“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
Should a Christian ask forgiveness for his sins? Yes. Must he do so in order to be forgiven? Not necessarily.
According to Jesus, we should regularly ask forgiveness for our sins–perhaps just as regular as asking for daily bread. In doing so, the request is general. It does not itemize sins in order for them to be forgiven. Sure, if a sin is known, we should confess it, just as we make mention of specific needs beyond our daily bread; but please note, it is not wrong to pray a “blanket prayer” for forgiveness. Conversely, it is not necessary to itemize sins for forgiveness. According to the word of God, there is sin within us that remains unknown to us (Psalm 40:12; 139:23-24; cf. Jeremiah 17:9). God alone knows the heart. “Who can understand his errors?” asks the psalmist rhetorically; therefore, the follow-up request is general: “Cleanse me from secret faults” (Psalm 19:12).
In asking forgiveness, we Christians should keep in mind two things. First, we ask on the basis of a permanent relationship with God as our Father. Just as in Christ, our status as “righteous” and as “clean” does not dissipate when our daily sin-count fluctuates, so also God ever remains our Father in Christ, and we address Him as such in order to receive the forgiveness of sins.
Second, the forgiveness of sins is something that Jesus purchased in bulk for us on the Cross. In Him, “we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14). Therefore, when we ask for forgiveness, we are asking for a benefit to be applied that Christ already purchased on our behalf. Since we already have it, we are sure to receive it every time we ask–and even when we fail to ask.
Interestingly, this constant application of the blood of Christ to our souls falls under the doctrine of Christ’s intercession for us in heaven. As our ever-living Priest, He is able to save us “to the uttermost” because He ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). According to this Scripture, our full salvation in the future depends upon this constant intercession in the present. Though we have been justified by Christ’s death, we should not forget that “we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:9-10).
Justification occurred at one moment in time; but our sinning has continued beyond that point. How is it that we are not condemned for this subsequent behavior? According to Paul, it is based upon the risen Christ’s intercession for us at the right hand of the Father (Romans 8:34). God justified us (verse 33); therefore, on that basis, Christ continues to intercede for us. In John’s terminology, Christ Jesus is our Advocate, whose blood continues to cleanse us (present tense) from “all sin” (1 John 1:7; 2:1-2). In a sense, we are clean not only due to our initial cleansing (justification), but also due to continual cleansing, despite our daily contact with filth.
Therefore, a Christian should readily ask the Father for forgiveness, fully expecting to receive it due to the intercession of Christ in heaven. Having such a High Priest, we should ask “boldly,” for due to Him the throne of God has become a “throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:14-16). True, we should not abuse this forgiveness–and no true Christian will persistently, due to regeneration (1 John 3:9; cf. 2:1a)–but neither should we minimize its importance, thinking that uncertainty regarding forgiveness will keep people in check. Quite the opposite. The Bible says that grace trains us to “live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:12). It is those who have a certain hope of heaven that purify themselves, even as He is pure (1 John 3:3). And since they are still purifying themselves, there must yet be some remnant of filth needing forgiveness. Praise God for forgiveness! We can ask–and we should ask–and we shall receive, through the intercession of Jesus Christ, our Advocate, our High Priest. To Him be the glory! And through Him, to God the Father! Amen.
7 thoughts on “Does a Christian Need to Ask God for Forgiveness After Sinning? (Part Four)”
How about thanking YAHWEH for what YAHSHUA did on the cross, instead of re-hanging HIM everyday. Colossians 3:13-15 uses the word “forgiven” as do other passages-it is done. Repent and thank HIM. Have some peace in that and be thankful. Why make it so complicated?
Thank you for the reminder to keep it simple. Perhaps my own pride in trying to grasp the details has led me to portray the work of salvation in Christ less clear than I should.
Regarding your comments, I would like to know if they are in light of all four posts that I did on this question or on just the last post. Pertaining to the cross-work of Jesus (and it is fine to use His Greek name, for the apostles did in their writings), it is a one-time event that provides Him the basis for His ongoing intercession in heaven (compare Hebrews 9:26 & 7:25 with 9:24–He appeared on earth to put away sin and now appears in heaven to intercede for us). The posts have been an attempt to explore this dual work of Christ as High Priest, and then to apply them to our lives as believers. I am both forgiven once-for-all-time (“justified”) and also forgiven every day (“the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin,” 1 John 1:7). The former act guarantees the latter.
As for gratitude, I am truly thankful not only that Jesus died for me (providing my justification) but also that He lives for me (providing ongoing intercession). He is an all-sufficient Priest!
Very good Carrie. while the article sounds good, it is lower than what Christ did for us.
We are forgiven and we thank Him for that. When we sin, we are to confess (that is agree with God that the price has been paid and that we have been forgiven in Christ)and we are forgiven. 1 Jn 1:9 confess and we are forgiven NOT CONFESS AND ASK FOR FORGIVENESS
thanks Bob. I’ve been scouring the internet after reading portions of “the naked gospel” by Andrew Farley which claims that we don’t need to ask for forgiveness if we have received Christ. He claims the Lord’s Prayer was for the Old Covenant and/or to show people they couldn’t reach this standard of forgiveness based on asking (Farley claims that Christ said “forgive as the Lord forgave you” as a way to demonstrate that we wouldn’t want that request because our forgiveness is incomplete).
I don’t buy either interpretation but do sense a tension between believing that I’m completely forgiven, yet asking for forgiveness.
Your article helped.
God be praised you were helped. May the Lord grant all of us a greater and more precise knowledge of His precious gospel in faith and love!
Grace to you,
this message has served as huge help for me to realized that forgiveness of sins is constantly and gracious available for me.
Thanks for a very helpful article Bob, and what seems to be a very helpful discussion.
Oluchi’s comment hits on the tension that another referred to.
It would seem to me that yes indeed we have been forgiven. But also that humility is required, with a heartfelt sincerity to see sin removed from our lives as it rears it’s ugly head.
We are to work out our salvation with fear & trembling. So just to say “you’re forgiven, stop crucifying Christ daily” doesn’t really scratch the itch.(Whilst at the same time I understand the sentiment of not needing to literally ‘ask’ for forgiveness.)
I think Bob’s final paragraph in the article was spot on.
There is clearly a need to appropriate the forgiveness of God & cleansing power of His blood to areas of our lives as they appear or are revealed.
This need not necessarily require us to ask for forgiveness, but it requires us to be humble in heart & in love with God, and to have a holy desire to be truly like Him. For if we desire not to be like Him, then we shall continue in sin.
May God help us all to pursue the narrow way