What is ignorance? Ignorance is defined as "the state of being ignorant." Wonderful! How insightful! That surely explains a lot.

What is the definition of ignorant? To be ignorant is to be destitute of knowledge or education; to be unlearned. Or, to be unaware or uninformed.

  1. I suggest that ignorance involves much more than a simple lack of knowledge or education.
    1. A couple of questions are in order.
      1. A lack of knowledge as compared to what?
        1. No one knows everything.
        2. Someone always will know things that I do not know.
        3. How much about how many things does a person have to know before he or she escapes ignorance?
      2. What is the correct dividing line that a person crosses that takes him from being uneducated to being educated?
        1. Where must I be taught to be educated?
        2. What must I be taught to be educated?
    2. A general discussion of ignorance must include every aspect of life.
      1. That is much too big to tackle.
      2. So let's focus on a specific area of ignorance.
      3. What constitutes spiritual ignorance? When am I spiritually ignorant?

  2. I ask you to consider five kinds of ignorance.
    1. First, consider the ignorance of not knowing.
      1. This person just does not know.
        1. He or she has never known.
        2. He or she likely has never had opportunity to know.
        3. There is literally a knowledge void of matters commonly known by others.
      2. The form of ignorance that exists because the person has never known is a common form of spiritual ignorance, and it has always been common.
      3. When Paul addressed the elite philosophers in the city of Athens, he made this statement:
        Acts 17:23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. These people did not know the identity or the name of the living God.
        2. They had never known the name or the identity of the living God.
        3. There was a knowledge void regarding anything about the living God.
        4. They had lots of knowledge, they had lots of education, they had a reputation for knowledge, but knowledge of the living God never existed.
      4. There are more people in our world that have zero knowledge of God and Christ than there are people in our world that have some knowledge of God and Christ.
      5. It may be true that there are more people in this country who have no knowledge of God and Christ than there are people who have some knowledge of God and Christ.
    2. Second, there is the ignorance of inadequate information.
      1. Simply stated, this is believing that I know when I do not know.
      2. This occurs when a person thinks he or she has all the necessary information when in truth he or she does not have enough information to reach a valid conclusion.
      3. Don't you love this experience: a person gives you detailed information about something he or she knows very little about.
        1. You know that you are not an expert.
        2. But you have more information than the person informing you.
        3. However, the person informing you is totally confident that he or she is very well informed.
      4. Listen to the opening of John's letter called 1 John:
        1 John 1:1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life-- (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. John, what a strange way to begin a letter.
        2. When John wrote that letter, a group Christians believed and taught that spirit could not be flesh, and flesh could not be spirit.
          1. Therefore, Jesus was never a fleshly man--that was impossible.
          2. He just looked physical; it just looked like he died.
          3. But Jesus really was not physical.
        3. John said Jesus was from the beginning, so he was spirit.
          1. But John also said he was among the people who saw Jesus, and heard Jesus, and touched Jesus with his own hands.
          2. Jesus was actual flesh and blood and well as being spirit.
        4. These Christians taught in the confidence that they had full knowledge and understanding; they were committed to educating all other Christians.
      5. Very likely each of us has at least one area we are like those Christians. Like them, we are very confident that we know something that we don't know.
    3. Third, there is the ignorance of misunderstood knowledge.
      1. This person has the knowledge, but he or she does not put the knowledge together correctly.
      2. Because he or she uses incorrect concepts to put the knowledge together, his or her understandings are actually misunderstandings.
      3. Those misunderstandings create incorrect perspectives, incorrect views, and incorrect conclusions.
      4. Paul once explained why God allowed him to be a Christian with a special, God-given mission after he had been a violent man responsible for the death of Christian men and women.
        1 Timothy 1:12,13 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he considered me faithful, putting me into service; even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Before he became a Christian, Paul was one of the most knowledgeable persons in his age group in all Israel.
        2. Paul was an expert in the scriptures.
        3. He was well on the road to religious success, significance, and achievement in Israel.
        4. Now, what was it you said, Paul? After violently persecuting Christians and blaspheming God, why did God allow you to be a Christian?
        5. "I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief."
        6. This gifted, knowledgeable man acted ignorantly.
          1. Because he did not know? No!
          2. Because he misunderstood what he knew.
          3. Because misunderstanding kept him from believing.
    4. The fourth form of ignorance is the ignorance of wrong expectations.
      1. This person has the right information, but has the wrong expectations.
      2. Before Jesus was born, Israel had the correct information about the Messiah or Christ that God had promised them.
        1. They correctly understood that he would be a direct descendant of David.
        2. They correctly understood that he would be born in Bethlehem.
        3. They correctly understood that he would be king.
        4. They correctly understood that he would restore God's kingdom.
        5. They correctly understood the he would lead and rule in the power of God.
      3. But their expectation was that this Righteous One would be a physical king who would restore the nation of Israel physically.
      4. This expectation meant that Jesus could not possibly be the Messiah that God promised Israel.
      5. The ignorance created by wrong expectations is very common today.
    5. The fifth form of ignorance is the ignorance of specialization.
      1. We should be well acquainted with the ignorance of specialization.
        1. During my earlier years of preaching, I would say in a sermon, "The most important thing is..."
        2. I was full of zeal and fervor.
        3. I was learning so many things I had not seen or understood before.
        4. As my knowledge and understanding grew, what I learned had a powerful impact on me.
        5. Interestingly, as I frequently said, "The most important thing is...," rarely was it the same "most important thing."
      2. The Pharisees said that all matters concerning God centered in their interpretation of the law.
        1. If something did not agree with their interpretation of the law, it was either unimportant, invalid, or false.
        2. Their specialization caused them to fight Jesus in every way they could.
      3. The Sadducees said that all matters concerning God centered in the temple.
        1. Most of the priests were Sadducees.
        2. The temple was controlled by Sadducees.
        3. Nothing was as important to God as the temple and its sacrifices.
      4. Since Jesus did not emphasize the importance of the temple, Jesus could not be from God.
      5. This problem is much too alive among us.
        1. Some say:
          1. "The most important thing is obedience to the church's positions."
          2. "The most important thing is God's grace."
          3. "The most important thing is faith."
          4. "The most important thing is baptism."
          5. "The most important things are our traditions."
        2. When we specialize our spiritual emphasis, we guarantee our ignorance.

  3. Let me summarize the problem of spiritual ignorance in this way.
    1. Ignorance of the mind distorts our reasoning.
    2. Ignorance of the heart distorts our emotions.
    3. Ignorance of the conscience distorts our guilt.
    4. When we have knowledge of God's Word but do not understand God's purposes, our ignorance is more than tragic; it is deadly.

Who is ignorant? Everyone of us. Everyone of us has areas of spiritual ignorance. One of God's ongoing objectives in each of our lives is to attack our ignorance. When you have faith in God, God will attack your ignorance. No form of ignorance serves God's purposes.

Who realizes his or her spiritual ignorance? Far too few of us. We must be people of conviction. But never mistake the prejudice of ignorance for the conviction of understanding.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 12 September 1999

This sermon is also available in French.

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