United States Supreme Court justices have what we call life tenure. That means that once they are appointed they will continue to hold their position for life. This is important because justices need to be able to make decisions without the fear of being removed from office. They have positional security, meaning their position won’t be taken away from them even if they make an unpopular decision.
Salvation in Christ offers a comparable positional security. Although, in this case, the appointment is not just for our mortal lives, but our eternal ones as well. Therefore, anything having to do with salvation can be discussed with positional terms. Forgiveness is no exception.
In this chapter, we will examine the distinction between positional forgiveness, which is what all saved people have, and daily forgiveness which is what disciples should seek on a regular basis. Let’s begin by looking Colossians 1:13.
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.1
Do you see the positional terminology in this verse? He’s talking to believers when he says, “He… has conveyed us into the kingdom…” This speaks of the saved person’s irrevocable position. Similar to the Supreme Court appointees, this kingdom position will never be taken from one who has believed in Jesus, no matter what.
He further describes what kind of position we have before God when he says, “…in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.2” So the eternal life tenure position that we hold is one in which we are positionally forgiven. That means that, in terms of judgment and condemnation, we are absolutely forgiven. There is no more that needs to be done in order for our sins to be paid for. We will not stand trial at the final judgment for our sin.3 They were paid for, once for all sins and for all time.4 We have been made holy once and for all5, and we know it’s true because Jesus said before he died, “it is finished.”6
This positional forgiveness happens the moment someone believes in Jesus for everlasting life. The Gospel of John, the Bible’s evangelistic book, doesn’t mention repentance a single time. Therefore, those who place their faith alone in Christ alone are forgiven once and for all even if they don’t realize that they are receiving positional forgiveness. This once and for all forgiveness is one of the primary mechanisms that makes eternal life possible, but the person who believes in Jesus for everlasting life may only learn after the fact that they have been forgiven forever. In the same way that a child can ride in a car without understanding how an internal combustion engine works, the one who seeks everlasting life from Christ can have it without understanding what it took for Christ to bestow it. If you are saved, but didn’t know you have positional forgiveness, congratulations, now you know.
Now, let’s take a look at 1 John 2:12.
I write to you, little children,
Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.7
In this letter to believers, he identifies at least some of his readers as, “little children.” He goes on to then address, “fathers,” and “young men.” It seems that he wants his young readers, either physically young or spiritually young, to remember that they have an unbreakable salvation relationship with the father. He adds a reason for his writing. What’s the reason that we are forgiven? It’s for God’s name sake. In other words, It’s not because you earned this positional forgiveness, but instead, it was up to God to grant it.
So, positional forgiveness is for all saved people. If one believes in Jesus for everlasting life, they have this irrevocable forgiveness that never fades away. That means that the believer, never again has to ask God for the kind of forgiveness that will save them from Hell. However, there is another kind called daily forgiveness.
If we can compare positional forgiveness to the life tenure of a Supreme Court Justice, then daily forgiveness might be compared to the work of a day laborer. Let’s take a look at 1 John 1:9 to find out what daily forgiveness is.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.8
Many have misunderstood this verse in thinking that it sets out a requirement to get saved. I’ve often heard poorly executed gospel presentations that call the new convert to confess his sins and ask for forgiveness in order to have salvation. That is a terrible misunderstanding of what it takes to get saved. Instead, this verse must be seen in the light of what it was intended to be. It’s a tool that a disciple uses to restore fellowship with Christ and others, not a mechanism for salvation.
In the verse we discover the meaning of daily forgiveness. We are to confess the sins that we are aware of, in order to have forgiveness. Notice that He forgives, not only the sins that we are aware enough to confess, but also, “all unrighteousness.” This is not talking about positional forgiveness, since it’s an ongoing command. When it’s obeyed it leads to better fellowship with Christ.
However, If a believer lets his daily sins pile up without confessing them in prayer, he is still saved, but his fellowship with Jesus is going to become impeded. The same is true of his fellowship with other believers. When we hang onto unconfessed sins, we run the risk of damaging our friendship with the Savior and the saved. He will still perform his promise of salvation even if we don’t continually ask for daily forgiveness, but there will grow a distance between us and him.
Hardly anyone would argue that seeking forgiveness is good, but how do we know it is supposed to be daily? For that let’s take a look at Matthew 6:11-12
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.9
You will probably recognize these verses from the popular Lord’s prayer. This is the model that Jesus gave for private daily prayer. Notice the word, “daily” right there in the verse.
He then goes on to ask for forgiveness. Now, we need to understand that the Lord’s prayer is a model that we are expected to expand upon. We are expected to fill this model in with specifics. So, each day as we pray we should ask forgiveness for the sins we have committed.
Now there is a very important caveat here. The daily forgiveness that we receive is in proportion to the daily forgiveness we give to others. Notice how he puts it.
forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.10
In this we find that daily forgiveness works differently than positional forgiveness. Positional forgiveness is a once for all forgiveness that we receive as a free gift, but daily forgiveness is something that we receive as a result of our willingness to forgive others. When we add to that what we read in 1 John 1:9, we now have at least two conditions for gaining daily forgiveness. We must confess, and forgive others if we want to receive daily forgiveness.
We see this same concept repeated and added upon in Luke 11:4.
And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”11
As we see in the second half of the verse, there is an expectation for improvement. We should not only be forgiving others, confessing our sins, and asking for forgiveness but we also ought to ask for help in avoiding future failures. In my personal prayer time I have often said the words, “be my tour guide and lead me around temptation.” The mental image that it conjures up is one in which a very familiar tour guide knows the local dangers and leads me, a witless tourists, to bypass those locations.
Not only does it mention leading us away from temptation, but it speaks of a deliverance from the evil one. In this we see that some temptation is unavoidable. So, we too should ask that when we are faced with these unavoidable temptations, that we don’t give in to the evil impulses, but that we would be delivered.
If we want to be committed disciples we need to follow these four principles. Disciples confess sins daily, pray for forgiveness daily, forgive others constantly, and pray for victory over sin daily. If we can do those things our fellowship with Christ will enjoy a tremendous boost. That’s because we will be gaining daily forgiveness, which is the lifeblood of discipleship.
Positional forgiveness is a mechanism for salvation. Without positional forgiveness, salvation would not be possible. Daily forgiveness is a mechanism for discipleship. Without it, our fellowship with Christ will suffer tremendously.
1 Colossians 1:13–14.
2 Colossians 1:13–14.
3 John 5:24
4 1 Peter 3:18, Romans 6:10,
5 Hebrews 10:10
6 John 19:30
7 1 John 2:12.
8 1 John 1:9.
9 Matthew 6:11–12.
10 Matthew 6:11–12.
11 Luke 11:4.