Costly Grace vs. Cheap Grace

April 4, 2008

excerpts from The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is one of the most profound statements to represent Christian faith ever written. Bonhoeffer, in the end, paid the “cost” of discipleship with his own life, in the hands of  Hitler.

Cheap grace is the mortal enemy of the church. Our struggle today is for costly grace.

Cheap grace means grace as bargain basement goods, cut-rate forgiveness, cut-rate comfort, cut-rate sacrament; grace as the church’s inexhaustible pantry, from which it is poured out without hesitation or limit. It is grace without a price, without costs. It is said that the essence of grace is that the bill for it is paid in advance for all time. Everything can be had for free, courtesy of that paid bill. The price paid is infinitely great and therefore, the possibilities of taking advantage of and wasting grace are also infinitely great. What would grace be, it it were not cheap grace?

Cheap grace means grace as doctrine, as principle, as system. It means forgiveness of sins as a general truth; it means God’s love as merely a Christian idea of God. Those who affirm it have already had their sins forgiven. The church that indulges in this doctrine of grace hereby confers such grace upon itself. The world finds in this Church a cheap cover up for its sins, for which it shows no remorse and from which it has even less desire to free itself. Cheap grace is, thus, denial of God’s living world, a denial of the incarnation of the word of God.

COSTLY Grace is the hidden treasure in the field, for the sake of which people go and sell with joy everything they have. It is the costly pearl, for whose price the merchant sells all that he has; it is Christ’s sovereignty, for the sake of which you tear out an eye if it causes you to stumble. It is the call of Jesus Christ which causes a disciple to leave his nets and follow him.

Costly grace is the Gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which has to be asked for, the door at which one has to knock again and again.

It is costly, because it calls to discipleship; it is grace, because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly, because it cost people their lives; it is grace, because it gives them their lives. It is costly, because it condemns sins; it is grace, because it justifies the sinner. Above all, grace is costly, because it was costly to God, because it costs God the life of God’s son – “you were bought with a price” – and because the life of God’s son was not too costly for God to give for our lives. God did, indeed, give him up for us. Costly grace is the incarnation of God.

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2 Responses to “Costly Grace vs. Cheap Grace”

  1. dpcpastor Says:

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my heroes and I have him on my “Great Loves” page. I do think that some have taken his writing concerning “cheap grace” and misrepresented what he meant. We cheapen grace by not giving Christ the response we should once we have received it. However, there is nothing cheap about it in regards the the price that was paid by Him. Check out my blog “An Uncommon Grace” and tell me what you think. I had a post at easter called “The Agony of Grace” here is the link:
    http://anuncommongrace.wordpress.com/2008/03/20/agony-in-his-face/

    In His Grace,
    Darian

  2. oftherock Says:

    Thanks Pastor Darian. I am beginning to have a deep respect for Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “The Cost of Discipleship” is not an easy read and it is really easy for people to just misunderstand what he wrote. Thanks for your link. Will visit it to read more of Bonhoeffer from your blog. God bless you.

    Rex


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