Ignorantia juris non excusat or ignorantia legis neminem excusat (Latin for “ignorance of the law excuses not”and “ignorance of law excuses no one”respectively) is a legal principle holding that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely by being unaware of its content. (source: Wikipedia).
The doctrine, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse,” first seen in the Bible in Leviticus 5:17.
Suppose you sin by violating one of the Lord’s commands. Even if you are unaware of what you have done, you are guilty and will be punished for your sin.
Leviticus 5:17 NLT
This takes us to the very words of Jesus in Matthew chapter 22
Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
Matthew 22:29 NIV
This is what Jesus told to the group of Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection from the dead. The entire conversation is recorded in verses 23-33 of Matthew chapter 22.
Abundance of Word!
Today with the advance of technology we have this wonderful opportunity to learn God’s word from anywhere. There are numerous sources from which we can hear God’s word. There are bible study groups, bible study plans available to us. Even with the lockdown and restrictions because of the pandemic, we have opportunities to hear and study God’s word through YouTube recordings. We have revival meetings, conventions, fasting prayers, conferences, church services, live stream meetings through zoom, facebook lives, forwarded messages through WhatsApp and other platforms. All this knowledge we are gathering through these meetings are getting accumulated in our head. But just like how Jesus said if we don’t understand God’s word properly and know His power all this is useless and we will be puffed up with this knowledge. Puffed up knowledge is very dangerous because we will end up like the Pharisees and Sadducees.
At the same time it is easy to be led astray from the true message of Gospel if we don’t carefully discern all that we are hearing. Here we see that these Sadducees, who are group of religious leaders who think so highly of themselves regarding God’s law. But Jesus looking at them said clearly that they are mistaken because they don’t know the Scriptures and they don’t know the power of God.
It is always good to remember that Jesus Christ was crucified by people who had very good knowledge of God’s word, but was blinded by that knowledge. When we are puffed up with the knowledge we will be mislead from the truth and we will become self righteous hypocrites. That is a very dangerous place to be!. We will be quick to judge others with the so called high moral and cultural standards that we are living on and from that arises proud hearts, greedy dishonest thoughts and rebelling against God’s authority.
When Paul writes the epistles to Colossians he addresses this very fact. There in that city were a group of people who thought very highly of themselves. Their claim was that God revealed His mysteries and secrets only to them. They had forgotten the simple truth of the gospel and added to it in many ways. They were leading people away from the true gospel by putting a new set of rules and restrictions. They tried to add so much that they forgot the power of God’s word. So Paul is reminding the believers in Colossae, through his letter few things. Let us look into few of those warnings. He wrote to them,
- To be careful that no one should deceive them with well crafted arguments (Colossians 2:4)
- To not let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink or regarding celebrations. He says these are just shadows. But Christ is the reality ( Colossians 2:16)
- To not let anyone condemn you by insisting pious self denial or the worship of angels. He said it all comes from the sinful proud minds. (Colossians 2:18)
- He clearly emphasis that Jesus is supreme over everything and He is sufficient. He fulfilled the laws that lacked the power to change our hearts. So instead of following these man made rules that cannot change us, followers of Christ has the power of Resurrection in us that can transform our lives inside out.
Examine what you are hearing!
We can also see in the book of acts, this very good comment about the believers in Berea, about their eagerness to learn God’s word and how they examine it whether it is true or not.
“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
Acts 17:11 NIV
We have God’s word right in front of us. So instead of believing everything what others say, be eager to examine them according to scriptures. Let us not be the people who are tossed by every wind of doctrine. Let us not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like truth. But let us be people who know the truth and standing firm in it. Not only that we should be rooted in His word, but also be grounded in it. It is really important that we spend time meditating, memorizing and studying God’s word. Jesus said His words are Spirit and Life!. And even when everything fades away His word stands forever.
Truth often hurts; but it is for our good!
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
Hebrews 4:12 NLT
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT
In the busyness of our life we often conveniently skip reading and spending time with God’s word. This laziness leads to ignorance. And that has created doubts and confusions in our life. If we don’t get food , we will not grow. Just like that with out studying the scriptures we cannot grow in Christ. Growing needs pruning. And in our spiritual life this happens through His Word. And when we receive those corrections and walk in fellowship with Christ, all the promises in His word are for us. So as we study scriptures let us also pray that the power of God’s word will bring out the transformation in our lives. The word of God is truth and it sanctifies us. John 17:17. If we reject His word and the corrections it brings into our lives, remember there is a judgment coming. Jesus said those who reject Him and His word will be judged by His words.
But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.
John 12:48 NLT
Practice the Word!
We are blessed when we hear God’s word and obey it. In the parable of wise and foolish builders Jesus said that-
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” Matthew 7:24-27 NLT
So if we are only hearers of God’s word we are foolish people. Not only that, bible says if we are not practicing the truth we are hearing we are deceiving ourselves. (James 1:21-23, Luke 11:28). So to live a godly life in this wicked generation, we need wisdom from above and for that we must learn God’s word and practice it.
We need help!!!
And for understanding the scriptures we need the help of Holy Spirit. David prayed in Psalms 119:18 to open his eyes that he may behold wondrous things from God’s law. When Jesus appeared to the two from Emmaus we read in the gospel of Luke 24, that He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.!. So as we read, meditate, understand and practice these Holy words from God let us pray that our spiritual eyes will be opened to behold these words.
We live in a world were many people better than us have fallen!!. Many have started this race of faith and didn’t finish it well. What we are now is because of the grace of God. There is nothing for us to boast about other than the cross of Christ!! So as we understand more of His word, let it humble us and bring us to our knees. As believers our goal is to please our Heavenly Father. And scripture says without faith it is impossible to please God ( Hebrews 11:6). And this faith comes by hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17). When we hear His word, Holy Spirit will work in us our faith will increase, our lives will be transformed. Many those who learned God’s word perished without understanding and experiencing its transforming power. More than just words, God’s word is alive and active. So let us yield to the Word of God and it’s transforming power. His word will guide us, purify us, refine us and strengthen us to run this race with endurance.