Jeremiah 31:34: Does The Lord Have Divine Amnesia?

Category: Ask Pastor Jeff

Here’s today’s question:

What does the Lord mean in Jeremiah 31:34 when he says, “I will remember their sin no more”? Romans 2:6 says, “He will render to each according to his works.” 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 speaks of judgment involving rewards or the loss thereof. Scripture speaks of not grieving the Holy Spirit. It seems like sin would have to be remembered in order to judge works, give rewards, or to be grieved.

Ok. “I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:34. That is also stated in similar fashion in Isaiah 43, verse 25. The writer to the Hebrews quotes that in Hebrews chapter eight, verse 12. Are these passages teaching us that the Lord has absolutely no knowledge of the sins of the redeemed, once they’re redeemed? Did our questioner misquote Romans 2:6? Does that verse say “He will render to each according to his works? Does 1 Corinthians 3 talk about rewards based on works? Yes, it does, and we have other passages that affirm that – the very last verse in Ecclesiastes tells us that God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Old Testament, you say? In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul says “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” – he includes himself there – we – not just the Corinthians to whom he is writing, but he AND the Corinthians – “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that we may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. It would be quite difficult for the Lord to fulfill these passages – whether they’re in Ecclesiastes, Romans, 1 Corinthians or 2 Corinthians, if He does not know what we’ve done because He has forgotten our evil deeds – those sins which He remembers no more.

Our questioner is really asking this: is the Bible contradicting itself? Does it teach one thing here, and the opposite there? Does it speak out of both sides of its mouth, with this truth refuting that truth? Are Isaiah 43, Jeremiah 31 and Hebrews 8 all true, while at the same time Ecclesiastes and both letters to the Corinthians false? No. How can we say that? We can say that because Scripture is true. All of it. It cannot contradict itself. If we apply the law of non-contradiction here – A cannot be non-A at the same time and in the same relationship, we see Scripture never contradicts itself. Scripture is the word of God. God not only speaks that which is true, He Himself is truth. He is perfect. He cannot be anything but perfect. He cannot lie. He cannot contradict Himself. He is, as the King James and New King James say in Psalm 31:5, the Lord God of truth. The New American Standard and the Christian Standard in that verse say the Lord, then put a comma there, saying the Lord is the God of truth. The thing is that God is the standard. He reveals truth to us. We do not get to determine that which is true, it is up to us as His creatures to receive what he has revealed as truth, and to believe it and submit to it. Logicians, theologians, and the academy are not sources of eternal, inerrant revelation – Scripture, being the breathed-out words of God, is our source – the only infallible, inerrant source for matters concerning faith and practice.

So – Does God remember our sins no more, or does He bring every evil deed into judgment? Yes. Both are true. The skeptic will say I’ve lost my mind here and am being irrational. No, I’m not.

Words can have different meanings. Different senses. This is one of those words. What comes to mind are a couple of examples – one is from 1 Samuel and the other is from Luke 23.

In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah prays for a child. How does she pray? “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” “Remember me,” is what she asks. Think about it. Is she praying as if the Lord had already forgotten her… and had no knowledge of who she was or where she was? No, because the very fact she prays to the Lord means she knows that He knows who she is. The sense here is that of ‘coming to mind.” And yes, that’s from our perspective because the Lord knows everything and everyone because He is omniscient -all-knowing. She’s looking for favor from the Lord here – the Lord who already knows her and where she is and what she desires.

Luke 23 is where we have two thieves on cross on either side of Jesus Christ as He’s on His cross. One thief says this: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” What was that thief asking for? The same thing as Hannah – favor from the Lord. The thief wanted to be brought to the Lord’s mind when He came into His kingdom. Interesting what the response was, right? “Today you will be with me in paradise.” That’s how Jesus said, “Yes,” to the thief’s petition.

Those examples, though, could be looked at a little suspiciously because those examples have people being asked to be remembered. The specific issue isn’t sin not being remembered as Jeremiah, Isaiah and Hebrews all state. To go there, let’s look at some passages where prayers are offered. In Psalm 25, verse 7, David prays this: “Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!” Remember not the sins of my youth, but remember me! That’s the prayer. Here we have a positive and a negative. A positive, just like Hannah and the thief – “remember me” – the person. But we also have “Remember not.” Remember not the sins of my youth. If we go a little further into the Psalm, we see David asking this: “forgive all my sins” in verse 18. Is there any difference in those two statements? There really isn’t. To “remember not” sins is to forgive them. It’s as IF the Lord has forgotten them, because our sin has been imputed to Christ by faith. Recall this – David also wrote “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin,” in Psalm 32, which Paul quotes in Romans 4. The sin of the true Christian has been imputed to Christ, it’s been credited to Christ and removed from our account, it’s been reckoned to Christ by faith, and it’s as if the Lord does not remember them – they are no longer counted against us. He looks at His adopted children and sees no sin, but instead sees Christ’s perfect righteousness and the Lord also no longer has His wrath set on that person because it too has been credited to Christ and removed from the believer by faith.

Isaiah prays the same thing in Isaiah 64:9: “Be not so terribly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity forever.” But let’s now go to Ezekiel for two more examples.

In Ezekiel 18, verse 22, as Ezekiel is writing the words of the Lord as He says what happens when a wicked person turns away from his sin and turns to the Lord, we have Ezekiel writing this: “None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live.” All those sins that wicked person has committed? They won’t be remembered against him. They won’t be brought to the Lord’s mind and be held against him. It’s not saying the Lord has divine amnesia here – it’s saying the sins of that person who has repented will not be held against him any longer. Think about how the King James translates this word – it says the sins will not be “mentioned” unto the one who has repented.

If we jump ahead to chapter 33, we see the same thing in a similar scenario. Once again Ezekiel is writing what the Lord’s words are, and Ezekiel writes this in verse 16: “None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live.” The King James says the same thing again – none of the sins that person has committed will be mentioned unto him.

See, the thing is the Lord still knows what our sins were…and are…but they’ve all been laid upon His Son, Jesus Christ, by our trusting in Jesus Christ to bear those sins on our behalf. He just looks at us and doesn’t see them, or as these verses state, “remember them.” Praise the Lord for THAT.