Rom 10:3, “For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.”
Rom 10:3 Greek transliteration: Agnoountes gar ten tou theou dikaiosunen kai ten idian [dikaiosunen] zetountes stesai te dikaiosuen tou theou ouk hupetagesan
Rom 10:3 Greek: Ἀδελφοί, ἡ μὲν εὐδοκία τῆς ἐμῆς καρδίας καὶ ἡ δέησις πρὸς τὸν Θεὸν ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν εἰς σωτηρίαν.
From this verse, we see three things Paul refers to regarding Israel’s relationship to righteousness.
1) They did not know God’s righteousness.
2) They sought to establish their own righteousness.
3) They did not submit to God’s righteousness.
Interestingly the number three speaks to divine perfection. But this verse begins with the Greek negative prefix “A,” in AGNOEO – Ἀδελφο (ag-no-eh’-o). Therefore, what is in this verse is the opposite of divine perfection.
The first point has to do with “not knowing.” We get this from the Greek word AGNOEO.
AGNOEO; is from A – alpha – ἄλφα (al’-fah) (as a prefect negative), and GINOSKO – γινώσκω (ghin-oce’-ko); in the Present, Active, Participle, and means, “to be ignorant, not to know, have no knowledge, not to understand, unknown, to err or sin through mistake, or to be wrong.”
What was it that they were ignorant of? They were ignorant of God’s grace plan that would give them His righteousness.
Israel was ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God and instead were….
Now the second point refers to, “seeking to establish their own righteousness.” We get this from the Greek words; ZETEO – ζητέω and STESAI – στῆσαι.
“Seeking” is the Greek word ZETEO; in the Present, Active, Participle it means, “to seek, looking, deliberating, demanding, inquire, made efforts, search, try, attempt, or strive for.” So, what were they seeking to do? They were:
… seeking/demanding/striving for their own righteousness from the works they were performing under the Law.
“Establish” is the Greek word STESAI – which comes from the Greek word HISTEMI – ἵστημι (his’-tay-mee) and the root STA- στα. It means, “to make or to stand.” So, from these two words we understand:
… They were striving to make their own righteousness stand up under the scrutiny of God’s justice…
They were placing their own righteousness on the scales of God’s justice, demanding that their own righteousness outweigh their sins, thereby gaining God’s acceptance.
The third point is that “they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” We understand this from the Greek words OUK – οὐκ and HUPOTASSO – ὑποτάσσω (hoop-ot-as’-so).
OUK is the Greek negative meaning, “absolutely not.”
But they did not…
HUPOTASSO; from (hupo; by or under) and (tassoô; from the primary root τάγ – tag-; to draw up in order, arrange). So, HUPOTASSO – ὑποτάσσω (hoop-ot-as’-so) comes to mean, “to place or rank under, to subject, or to obey.”
So, what did they not do? … voluntarily place themselves under or obey God’s plan and provisions for their righteousness.
So, putting it all together we note that:
Israel was ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God and instead were seeking / demanding / striving for their own righteousness from the works they were performing under the Law. They were striving to make their own righteousness stand up under the scrutiny of God’s justice. But they did not voluntarily place themselves under or obey God’s plan and provisions for their righteousness.
Remember that what the righteousness of God demands, His justice satisfies. You see, sinful man cannot satisfy the demands of God’s righteousness. There is nothing we can do to pay for or overcome our sins. Only God can satisfy His own perfect righteous demands. God’s perfect justice fulfilled His perfect righteous demands through the efficacious sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the Cross. This is the great tragedy of Israel and all unbelievers. They look to themselves to save themselves, instead of receiving the gracious work of our Lord. They were ignorant to God’s grace plan of salvation. They were ignorant of the fact that only God’s perfect justice can stand up under the intense scrutiny of His perfect righteousness.
So, let us understand more about this thing called “ignorance.”
Definition from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition: Ignorance means the state or fact of being ignorant. Therefore, we need to understand the word “ignorant.”
1) Destitute of knowledge or education, lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified.
2) Resulting from or showing a lack of knowledge or intelligence, unaware, and uninformed.
