot be found in ignorance for in Him only is there salvation.

In Christ, we are blessed with “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Certainly, salvation is a spiritual blessing and it, too, is found in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:10). In some cases, ignorance may be bliss, but it is without doubt no spiritual blessing nor is ignorance of spiritual things found in Christ. In Christ, we have redemption, justification, sanctification, and salvation while in ignorance, there is only damnation and condemnation.

Sin Condemns, Not the Gospel

What causes a person to be lost is sin. Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Death is separation. Physical death is the separation of body and spirit (James 2:26), while spiritual death is separation from God. Notice what Isaiah wrote to Israel of old: “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). It is sin which separates man from God (not God’s sins but man’s sins). What causes a person to be separated from God is NOT his or her knowledge of the gospel. It is sin.

If a person has the ability to be saved because of ignorance, the gospel is not a gospel of salvation, it is a gospel of condemnation. If someone who is isolated from the rest of the world and never had the opportunity to hear the gospel can be saved because of his ignorance, then when the gospel is preached to him, it would bring condemnation rather than salvation if he did not respond to it favorably. It would not be “the glorious gospel” (1 Timothy 1:11), it would be the horrible gospel. Nor would not be “the gospel of peace” (Romans 10:15), it would be the gospel of conflict. Also, it would not be “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), it would be the gospel of the brutality of God. There would be no “hope of the gospel” (Colossians 1:23), only despair.

This justification through ignorance would make the gospel of no power rather than “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). It would make the “Great Commission” of Jesus useless, unproductive, and vain. However, even the sacrifice of Jesus would be of no value if man could be saved through ignorance. It would be better for the world not to know than to know and to be condemned. If man could be saved in ignorance, we are doing no favors to anyone by teaching the gospel. We ought not name the name of Christ among the nations for it would be better to leave every person untaught.

Responsibility

To some, these things are hard. However, the hardness is not that they are unloving. Jesus Christ paid the price for every person and that price was His own precious blood. For “though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Because God “will have all men to be saved,” Christ Jesus “gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:4,6). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). These are the most loving words to ever pierce the hearing of man. These things are hard because of the weight of responsibility placed upon every person.

To those who are ignorant of spiritual matters, it is your responsibility to know God and to obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:8). God would not have you to be ignorant but “to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4) and to purify your souls by obeying the truth (1 Peter 1:22).

To obey the truth, you must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 8:24) and turn from your sins by repenting (Luke 13:3). You then must be “buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). When you are buried with Him by baptism, the Lord adds you to His church (Acts 2:47). If you are faithful in this new life even unto death, Jesus promises that He will give unto you “a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Those who are the children of God are to publish and to herald His word to the four corners of the earth. If we really care about that isolated, ignorant and unenlightened tribesman, we would do everything in our power to send the gospel light to the far reaches of the world. We would not hold back the gospel, but proclaim it at every dawning of the morning and every dusk of the evening. And like the apostle Paul, we feel indebted to every man and compelled to preach the gospel (Romans 1:14-15). Because ignorance is no excuse, woe is unto us, if we preach not the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16).

An Inescapable Conclusion

An Inescapable Conclusion

The situations we face in life can usually be handled in several different ways.  But, God saw to it that Israel, His Old Testament people, were drawn to an inescapable conclusion in Ecclesiastes 12:13. This is one Old Testament Commandment that is also applicable to those of us in New Testament times.  Of course, all of God’s Directives to man must be “rightly divided” (2 Timothy 2:15). In that way they can be properly understood and followed.

But you may be asking: “Why is keeping the Commandments of God the whole duty of man?” Because man will be judged! And either sentenced to eternity in a place of condemnation or rewarded with eternity with God. When Jesus came to earth, He did not come to judge man (John 12:47). Jesus will become judge after His present reign over the kingdom for which He gave His life on Calvary’s cross. We also know that the kingdom exists now and is not some future entity which is to be expected.

