“And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:17).
We know that God forgives the sins of His people, but does He forget them? It would seem so. Our text suggests that He “will not remember” the sins committed against Him by His children (Isa. 43:25). Believers have always found a great deal of comfort in this blessed thought.
But then God calls upon us to likewise forgive others “even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). Doesn’t this suggest that we too should forgive and forget? Perhaps you are thinking, “But Pastor, you don’t know what they did to me!” True, but was it more than what was done to God when men crucified His Son? Remember, God’s vow to forgive and forget the sins of His people includes even the brutal murder of His only begotten Son.
We are tempted to think, “Well, it’s easy for God to forget,” but such is not the case. God says of the sins of unbelievers that He “will NEVER forget ANY of their works” (Amos 8:7). How then can this God of “total recall” forget our sins? Does His memory have a convenient “on/off” switch that makes it easy for Him to forgive and forget? If so, then we who do not have such a switch would have an excuse for forgiving but not forgetting. But if God has such a switch, would He not also have to erase His memory of Calvary, or else forever wonder why His Son had to die? But it cannot be that God could forget the Cross, for Revelation 5:6 joins John 20:27 to reveal that the Lord’s resurrection body will forever bear the scars of the Cross, making it impossible for God–or us–to ever forget His sacrifice for our sins.
What then is the answer to our question? Can God forget our sins? Perhaps the reader has noticed that we never read that God will forget the sins of His people, but rather that He “will not remember” them. By a deliberate act of His “will” He chooses to act toward us AS IF He has forgotten our sins, on the basis of the blood of the Cross. That’s how fully and completely He has forgiven our sins. And if we are to forgive others “as” God forgave us, then we too must choose to act toward others as if we have so fully forgiven their transgressions against us that we have forgotten them–also on the basis of Christ’s shed blood. This and this alone is complete forgiveness of others, and it is high spiritual ground indeed.
May God help us to begin the new year with a slate wiped clean of “all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking…with all malice” (Eph. 4:31).