The word ignorant can be applied to illiterate, unlettered, untutored, and unlearned, which means not having knowledge. Ignorant may imply a general condition, or it may apply to a lack of knowledge or awareness of a particular thing.
Illiterate applies to either an absolute or a relative inability to read and write.
Unlettered implies ignorance of the knowledge gained by reading.
Untutored implies lack of schooling in the arts and ways of civilization.
Unlearned suggests ignorance of advanced subjects.
From these definitions, we can see Israel’s ignorance.
Illiterate, although many of the common citizens of the time may not have been able to read or write, the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees could. They were highly educated people. With their education, they were responsible to teach the commoners what the Bible had to say about the Messiah. So, illiteracy is not the reason here for their ignorance.
Unlettered, this implies the ability to read, but due to various reasons, information is ignored and is not read or comprehended. Therefore, the knowledge available to be read is not gained. In the first sense, this is not an excuse for the Pharisees, because they did read the Bible constantly. Their problem was faith. They did not mix what they read with faith to receive the true and full knowledge found in the Word of God. So, in this sense, they were unlettered, not because they did not read, but because they did not understand what they read, due to a lack of faith. For the commoner, they most likely did not read their Bible nor mix it with faith. Therefore, they were unlettered in both senses of the word. They did not know what the Bible truly said.
Untutored, again, this is no excuse for the Pharisees, Scribes, or Sadducees, because they received much schooling in the Law. They had opportunity to see the truth, but due to a lack of faith, they did not see the truth. As for the commoners, they were unschooled academically but received teaching from the Pharisees. Unfortunately, the teaching they received regarding the Law was false teaching. Nevertheless, even in a system of false teaching, there is some truth between the lines. If anyone has true faith, they will see through the inaccuracies, see the truth, and seek out more truth in faith.
Gal 3:23-25, “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up (closed in) to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
Unlearned, this is the ignorance most reflective of all unbelievers. The Word of God is an advanced subject. It is the Divine thinking of our Lord Jesus Christ. It takes Divine teaching by God the Holy Spirit for us to receive Divine understanding. Everyone who desires to know the truth will receive the truth, through the teaching ministry of the Spirit. Those who do not desire to know the truth will be unlearned regarding God’s Word.
Acts 13:26-28, “Brethren, sons of Abraham’s family, and those among you who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. 27For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him. 28And though they found no ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilate that He be executed.”
From the Wikipedia Encyclopedia
1) Ignorance is a lack of knowledge. Ignorance is also the state of being ignorant or uninformed. For example, “Bill lost the debate, because he was ignorant of that subject.” In such a case, the term is not pejorative, and may even be used as a self-descriptive term, as in, “I am ignorant of English history.”
2) Ignorance is also the choice to not act or behave in accordance with regard to certain information in order to suit one’s own needs or beliefs. For example, “I know better, but I choose to ignore that and act in a way that behooves me.”
Here again we see the ignorance of the unbeliever, especially those who read the Law or Bible but twist its words to accomplish their desires.
3) Ignorance is often misinterpreted as a synonym of stupidity, and is as thus, often taken as an insult, when really it is, in its correct form, not an insult at all but a criticism.
The English word “ignorant” comes from two Latin words: IN, meaning, “not,” and GNARUS, meaning, “knowing.” Therefore, ignorance is lack of knowledge about a thing in a particular area.
A famous saying and part of American law is that “ignorance is no excuse for the law.” This means that regardless of one’s knowledge of the laws of the land, if you break the law, you are guilty by it. Your defense can not be, “I did not know.”
The concept comes from Roman law, and is expressed in the BROCARD IGNORANTIA LEGIS NON EXCUSAT (ignorance of the law is no excuse). The essential public character of a law requires that the law must apply to anyone in the jurisdiction where the law applies. Thus, no one can justify his conduct on the grounds that he was not aware of the law.
The same goes with salvation. No one will have an excuse when it comes to the Great White Throne Judgement Seat of Jesus Christ. John 15:22; Rom 1:20; Luke 14:16-21
Rom 1:20, “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.”
