by J. Randal Matheny, editor
With regard to spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were often led astray by speechless idols, however you were led. So I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:1-3 NET)
Paul seeks to help the Corinthians move out of their competition with one another and into a state of blissful submission to Jesus as Lord.
He begins by implying that the state of ignorance harms the disciple: “I do not want you to be uninformed.” Paul wants them to “understand,” for understanding is necessary to unity. Knowledge and the path it opens to right conduct (justice) promote harmony and peace.
Knowledge as a bludgeon tool destroys the one and puffs up the other (1 Corinthians 8:1-3), but the apostle does not write his letter to identify knowledge as the culprit. On the contrary, he writes to inform, in order to guide them to make the right changes. And it all hinges on acknowledging Jesus as Lord, by lip and life.
Paul uses the stock phrase, “I don’t want you to be ignorant,” several times to different churches (Romans 1:13; 11:25; 1 Corinthians 10:1; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13). He knows that willful ignorance is not only a deplorable state, but it alienates. Ignorance drives a wedge, and Paul will drive it further between the ignorant and those who have true knowledge. “But if anyone ignores this, he should be ignored” (1 Corinthians 14:38 ISV).
Ignorance here is not merely being uninformed, so the NET translation of 12:1 is probably weak. It’s a state of rebelliousness that prefers not to know, a rejection of God’s knowledge, a deliberate condition, as J.I. Packer put it, caused by the hardening of the heart./1
Peter couples the word “unstable” with “ignorant” people who twist the Scriptures “to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). In this sense, ignorance is no mere lack of understanding, no innocent overlooking of facts.
It’s the attitude of people who, if they don’t say it, at least, think, “Don’t bother me with the facts.” The Corinthians were headed in that direction.
The will, not the mind, is the problem. We can know if we want. Ignorance is not bliss, but a killer.
1/ J. I. Packer, “Ignorancia,” in Everett F. Harrison, ed., Diccionario de Teologia, 2nd. ed. (Grand Rapids: T.E.L.L., 1987): 275.