Daniel in London, asks: “In Hebrews 8:12 it says God will remember our sins no more. However, in Matthew 12:36 it says we will have to give an account for every careless word spoken. If God remembers our sins no more, why do we have to give an account? Pastor John, how do we recon-cile these seemingly contradictory verses?”
That is a good question and let’s start with the fact that there will be a judgment of believers. Let’s be careful, though. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8;1. And that now is very precious, right? There is now no condemnation, which means, as Jesus says: You will not come into judgment. That is, you will not have to be condemned ever. Your sentence is over, not guilty, righteous before the living God. And the reason, of course, is because we have been united to Christ. His punishment became our punishment and his resurrection became our resurrection. We are already sitting at the right hand of God and we have passed from death to life and therefore in that sense we don’t come into judgment. There is no condemnation. Nevertheless, clearly we are going to come into a judgment according to our works.
Revelation 20:12 says there are books being written and there is a book. The Book of Life is the book in which if your name exists y our have life forever more and the books are where your works are written and those books, I believe, will reveal the evidence that your name does belong in the book of life. But the book of life is the book of the life that was slain before the foundation of the world and therefore the ground for being in the book of life is not that you have earned it or that your works merit it, but that the one who was slain is your Savior.
So what then is this judgment according to works? And Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians three. He says: If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. And if anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved only as through fire. So we lose rewards and we gain rewards according to whether we have built with wood, hay or stubble or gold and silver and precious stone.
Now if that is true, if there is a rewarding and a loss of rewarding according to what we do, what in the world does it mean in the several texts where it says God doesn’t remember our sins, because it seems like, well, I have obviously sinned here and those sins are going to be burned up at that moment and I am going to lose reward for them and so they were remembered at that time beaus they couldn’t have any function to do that if they weren’t remembered. And here is what I think it means. God’s not re-membering, I think, means God will never call our sins to mind. That is ... I am replacing call to mind with remember as a ground for our condemnation. He will not call them to mind in any way that is de-structive for us. In fact, I would go so far as to say it will always be only good for us, good for us, all things considered if he calls them to mind this way. So that even the suffering of loss at the judgment, according to 1 Corinthians 3:14 will be good all things considered.
So here is an analogy that helps me. What about we forgetting our sins? Should we forget our sins or remember our sins? Because in Philippian three Paul says: Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own, but one thing I do forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I press on. So Paul says I forget. I am not paralyzed by the horrible memories of the fact that I was killing Christians. I was throwing them in prison. I was shaking my fist in the face of God when I... I am forget-ting all of that and I am pressing on. However, he wrote to the Ephesians chapter two: “Remember that one time you Gentiles in the flesh called the uncircumcision. Remember that you were at that time sepa-rated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers of the covenants of promise, having no hope, without God in the world.” Well, Paul, which is it? Are we supposed to remember what it was like for us before we were saved, how horrible that was and what horrible things we did? Or are we supposed to forget those things which lie behind?
And I think what Paul would say is: We forget them and we remember them according to what is good for us. We ... when he says remember them, he says: Remember them for your humbling, not for your paralysis. Remember them for your deeper enjoyment of grace, not because of your destruction. And I think probably it is the same with God. God remembers and doesn’t remember. That is, he calls to mind an applies or he doesn't call to mind according to what is good for us and what is good for his glory.
So God is God. He is omniscient. He knows everything past, present, and future. But the not remember-ing is a not calling to mind for our destruction and a not calling to mind for anything except what we weren’t good for us.
Thank you Pastor John. And thank you for listening to the podcast. Email your questions to us at askpastorjohn AT desiringgod DOT org. Visit us online at desiringgod DOT org to find thousands of free books, articles, sermons, and other resources from John Piper. … I’m your host, Tony Reinke. Thanks for listening.