Character Traits of the Spiritual Life: Innocence

Character Traits of the Spiritual Life:


Richard Hollerman

The word “innocence” is not found frequently in the New Testament, but we know the essence of its meaning in English.  By innocent we mean, “free from moral wrong; without sin; pure. . . . guiltless. . . . not involving evil intent or motive.”[i][i]  There are several definitions in another dictionary: “Freedom from sin, moral wrong, or guilt through lack of knowledge of evil,” “freedom from guile, cunning, or deceit,” “lack of worldliness or sophistication,” and “freedom from harmfulness; inoffensiveness.”[ii][ii]

Several Greek words convey this general meaning, with some variations.  The Greek akakos is literally “not bad” and denotes “guileless, innocent.”  Jesus was described as being “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26), and we should strive for this as well.  Paul commands us, “In evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20).  Infants are not contaminated with the wickedness around them.  We need to be innocent like babies.  This word is even translated as “naïve” (Romans 16:18, ESV, NIV).  Jesus commends those at Thyatira who “have not known the deep things of Satan” (Revelation 2:24).

We need to be innocent in our heart and mind, and not search out or dwell on the evil of society.  Paul said, “It is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them [sinners] in secret” (Ephesians 5:12).  The TV, movies, internet, games, and literature are prime sources of evil, wickedness, immorality, and perversion.  They serve to rob you of childlike innocence.[iii][iii]

Another term is akeraios, meaning “simple,” “pure,” or “unadulterated by evil.”[iv][iv]  It denotes “unmixed, with absence of foreign mixture.”[v][v]  The Lord Jesus declared, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).  Are we innocent as a dove?  Paul urges us to have this character in Romans 16:19, “I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.”  While we need to know the principle of good thoroughly, we need to be ignorant and innocent of the evil of society and the evil in the human heart.

God said that the first man was to abstain from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17), but man has sought the depths of evil ever since.  We should prove ourselves to be “blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,” among whom we “appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).  If we corrupt our minds with evil, we will not be the light that God wants in this dark world.[vi][vi]


[i][i] Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.

[ii][ii] The American Heritage College Dictionary.

[iii][iii] Notice our booklet, Renewing the Mind.

[iv][iv] Richards, Expository Dictionary.

[v][v] W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary.

[vi][vi] See our booklet, The Deadly Peril of the World.




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