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In 1 Samuel 15:24-25 (NIV):

24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.”

Saul seems to have recognized his sin and repent/ask for forgiveness. However, he wasn't forgiven which can be seen in some verses later when the LORD rejected him and "the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel." (v. 35)

Does the concept of repentance/ask for forgiveness only work in New Testament time?

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You appear to be reading this into the text. It doesn't say that God didn't forgive him. Samuel had to make it clear that Sauls sin cost him his crown, so he wouldn't go to worship with Saul. Once this was established, we see Samuel soften and respond to Sauls second plea to go and worship in v30. Therefore we see God forgives on a personal level, but that doesn't mean there is no price for our sin. I hope this is helpful.

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    God's forgiveness is all that matters in the end​. If you are forgiven, God will surely comfort you one day. Also see Samuel's remark that Saul will be in Heaven, proving that God really did forgive him. – Tomislav Ostojich Aug 27 '18 at 22:47
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  1. "I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them."

Saul blames the men, trying to minimize his responsibility. This is like Eve, who blamed the serpent, and Adam, who blamed "The woman you put here with me", which means that he blamed both Eve and God.

  1. Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright. (Proverbs 14:9)

Does King Saul combine his admission of guilt with an offer to make amends? The prodigal son returned to his father, prepared to become his slave for life. And the tax collector, Zachchaeus, what did he do before Jesus declared that salvation had come to his house?

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8)

It does not appear that Saul's repentance was genuine.

  • While I think the marked answer better answered my question, this is so excellent a conviction and helpful for Christians. Thank you very much. This really hits me. – DatVM May 20 at 0:34

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