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Did God Overlook Sin?

Paul said “Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent.”[1] How should “the times of ignorance” be interpreted? Some people interpret this to mean that God overlooked sin before the law of Moses came.[2] However, there are two reasons why this teaching is false.

First, if one were to isolate the text, it would be foolish to interpret “ignorance” as “sin”. The two are significantly different. Sin is the transgression of the law of God.[3] Ignorance is lacking the knowledge of something. The context of Acts 17:22-31 shows that the Athenians were ignorant of God’s nature (see Acts 17:23-30; especially verse 29).

Second, under the patriarchal age (before Moses), God gave commandments, statutes, and laws.[4] If there were laws, sin was possible. Did God overlook the sins of those who perished in the flood, or the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah? The Old Testament explicitly says that God never overlooked sin.[5] If God were to ignore rebellion, He would not be God. So, did Paul say that God overlooked sin? Certainly not.

[1] Acts 17:30 (NASB 1995) [2] Winton, Bob, Outlined Commentary on Genesis, pg. 246-247, Manchester, TN. 1987. Print. [3] 1 John 5:13 [4] Genesis 26:5

[5] Exo. 34:7; Num. 14:18

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