“If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the LORD’s commandments ought not to be done, though he did not know it, then realizes his guilt, he shall bear his iniquity. He shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent for a guilt offering, and the priest shall make atonement for him for the mistake that he made unintentionally, and he shall be forgiven. It is a guilt offering; he has indeed incurred guilt before the LORD.” —Leviticus 5:17-19 ESV
We might summarize these three verses by using the phrase, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse!” Here a person has violated God’s commands unwittingly, because he didn’t properly understand the law. But he can’t use ignorance as an excuse! He is responsible for knowing and following God’s commands.
The case is the same with us. If I’m driving 45 mph in a 25-mph zone, and a policeman stops me, it won’t do me much good to say, “But I didn’t see the speed limit sign!” As a driver, I’m responsible for obeying the law, I’m responsible for keeping my eyes open and seeing traffic signs. Just so, we have this word; we are responsible for studying it, for knowing it.
God in his grace makes provision for the restoration of our relationship to him after sins of ignorance — but once again, punishment must be meted out. A death must occur; even sins done in ignorance require the death of a perfect substitute. Every sin done in ignorance drives another nail into the hands of Jesus.