Willful vs. Unwillful Sin

God differentiates between two types of sin: On purpose and not on purpose.

“On purpose” sins are willful and presumptuous. “Not on purpose” sins are non-willful and ignorant.

In this case, the person knows that the action he’s considering is sinful. After deliberating whether or not to proceed, he willfully and presumptuously decides to proceed.


— Non-willful.
Here, the person proceeds with an action and is not aware that it is sinful. He does it in ignorance of the fact that it is sinful, and doesn’t presumptuously sin. It could be an instantaneous reaction to a situation that suddenly occurred and the Christian reacted without thinking. Such as uttering a bad word (filthy communication out of the mouth). Such as telling an untruth and not knowing it’s untrue. It could be such as working with others on a job and an accident occurs and someone else is hurt or killed. And so on. It’s an un-willful sin: a mistake.


Scriptures pertaining to willful sin:

“But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.”
Numbers 15:30-31


“Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” Psalm 19:13


“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”
Hebrews 10:26-27


Scriptures pertaining to non-willful sin:

“And if any soul sin through ignorance, then he shall bring a she goat of the first year for a sin offering.
And the priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the Lord, to make an atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him.”
Numbers 15:27-28


“Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Romans 7:17


From the above scriptures we can see that the non-willful (ignorant) sins are forgiven, and that the willful (presumptuous) sins are not forgiven. In Numbers 15:30-31, the person is “shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.”

In Hebrews 10:26-27, the person loses his soul forever as “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins”.