Inescapable Conclusions

The judgment is an inescapable conclusion if one reads and studies the Bible. We do not know when this will occur, except to the degree the Bible tells us. But in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 we do know that Christ will “rule” and “reign” until the end.

This leads to another inescapable conclusion; that all will die. Hebrews 9:27 makes this clear that death precedes judgment. From these passages, one must conclude all will have died (or been changed) when the judgment will occur (1 Corinthians 15:51).

From these Bible facts, we can conclude the time to make the needed changes in our lives is while we have full access of our faculties. One way of making the changes that are needed within us is to prioritize. Jesus told those hearing Him the “kingdom” (the church) and the righteousness of God would have to be first in their lives (Matthew 6:33). The “these things” of which the Lord spoke were the other necessities of life such as food, raiment, and shelter.

The Choice Is Ours

How do we prioritize our lives to ensure that we seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness first? Well, it must be through that which will judge us after this life is over (John 12:48). It is a choice all must make. We can receive His Word or we can reject it. As we read John 12:49-50, the verses that follow, we can surely “conclude” that God’s Word was what Jesus spoke. If we want the desired outcome at the judgment, we must put the Word of God first in our lives. It is an inescapable conclusion that only the Word of God, rightly divided and properly lived leads to the eternal life.

What is it that is keeping you from doing the things found in the Word of God?   Why can we not see that God’s Word is that which directs us?   The Psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). It is an inescapable conclusion that if we walk the path of this life without the light of the gospel, we will reach a destination we do not wish to reach.

What Must I Do to obtain remission of sins (be Saved)?

What must I do to he saved?  How can I receive forgiveness (remission of sins)?  What does God demand of me?  This question, in one form or another, has been asked over and over since God put mankind on this earth. This is the very same question that many Jews on the day of Pentecost wanted answered. These are the very same people who, some forty days earlier had cried out for the torturous death of Jesus. So, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter spoke the words needed to pierce their hearts (Acts 2:22-36).

Baptism

The people, instead of reacting to this accusation with anger, as some today, reacted with godly sorrow: “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). They were asking the question of universal interest to all. What shall we do? How do we gain atonement for our sins’? They wanted to know what was necessary to remove the stain of blood from our hands’?

But remission of sins comes by grace

What shall we do? Do; was it possible that there was something that they (or we) could do? People for ages have insisted quite strenuously that there is nothing we can do in order to have our sins forgiven. Their rational is, “If we must do something, salvation is not of grace – it is not the free gift of God.”

Is it possible that salvation can be of grace and that we still must do something to obtain it? An illustration used to make the point go something like this: Two men were sitting at the table talking. when one noticed the other had a very nice pen. Upon the man commenting about the nice pen, the owner of the pen held it out and said, “You may have it.” Here is a gift. This is an act of grace. The man did not pay for the pen. the other simply gave it to him.

But, if this man took the modern notion of grace he would have simply sat there and stared at the pen. Why? If the gift is of grace, there is nothing for him to do to obtain the gift. If he so much as reached out his hand to take the pen he has “worked” for it and the gift is not of grace.  He, however, not burdened by this false notion of grace, would take the pen and thank the owner for his gracious offer. He did something.

Those on Pentecost understood remission of sins and salvation

And indeed, on the day of Pentecost there was something the crowd had to do. In fact, there were several things. First, they had to recognize (believe) that Jesus was indeed the Christ. Notice, something they had to do. They demonstrated this by their reaction to Peter’s sermon. Having believed, they felt they must do more. Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit, agreed.  His directions were simple: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

They were commanded to repent; change their heart and ways. Also, they were commanded to be baptized. The result? The remission (blotting out) of their sins. As straight forward as this seems. many who would call themselves Christians claim forgiveness of sins is not contingent upon baptism.  Their reasoning goes; baptism is a “work” and if remission requires you to do anything, it cannot be of grace. They fail to comprehend what was said in John 6:28-29 about belief.

