We Are Justified ( so why does Jesus tell us to still pray for the forgiveness of our sins?)

This morning a brother in Christ pointed out that I had stated that we do not need to ask daily forgiveness in a previous   blog post.  We won’t get into the rest of the discussion here as that would be a very long blog post…So to set the record straight, yes we are to ask for forgiveness.  We are taught by Christ in the 5th petition of the Lord’s Prayer to ask for forgiveness of sins.  My point in that particular post was not to say “don’t ask for forgiveness”, rather it was to say that if we die and have not prayed “forgive us our sins” on that day; we would not be eternally lost, because we are justified in Christ.

So this begs the question:

“If we are justified, why does Jesus tell us to still pray for the forgiveness of our sins?”

So how do we reconcile this question? It is obvious that Jesus did not simply mean for new converts to ask forgiveness considering that he was teaching his disciples.  So what was he getting at?

When we speak of justification, or being justified, we are viewing God as our Judge.  However, in the Lord’s Prayer we are taught to address God as “Our Father.”  And that is the real change.  Now God is our Father in Christ. Let me go a bit deeper on this.

The forgiveness that takes place in our justification is what some have termed as “judicial forgiveness.”  That is, justification takes place in God’s courtroom.  In that setting, we are guilty and we are legally responsible for our sins.  The punishment due us is eternal damnation.  God’s verdict that our sins are paid for Christ’s sake means that we are justified.  This removes the threat of hell from us and creates a new relationship with God in which God becomes our Father rather than our judge.


So, in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus does not teach us to pray to our Judge, rather he tells us to pray to our Father.  Some call this, “parental forgiveness,” in contrast to “judicial forgiveness”. This is the action of the father toward a justified person and it is based upon the previous judicial forgiveness.  If we look at this like a home setting we can view God as the Father and the believer as the child. In a careless moment, the child sins (as we all do). Maybe he steals a cookie. Does the Father then sentence the child to die for the sin? No.  He corrects the child; he disciplines the child, because he loves the child.  God is no longer viewed as the Judge, but the Father!   When we sin as God’s children, we open ourselves to his discipline and correction.   We have a sense of guilt because we have displeased and offended our Father. When we confess our sins to him, we do so as a child speaking to our Father.  When the Father forgives us, he lifts the threat of discipline and our relationship with him is restored and enriched.

Parental forgiveness, not judicial forgiveness.  That is why the Lord Jesus teaches us to continue praying for the forgiveness of our sins.

In  Q&A 126, of the Heidelberg Catechism we are taught that we come to the Father for forgiveness based on the shed blood of Christ alone. If we place our faith in Christ alone, we can rightly ask the Father to forgive us all the time. Likewise, we can expect forgiveness from Him when we ask humbly for forgiveness.  Why? He is a faithful and just God, He cannot do anything else but forgive His people when they come to Him in Christ. When we ask the Father to forgive us in Jesus’ name, we are asking Him to do something that He has promised that He will do. So, we can be confident that He forgives us when we humbly seek His face.  So join me in seeking forgiveness every day, by confessing and repenting of our sins.

Matthew 6:9-13

New International Version (NIV)

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’

Thank you to my brother in Christ for questioning me.  It led to a fruitful evening. 🙂

Soli Deo Gloria.

You may also like...

No Responses

  1. Rob Sp. says:

    Thanks Ryan, a nice morning read again. I am not sure if this would be the right spot to put this, but I am curious as to your thoughts on the second part of that petition: as we have forgiven our debtors. My question: my understanding of ‘forgiving our brother(s)’ is that we are required to forgive as often as asked. My basis for this is Jesus saying, “seventy times seven.” What if your brother does not ask? Are we then still required to forgive?

  2. Rob Schouten says:

    Rob S. would you mind to put your last name out there to prevent confusion in regard to others in the category of “Rob S.” such as myself? Thanks!

  3. I edited the name of the 1st Rob S. to “Rob Sp.” I also was hoping the 2nd Rob S. “Rob Schouten” was going to answer the original commenter – so I would not have to attempt 🙂

    Long answer short, I believe that the scriptures teach that the second half of the petition is also a plea for grace. When we pray for forgiveness, as Jesus taught us, we curse our selves if we have not forgiven those who offended us. Our duty is to forgive our debtors, not request for them to seek to be forgiven. We should forgive and forget the debts owed us and the wrongs done to us without being asked. We do not merit forgiveness by forgiving others, but it is a moral qualification for pardon and peace. Think of it this way – if we live in a state of forgiveness, that is, if God has created in us a state of forgiveness and the ability to truly forgive others – that will be an evidence to us that he has first forgiven us. All good things come from the Father, including our ability to forgive. (Was that correct 2nd “Rob S”?)

  4. Rob Sp. says:

    Thank you for responding Ryan. I agree that our forgiveness is only through God’s amazing grace. I also agree that we should not go around ‘requesting them to seek to be forgiven’, that would kind of defeat the purpose. My struggle is with the blanket forgiveness; I have not yet found a place in scripture that tells us to forgive before the ‘forgivee’ asks for it. Rather, all the times I have read about forgiving, the lesson appears to me to be one of not forgiving one who asks, as God forgives those who ask Him (sorry if that sentence is a bit confusing). To follow your reasoning and apply it to ourselves, shouldn’t then God forgive us even if we don’t ask? Of course not!! We need to show repentance. Also, how can church discipline be enacted if we are to forgive people before they show their repentance?
    Maybe I’m just missing the point somewhere, but this is something I’ve been struggling with for the last little while. Hopefully I can get some clarification 🙂

    • I agree with you that I do not see forgiveness being applied to unrepentant people in the bible. So the forgiveness of an unrepentant person doesn’t look the same as forgiveness of a repentant person. I have forgiven some people for hurts caused me in my life, even when they have not asked for it. I will have to do some study on this, but I think that we do well to forgive all our brothers. I think specifically of the text that tells us to turn the other cheek. So even when a person does not repent (Matthew 18:17), we are commanded to love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us and do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27).

      So we can still lay down our bitterness; we can hand over our anger to God; we can seek to do good to that person; but we cannot carry through reconciliation or intimacy with that person until they seek forgiveness. Essentially what I do in that situation is say I forgive you but I don’t trust you…yet. There are people in my life, and I am sure in all our lives to which that applies. I pray for these people that they would come to repentance.

  5. cecile says:

    …and isn’t it God’s grace even that we are able to forgive both believers and unbelievers? Eph. 3:14-21 comes to mind. I read, “The world’s worst prison is the prison of an unforgiving heart.”

    • Thanks Cecile. I have known that prison and it is not a nice place to be. There is an old saying that holding onto bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies…not a bible verse but it was certainly appropriate in my life. I thank God for his grace 🙂