Can God Forget?

Okay, let’s get back on topic. Now that I have chased the rabbit of cell phone rudeness back into the briar patch, I would like to return to the subject we were discussing earlier in the week.

Does God remember the sins that He has forgiven? How does a perfect God forget? First, let us see what Scripture has to say on the subject, then we will explore the “how”?

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

Very simply, when our sins are confessed by us and forgiven by God, it is as if it never happened in the sight of God. He gives us His promise that they are never to be remembered again.

How can this be? If God can forget about our sins, couldn’t He also forget about a promise? What about me, could He forget who I am?

Remember that God is eternal. He is not confined to the present. Understand that your entire life (past and future as well as the present) is unfolded before God. When a person becomes a believer in Christ, the blood of Christ is applied to their life, cleansing them of all their sins. You need to understand that this cleansing removes the cause of the offense as well as the stain. It is literally as if it never happened. There is no residue of sin before God.

But God still remembers that it used to be there, right?

The verse I quoted states that God will remember them no more. God has the power to simply remove it from His memory. This is not an accidental act of forgetting, put it is purposefully choosing not to remember our offenses.

We can rest assured in knowing that when we confess our sins, our slate is wiped clean before God. He is not going to throw them back in our face if we falter and commit the same sin again. He is not going to hold them over our heads. And He is certainly not going to allow the accuser of the brethren to use them as evidence against us.

Once and for all, we can be forgiven.


34 responses to “Can God Forget?

  1. Gordon, do you believe that God forgives once and for all when we are saved…that past present and future sins are wiped away? In that case i suppose there would be no need to “ask” for forgiveness over future sin…I do believe He sees our lives rolled out before Him since He lives outside of time and space and sees the end from the beginning. Of course for HIm, He already knows the entire story …our believing is just a moment of our time and space catching up to eternity…eternity intersecting with the here and now…I’m rambling outloud…:)
    I think that when He “forgets” it may not be that He doesn’t remember…it may just be that it no longer matters…at all…which is think is true either way. 😉

  2. Good question, JG. I believe that as far as our relationship with God is concerned, all sins are forgiven when we are saved. This is why I refered to it as “once for all”.

    As far as our fellowship with God is concerned, we do have a need to confess sins as per I John 1.

    Have a blessed weekend!

  3. Gordon,
    I do not think I am disagreeing with you in what I am about to say.
    The Scriptures do say that He casts our sins as far away as east is from west and into the depths of the sea.
    Yet we are told in the Bible of the sins of David and Bathsheba, and David was forgiven. God never held them against David, and I do believe they are shared with us as an example and warning of the tragedy of sin.
    The very idea of forgiveness and “forgetting” is, I think even as you said, not to hold it against us, or “Throw it back in our face”.
    God’s mercy and grace is so wonderful

  4. Amen, T.A. I think we are in agreement.

  5. Back when Wayne Watson was still considered a “contemporary” Christian artist, he sang to God about His awesome forgiveness…

    “It’s not so much that You don’t remember, but more that You choose to forget”.

    Great post, Pastor Gordon. You have removed a very effective weapon in Satan’s arsenal..causing new / immature believers to doubt the reality of the vastness and completeness of God’s forgiveness.

  6. Amen preacher.

  7. Blessed thought! Thanks.

  8. Gordon, I actually think that this topic has some relationship to the current discussion over at Pyromaniacs: namely, the choice of God to “limit” His sovereignty or omniscience in a particular situation because He desires to.

    What do you think? Some would say that God can’t “not remember” something because He is omniscient, yet He says that is exactly what He does (or does not do, in this case).

    Bottom line, I’m with you on this, and I agree with the commenter above who said this is something the devil constantly tries to use against us. “Did God really say He would not remember these sins?”

    steve 🙂

  9. Bro. Tony, KC and Beverly, thanks. It is great to have such blogging buddies as yourselves.

    Steve, I agree. God is certainly capable of laying aside His attributes at any time that it serves His will. This is demonstrated in the Incarnation of Christ.

