It is no longer necessary for you to ask for forgiveness for your sins. In fact, it insults the finished work of Jesus on the cross when we do ask. It implies that the matter isn’t finished although Jesus clearly said that “it is finished.” Doesn’t the New Testament teach that we are to still ask for God’s forgiveness? This is where it becomes important to “rightly divide the word.”
When did the new covenant of grace begin in the Bible? Many would say it started at the beginning of Matthew, yet the covenant did not actually start until the death of Jesus. The covenant of grace was the last will and testament of Jesus Christ. The age of grace could not become operative until Jesus died. The writer of Hebrews said:
For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives (Hebrews 9:16-17).
Both Scripture and common knowledge demonstrate that a will does not become functional until the one who made it dies. Given that fact, which covenant was in operation during the whole lifetime of Jesus? Of course it was the covenant of law. Jesus lived under the Old Testament. (The words "testament and "covenant" mean the same thing.)
Remember that the purpose of law is to raise the awareness of sin among those who embrace it. (See Romans 5:20) Living under the covenant of law, the words of Jesus often reflected that covenant. Such is the case when he discussed the matter of forgiveness. In Matthew 6:12, when responding to his disciples’ inquiry about how to pray, concerning forgiveness he said, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” He elaborates on forgiveness under the law system in verses 14-15 by saying, “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive you your transgressions.” This was the law in action — if you want God to do something for you, then you must first do something to cause Him to act in your behalf. Under law, if there is even one person whom you have not forgiven, then you can’t be fully forgiven yourself. If you aren’t fully forgiven, you have no hope of heaven.
When asked about forgiveness, Jesus answered according to the law. Yet in His personal relationships, he always acted in grace. An example of His approach is illustrated by the woman in John 8 who was caught in the act of adultery. When the scribes and Pharisees pointed out that the law of Moses commanded that adulterers be stoned, Jesus didn’t dispute the law. He simply suggested that their application of the law include themselves. After His challenge that the sinless one among them cast the first stone, the crowd dispersed until no one was left except the woman who had been caught.
Having acknowledged the validity of the law at that moment, he went on to demonstrate gracious forgiveness toward the woman by asking, “‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you? And she answered, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more.’” This incident is so typical of the Lord Jesus during His earthly ministry. He utilized the law to raise the awareness of sin and then demonstrated grace by His own behavior.
Under the covenant of law, one was not totally forgiven but must receive ongoing forgiveness in order to remain in a guilt free state. Yet at the cross, God poured out all His forgiveness toward those who are His. We don’t need to ask anymore! Paul described total forgiveness in Colossians 2:13-14.
And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Because of His finished work at the cross you have been acquitted for the sins of a lifetime! If you believe that your sins are still being forgiven one at a time as you ask for forgiveness, a troubling question must be answered. What happens if you die with just one sin in your life which you haven’t thought to ask Him to forgive? The truth of Scripture is that before we were ever born, God saw our lives and identified every sin that we would commit. The “certificate of debt” is a list of the sins of our lifetime. Jesus carried those sins to the cross with Him and God canceled the debt. Every sin of our lifetime has been forgiven — past, present, and future! The empty tomb put a smile on the face of God which has never gone away.
Are you still living as if you were under the Old Testament by constantly asking for God’s forgiveness? Those days are over and finished! Rejoice in the truth that you are totally forgiven. The old covenant is forever gone. The writer of Hebrews said:
For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, “Behold, days are coming, says the lord, When I will effect a new covenant, With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand To lead them out of the land of egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and I did not care for them, says the lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, And I will write them upon their hearts. And I will be their God,
And they shall be my people. And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ For all shall know me, From the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And I will remember their sins no more (Hebrews 8:7-12).
The day described in this passage is the day in which we live! When grace rules, we will see God as One who has forgiven us for every sin of our lifetime! The cross of Jesus was God’s final word about our sins. So let's stop acting like it wasn't by continuing to ask Him to do something He's already done - forgive us.