“I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins,” Isaiah 43:25.
“I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee,” Isaiah 44:22.
“In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve,” Jeremiah 50:20.
“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea,” Micah 7:18-19.
“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more,” Hebrews 8:12.
Memory loss and old age go hand in hand! It is both vexing and inconvenient to suffer memory loss and many a mental struggle takes place as efforts are made to call to mind that which has ‘mysteriously’ disappeared from our memory bank.
Now, the Lord does not suffer from such an effect of ‘old age’ but we may use the term ‘memory loss’ regarding His memory of the sins of His elect. Micah says of their sins that God will “cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” That which sinks into the depths, of the seas is termed ‘lost’ in the language of the mariner. The bed of the world’s oceans and seas are littered with vessels long lost and never seen by human eyes again.
Even so it is with the sins of God’s people!
The verses at the head of our article are but some of the verses from the Bible which set forth God’s most merciful ‘putting away’ of even the memory of the sins of His pardoned people.
I am sure I am not alone in having a horror of my sins being revealed before mankind at the judgment! How blessedly sweet and comforting it is to read words like those of the texts above, when tortured by such thoughts.
I. IN THESE WORDS WE HAVE SET FORTH THE ABSOLUTE PARDON WROUGHT BY CHRIST AT THE CROSS.
Such was the glorious ‘completeness’ of the Saviour’s atonement, that it is little wonder both prophets and angels sought to understand its glories!
“Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into,” 1 Peter 1:10-12.
1. The power of the precious blood to atone for and cleanse away our sins is everywhere set forth in Holy Scripture. No verse does this better than Isaiah 1:18.
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
While ‘man-made religion’ prescribes a lifetime of attempting to do that which is hoped will atone for sin (and most assuredly will not) God in mercy offers to sinful man a complete and instant deliverance in the gospel.
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Romans 5:1.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” Romans 8:1.
2. This glorious pardon is absolutely free. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David,” Isaiah 55:1-3.
Just what ‘the sure mercies of David’ are, Matthew Henry says in his commentary that they are: “Even that covenant which was made first with Abraham, and then with David, concerning the exhibition of those glorious and sure mercies or blessings which God hath promised to His people, one and the chief of which mercies was the giving of Christ to die for their sins, and to rise again for their justification.”
Isaiah the prophet is telling us in these verses that such mercies are free — “without money and without price.” Man’s religion is a ‘commercial exercise, every supposed ‘blessing’ comes at a price to be paid to the ‘priest’ or the ‘officiating religious administrator’!
The religion of Christ is one of ‘the free offer of a free salvation’!
3. The extent of this wonderful mercy is set forth in the words ‘will not remember thy sins’ and ‘Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea’. Could anything more sweet and precious be offered to a sinner whose transgressions, unpardoned, will take them to an everlasting damnation! Our eternal condemnation is replaced by eternal deliverance, bought for us at the price of the Saviour’s blood.
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God,” 1 Peter 1:18-21.
II. OUR ‘FORGETTING’ DIFFERS GREATLY FROM THAT OF GOD’S SPOKEN OF IN OUR TEXTS.
I can still hear Pastor Willie Mullen, speaking in Dr Paisley’s pulpit in the old Ravenhill Free Presbyterian Church many years ago now, say of God ‘remembering no more’, that it differed very much from our attempts at forgetting.
“We may say to someone who has sinned against us and then apologised, ‘Please, think no more of it. I have forgotten the matter!’ In truth, that is not the case for even as those words are spoken, the incident is still vividly in our memory! Furthermore, in future days, we may well call them to mind again and change our mind about ‘forgiving’ the offender! We cannot ‘forget’ for the memory may well ‘pop up’ in our mind unbidden at any time. Such is our faulty memory.
But it is not so with God. By an act of His sovereign will, He puts away forever all thought of the sins of those He pardons through the blood of Christ. Those sins cease to exist for God. It is as if our sins never existed!”
Those words of the old Pastor have lived with me for they were so illuminating! I understood, as never before, just what God’s pardon entailed.
1. Even the devil cannot bring our sins before the Lord. He can bring our sins to our mind, often enlarged upon and exaggerated. He does accuse us for he is ‘the accuser of our brethren’ and he accuses ‘them before our God day and night’, (Revelation 12:10). But for all his deftness at levelling accusations against the saints of God, he utterly fails to cause the Lord to remember our sins for “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” Psalm 32:1. The word ‘covered’ means ‘utterly concealed’. God has said, “their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”
Like all that the devil seeks to do to overturn God’s plan of redemption, he will fail in this matter also.
2. Our own sad and despondent pondering of our former sins do not bring them up before the Lord. Our sins are gone from before God but not from our memories. They live on there to torment and torture our conscience! Our meditations in God’s Word often bring them up. David, under rebuke from the prophet Nathan cried to the Lord in prayer, “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me,” Psalm 51:3. Even to his dying day those sins were before him. Among his last words were these. “Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow,” 2 Samuel 23:5. Doubtless, he was thinking of how his sin with Bathsheba had brought upon him the grief of his son Absalom’s rebellion, even as was told him in the day that Nathan rebuked him for his sins.
“Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun,” 2 Samuel 12:9-12.
Yes, like David, we too must live with the frequently torturous memories of our past sins.
3. The memories that others have of our sins will not bring them up before the Lord. Following Paul’s conversion and his preaching of Christ in the synagogues, the Jews in Damascus were naturally amazed because of his past attitude. “And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?” Acts 9:20-21.
The believers in Jerusalem, when Paul fled from Damascus, were likewise troubled by memories of his past. “And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus,” Acts 9:26-27.
But no matter where memories of our sins are stored, in our memories, the devil’s memory or the memories of those who are now our friends, they are not to be found in God’s memory.
III. EVEN AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST, THE SINS OF BELIEVERS WILL NOT BE REMEMBERED.
“Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad,” 2 Corinthians 5:9-10.
We who are Christians should live and work and labour with that day in mind! We are saved and will never enter into condemnation BUT, we will have to give an account of “the things” done in the body.
Matthew Poole says this of the above verses. ‘Those texts which speak of believers not being judged, or not coming into judgment, must not be understood of the judgment of inquiry, (for all shall come into that judgment), but of the judgment of condemnation.’
The ‘judgment seat of Christ’ is a place where all Christians will ‘appear’, or ‘be made manifest’. It is a place where our witness and labour for the Saviour will be reviewed. It is not to be confused with the ‘great white throne’ before which all the UNCONVERTED will be assembled, the dead sinners being resurrected to appear there along with those alive at that time, to be CONDEMNED for their rejection of Christ.
“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death,” Revelation 20:11-14.
“The judgment seat of Christ” is where the labours of the believer is evaluated and rewarded in keeping with those labours. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire,” 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.
The final words of the verse 15, clearly indicate that the sins of the believer, which merit hell everlasting, are not dealt with for they will never be so remembered again. “The blood of Jesus Christ” has cleansed us from all sin, (1 John 1:7).
We can well conclude with the words of Psalm 144.15.
“Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.”
Amen and amen.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
Lord’s Day, 22nd October, 2023