Forgive or Forget?

We do ourselves a great disservice by taking figurative language literally in regard to God forgiving and "forgetting" our sins. This 1-minute devotion explains.

"When God forgives, He forgets. If you go back the next day and say, 'Remember that sin I committed, Lord?' He'll say, 'No.'"

I've heard this statement countless times and I used to repeat it myself. But, like many popular Christian slogans, it's another misunderstanding created by using pieces-parts of Scripture. 

When Scripture says God no longer remembers our sins (Hebrews 8:12), it means He no longer counts them against us and always treats them as forgiven. 

However, if God forgot our sins literally, He'd cease to be all-knowing. And He'd be unable to recognize repetitive sin patterns in our lives.(1)  

Just as a good parent recognizes that a child who lies once a month has a different problem than one who lies several times a day, God also recognizes our sin patterns. 

He "forgets" our sins in regard to eternal punishment, but still remembers every detail of our lives—past, present and future (Hebrews 4:12-13). And that's why He's the most Wonderful Counselor.
(1) God's omniscience is a permanent quality of His character:
1 Chronicles 28:9: "The LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought." 
Jeremiah 16:17: "My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes."   
Psalm 139:3: "You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways."
1 John 3:20: "God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."
Hebrews 4:13: "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."

Matthew 18:21-35 is a parable explaining God's forgiveness, and it shows the difference between forgiving our debt and forgetting our debt.

We need to understand that Scripture sometimes uses figurative language. See Recognizing Figurative Language in Scripture

Some people believe God cannot look upon us because we are sinners, but this is another misunderstanding. God cannot accept sinful beings into His kingdom unless they are "in Christ." But He is continually aware of our sins (Hebrews 4:12-13) and intimately involved in our lives. He loves us! If God could not look upon sinners, Jesus could never have come to earth and the risen Jesus could not make this statement in Revelation 3:19: "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent."

These devotions highlight God as our Counselor who is perfect because He has full knowledge of our past, present, and future, and He has perfect answers for our problems.
What's in a Name: Quiet Time 
5 Benefits of a Coffee Date with Jesus 
Jesus Understands Your Pain   

We do ourselves a great disservice by taking figurative language literally in regard to God forgiving and "forgetting" our sins. This 1-minute devotion explains.

Bible Love Notes


  1. Very good point… I am wondering how popular this post will be!

  2. Amen...I need those new mercies every morning!

  3. God in His mercy awes me... And we can't even say "Im sorry" at times! Thank you Almighty God for who you are....

  4. I really needed this! Thank you God for being so merciful although I don't deserve it!

  5. Just what I needed to hear. Thank you!

  6. Without knowing anything in the first place one cannot forget that thing. Here God forgets the sins which were voluntarily exposed to him through sacramental confession under repentance and perfect contrition . Please understand , Do any of us remember our children's errors, as they grow or catalogue them to recall in the future? let us not trivialise truths with humen understandings.
    God bless you.

    1. Hi J.D.

      That's a good explanation. Comparing ourselves and our memory about our children's errors is "trivalising truths with human understanding."

      We are blessed that He doesn't have a bad memory like we have. He remains all-knowing, all-wise, and His complete knowledge makes Him our wonderful Counselor.