If God Has Already Forgiven Us, Why Should We Keep Asking for Forgiveness?

I have heard some say that Christians don’t need to regularly confess their sins to God or seek his forgiveness. They argue that because we were cleansed from the guilt of all past, present, and future sins when we converted, it is unnecessary to ask for additional pardon. I understand these folks’ point. We received total absolution when we were justified, right? If God lavished us with full forgiveness the very moment we put our faith in his Son, it might seem illogical to ask him to forgive already-forgiven sin.

But what are we to do with Jesus’ instructions to daily ask God to “forgive us our sins” (Luke 11:4)? What are we to do with people like David, a regenerate man of faith, whom God disciplined because of his failure to confess his sin? See how tormented he was until he acknowledged his sin and attained God’s forgiveness:

“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” – Psalm 32:3-5

This seems to be one of the many paradoxes we find in Scripture. Has God forgiven those whom he predestined, called, and justified (Romans 8:29-30) of all their past, present, and future sins? He has! Are Christ-professing, cross-clinging believers expected to continually confess their sins and seek God’s forgiveness? They are!

Does this mean, though, that we need to “get saved” all over again every time we sin? Absolutely not! A Christian’s plea for forgiveness is not a plea for justification. God has already done that. However, as Jesus said, even the one who “has bathed” and is “completely clean” still needs to “wash his feet” (John 13:10).

If we know and love Christ, our souls have been bathed in the justifying waters of the gospel. But our spiritual “feet,” which are continually dirtied by the filth of this world, still need regular washing. Even though the sins we commit as regenerate believers do not nullify our salvation, they do fracture our fellowship with God. And until a fracture is mended by a fresh application of God’s forgiving love, we will groan in pain just like King David did when he failed to confess his sin and seek forgiveness.

Christians continue to confess sin and seek forgiveness not to attain salvation but to maintain a clear conscience before God and preserve fellowship with him. By Jesus’ single sacrifice, we have been eternally perfected (Hebrews 10:14). But right now, as we await the full, glorious realization of our purchased perfection, we are in daily need of Christ’s feet-cleansing, conscience-clearing forgiveness.

  • Lyle Nelson

    If we love God as we should, then when we commit a sin, God has wired us so that we just don’t feel “right” until we’ve admitted it to Him, asked for forgiveness, and repented. If we don’t do that, we will feel like there’s a weight hanging around our necks and that we are trying to hide something from Him, even though we know full well that He already knows what we have done. So, regardless of the Biblical requirements. God has made confession of sin a healing event for our souls, one that we should not seek to take advantage of when we need to do so. It will only bring us closer to Him.

    • Lynn Cole

      Amen brother Lyle. Love, Lynn

  • And it came to pass, that, as he (Jesus) was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”
    And he (Jesus) said unto them, “When ye pray, say, ‘Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” Luke 11:1-4
    These are the words of Christ. When we come in to a relationship with God, it is understood that we are going to be tempted to sin, and will sometimes fall. We must recognize our own failings, confessing our sins to God and also forgiving those who might sin against us. Christ commanded us to do this.

  • Lynn Cole

    Another much needed word dear brother Matt. “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy….” Proverbs 28:13

  • between2trees

    I appreciate the article and wisdom here. I believe there is a slightly different approach for Christians to embrace, however.
    Possibly a middle ground is better? At least, the following works for me: when I sin, I simply confess it as wrong and confess God as right. I thank him for his mercy and forgiveness.

    I don’t ask, pray or beg for that which rightfully belongs to me (and to all those who are in Christ): forgiveness! I simply acknowledge God by confessing my sin and thanking him that I am forgiven! Maybe this is splitting hairs for some. I certainly don’t desire to be contentious on this point. But this approach really seems more biblical and practical for me as a believer.

    • John H

      Confess means to “say the same thing”. We agree with God that the sin we commit is wrong and ask for His help to turn from it and “sin no more”. We do not have to ask God for continual forgiveness because we were declared righteous at the moment of salvation based on Christ’s final work. If it’s true that we have to ask continual forgiveness…what if we miss or forget to confess something? What if there is unforgiven sin in our lives? Wouldn’t that put us outside of a right relationship with God since He hates sin?
      I believe 1 John 1:9 refers to an unbeliever’s initial turn to Christ and His cleansing from all unrighteousness. 1 John 2:1 gives instruction for us (believers) and it says that when we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ. Jesus continually pleads our case based on His finished work on the cross. Praise God!

  • Edward Borges-Silva

    Another excellent exposition of the dynamic tension that exists in the spiritual realm and which resonates like a plucked heartstring.