First, there are those who don’t know they commit sins of ignorance. Very few people actually know that they can commit sins unknowingly. Then on the other hand are the people who do know that they sin unknowingly.
Just like in the field of Calculus mathematics, there are things you don’t know; but you don’t know the things that you don’t know. There are those who say that “ignorance is bliss.” The people who don’t know that it is even possible to commit sin unknowingly don’t care, since they don’t know. This is especially true of those in the "Once Saved Always Saved" (OSAS) camp.
On the other hand, people who know that it is possible to commit sins of ignorance can ask the Lord to reveal to them anything hidden in them that must go (e.g. sins of omission, as well as sins of commission). If you don’t know about the sin, you can’t do anything about it. So the first step is to ask the Lord to reveal those particular sins to you that you are not aware of.
But what you need to do before and after the Lord reveals to you those sins is to repent of them, and ask God to forgive you. The difference is that before you know what they are, you need to repent generally of them, but once the Lord reveals to you specifically something in your life that is displeasing to Him, then you can repent for it specifically.
Ask for deliverance from those sins. God is holy, holy, holy. You probably thought God’s standard was high when you read the Old Testament, but you find it’s even higher when you read the New Testament. The theme of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 - 7) is “Be perfect even as My Father in heaven is perfect,” as found in Matthew 5:48. Jesus taught that we can commit sins in our hearts and thoughts, such as adultery by lusting in your heart, or murder by hating someone.
You should repent of your sins of ignorance daily. Specify “sins of ignorance” when you repent. Ask God to show you your hidden faults. A pastor I know of once prayed for his daughter for the Lord to reveal her mistakes to her so that she could repent. That's a good way to pray for yourself and for others as well.
Why would God allow people to commit sins of ignorance? He’s bound all men over to disobedience, so that He can have mercy on them. There are those who think they are sin-free, but are committing sin unknowingly. Those who don’t care about sins of ignorance don’t do anything about them. God allows them to go to hell even though He is not willing (i.e., it is not His desire) that any should perish but that all would come to repentance.
It is important to ask God to take sin away from you -- out of your life, because you cannot overcome it in your own strength. Jesus said, "Apart from Me you can do nothing." One who really knows and loves God will ask Him to reveal sins to him and will repent even before they know specific ones. As Christians, we should seek the Holy Spirit, and then we will have the mind of Christ so that He can reveal unknown sins to us.
If you’re praying through the Bible, God can show you your sins through the Word. God has expectations of us. He expects us to pray, seek Him, read the Bible, and repent. We should stay in repentance. Everyone needs to repent and believe. We must repent daily. As the Scripture says:
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2Ch 7:14)
If you acknowledge that there is sin in your life, confess it to God, repent of it, ask Him to forgive you, and trust Him through Christ's finished work on the cross to do so, then you will make it to heaven. Even if you are trying to be the best Christian, you’re still committing sin. We must be doers and not just listeners of the Word. Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Mat 7:21).
When people commit sins of ignorance, God will judge them with regard to why they didn’t know. People who commit sins of ignorance may not read the Bible, or if they do, they may not read the Old Testament, and thus they don’t see the verses that God put there to warn them about sin (such as tattoos in Lev 19:28). Or if they do read the Old Testament, perhaps they don’t believe that what they’re reading is relevant for today, and they don't think it applies to our lives today, which is the sin of unbelief. The sin of unbelief is a very serious sin (Heb 3:12, 18-19; 4:1-2).
People who sin unintentionally will still go to hell even if they didn’t know. The Old Testament made provision for sins of ignorance (Lev 4:1-2, 13, 20, 22, 26, 27, 31, 35b; 5:17-19; Ezek 45:18-20). Jesus has also made provision for sins of ignorance. He wants us to claim that atonement.
"If anyone sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, even though they do not know it, they are guilty and will be held responsible." (Lev 5:17)
It’s actually easier (in my opinion) to commit sins unknowingly than to commit sins knowingly. That’s because you don’t know what you don’t know. We may be committing sins unknowingly, because we learned them from our parents. That's why parents are supposed to be a good example and not cause the little ones to stumble. But even if your parents set a bad example for you, the fact is that you are still responsible for your soul. You ultimately must give an account before God.
It is written: "'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'" So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God." (Rom 14:11-12)
I hope this has helped you see the seriousness of sins of ignorance, because it is possible to commit them. You will be held accountable for them, unless you repent.
Attribution notice: Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible NIV, copyright Zondervan, used by permission.
Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, please also see the following: Sins of Omission, Ignorance is Not Bliss, Ask for the Ancient Paths, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, The False Gospel of Eternal Security, and Repentance That Leads to Life.. You may find the Main Directory for this blog at Home, and you may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.