“IF ANY MAN BE IGNORANT, LET HIM BE IGNORANT?” BUT, ARE WE NOT SUPPOSED TO TEACH THE IGNORANT?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Yes, and yes.
First Corinthians chapter 14: “ If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.  But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” Why would the Holy Spirit move the Apostle Paul to write verse 38? After all, does God really desire people to be unlearned, lacking information and understanding? How could He then order us to let people remain in their ignorance?
Friend, if God wanted us to remain ignorant, then He would have never given us His words to read here, now would He? It is in light of the Bible being given that we let people stay in their ignorance. In order words, despite Him giving revelation, they prefer to stay in darkness. It is a willful ignorance, a deliberate choice to pay no attention to what Divine words have already been spoken. Since they reject His words, they refuse to hear our speech quoting those words.
In the context, it is whether or not one is aware of the Lord Jesus Christ giving apostolic authority to Paul. If someone prefers to see Paul’s words as but men’s words, and not the Lord’s words, then he or she is to be left in that woeful state. The God of the Bible values free will. No one has to believe the truth if they do not want it. If they crave error, He will not stand in their way. This goes far beyond Pauline authority and actually would encompass all Bible themes, whether basic and advanced. If darkness is preferred, they will have it until they can no more tolerate it!
Recently, a dear Christian brother lamented that he was “ignorant” of the Bible. This author quickly corrected him. We are all ignorant of Scripture to some degree. No man on Earth today knows the Bible as he ought to know—even he who has memorized 15,000 verses is not guaranteed exemplary spiritual discernment and superior Bible understanding! Certainly, it is no sin to be uniformed about Holy Writ. The problem is when we are willfully or deliberately unfamiliar with it. After all, it is easier to remain uneducated. Preconceived notions remain unchallenged. Religious tradition is hard to abandon. Habits are not easy to change.
Second Peter chapter 3 speaks of Bible mockers who intentionally overlook historical truth—namely, the Great Deluge of Noah’s day—because it contradicts their “things never change” prejudice: “ Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,  And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.  For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:  Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:….” Such willful ignorance could apply to any Scriptural topic!!
Jesus Christ asserted in John 7:16-17: “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” In the same vein of thought as 1 Corinthians, “If you truly desire to know if I am speaking mere human thoughts, or Divine thoughts, you will be able to discern God’s will in order to obey that will!”
Frankly, many professing Christians know little to nothing about the Bible—and (here is a worse truth) that is just how they want it. Even genuine believers in Christ, those who have a testimony of soul salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, even they often prefer ignorance. In fact, the vast majority of “grace” Christians are also babes in Christ: they can draw a Bible timeline, they know about Paul’s special ministry, they recognize the Body of Christ and Israel as separate entities, but they have no real idea of how to go about grace living. It is easy to memorize verses, draw diagrams, make outlines, delineate differences between the dispensations, and do all sorts of mental gymnastics and intellectual exercises; they ignore the hard part, applying by heart faith that information so that it becomes a part of their daily living!
God gave gifted men to the early Body of Christ to bring Christians to spiritual maturity, until the Bible canon was completed. He did not want them ignorant of the truth any more than He wants us ignorant. Ephesians chapter 4: “ And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;  For the perfecting [completing, fixing, repairing] of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying [building up] of the body of Christ:  Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:  That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;….” Yet, many Christians are content in being spiritual children—“tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” Inexperienced, and doggedly so, they fall for every idea no matter how ridiculous or false it is.
The LORD lamented through the Prophet Jeremiah, chapter 5, verses 30-31, some 600 years before Christ: “A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” Is that not sad? God says, “My people love to have it so!” They love to be deceived, to hear nice “feel-good” messages, to be taken advantage of, to have a “religious high” and please their flesh!
We find such fleshly Christians in verses 25-26, and we are encouraged in verse 24 to be ready to gently and patiently teach them: “ And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,  In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;  And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26). Likewise, 1 Timothy says the bishop must be “apt to teach” (3:2). God wants people to learn more about Him and His Word, but are they interested in learning? Well, the fact is, usually not. That is the plain and simple reality.
Back to 1 Corinthians chapter 14: “ If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.  But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” Verse 38 is to be interpreted in light of verse 37. Revelation from God—the commandments of the Lord—has been provided in earlier verses (all of 1 Corinthians, especially since chapter 12 which began the section concerning spiritual gifts). The ignorance in verse 38 is implied to be a deliberate overlooking of the truth. This is not someone struggling to grasp God’s Word; this is someone who could not care less about God’s Word. It has nothing to do with illiteracy, a low IQ, learning disabilities, complicated material, no access to a Bible, or no available teachers. It is someone who has chosen to make no effort in mastering the Scriptures. They are lazy and content in having misinformation… or no information!
Notice deliberately-apostate Christians known to the Scripture 20 centuries ago! “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). “This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes” (2 Timothy 1:15). “ Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.  For the time will come when they will not endure [tolerate] sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:2-4).
The Bible’s definition of “sin” is Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way….” Proverbs chapter 18 adds: “Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom. A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself” (verses 1-2). The fool has an agenda, a “pet” idea or system, and has no interest in changing it on account of the Bible. Thus, he pleads ignorance—willful ignorance! Dear friends, may we not be numbered with him. We are ignorant, yes, but we are nevertheless endeavoring to correct and refine our distorted thinking by “studying… rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).