What Does “God Winked At … Ignorance” in Acts 17:30 Mean ?

Somebody asked me recently, what does “God winked at … ignorance” in times past in Acts 17:30 mean? I honestly am not sure what it means, but I don’t think it means God just overlooked sin in the sense that he forgave it without repentance. Under the law of Moses, even sins of ignorance had to be learned of and conditions met in order to be forgiven (Leviticus 4:13-14).

Acts 17:30 is most likely a contrast between the Jews and Gentiles. The previous verse speaks of idolatry and Romans 1:23-24 says God “gave them up” to sin those who were in such a condition. This doesn’t mean God forgave them in their idolatry and homosexuality without their turning from their sin, but that he gave up on them by ceasing to regularly challenge them with opportunities for spiritual about face. God quit giving “that which is holy unto the dogs” (Matthew 7:5).

If this is the meaning of the text, then Acts 17:30 is saying God is now giving renewed effort to turn the Gentiles’ hearts toward him. In the New Testament dispensation, the gospel is to be preached to every nation (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15), not just to the Jews. Today he “commandeth all men everywhere to repent,” with the emphasis on “all” and “everywhere.” Not only are the Jews challenged to repent of their sins, but today all Gentiles are also. God is not winking at / giving up on Gentiles anymore. He is not ignoring their sin as perhaps he did before. Instead he is actively pursuing their obedience to the gospel so they can be forgiven and come into his one fold (John 10:16).

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