One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I love that verse! I love the truth that verse conveys! I live by that verse! What is so comforting about that verse is not only that it promises that if we confess our sins, God will forgive us of our sins, but that if we confess our sins, God must forgive us of our sins. In other words, the deeper assurance of this verse is not primarily in the forgiveness itself, but in the basis of that forgiveness.
Notice the text says God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins”. What do God’s faithfulness and the justice have to do with our receiving forgiveness from God? The Bible is clear that God cannot lie (Num 23:19) nor does he change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Mal 3;6; Heb 13:8). The scriptures are equally clear that God always does what he says he will do. He always keeps his commitments; he always keeps his promises. “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it (Is 46:8-11). God is always faithful. If he were not faithful, then he could not be trusted. And if he could not be trusted, then he would not be deserving of worship. Why worship a God we cannot trust? Hence, God is always faithful to keep his word—to keep his promises.
Here are a few of the wonderful promises of God. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). When we come to God, asking for forgiveness, he will always forgive us because his very reputation is on the line. His character is at stake.
However, what does justice have to do with receiving God’s forgiveness? The Bible tells us that Christ died on the cross to pay for the sins of all those who will believe. In Colossians we read this: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (2:13-14, italics mine). At the moment we place faith in Christ, the “record of debt that stood against us” was shredded. In Romans we read that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8, italics mine). Justice demands that if the debt has been paid by Christ, then God cannot demand payment from those for whom Christ died. Justice demands that two people cannot be made to pay the penalty for the same crime. Since Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty on behalf of his people, which the Law demands, then God--the just Judge of all the earth (Gen 18:25)—cannot demand further penalty.
In the end, the promises of Christ and the death of Christ + the faithfulness and justice of God = the absolute necessity for God to forgive us of our sins when we come to him in true remorse and repentance. This, my friends, is the glorious good news of Jesus Christ! No matter how badly you’ve blown it. No matter how often you’ve blown it. No matter how many times you come to God asking forgiveness for the same sin you asked for forgiveness the day before--God is faithful and just to forgive you of your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Those words are like cool drops of water on the parched cracked lips of a thirsty man. Oh, how I love those words!