One concept that some types of Christianity teach is that, believers are automatically forgiven of future sins that have not been committed yet. The rationale is that Christ died for all of our sins, and thus, when we receive the gift of forgiveness, we immediately receive forgiveness of every sin that would ever occur in our lives. Although I believe that it is possible to be forgiven of future sins, this traditional reasoning is problematic in my view.
Consider 1st John 1:8-9,
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
This passage indicates that forgiveness is contingent on confessing our sins. There are some Christians whose consciences identify sins as isolated acts that can be counted on their fingers. When their conscience convicts them that they have sinned, they confess the sin and repent. Their conscience assures them that their repentance was genuine and that they are living right aside from the occasional, confessed lapses. Thus, for these people, whether they are forgiven of future sins is irrelevant, and they do not typically worry about that.
However, there are other Christians whose consciences are more obsessive and seems to find ongoing problems in their lives that they cannot meaningfully reverse with their own willpower. How does 1st John 1:8-9 apply to the lives of such people?
I believe that what this latter group needs to understand is the difference between Sin and sins. sins are acts that either break a Biblical rule for behavior, or failures to do what Biblical principles dictate. On the other hand, Sin is a power that can be affecting one’s life even while the person is behaving appropriately – the reason being that Sin is like a background task that subconsciously influences one’s thoughts and feelings in a way that eventually produces acts of sin. In my series titled “Demystifying Spirituality,” I analyze this concept in depth.
In Christ, we have died to Sin (Romans 6). Although most Bible translations do not write Sin with an upper-case “S”, I believe the distinction between Sin and sins is conceptually indicated in Scripture. Because we died to Sin, we are free from Sin (Romans 6:7). An analogy would be a person who dies of a disease. After the person dies, the power of the disease to harm the person has come to an end because there is no more harm that could be done to the person.
But fortunately, that analogy is incomplete. Not only did we die to Sin, we rose to a new life with Christ.
Now, here is the key point. I believe that if we place our faith in this transformation through Christ, we are living in a state of continual confession and repentance that takes place every moment of our lives. We do this by believing in the solution to the source of our sins, namely Sin itself! If you are free from the source, then naturally you are free (and forgiven) from everything that follows from the source, and that includes future sins. You are repenting of your sins because you are declaring that the source which produced them will not dominate your life, for you have died to the life that was a slave to Sin, and you have risen to a new life where Righteousness will ultimately prevail. I recommend saying these things several times a day in order to grow in confidence and assurance.