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.