Tuesday, February 20, 2007

CHEAP GRACE VS COSTLY GRACE

Here's a bit of how Bonhoeffer contrasts cheap grace from costly grace in his book The Cost of Discipleship. And, just so you'll know, I buy this.

CHEAP GRACE IN THE CHURCH. "Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian 'conception' of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. The Church which holds this doctrine of grace has, it is supposed, ipso facto a part in that grace. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God..."

JUSTIFICATION OF SIN. "Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner...."

GRACE WITHOUT... "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate...."

THE TREASURE. "Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock..."

COST AND GRACE. "Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'ye were bought at a price', and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God...."

THE SANCTUARY. "Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. It is therefore the living word, the Word of God, which he speaks as it pleases him. Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: 'My yoke is easy and my burden is light.'..."

PERSONAL IMPACT OF CHEAP GRACE. "This cheap grace has been no less disastrous to our own spiritual lives. Instead of opening up the way to Christ it has closed it. Instead of calling us to follow Christ, it has hardened us in our disobedience. Perhaps we had once heard the gracious call to follow him, and had at this command even taken the first few steps along the path of discipleship in the discipline of obedience, only to find ourselves confronted by the word of cheap grace. Was that not merciless and hard? The only effect that such a word could have on us was to bar our way to progress, and seduce us to the mediocre level of the world, quenching the joy of discipleship by telling us that we were following a way of our own choosing, that we were spending our strength and disciplining ourselves in vain—all of which was not merely useless, but extremely dangerous. After all, we were told, our salvation had already been accomplished by the grace of God. The smoking flax was mercilessly extinguished. It was unkind to speak to men like this, for such a cheap offer could only leave them bewildered and tempt them from the way to which they had been called by Christ. Having laid hold on cheap grace, they were barred for ever from the knowledge of costly grace. Deceived and weakened, men felt that they were strong now that they were in possession of this cheap grace—whereas they had in fact lost the power to live the life of discipleship and obedience. The word of cheap grace has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandment of works...."

HAPPY ARE THEY... "Happy are they who have reached the end of the road we seek to tread, who are astonished to discover the by no means self-evident truth that grace is costly just because it is the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Happy are the simple followers of Jesus Christ who have been overcome by his grace, and are able to sing the praises of the all-sufficient grace of Christ with humbleness of heart. Happy are they who, knowing that grace, can live in the world without being of it, who, by following Jesus Christ, are so assured of their heavenly citizenship that they are truly free to live their lives in this world. Happy are they who know that discipleship simply means the life which springs from grace, and that grace simply means discipleship. Happy are they who have become Christians in this sense of the word. For them the word of grace has proved a fount of mercy."

1 comment:

  1. Bill Trimble9:01 AM

    I have found the most accurate definition of grace is the power to do what we could not do ourselves, namely to love selflessly.
    I think that fits with everything you said and with Bonhoeffer, and oh by the way, the Bible.
    You said "transforming presence." Bonhoeffer says, "power to live the life of discipleship and obedience."
    Too often grace is confused with mercy and that's where the cheap grace confusion comes in I believe. Mercy and grace go hand in hand but they are not the same thing.
    And yes grace erupts in unexpected places. There's lots to be said and learned about that. Call it little grace. I would call it missionary grace (or perhaps prevenient missionary grace), God Himself revealing, reaching, and wooing. It always manifests itself in acts of selfless love. Have you ever seen the movie, "To End All Wars?" There's a great example of this in there.

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