    What our Pyro friends should remember is that God is not limited to His attributes, but that they are a reflection of who He is.

  10. Gordon, I hadn’t thought of it the way you just phrased it, but that is a great statement. I still think there is a place where we have to say “God is God” and leave it at that. I feel a lot of times in certain discussions that some think they actually have God figured out. That scares me to a certain extent.

    steve 🙂

  11. Just to throw a monkey wrench into the discussion … (as Gordon so faithfully does over at my blog!)

    If God could forget could He be God? Can God forget and still remain omniscient?

    I know … some may think this sounds like the old, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it…”

    Still, I hesitate to use the word forget in reference to God’s forgiving … “remembering no more” is a much safer phrase.

    Gordon, take these musings as those of a loving Calvinist … 😉

  12. Hi Ken, welcome to the discussion. Actually, you are not throwing in a monkey wrench at all. You have stated the point I am trying to make.

    The verse I quoted states that God will remember them no more. God has the power to simply remove it from His memory. This is not an accidental act of forgetting, put it is purposefully choosing not to remember our offenses.

    See, you are catching on. (grin)

  13. Thanks Gordon. This is a topic I had questions about just recently. It’s getting a lot more clear now.

  14. Thanks Gordon. Very perspicacious.

  15. Please excuse me while I go look up “perspicacious“…

    Ok…I’m back.

    “If God can forget about our sins, couldn’t He also forget about a promise? What about me, could He forget who I am?”

    The way I figure it, it all comes down to God’s perfect love.

    God can indeed forget (or remember no more) our sin. It is the loving, Fatherly thing to do. Anything less than this would not be representative of pure love.

    But God cannot forget a promise because forgetting a promise would not be representative of pure love.

    God is love. And in God are the most perfect and pure attributes of love. Whether is is forgetting (sin) or remembering (promises) He does it through perfect love.

  16. What a coincidence! I was just thinking about this the other day! Thanks you for answering a question i’ve had for years. I guess I should read the bible more often, the answers are all there aren’t they?!

  17. Kristi, good to see you. Glad to hear you had a good trip.

    Bobby, thank you (I think).

    Danny, amen to your comment. Did you find out what “perspicacious” means? Even Wikipedia didn’t have it listed.

    Kelly, glad this helped. The Bible does indeed have the answers which is a good thing, because I don’t. 🙂

  18. Why yes, I did find out.

    In a nutshell, it means you think real good. You know…depth of insight and stuff like that.

  19. Thanks for the info, Danny. And Bobby thank you for the kind word.

  20. hey everyone…hope all is well…I read a few comments….I think I may be missing you on something….I view it not as God forgetting sin but not making us pay the penalty for it, despite our sin, as a result of our acceptance of Christ…It seems that we cheapen the love, forgiveness, and grace of God by saying HE forgets….I look at the remember no more verses as , they don’t matter any more. If God does not remember our sins anymore how can He hold us accountable for those things?

    2Cr 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things [done] in [his] body, according to that he hath done, whether [it be] good or bad.

    If I missed something please direct my attention back to it. Thanks everyone. Grace and Peace,

  21. akeem olawuwo

    i am from lagos nigeria. my past mistakes/misdeeds always disturb my heart. infact, sometimes i feel like committing suicide. although i had aknowledge andconfess my sins several times, yet it still disturb my life. i would also like to know how many times God forgives. please help me out and help to pray God forgive my sins. thank you

  22. Akeem,
    I am glad that you stopped by. Thank you for sharing from your heart. The Bible teaches us that when we call upon God for forgiveness of our sins, that He removes our sins as far as the east is from the west and casts them into His sea of forgetfulness.

    Please understand that it is God’s desire for us to be reconciled with Him. Therefore, when we confess our sins, we will find that not only is He able to forgive, but is willing and even eager to forgive us for our sins.

