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.
New International Version (NIV)
9 “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.