Unfortunately, many wrongly believe that they have a good excuse for not accepting the Messiah, as noted in the parable of the Dinner Invitation. Luke 14:18, “But they all alike began to make excuses.”
Ignorance does not mean that information was not made available. Ignorance means information is available, but the person chooses to ignore or reject it.
Gal 3:22-23, “But the Scripture has shut up (enclosed or encapsulated) everyone under sin, (all have sinned according Rom 3:23; 5:12), so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, (our tutor teaching us about the Christ), being shut up (enclosed / encapsulated) to the faith which was later to be revealed.”
The Law told us what sin was and that we are all sinners. Therefore, we are held guilty by the Law. The Law also told us that God would send YEHOSHUA His Son to pay for our sins. The Law told us to believe in God’s promises. Therefore, rejecting YEHOSHUA, Jesus Christ as the Savior Messiah is also in violation of the Law. The information is available to all. Therefore, ignorance is no excuse for the Law.
To further the definition, there are three divisions of ignorance.
Ignorance of law: When one is unaware of the existence of the law itself, or at least that a particular case is comprised under its provisions.
Ignorance of the fact: When the thing itself or some circumstance is unknown. This is not speaking about the relation of something to the law, but the fact itself.
Ignorance of penalty: When a person is not cognizant that a sanction has been attached to a particular crime. This is especially to be considered when there is question of more serious punishment.
These three divisions apply to every member of the human race in relationship to the Savior.
1) We already noted that some are “ignorant of the Law” and that is no excuse.
2) “Ignorance of facts,” speaks to the person who does not want to face their own depravity due to sin. Instead of facing his sin and total depravity to save himself and be reconciled to God through belief in the Savior, he hides from his depravity and tries to ignore it.
3) Next, we have “ignorance of penalty.” This is the individual who tries to convince himself that either there is no hell or that there is nothing after death. Many wrongly accept these two alternatives as fact, thereby never coming to understand the need of a Savior. But, as stated repeatedly throughout this doctrine, ignorance of the fact of God’s judgment, eternal condemnation in the Lake of Fire for all who reject Jesus Christ as their Savior is no excuse and will not pardon nor commute their sentence.
We must also note that ignorance may precede, accompany, or follow an act of our will. It is therefore said to be antecedent, concomitant, or consequent. (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Antecedent Ignorance is in no sense voluntary, neither is the act resulting from it; it precedes any voluntary failure to inquire.
Concomitant (accompaniment) Ignorance is concerned with the will to act in a given contingency; it implies that the real character of what is done is unknown to the agent, but his attitude is such that, were he acquainted with the actual state of things, he would go on just the same.
Consequent Ignorance, on the other hand, is so called, because it is the result of a perverse frame of mind choosing either directly or indirectly to be ignorant.
These three are seen in Acts 17:23 and Romans 1:21-23
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. (Antecedent Ignorance)”
Rom 1:21-23, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, (Concomitant Ignorance), but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened, (Concomitant Ignorance). 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures, (Consequent Ignorance).”
Regardless of the nature of ignorance, there is and will be no excuse for anyone who does not come to the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rev 20:11-15, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. (You can run, but you cannot hide) 12And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. (In ignorance, they thought they could achieve righteousness based on their human good works.) 13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Exegesis of Ignorance
AGNOEO – ἄγνοια (ag’-noy-ah) is a verb from, “A” (as a negative prefix) and “GINOSKO,” in the Present, Active, Participle which means, “to be ignorant, not to know, have no knowledge, not to understand, unknown, to err or sin through mistake, to be wrong.” Acts 17:23; Rom 1:13; 10:3; 11:25; 1 Cor 10:1; 12:1; 14:38; 2 Cor 1:8; 2:11; 6:9; Gal 1:22; 1 Thess 4:13; Heb 5:2
AGNOEO is also used in:
Mark 9:31-32, “For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” 32But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.” w/ Luke 9:45
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.”
1 Tim 1:13, “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.”
Romans 2:4, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”
Rom 6:3, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?”
Rom 7:1, “Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?”
2 Peter 2:12-15, “But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 13suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 14having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; 15forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam.”
