John begins his reassuring clarity with a word to all of us. He speaks of what everyone in the church from the youngest to the oldest knows well, that is, forgiveness. “I am writing to you,” he says, “because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake” (1Jn 2:12). A sense of God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ is the first notable experience of any Christian. It is where we all begin when we first hear the gospel and believe.
Following his resurrection, Jesus opened his disciples’ minds to understand the Old Testament Scriptures in a way they never could before (Lk 24:45). For the first time, they saw Christ in everything written from the Law of Moses to the Prophets to the Psalms (Lk 24:44). “Thus it is written,” Jesus declared, “that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Lk 24:46-47).
The possibility of forgiveness in Christ is the very foundation of the gospel message, not to mention the church’s evangelistic efforts. Jesus was born into this world to save his people from their sins, and that is precisely what the New Testament church preaches (Mt 1:21). Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (Ac 10:43). There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Ac 4:12).
The initial experience of a new Christian is one of incredible freedom. First, he learns of his depravity while an overwhelming sense of his condemnation before our holy God strikes his heart. Just when he thinks all hope is lost, he, then, hears the sweet sounds of the gospel.
He discovers Jesus our Lord, who was delivered for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Ro 4:24-25). From within, the Spirit moves him to denounce his sins and turn to Christ for his salvation, fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised (Ro 4:21). And by believing, his faith is counted to him as righteousness (Ro 4:22). Justified by faith, he now feels peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ and obtains access by faith into his grace in which every Christian stands (Ro 5:1-2).
The weight of his crimes against God is lifted, and he knows his sins are forgiven because the Son of God is the propitiation for our sins in whom he trusts (1Jn 2:12; 2).
To be clear, one’s confession of Christ does not instantaneously raise him up to heavenly places as though reciting a few words can save him (Eph 2:6). Not everyone who says … “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 7:21). The genuine Christian must be born of … the Spirit or he cannot enter the kingdom of God (Jn 3:5). It is not the words which justify the sinner. It is the profound, permanent, supernatural change of his nature which God himself irresistibly executes within him that leads to his faith and justification.
We are not redeemed because we have uttered the name of Jesus, but because our sins are forgiven for his name’s sake (1Jn 2:12). The Christian’s confession is not a magical incantation forcing God to overlook our trespasses. He forgives us for Christ’s sake and his perfect sacrifice on the cross. God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him and him alone we might become the righteousness of God (2Co 5:21). We are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God himself put forward as a propitiation by his blood (Ro 3:24-25). Though Christ is to be received by faith, even our faith … is the gift of God (Eph 2:8).
In short, the converted sinner is the passive recipient of God’s sovereign grace. As Jesus taught a man by the name of Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (Jn 3:8). Every true Christian has experienced a substantial transformation, becoming an altogether new creation (2Co 5:17). Though it may seem he has made a personal decision to receive the Savior and believe in his name, he was born not of his own will … but of God (Jn 1:12-13). Furthermore, God accepts him not on the basis of himself or his confession, but in light of the finished work of Christ on his behalf (Jn 19:30).
Naturally, we can draw a couple of conclusions from these facts.
First of all, if our forgiveness is dependent upon the atoning sacrifice of Christ—for his name’s sake (1Jn 2:12)—rather than ourselves, eternal security is not only possible, but it’s also inevitable. Who is to condemn us? (Ro 8:34). Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised, proving God accepted his sacrifice—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Absolutely nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ro 8:39).
Second, if no one can come to the Savior unless God the Father irresistibly draws him, he’ll know his sins are forgiven (Jn 6:44; 1Jn 2:12). Quoting Isaiah, Jesus said, “‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (Jn 6:45). God’s divine initiative under the new covenant is to give his born-again people an instinctive sense of peace.
“Search your heart, little children of God,” John implies (1Jn 2:12). “You don’t have to be told again. You are a disciple of Christ today because your soul already knows your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.“