Question: "What does it mean that God will blot out our transgressions?"
Answer: Several passages of Scripture refer to God’s promise to “blot out our transgressions.” In Isaiah 43:25 the Lord says to His people, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Twice in Psalm 51, David prays for the Lord to “blot out” his sin (verses 1 and 9).
The Hebrew word translated “blot out” in Psalm 51 means “to abolish, destroy, erase, or utterly wipe away,” according to Strong’s Concordance. In verse 1, the appeal to God to blot out sin is based on God’s mercy and “unfailing love.” That request is followed by a prayer that God would “wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (verse 2). In verse 9, God’s blotting out of sin is linked to David’s request to “hide your face from my sins” and “create in me a pure heart” (verses 9–10).
The picture is that our sin is recorded in a heavenly book. The bookkeeper is God, and our sins are entered in a ledger in our debit column. Revelation 20:12 presents a similar picture of the dreadful great white throne judgment, when “the dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” The psalmist, keenly aware of his sin (Psalm 51:3), pleads with God to erase the record of his sin and cancel his debt. As a sinner, his only hope is that God, in His mercy, will blot out his iniquity.
As Isaiah 43:25 reveals, God is the only one who has the ability to wipe away our spiritual defilement. To the praise of His glory, He is a God who forgives His children: “I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:22, ESV). For God to refuse to blot out transgression is a severe judgment (see Nehemiah 4:5 and Jeremiah 18:23).
Although our sins are many, God has mercy. To those who have faith in Jesus Christ, His Son, God applies the blood of Christ to our sin and cancels the debt we owe Him. Colossians 2:13–14 explains how that happens: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (ESV, emphasis added).
Other translations of Colossians 2:14 bring out the same truth in various ways:
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances . . .” (KJV).
“God wiped out the charges” (CEV).
“He erased the certificate of debt” (CSB).
“Having blotted out the handwriting . . .” (BLB).
“He canceled the record of the charges” (NLT).
The fact is that, in Christ, our sin has been effaced; no trace of it remains.
In ancient times, people hand-wrote deeds, receipts, and bills with reed or quill pens and black ink made of soot, gum, and water. When they made a printing mistake on a document (other than the Scriptures), they might choose to blot it out with ink, rewrite the letter or word correctly, and move on. The mistake had to be covered.
That’s a picture of the “blotting out” of our transgressions. Our sin must be made right if we are to be fit for God’s presence. The only substance that can cover our sin is the blood of God’s own Son. Under the Old Testament Law, God allowed the substitution of bulls, sheep, and goats (Numbers 29:11; Leviticus 6:25; 2 Chronicles 29:24). When their blood was spilled, it symbolized what God intended to do when He sent His Messiah to be the final propitiation for sin (Romans 3:25–26; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). With Jesus’ shed blood, God blots out the transgression of every person who comes to Him in faith (John 3:16–18; Matthew 26:28). “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:25–26).
Those who have had their transgressions blotted out by the blood of Jesus are forgiven and will spend eternity in heaven with Him. Without Christ, however, sins remain a dark stain on the soul, and the fate of the unforgiven is eternity in hell (2 Peter 2:4–10; Luke 12:4–5). No amount of sincerity, religious fervor, or good deeds on the “credit” side of our ledgers can blot out our transgressions. Only the blood of the spotless Lamb of God can blot out our transgressions, erase our debits, and make us clean before God (John 1:29; Hebrews 9:13–14).