When people love you, it’s good when they can find ways to express that love. It’s one thing to say “I love you,” and another thing to live it.
When someone in authority favors you, it’s good when they can find ways to express that favor. It’s good to be favored, but it’s even better to gain something because of that favor.
When God loves and favors you, it’s not because you have met the standards he has set. The only standard that makes sense to God is perfection, and we don’t meet it. So when he loves us and favors us, despite our being unworthy, we have a special term for that love and favor. We call it “grace.”
How does God show us his grace? He does it by promising things to us and then delivering on the promises. The promises of God are the “means,” the way he shows us his grace, definitely and personally.
It’s strange, but when we hear that “God loves the world” (John 3:16), we aren’t always sure that we are included. Did God send his Son for us, personally? We should be sure, but just to help us along, God applies the promises of his love personally to us in the sacrament of baptism (Galatians 3:27).
When we hear, “God reconciled the whole world to himself, not counting anyone’s sin against them,” (2 Corinthians 5:19), how can we be sure that our own sins are personally forgiven through faith in Jesus? We should be sure, but just to help us along, God applies the promises of his grace personally to us in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:28).
The means of grace are God’s promises in Word and sacrament.