If we say baptism paid the price for sin, the argument would have some merit. But the fact is, I know of no one who teaches that baptism earns forgiveness of sins. Simply being obedient to God earns us nothing. We are His and this is our duty (Luke 17:10). Every one I am acquainted with (regardless of religious affiliation) accepts the necessity of belief and repentance for forgiveness. But these are things one must do. So, also, must one be baptized.

When does remission of sins come?

One objection continually raised by some is; Acts 2:38 says “because of the remission of sins . . .” instead of “for the remission of sins ….” Their reasoning; A person is baptized because he is saved, not in order to be saved. Circular logic comes into play at this point. The proponents of this reasoning argue salvation happens when they believe (and repent), otherwise salvation is of works, not faith. Despite this claim, not one single respectable translation of the Bible contains this reading! For comparrison refer to the KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, MV, NCV, RSV, NRSV and any other acronyms that you can think of.

In fact, Peter’s words properly translated into English remain: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Three thousand people understood that day and were baptized (Acts 2:41). There is a similar passage when Ananias is instructing Saul (later known as the apostle Paul) as to what was necessary for the remission of sins in Acts 22:16. If you want remission of your sins, you will believe, repent, and be baptized.

If You Were To Die Today, Would You Go To Heaven
Somethings Never Change

“Have You Considered, Then What?”

Looking into the future

Much of the time young people do not think too far into the future. Perhaps it is because of the fact they are young. But what would the answer be if they were asked what they were going to do in the future?

What Then Questions

But, what would the conversation be like if a father were to ask his son if he had given any thought to his future, he might get several different answers. It quite possible he would be somewhat surprised if his son was to tell him he had it all figured out. If we were to listen in on the conversation we might hear something like this.

The father asks his son to tell him about his plans. So the son proceeded to tell him that after he graduated from high school he would go on to college. “Fine, son; what then?” Then his son stated that after he graduated from college, he’d get a well-paying job and buy a big house and a nice car. “Great, son; what then?” The boy said he’d then get married and raise a family, just like his dad. “Wonderful, son; but what then?” Well, the son figured that he’d probably work until he was old enough to retire. Excellent, son; so, what then?” Perhaps somewhat perplexed by this time by his father’s continued inquiries, the son figured he’d live out his golden years traveling and enjoying his grandchildren. “Splendid, son; have you considered what then?” Realizing the inevitable, the young man said of course he’d die! And then his father looked straight into his son’s eyes and asked one last time, “Okay, son; have you considered what then?”

Planning For The Future, Have You Considered What Then?

It is always wise to take time to plan for the future. A young couple will usually try to plan their finances so they can afford to buy a home. Most of the time, they also plan for the size of family they want and the children’s education, even going so far as to set up a savings plan, shortly after each child is born.

People make sure they have car insurance before driving their car. They also buy health insurance to cover the event of serious illness or injury and life insurance to protect the family against the loss of a loved one, particularly a bread winner. Sometimes they look far enough into the future to set up some kind to plan for retirement. All kinds of people carry day planners around with them to plan their daily schedules. It’s wise to plan!

Death Comes, Have You Considered What Then?

But in the face of all the planning we typically do, many carelessly fail to put God in their plans (Jas. 4:13-17). So, it isn’t surprising so many also fail to plan for the most important day of our existence, the day we’ll all stand before our Lord at judgment (2 Cor. 5:10). The young boy in the story above sounded as though he had his life and future well under control. But he had failed to plan for eternity which awaits everyone after this life is over. And that’s probably the way it is, to one degree or another, for most people.

Seventy, eighty, ninety or a hundred years sounds like a long time. But, it’s less than a drop in a bucket compared to eternity. To consider planning for the time we will spend in this life is wise.  But to give little thought to what lies just beyond this life is utter foolishness! Someone has said there are only two sure things in life: death and taxes. But, with death come the judgment (Heb. 9:27). Have your future plans gone as far as that ultimate day of reckoning? When you reach the point of first drawing in and then releasing that last breath of life in this physical world, have you considered what then???

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