AGNOEMA – ἀγνόημα – a noun meaning, “a sin of ignorance, ignorance, sins. A sin committed through ignorance or thoughtlessness.” Heb 9:7
Heb 9:6-7, “Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship, 7but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.”
AGNOIA – ἄγνοια – a Noun meaning; ignorance, lack of knowledge, especially of divine things or of moral blindness. Acts 3:17, 30; Eph 4:18; 1 Peter 1:17
Eph 4:17-19, “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.”
AGNOSIA – ἀγνωσία – a noun meaning, “ignorance, no knowing, no knowledge.” 1 Per 2:15; 1 Cor 15:34
1 Cor 15:34, “Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.”
AGNOSTOS – Ἄγνωστος – an adjective meaning, “unknown or forgotten.” Acts 17:23
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 (AGNOEO), this I proclaim to you.”
LANTHANO – λανθάνω – means, “to be hidden, to be hidden from one, secretly, unawares, without knowing.” 2 Peter 3:5, 8
2 Peter 3:5-8, “For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, 6through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 7But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. 8But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.”
IDIOTES – ἰδιώτης – which means, “a private or unskilled person:—ungifted, ungifted man, ungifted men, unskilled, untrained.” In the New Testament, “an unlearned, illiterate, man as opposed to the learned and educated: one who is unskilled in any art.” Unlearned, 1 Cor 14:16, 1 Cor 14:23-24. Ignorant, Acts 4:13. Rude, 2 Cor 11:6
SHEGAGAH – שְׁגָגָה (sheg-aw-gaw’)
From SHAGAG – שָׁגַג (shaw-gag’); meaning, “to go astray, err, commit sin or error, a mistake or inadvertent transgression.
So, SHEGAGAH comes to mean, “error, ignorance, unaware, unwittingly.” Regarding sins of ignorance.
Ignorance: Lev 4:2, 22, 27; 5:15, 18; Num 15:24-29 – Regarding sins of ignorance.
Unawares: Num 35:11, 15; Josh 20:3, 9 – Regarding unintentional manslaughter and the cities of refuge.
Error or Mistake: Eccl 5:6; 10:5 – regarding sin(s)
Unwittingly or Unintentionally: Lev 22:14 – regarding eating of the offering.
The Hebrew also uses a similar compound to the Greek for the word “ignorant” in the phrase LA YEDA or LO YADA which means “not or no” and “to know or know.” Ezra 7:25; Psa 73:23; Isa 56:10; 63:16
Combined, it means, “not knowing or ignorant.”
Some famous quotes regarding Ignorance.
- “A truly refined mind will seem to be ignorant of the existence of anything that is not perfectly proper, placid, and pleasant.” ~ Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit
- “An ignorant man is always a slave.” ~ Anonymous
- “Deliberately breaking rules is fine; ignoring them is not — ignorance is bad.” ~ Anonymous
- “If ignorance is bliss, you must be the happiest man alive.” ~ Anonymous
- “If ignorance is bliss, then knock the smile off my face.” ~ Zack de la Rocha
- “Ignorance is the parent of fear.” ~ Herman Melville, Moby Dick
- “Lack of knowledge is darker than night.” ~ Anonymous
- “Man,” I cried, “how ignorant art thou in thy pride of wisdom!” ~ Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
- “Man is arrogant in proportion to his ignorance.” ~ Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton
- “The most violent element in society is ignorance.” ~ Emma Goldman
- “To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil
- “Whoever works without knowledge works uselessly.” ~ Anonymous
- “Wonder is the foundation of all philosophy, research is the means of all learning, and ignorance is the end.” ~ Michel de Montaigne
- “You can swim all day in the Sea of Knowledge and still come out completely dry. Most people do.” ~ Norman Juster
- “To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is the malady of ignorance.” ~ A. Bronson Alcott
- “Light travels faster than sound. That’s why most people seem bright until you hear them speak.” ~ Anonymous
- “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” ~ Albert Einstein
- “Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the cast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.” ~ St. Augustine
If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Matthew 15:14
(All scriptures are from the New American Stand Bible unless otherwise noted.)