The Use of the Word "Remember" in the Bible.

The word "remember" occurs frequently in the Bible. We can learn about God and ourselves from the ways it is used.

A Survey of Uses

Exodus 2:23-24 is a good example of the Old Testament's use of the word "remember." It means to be mindful of an existing covenant or promise and can be used of divine or human remembrance. Matthew 16:8-9 illustrates the New Testament's use of the word, meaning to bring to mind previous conditions, either of blessing or pain. Revelation 18:4-5 speaks specifically of mindfulness of sins against God or people. (Jeremiah 15:15 uses the word in the same way.)

Psalm 25:6-7 makes two different uses: the mindfulness of God's character and attributes and the intentional act of mercy not to remember one's sins.

In Exodus 20:8, "remember" means to consecrate or set apart. In 1 Samuel 1:11, 19, it refers to an intentional act of grace not necessarily related to any covenantal promise.

Luke 17:32 uses the word "remember" to command giving attention with the goal of instruction or warning, highlighting the consequences of forgetting.

Nehemiah 5:19 contains a request for God to recall one's past or present obedience to affirm one's faithfulness and allegiance to God.

Of over 250 uses of the word "remember" in the Bible, the majority relate to God's activity, not those of humans. Since God is omniscient and omnipotent, He has no problem of forgetting, though at times it may seem so from a human perspective.

In the Bible, the call to remember is a call to act on what is remembered. Hence, biblical remembering involves more than thought (Psalm 22:27, Hebrews 13:7).


There are many reasons why it's easier to forget. Our fallen nature causes us to forget what we want to remember and remember what we'd rather forget. Sometimes we also pursue knowledge for the wrong reasons. Knowledge acquired simply to puff ourselves up is not useful; the goal of knowledge should be to love better (1 Cor 8:1).

Remembering what we have been taught should lead to acting on the truth. Remembering who we are in Christ should lead us to live in agreement with our position. We are children of God with the special privilege to call on Him.

Do you ever wish you could forget your own sin or that committed against you? Communion is an important practice of remembrance for Christians (Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 11:25). It calls us to remember, not focusing on our mistakes, but on Jesus' willing and loving sacrifice. As we remember, we are called to take action: to extend grace to others and to reject bitterness and anxiety over our own sin. The celebration of the Lord's Table should be made a priority for every Christian.

Biblical remembering is not simply thinking back to the past, but realizing that we will be remembering certain things for the rest of our lives. If you hear the same biblical truth that you've heard before, don't tune it out. Use it as an opportunity to consider, Do I really believe this? Am I acting on what I know? Hebrews 12:1, 1 Corinthians 9:24, and 2 Timothy 4:7 all compare the Christian life to running a race. In a race, spectators are valued and helpful even though their cheering doesn't add much new information for the competitor. It is good to be reminded to continue in what we know.

Application Points

  • Biblical remembering is more than just thinking. How does your remembering affect your actions?
  • How can your celebration of the Lord's Table allow you to remember (and forget) sins appropriately? Do you make this ordinance a priority?
  • Our accumulation of knowledge doesn't always produce wise living or godliness; but it should. What do you know that you need to live?
  • Perhaps you are using this time to remember the past year. As you reflect, where is action needed? What is your next step in growing in Christ-likeness?