Question: "Does God really forget our sins?"
Answer: There are several passages in the Bible that indicate that God forgives and forgets our sin. Isaiah 43:25 says, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Hebrews 10 explains how Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for sin was a once-and-for-all sacrifice. Unlike the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, in which sacrifices were continually made for sin, Jesus paid for sin once. His payment was complete. Hebrews 10:14–18 says, “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’ Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.”
These passages make it evident that God does not remember our sins. However, God’s “not remembering” is not what we usually think of as forgetfulness. God is omniscient. He knows everything, and He forgets nothing. However, He can choose not to remember something. In human relationships, we can choose to remember the offenses someone has committed against us, or we can choose to forget. To forgive someone, we must often put painful memories out of our minds. We don’t actually forget the sin, and it’s not that we are unable to recall the offense, but we choose to overlook it. Forgiveness prevents us from dwelling on past troubles.
Rather than treating us as our sins deserve, God removes our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west”—an immeasurable distance (Psalm 103:12). Think of travelling around the globe. When does one stop going east and start going west? It is impossible to say. When we are saved, our sins are completely forgiven. This is what the writer of Hebrews is talking about—Jesus made a one-time sacrifice that completely removes our sin. In Christ, we are justified (declared righteous) before God. Romans 8:1 tells us there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Romans 8:31–39 is a beautiful discourse on our security in Christ. Sin has no say in our standing with God. We are fully accepted and declared righteous in Him. God does not remember our sins in the way He treats us. Instead, He treats us as righteous. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin [Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In this way, God “forgets” our sins.
Even as Christians, we sin, but we know that God is faithful to forgive (1 John 1:9). God cleanses, and then He moves on. He does not hold our sins over us. Instead, He frees us from the slavery of sin and sets us free to experience a new life. Knowing the complete forgiveness of God in Christ, we can join King Hezekiah in praising our Redeemer: “You have put all my sins behind your back” (Isaiah 38:17). Like Paul, we can forget what is behind and “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13).