Does the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee teach us that we have to continually ask for forgiveness of sins?
Firstly note Jesus had not died yet, as such there is no such thing as justification by faith yet. Note also that confession of sins is a Jewish religious practice.
Secondly consider the purpose of the parable. Why was the parable told? See verse 9
“9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable”. The main aim of this message is not about confession of sins. It is about being humble. See v 14 “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Lastly Jesus said he was “justified”. What does justified mean?
Let’s look at the whole list of the Scripture with the word “justified”.
- Luke 18:14
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
- Romans 3:24
and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
- Romans 3:28
For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.
- Romans 4:1
[ Abraham Justified by Faith ] What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter?
- Romans 4:2
If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God.
- Romans 5:1
[ Peace and Hope ] Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
- Romans 5:9
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!
- Romans 8:30
And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
- Romans 10:10
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
- 1 Corinthians 6:11
And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justifiedin the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
- Galatians 2:16
know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
- Galatians 2:17
“But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!
- Galatians 3:11
Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”
- Galatians 3:24
So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.
- Galatians 5:4
You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
- Titus 3:7
so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Note. It is always in the past tense. It is always by grace. With the exception of Luke 18, it is never because of a prayer asking for mercy. It is done and accomplished by the finished work of Jesus.
Now coming back to Luke 18, how many times did the tax collector ask for forgiveness? Once. See what happens when he did. He was justified immediately. How many sins were confessed? None.
Let’s look at justification. How many times can you be justified?
Let’s look at the definitions.
“Justification is the declaring of a person to be just or righteous.” Baker’s
“‘Justification by faith’ is thus a shorthand for ‘justification by grace through faith’, and in Paul’s thought at least has nothing to do with a suspicious attitude towards good behaviour. On the contrary: Paul expects his converts to live in the manner appropriate for members of the covenant (Rom. 6, etc.), and this is in fact necessary if faith is not to appear a sham (2 Cor. 13:5).” (Originally published in New Dictionary of Theology. David F. Wright, Sinclair B. Ferguson, J.I. Packer (eds), 359-361. IVP. Reproduced by permission of the author.)
“The resurrection of Jesus is the eschatological declaration that he has been justified—justified once and for all!” James T. Dennison, Jr.
It is also important to note that the tense used here is aorist tense. This meaning that it is done at once as a completed action. This underlines the important concept that God does not justify the believer piecemeal. There is no such thing as being more and more justified. There are no degrees of acceptance with God. To be justified is to be wholly justified. All this is implied in the aorist tense.
Hence we need to only confess our sins once. Then we are justified once. So the minute you confess Christ as your Saviour you are saved!