Scripture teaches that God forgives and forgets sinners’ sins in Christ (Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 10:14-18). Passages such as Isaiah 43:25 and Hebrews 10 teach that the Lord does not remember the sins of sinners in Christ.
Yet, we should not confuse the Lord remembering our sins with what we think of as forgetfulness. The Lord is omniscient. He knows everything and forgets nothing. So, the Lord can still choose not to remember something.
The Lord Forgives and Forgets Our Sin
We may not forget the offenses against someone, or we can choose to forget. To forgive prevents us from dwelling on past troubles.
Instead of treating our sins as they deserve, the Lord removes our sin as far as the “east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).
When we are saved, our sins are forgiven entirely, which is what Hebrews 10 is talking about — the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus made a one-time sacrifice that entirely removes our sins. In Christ, the people of God are justified before God.
Romans 8:1 tells Bible readers there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Romans 8:31-39 repeatedly speaks down to the nanosecond that the people of God are held secure because of the Lord Jesus’ finished and sufficient work.
The Lord does not remember our sins because He treats us as righteous in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Even when the people of God do sin, the Lord is faithful to forgive (1 John 1:9). The Lord frees the people of God from the slavery of sin and sets them free to experience new life.
Knowing the forgiveness of God in Christ, Christians can join with King Hezekiah in praise to Jesus, “You have put all my sins behind your back” (Isaiah 38:17).
And like Paul we can, “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13).
The Christian and Assurance
One of Satan’s favorite tricks is to convince Christians that their sins aren’t forgiven despite the teaching we see from the Word of God. Satan desires to constantly remind Christians of their past sins and uses those as proof that the Lord couldn’t forgive them.
Psalm 103:12 tells Christians that the Lord not only removes our sins but removes them entirely from His presence. 1 John 1:9 makes clear that the Lord forgives the people of God as they come with an attitude of repentance and ask to be forgiven. Further 1 John 2:1-2 solidifies this promise because behind it is the work of Jesus as Advocate.
Christians need to be careful not to think in light of this teaching that it doesn’t matter how they live because it does. It is not biblical for a child of God to live in habitual sin and continually live a lifestyle of disobedience (1 John 3:8-9).
Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 13:5 is relevant here because there’s a difference between stumbling in sin and living a lifestyle of continual unrepentant sin. Even the Apostle Paul did what he didn’t want to do because of indwelling sin (Romans 7:15).
Like Paul, the Christian’s response is to hate sin, repent of it, and trust the grace of God to overcome it (Romans 7:24-25). Christians do not fall because of the sufficient grace of God.
When the faith of the people of God grows cold, and we, like Peter, deny our Lord in word or deed, the Lord is still there, like in the Prodigal Son’s story, to forgive them of their sin.
Forgiveness and Assurance
Satan aims to get Christians to think there is no hope and no possibility to be forgiven. Many people feel trapped by an overwhelming sense of guilt and so walk away from the Lord. What we must remember is that we were never worthy of the grace of God.
The Lord loved, forgave, and chose the people of God to be in Christ before the foundation of the world, not because of anything they did (Ephesians 1:4-6), but “in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be the praise of his glory.”
There is no place that the grace of God cannot reach, no depth to which we can sink that God is not able to pull out the people of God. The grace of God is greater than all of our sins, so whether we are starting to wander off course or we are sinking or drowning in our sin, the grace of God can forgive us of our sin.
Grace is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8), so when a Christian sins, the Holy Spirit will convict them of their sin so that godly sorrow is the result (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).
The Lord will not condemn the Christian, for there is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). The conviction of the Holy Spirit is one of grace and love. Grace is not an excuse to sin (Romans 6:1-2). Grace is not to be abused nor treated as if sin is harmless or inoffensive.
Unrepentant Christians need to be lovingly confronted and guided to freedom. Non-Christians need to be told they need to repent and put their trust in Christ alone.
Each people group needs to be told the remedy to sin in the grace of Jesus (John 1:16). God’s grace is how people are saved, how Christians are sanctified, and how they are kept by and glorified by God.
Rather than cheapening the grace of God, every Christian should be grateful to God for the grace of God and live a life of honor before His face.
The Apostle's Creed and Forgiveness
In question and answer, 56 of the Heidelberg Catechism, which continues the exposition of the Apostle’s Creed by focusing on the statement that Christians believe in the “forgiveness of sins.”
Belief in divine forgiveness is confessed in that section of Christ and deals with the Holy Spirit. The writers of the Apostle’s Creed could have also placed this particular point in the creed’s statement on the Father and the Son.
Though sinners may petition any of the persons of the Trinity for forgiveness, Scripture directs Christians to make their requests for pardon to the Father (Matthew 6:9-13). Christians are to ask for forgiveness grounded in the finished and sufficient work of Jesus (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:13-14).
The Holy Spirit must regenerate sinners before they acknowledge their need for forgiveness and seek the remedy to it in the finished and sufficient work of Jesus (John 3:5). In our experience, the Holy Spirit makes the first move toward the sinner for them to receive divine forgiveness.
Thus, the Apostle’s Creed is right to discuss forgiveness within the setting of the Holy Spirit.
Micah and Forgiveness
Question and answer 56 of the Heidelberg Catechism helps people understand divine forgiveness. In Micah 7:18-19, the prophet helps people understand and marvel at the greatness of the pardon offered by the Lord.
Micah 7:18 teaches the uniqueness of the forgiveness of the Lord, revealing that no other deity can offer the pardon that the covenant Lord offers to His people. The forgiveness of God is incomparable because He forgives sinners in Christ alone without compromising the justice of God (Romans 3:21-26).
Scripture is clear that the Lord is both Just and the Justifier. The other gods of this world, who are no gods at all but demons masquerading as gods (Deuteronomy 32:17; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; 10:20), compromise their “righteousness” when they “forgive” because they do not demand true atonement for sin.
The Righteousness of Christ and the Christian
Those whom the Lord has forgiven are genuinely forgiven. The Lord does not forget what the people of God have done, but He no longer holds our wickedness against them when sinners put their trust in Christ.
Through the blood of Jesus, the Lord sees His people as righteous and acceptable in His sight. The Lord will not take this status away from the people of God who are in Christ.
While we may find it hard not to hold others’ sins against them, the Lord easily and readily refuses to hold the sins of the people of God against them.
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Dave Jenkins is the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and the Host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast and Warriors of Grace Podcast. He received his MAR and M.Div. through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @davejjenkins, find him on Facebook at Dave Jenkins SOG, Instagram, read more of his writing at Servants of Grace, or sign to receive his newsletter. When Dave isn’t busy with ministry, he loves spending time with his wife, Sarah, reading the latest from Christian publishers, the Reformers, and the Puritans, playing golf, watching movies, sports, and spending time with his family.