I was taught from the very beginning of my Christian life to ask God to forgive me. Your probably were taught to do the same thing, too. In fact, asking God for forgiveness is one of the three most common prayers prayed by people; the other two being:
“Lord, save me!” and
“Lord, give me …”
Asking for God’s forgiveness is just normal. However, we do not need to ask God to forgive us, at least not to forgive us for the penalty of our sins.
This is because God, completely apart from any involvement from us, paid for all of our sins through the death of Jesus Christ. It is as if you owed a bank ten million dollars, had no means to pay the debt back, and someone you didn’t know, without your awareness, paid off your debt for you. And even though you did not know what was going on, the bank would cancel your debt immediately upon receiving the other person’s payment for your debt.
Jesus did that for you. He paid a debt you owed to God and could not pay yourself. He paid the debt without you asking Him to do so. God planned for Jesus to do this from before the foundation of the world. Jesus volunteered to do it, without ever asking you if you wanted Him to do it. God has accepted His payment. God has forgiven you of the penalty of all of your sins–without you even asking for it!
This might be a new thought for you, and perhaps one you find difficult to believe. Maybe this will help. No where in the New Testament are Christians instructed to ask God for forgiveness. In fact, nowhere are non-Christians told to ask God for forgiveness. (There are only four possible exceptions. Can you find them?) However, we were all taught to do so even though the New Testament does not tell us to ask God to forgive us. Why? Because He already has!
The good news of the Bible is not that God will forgive us if we believe, or if we ask, or if we repent or if we do anything. The forgiveness of the penalty of sins is not accomplished by anything we do. God does it through the execution of Jesus Christ. The good news of the Bible is that God has already forgiven us through the death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 says,
“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ … namely that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them …”
God has forgiven us for the penalty of our sins, not because we ask, or believe, or anything. He has forgiven us because He has accepted the death of Jesus Christ as the full and just payment for our sins! We do not need to ask Him to forgive us, but it would be exceedingly appropriate for us to say thank you for His forgiveness and to live our lives of gratitude to Him.