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There are several passages in the OT and NT that describe the "forgetfulness of God" with respect to our sins:

Isa 43:25 “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”


Jer 31:34/Heb 8:12, 10:17 “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”...“Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”


Micah 7:19 “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”


Ps 103:12 “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

Many expositors take these statements quite literally, stating that God not only forgives sins, but he literally forgets them as well. As one author put it: "When God forgives... sin he puts it out of his mind; he erases it from the pages of time; he forgets it." Other commentators emphasize the poetic nature of these texts and label them as hyperbole of one kind or another. In general, I think most everyone would agree that these passages indicate God's willingness to "put sins out of His mind", so to speak. It's as if He is saying to repentant sinners, "Don't worry; I won't bring them up again."

However, on the face of it, this seems to contradict the teachings of Paul and others in the NT, such as those in the following verses. So my question is: How can the promises of "forgetfulness" be reconciled with the warnings of future accountability?

2 Cor 5:9-10 "So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." [emphasis added]


Rom 14:10,12 "For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat,... each of us will give an account of ourselves to God." (cf Heb. 4:13)

In these warning passages, Paul is clearly addressing repentant sinners (i.e., "Christians"); he is reminding them of their pending appointment with the One Who apparently intends to review all of their actions.

So, which is it: the former passages seem to teach that God "wipes the slate clean", but the latter passages indicate that even Christians will still be accountable for their sins in the future. How can these two teachings be reconciled?

I realize this question could easily be diverted into a doctrinal/theological debate. That is not my intent. Of course a truly omniscient God can't truly forget anything. But that's not the point. I want to understand how these two sets of passages can be "reconciled" from a hermeneutical standpoint.

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closed as off-topic by J. C. Salomon, Davïd, Daи Mar 24 at 22:59

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions regarding systematic theology are off-topic. For more information, see this meta post." – J. C. Salomon, Davïd, Daи
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
There is a (closed) near-duplicate of this question, which makes me wonder whether this one is best suited for this site as well. Would it get more appropriate handling at Christianity.SE? –  Davïd Mar 24 at 20:08
    
An answer to this question would require (1) a discussion of the various kinds of sin, (2) discussion of the results of sin: which are punishments, which are consequences, then (3) a discussion of the kinds of forgiveness. All without resorting to doctrine. This question belongs on ✝.SE. –  J. C. Salomon Mar 24 at 20:15
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@All-I have to disagree-I believe the question stems from the text, which was pointed out; if an answer resolves the textual understanding, then the OP is satisfied. If the question was worded,"How is Isa. 43:25 reconciled with Rom. 14:10,12; it would have flown under the radar and not drawn the scrutiny it has. –  user2479 Mar 28 at 7:10
    
Thanks @user2479. I see now, how the wording of my post/title could be construed as a doctrinal question. But as you suggested, that was not my intent. I want to know how to interpret Isaiah 43 (et.al) in light of 2 Cor 5 (and vice versa). How do these two passages inform each other? I would be happy to reword the question if that would satisfy the moderators. –  kmote Mar 28 at 20:34
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No @Daи, I don't want you to migrate it. I want you to explain yourself. Allow me to quote from the first line of the FAQ: "If your question is about...interpretation of a specific Bible passage... then this is the right place." That is precisely what I am doing. I am asking about the interpretation of 2Cor 5:10 in light of Isa 43:25. I've made it very clear that I am not asking about doctrine, I'm not asking about theology. I'm simply & plainly asking about an interpretation of SCRIPTURE. That's what this place used to be all about. I'm sorry to see it has drifted from its roots. –  kmote Mar 30 at 5:02

2 Answers 2

Does God really forget our sins?

The Bible never says that God will "forget" out sins, rather we are told that God will not remember them. Forgetting is passive; like forgetting where you put the car keys. Forgetting is not done deliberately. However, when God declares that he will "not remember" our sins, that is active.

The word "remember" (זָכַר) has the following meanings ascribed to it—

remember, recall, call to mind, usually as affecting present feeling, thought, or action: remember past experiences

God's treatment of sin, at any time, and on any level, is never passive. His promise to us in Scripture is not to forget, but to "not remember," hence—

  • he will not call our sins to mind
  • he will not recall our sins
  • he will not think about our sins
  • etc.

So, from a Biblical perspective, the answer to the original question is, "No," God does not forget our sins, instead, he does not dredge them up and reconsider them. Once forgiven, sins are not remembered ever again.

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Your question is really about the meaning of the English word “remember”. “Remember” can be the opposite of “forget”, but is also used simply to mean “think about, ponder, bear in mind”. To say that God will “not remember” your sins does not mean that he will forget them, but simply that he will not hold them against you.

The usage of “remember” in old and new English texts (including the various Bible translations) is amply illustrated here:

http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/162133?rskey=okFNfW&result=1#eid

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