Do we need to ask God for forgiveness when we sin?
When I began this meditation, I thought that the answer to this question would be: “well, yes…we ask God for forgiveness once – when we seek his salvation”. In fact, the Southern Baptists give an example in their prototype salvation prayer; e.g. “…forgive my sins and save me…” Once we acknowledge our sin “… I know that I am a sinner“ (ibid), God, through the sanctifying work of Jesus Christ, will forgive us for all sins…past, present, and future.
I grew up hearing and believing this formula; but I do not find it in God’s Word; particularly in the New Testament where I would expect to find it. Therefore, technically, these concepts are non Biblical. Why not? In other words, why would the Bible omit these concepts and actions?
Nothing we do can impact our forgiveness by God – it is granted by grace alone.
“Seeking” and “asking” have absolutely nothing to do with forgiveness. “Accepting” is the key to our forgiveness and salvation. As we will see in the next post, we do that once through faith and trust in Him. Once we accept his offer for forgiveness, our sins are ALL wiped clean: past, present, and future.
Let me illustrate with a contrived illustration.
A small town has been subjected to biological weapons bombed on them by an extremist faction. Every man, woman, and child in the town has inhaled the biological poison which is always fatal unless an antidote is given. Although a few citizens have fought against the extremist; every member of the town has been condemned to death based on their citizenship in the town; irrespective of their actions to the extremists.
The United Nations sends in a medical team and offers an antidote for the poison. To be saved from death, the poisoned citizens only need to consume (assimilate) the medicine: by accepting it. They are all condemned to death, but all are offered life. However, they must accept the antidote or they will die. It is their choice.
This illustration represents how God sees us and our sin. Mankind is born with a sin nature. No matter how many sins we commit, or even if we don’t commit any, our sin nature has condemned us to death. Like the citizens in the small town, death is meted out based on both our actions and our citizenship in mankind. Everyone is born condemned.
However, God, through Jesus Christ has offered us an antidote – a way out of the predicament. In fact, he offers a full pardon and life eternal. However, we must accept the antidote or we will die condemned.
We will discuss the simple steps to receive this gift in the next post; but the key point here is that our pardon and forgiveness already exist through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross. We don’t have to “ask” with the fear that He will say “no”. We don’t have to “seek” with the fear we won’t find it. We simply must “accept” through faith and trust the forgiveness for us that already exists. Once we do that, we will gain forgiveness as a gift that was prepared for us long ago, before we were born. Prepared for us before we even conceived-of or committed our first sin.
God wants us to restore fellowship with Him as we seek His righteousness; not his forgiveness.
As we discussed in previous posts about forgiveness and fellowship with each other; our goal should be fellowship with God. Forgiveness and fellowship are independent of each other.
A person may have fellowship with God without his forgiveness. A soldier sitting in a fox hole amidst a torrent of mortar shells might seek fellowship with God. He may mutter a prayer such as: “God, if you will get me out of this mess, I’ll be your follower”. They have the beginnings of fellowship even when the man has not accepted the gift of forgiveness and salvation.
On the other hand, someone sealed in their faith in Jesus Christ, can have forgiveness for the same sins that precipitate a break in fellowship with God. Jesus Christ lived a sinless life and unlike the rest of us, was not born with a sin nature. However, when he took our sins (yours and mine) on his shoulders on the cross, God turned his face from him. For the first time, there was a break in fellowship between Heavenly Father and Son. In the midst of his terrible physical pain, Jesus didn’t cry out: “Owie, this hurts!” No, he screams from the depth of his soul: “My God, Why have You Forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34)
Once we have eternal salvation and have accepted the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life; or goal should be a walk of righteousness and close fellowship with God. When we fail, we need to confess and repent. The object of these confessions and our attitudes of repentance is NOT forgiveness. Total forgiveness occurred when we claimed (accepted) the free gift offered to save us. The object now is one of fellowship with our Lord, Savior, Creator, Father, …
Wrapping it Up
- We do not need to ask or seek God’s forgiveness. We only need to accept it through faith and trust in Jesus Christ (more in next post).
- Once we accept the gift of salvation, we are “marked with a seal” that is a guarantee of our eternal forgiveness and salvation. Forgiveness is assimilated once for all the sins we have, are, or will commit.
- Once we join the family of God, our goal should be righteousness; that is, right standing in front of God by working hard to meet his expectations. We will fail. But when we do, we do not need to ask for forgiveness since it was already given. When we fail as children in God’s family, we need to confess and repent. I’ll write much more on this in future posts.