Question

Man and animals have memories. Does God have memories?

Answer

Animals (dogs, for example) do not actually have memories. They have what is called "associative" memory. They remember events based on associations but don’t have actual memories. Man is different. You and I have actual memories.

But what about God? Well, he doesn't have memories. Why? Because saying he does would imply that at any given moment he wouldn't know all things. God is omniscient. There is no momentary pause in God’s knowledge. He has no need for memories as he always knows all things—past, present, and future. He is not like us (or dogs).

There are many verses in the Bible that say God remembers something. For example, Genesis 8:1 states, "But God remembered Noah," and Genesis 30:22 says, “God remembered Rachel …” Also see Exodus 2:24, Acts 10:31, and Revelation 16:19. But such phrases are the Holy Spirit communicating to us in a way we can understand. In theological terms, God is not remembering but informing us that he always knows the past as well as he knows the present and future. He is bringing to our remembrance what he’s stated or done in the past.

God does not forget us (Isa. 49:15) because he always and fully knows us. But does God forget our sin? Isaiah 43:25 says, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” God can’t "forget" in the normal sense of the word because he possesses all knowledge at all times.

So, if God always has all knowledge at all times, what does remembering no more or "forgetting" our sin look like? Psalm 103:12 says God removes our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west”. In other words, our sin is so dealt with and forgiven that he chooses never again to access this knowledge. When we are saved, our sins are completely forgiven. We are fully accepted and declared righteous in Christ alone (2 Cor. 5:21). In this way, he places all our sins behind his back, never to behold them again (Isa. 38:17).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).