The Biblical model is to ask forgiveness and obtain it by asking.
But we’re supposed to repent, right? We’re supposed to ask forgiveness! The Bible tells us so!
Yes. But to ask with old hymn-writer, “are the shipwrecked saved by sinking?” The answer is, of course, no. The Biblical model is, of course to ask forgiveness. But the Biblical model is not to obtain it through our asking. Instead, we obtain it because of what Christ has done. You may accuse me at this point of splitting hairs, but this is a hill I’m willing to die on because it cuts to the very nature of redemption and the Gospel.
Ephesians tells us that our salvation is not by works (ie, not by asking for it), so that no one could ever boast. Romans tells us that that it is through Him (that is, Christ) that we have obtained access through faith (which Ephesians tells us is a gift of God in and of itself) into the grace in which we now stand (ie, non-condemnation, indeed, favor with God) through our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul goes on to tell us that even when we were still sinners, Christ died for us. This death has removed the wrath of God from us and instead causes it to be poured out on Christ…who bore it in our place.
Augustus Toplady, writer of the hymn “Rock of Ages,” says it this way: “Not the labors of my hands can fulfil Thy law’s demands! Could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow: all for sin could not atone, Thou must save and Thou alone.”
People of God, we are not saved by sinking. We are not redeemed by asking. We are not forgiven because we’ve petitioned. If we are, Scripture makes no sense in regards to Esau, who we’re told sought repentance with tears and never found it (Hebrews 12:16). Instead, our repentance is a gift…a fruit of our redemption in Christ. Colossians 1:21ff tells us that we’re reconciled, not because we’ve sought reconciliation, but because we have been reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, and that our continued steadfastness is testimony to this reconciliation.
Repentance is key. The call goes to all: repent of your sin of trusting in your own works to save you, even today. And receive the good news: that Christ came to save sinners and you qualify.