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Discussion in 'The Gospels & Acts' started by Hamalas, Feb 10, 2015.
What is meant by God overlooking the times of ignorance in Acts 17:30?
Mankind, apart from the grace of God's revelation, became grossly darkened in spiritual ignorance. Genesis' history bears witness to the receding of true knowledge of God, even as God begins to pour special light upon Abraham and his household.
Men who sin deserve sin's wages: death; immediately, in both body and soul. But all the way from the Fall, justice is delayed in part or in whole, in greater or lesser degree.
Putting these two factors together, and we see 1) "the times of ignorance," both of God himself and a clear sight of his moral duties; and 2) the delay, characterized as "overlooking," divine forbearance to bring swift and sure retribution. Otherwise, if every city was subjected to fire and brimstone, there would be no future Gentile generation, with its elect members, who would hear the gospel.
The entrance of the gospel is that which removes the ignorance from all the world, brings the light of divine revelation out of its Jewish seclusion, and ends the days of the world mainly characterized by futility. It also means that God has finished (or is in the process of finishing) that period wherein he seemed to "overlook" sins by delaying his full justice. We are in "the latter days" now. There are no more excuses.
So it's a temporal overlooking rather than an eternal one?
I'm not sure what you mean by "eternally overlooking." I think we have a parallel thought in Act.14:16, "[God] in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways."
I think the second half of the v is obviously "temporal," and justifies such an understanding of the first. "But now..." God's not simply saying, "I neglected to tell you before, so repent, do better, or else." It is because there is now a gospel message to declare--God has done what he promised to do, namely provide a way of salvation--that in light of such hope, the call to repent goes forth: "Repent, because in answer to your repentance God forgives you all your sins on the basis of the sacrificial Lamb of God."
Paul is speaking to Gentiles in Athens, who he identifies just prior as "ignorant," v23. I don't think Paul means by "overlooking" that God was not counting multiple generations of Gentile sins against them all that time--essentially ignoring their crimes and will never call them to account. Rom.1:32 (& 2:14-16, etc.) says otherwise. Again, I'm not sure what exactly is the alternate thought you have in mind.
That covers it. Very helpful; thanks!