God Never Forgets

Scroll of the Psalms

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I recently posted the above title as a status on Facebook, and several people immediately proved that it was a controversial statement.

Why?

Because it is commonly believed that when God forgives our sins, He remembers them no more, thus forgetting them, meaning that He blots them from His knowledge. So if you ask for forgiveness for something, and then ask again, He doesn’t know what you are talking about.

There are many variations of this belief, but the above summary is close enough to be representative, and is at least internally consistent.

I wasn’t able to respond at once, as I was completely busy that day, but the following morning I sat down and wrote out a Bible study on the issue, demonstrating my view on the matter. Here it is below, only slightly edited.

First off, someone mentioned Psalm 103:12 , which says:

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

This says nothing about God removing the knowledge of our sins from himself, it only says that He has removed them from us: He will not hold them against us in the eternal judgment of heaven or hell.

The problem is that people equivocate remembering something against someone, and forgetting the knowledge of something. Two very different things. If you try to say they are the same thing, then you are making a grave error about the nature of God.

God cannot choose to violate His own nature. He cannot contradict Himself. Either He is all-knowing or He is not. Either He is the judge of the Earth or He is not. Now examine these passages talking about this subject:

Psalms 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Proverbs 3:11-12 My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:

12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

Hebrews 12:5-8 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Galatians 6:7-8 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

If we do wrong, ours sins are covered by the blood and do not condemn us to hell. However, they still bear us fruit: we have consequences still on Earth and in Heaven. We cannot escape them: they are inevitable, incalculable, and up to God. God is our judge, and He teaches us and trains us, punishing us in love for our sins and rewarding us in joy for our obedience. He cannot do this blindly: He must know our sins and weigh them justly.

If you say that those passages are all referring to God knowing about our sins before we ask for forgiveness for them, and not after, then you are saying that we have to confess every sin to God to be forgiven for them, and thus if we do not have perfect memories and complete knowledge of our hearts (something impossible for us to have) we cannot be saved. Once we are saved, God forgives us for all sins, past, present, and future, covering them in the blood. If that means to blot them from His knowledge, then the Scripture is lying in the above passages, for they say that He knows about the sins of His children.

Genesis 8:1 And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged;

Genesis 9:15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

Genesis 9:16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

Does God need a memory aid? Is He in danger of forgetting about us? No! Far from it! When God talks about remembering things, He is not talking about keeping from losing the knowledge of them. He is talking about something very different.

Psalms 25:6 Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.

Does God forget Himself? Does He ever lose track of the grand and glorious fact that He is merciful and loving above everything else in existence? No! God forbid!

Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

Hebrews 10:17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

Revelation 18:5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

Ah, here we go, this is where people get the idea that God has blotted out His own knowledge of our sins to such a degree that He doesn’t know what we are talking about if we ask Him to forgive us twice. But what is God talking about when He says ‘remember’?

Look it up! What does remember mean?

There are 15 definitions of remember in Webster’s 1828 dictionary. Only two have any connection with forgetfulness, and they aren’t even the first definitions. Almost all the ones that he drew from the Bible (over ten of the fifteen) have no connection at all with forgetfulness, but rather with priority, respect, esteem, obedience, and things like that.

The idea that to ‘not remember’ something is to blot it from your knowledge is completely fallacious and contrary to Scripture. Look at this definition, specifically referenced to Scripture:

To bear in mind with intent to reward or punish. 3 John 10. Jer. 31.

What are those passages? Here they are:

3 John 1:10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

Jeremiah 31:34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Nothing to do with forgetting, everything to do with bringing to judgment.

If you look at the list of definitions for remember and then go look at all the mentions in the Bible of the word, you will be awed at the power and depth of the word, when used properly. Without its true definition (which you can discern without a dictionary, just from looking at the Scriptures themselves), you end up with a very very wrong doctrine.

God never forgets.

God does not bring the remembrance of our sins before us to condemn us to hell.

God remembers His mercy and love to think on our sins and guide us out of them, showing them to us and chastening us for them.

In other words: God never forgets what He forgives.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments. I didn’t, of course, go through all the passages that mention this subject, so if you want you can bring up other ones that seem to support one or other view of the subject. The comment was long enough as it is, haha. πŸ˜‰

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8 Responses

  1. Of course, when I saw that status on buzz, I agreed with it… I just didn’t say anything. haha.

    I have heard this whole thing (about how God doesn’t forget our sins– rather, He chooses not to “remember”, or bring them back to mind) at our church. Pastor Mark is really good at explaining things like this. πŸ™‚

    This truth is a really, really good thing for us. If He did actually forget our sins– He wouldn’t be God!!! And if He kept bringing them back into His remembrance, we would be toast. πŸ˜›

    Thank you for writing all this out and doing this study! Great job. πŸ™‚

    • You are welcome. πŸ™‚ I am glad you agree, haha. πŸ˜€

      Actually convincing someone of it is ridiculously hard, though. πŸ˜›

      It was a fun study though.

  2. Am I ever glad to see this. Very well put. It has concerned me for years to hear people making such statements, which really do directly impact your understanding of God and His nature.

    There is a world of difference between forgetting and a decision to not remember. Many, many thanks for bringing this out so beautifully.

    • You are welcome, haha. It has annoyed me to no end as well, and I finally was able to explain myself clearly. I haven’t seen anyone who disagreed with me come around, but at least those who already agree understand it better. πŸ™‚

  3. The way my Mum put it was that God never forgets our sins, He chooses not to remember them. πŸ™‚

  4. Right on. To me this is similar to the idea of predestination/election. ( I consider myself neither an Arminian nor a Calvinist finding positives and negatives in both positions )

    God had/has a plan. He knows who will chose Him and He knows who will not. That is different than God saying, “I WILL MAKE YOU FOLLOW ME!”

    Christ never forced anyone to follow Him during His time on earth. Yet the Calvinistic idea that comes across is that the elect have no choice in their election, that not only did/does God know about your salvation, but that He determined it. Yes, he “determined” it, but just as with His memory and forgiveness, that determination is defined within His nature and the rules He laid forth, “Those who call upon my name will be saved…”

    To say that God truly forgets things makes Him imperfect because it calls into question His capacity for all knowledge and ability. It says God has dementia. If God were to truly forget our sins, particular actions we have done, then potentially He can and has forgotten other things as well. That potentiality can erode the fabric of His creation and either makes Him not integral to His creation or non-existent.

    If God elects people without the persons first accepting Christ as Lord, He is without love and we are no more than automatons.

    Predestination and God’s memory, two of many theological concepts that many Christians decide to make an a or b answer not realizing that they’ve misdefined the concept altogether, warping theology… leading to various sects or at least legalism.

    • Exactly. Quite so. Precisely. Hence my desire to help alleviate the viciation that has ravaged the English lexicology over the years.

      Thanks for that comment. Very well written. Glad to know we agree on that, haha. πŸ˜€

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