Means of Forgiveness: 1 John 1:9
Sometimes, Christians fail to distinguish between a means of grace and a basis of grace. As a result, they mistakenly think that a means of grace can be used to earn grace, or even to force God to be gracious to us. So, it’s important to distinguish clearly between a means and a basis. To help us see this distinction, imagine that a person needs physical therapy to recover from an injury. The therapy is expensive, and is paid for by a donor. We might say that the means by which the person fully recovers is the therapy. But the financial basis for this recovery would be the donation.
We might summarize these differences by saying that a basis is the ground or merit on which an action or consequence is based, whereas a means is a tool or mechanism for bringing that action or consequence to pass.
When it comes to receiving forgiveness and grace from God, the basis is always the merit of Christ, which he earned by his obedient life and sacrificial death on the cross. We see this in places like Matthew 26:28, Colossians 1:13-14, and 1 John 2:12. Forgiveness is always earned. But it’s earned by Christ, not by us. And the fundamental means by which all grace is applied to our lives is faith. Whether expressed directly to God, or through means of grace, faith is the primary tool through which God applies grace and other blessings to our lives
Scripture mentions several means through which faith normally works. We can summarize these other means in two general categories, beginning with prayer.
Throughout Scripture, prayer is presented as an ordinary means for appealing to God for grace and forgiveness. For instance, the Bible commonly speaks of prayers of confession and repentance as expressions of faith through which the Holy Spirit applies forgiveness to us. The effectiveness of these prayers is taught in 1 Kings 8:29-40, Psalm 32:1-11, Acts 8:22, 1 John 1:9, and many other places.
For those who have just come to know the Lord, faithful prayers of confession and repentance are the means through which the Holy Spirit initially applies forgiveness and salvation to their lives. This is why the church referred to conversion as “repentance unto life” in Acts 11:18. And for all believers, prayers of confession and repentance continue to be important means of receiving God’s grace in our lives. As we read in 1 John 1:9:
If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
The wonderful news of the gospel is that God freely forgives our sins on the basis of what Christ has done for us. And we can receive this forgiveness simply by asking for it in faith.
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