God makes a distinction between those who sin in ignorance and those who sin willfully (Numbers 15:27-31), repentance is always necessary to receive forgiveness (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38; Acts 26:18). Repentance is literally a change in one’s attitude about God and accompanies saving faith in Christ (Acts 3:19; 20:21; 26:20). Without it there can be no forgiveness. Jesus said, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3; cf. 17:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9). To sin willfully is to be proud and presumptuous in one’s defiance of God (Psalm 19:13; Hebrews 10:26). Willful sins bring God’s judgment, sooner or later, but sins of ignorance are not excusable, either:
“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” Ephesians 4:17-19; (Acts 3:17-19; Acts 17:30-31).
Forgiveness is available to all, but its God’s sovereign grace to cause true repentance in order to be pardoned Ephesians 2:4
Those who reject Jesus and His word in ignorance must accept Him in repentance in order to receive forgiveness of their sins. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6
It doesn’t matter whether someone misses the way because of ignorance or because of willful rebellion—he has still missed the way. People are not as ignorant as they may claim, however. No one can be utterly ignorant of God, and no one has an excuse to live in disobedience.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” Romans 1:18-20
Though we may at times sin in ignorance, we can always be assured of God’s forgiveness. The apostle Paul is a classic example of this truth: “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” 1 Timothy 1:13
Yet for those who willfully and habitually sin, Peter and John makes it clear.. “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” 2 Peter 2:20-21
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9