“I never ask forgiveness anymore,” said my friend as we drove up HWY 38 to Big Bear. The comment struck me. I asked him to continue. “Why should I ask for forgiveness when all my sins have already been forgiven?” I kept pressing the topic wanting to get to the bottom of this. “What I do now is receive the forgiveness that God has already granted me. I repent and move on.”
It was an interesting concept. Do we as believers need to ask forgiveness or just receive the forgiveness that God has already granted? Do our transgressions ever reach the throne of God? While this might seem like splitting hairs, I believe there is more to it.
For the last three months I have been pondering this question. The more I think about it, the more I am tending to agree that as believers we never need to ask for forgiveness in a way that assumes that our debt has not already been paid in full.
Check out Romans 6:10
Rom. 6:10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
This verse assures us that the death Jesus died paid for all the sins ever committed and uncommitted. His work on the cross reaches backwards and forward.
1 Peter 3:18 echoes this fact again.
1Pet. 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.
What this verse proclaims is that even the sins of the ungodly have been paid for. This means that people will perish with their sins paid for and surrounded the the loving work of God. They simply never accepted this free gift.
What the Bible proclaims is that the work is done. Sin is dead. All we need to do is receive forgiveness as a free gift of grace.
Rom. 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In the past, when I committed a sin, I felt separated from God until I found the ability to ask forgiveness. Once I did that, I felt that the relationship was restored and accepted again.
That type of understanding of sin and forgiveness proclaims that sin still has the victory over forgiveness. Here is why. In this paradigm, Jesus is seen a forgiver of sins. He has a big bowl of His forgiveness that is always ready to forgive the latest sin you committed.
The problem is that forgiveness does not kick in until you ask for it after committing your latest transgression. Here the forgiveness of Jesus is at the beck and call of sin. Sin holds the power until the believer asks.
The other view, and I believe the scriptural view is that you come to Jesus who has already forgiven that sin and receive the forgiveness already completely granted.
This is how the bible can talk about being free from sin. If sin still has the power to separate you from the love of Christ, if it causes a break in the heavenly reality for even one second, then Jesus death on the cross was insufficient.
While Paul (Romans 6) and John (1 John 1:10) make it clear that we can still commit acts that are in the category of sin in the natural order of things, Romans 8 assures us that these acts never make it to heaven in a way that breaks our communion with the Father.
Here’s the take away. Stop wallowing in guilt and shame for the sins you commit. That kind of sorrow is worldly sorrow. Your sins are forgiven before you commit them. (keeping Roman 6:15 in view)
Instead, with Godly sorrow and repentance, that lacks regret (2 Corinthians 7:10) receive God’s completed forgiveness and pray for the ability to overcome this error in the future.