    If you have sincerely confessed your sins to God, then accept the forgiveness that His Word promises. It may be that you have not yet forgiven yourself for something that God has already forgiven.

    God bless you, and if I can be of any further help to you, don’t hesitate to ask.

  23. I love the way you worded that Gordon. I’ve never thought of it this way. I am currently writing up a bible study and usig your topic for it.

    One question for you…if God does infact forgive and forget, what does it matter that we even focus on not sinning? Where is the line?

    Just want to hear your opinion!

    Thanks a lot for the great blogs!

  24. Hi Brad, welcome to HH. That is a great question. I believe the answer lies in the fact that the sins that are forgiven are those that are confessed (I John 1:9). Unconfessed sin hinders the fellowship that a believer has with the Father because it reveals a negative attitude towards God on the part of that believer.

    I hope that God uses your Bible study in a great way. Feel free to come back any time.

    God bless.

  25. So, when Ecclesiastes tells us that every work will be brought into judgement, whether good or evil, it is only the unconfessed sins of believers that will remain to be judged (in the evil category)? It is hard to balance this attribute of God with the fact that there are still consequences to our sins, sometimes lasting consequences. But, then again, those consequences often help us to remember our sins.

  26. Interesting point, Dave. I believe that all sins are judged. For believers, our sins were judged in Jesus Christ on the cross.

    I think it is important that we keep in mind the eternal realm and the earthly when considering this. For believers, our sins have been judged in eternity and are forgotten. In the earthly realm, however, we find that unconfessed sin can hinder our fellowship with God. Additionally, sins, even forgiven ones, can still have consequences that impact our lives. For example, some sins affect our health, our relationships, our liberty, etc.

    A good example of this is King David. He sinned greatly, confessed it to God and received forgiveness, yet the consequences of that sin stayed with him for the rest of his life. He stated in Psalm 51, “My sin is ever before me”. This affirms your statement that these consequences help us to remember our sins.

    Hopefully we won’t repeat them.

    Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

  27. If God forgets everything then how are we judged on Judgement Day?

    • HG, thanks for stopping by. You have raised a great question. I think it is important to keep in mind that God forgets only those sins that are purged by the blood of Jesus Christ. The sins of unbelievers who stand before the Great White Throne of God will be judged for their sins.

      On the other hand, believers will be judged according to the motives of the works they have done after they are born again.

      Does this make sense?

  28. If I remember my sins, but God has forgotten them, then He isn’t all-knowing. In fact, he must not be aware of some of the remembrances in my head. If He’s not all-knowing, how can we know that any of His promises will come true?

    I think Jeremiah, who commented earlier, has a better take on this.

  29. I’m new to this, so forgive me for my naivity.
    If God forgets, how can he be all-knowing? Surely this is contradictory of his being?

    Best wishes

  30. God is unique,He is able to forget,that is one of his unique capability.But human being can not what he wants to.I praise you Lord you are grate.

  31. Is that grate, as in cheese grater? Or did you mean great, as in less than amazing. Just kidding with ya. (:
    Is it not contradictory of something to be all-knowing, to know everything and be all-present, present in all times, ie without time, timeless, then be in his nature to forget?
    You can’t possibly forget if you are all knowing, because if you forgot you wouldn’t be all knowing then, would you? So either he is not all knowing or he is not?


  32. Pingback: Theological Mistakes #12: Forgiving and Forgetting | krausekorner

  33. I believe there are two issues here the sin nature (old man) and sins (the acts of sin. God forgives, cleanses, make me a new person and accepts me(the person) a sinner by nature because of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. The sins I commit after becoming a child of God do need to be confessed as they disrupt the fellowship I have with God as clearly stated in 1 John.
    God is Holy and therefore cannot look upon sin. We are raised up and seated with Him in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus Eph 1:20. Therefore, I believe God does not see our sin. I have been washed by His shed blood.
    “Though your sins are as scarlet they shall be white as snow” Isa 1:18

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