Vol.X No.IX Pg.4
November 1973

Winked At Ignorance

Robert F. Turner

In the midst of the areopagus, Paul said to the Athenians: And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent... (Acts 17:30). Whose ignorance? What kind of ignorance? When did God overlook it?

The study of words like times, ignorance, winked at, etc., will not, within itself, ten one what the text means. The orthodox position is that God did not immediately punish their idolatrous practices but that men are now accountable to know of the true God. Let me suggest an alternative to which you may give thought: the ignorance God overlooked was the IGNORANT WORSHIP of Himself.

Note Gods instruction to Israel: And these words which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children ... And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates, (Deut. 6:6-9). Such commandments are expressive of an undeviating observance of Divine will. They do not mean simply to write or to parrot. God did not overlook the Jews sins of ignorance while knowing that they would commit such. He commanded certain sacrifices to be offered for erring done in ignorance (cf. Lev. 4:1-35; & Num. 15:24-29). Since the Jews were not excused for ignorance, this leaves the nations as the answer to whose ignorance? And it was to Gentiles that Paul spoke of winked at ignorance.

The what ignorance resolves itself in the answer of this question: Did God overlook ignorance of the Gentiles IDOLATRY? My conclusion is that he did not and I suggest the following two reasons to prove my point.

(1) The context. Paul begins his sermon by singling out an altar amongst the many which lined the streets of Athens. Its inscription was To the unknown God. Paul said, Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you, (Acts 17:22). I believe that it is of this ignorant worship in vs. 22, that Paul speaks in vs. 30.

(2) God tolerated ignorant worship of himself while saying Gentiles were without excuse who worshipped the creature more than the creator. Gentiles frequently worshipped God in ignorance because of the lack of a perfect or completed revelation of God to them; therefore, their under standing of God and how to worship Him may have been imperfect. However through the created things they co perceive Gods everlasting power divinity —there was a true God. did not overlook their IDOLATRY showed the natural end of such.

Paul realized his fleshly brethren the Israelites, were lost because of their Ignorance (Rom. 10:1-3). Today, the indifferent but sometimes religious person attempts to shelter himself in a dark cave of ignorance thinking himself secure because he refuses to come out. All must agree that the WHEN of God s overlooking ignorance has passed. To know is not necessarily to act, but one MUST KNOW to worship God pleasingly. — Jim B. Everett