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