Cheap Grace or the Crucified Life?

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!  Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.  You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

  • Romans 6:15-18

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

“Cheap grace means grace as bargain-basement goods, cut-rate forgive­ness, cut-rate comfort, cut-rate sacraments; grace as the church’s inexhaustible pantry, from which it is doled out by careless hands without hesitation or limit. It is grace without a price, without cost…

“Cheap grace means grace as a 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 teaches this doctrine of grace thereby conveys 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 be free. Cheap grace is, thus, denial of God’s living Word, denial of the incarnation of the word of God.

“Cheap grace means justification of sin but not of the sinner. Because grace alone does everything, everything can stay in its old ways. “Our action is in vain.” The world remains world and we remain sinners “even in the best of lives.” Thus, the Christian should live the same way the world does. In all things the Christian should go along with the world and not venture…to live a different life under grace from that under sin…

“Cheap grace is that which we bestow on ourselves.

“Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ.”

  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God must be telling me something.  I am reading The Crucified Life by A. W. Tozer (edited from his other writings) and I am also going through a devotion series based on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings.  Bonhoeffer’s plea to move away from ‘cheap grace’ is the same argument, and given in roughly the same time period, as Tozer’s plea to return to a crucified life.  Both of these men of faith use different terms but are both firmly grounded in the Scriptures.

The concept that Grace is freely given by God is a true concept on the surface.  God expects us to repent of our sins and follow His plan.  No longer can we simply throw a tantrum and demand our “I wanna” list.  We must pick up our cross and follow God’s plan for our lives.

The Scripture above talks of ridding ourselves of the sinful life through repentance and replacing it with righteousness from God, and God is the only one that can provide that righteousness.  It is not of ourselves.  Bonhoeffer alludes to this when mentioning that cheap grace is something that we can bestow upon ourselves.

When James L. Snyder, who edited the book The Crucified Life, introduces the topic of a crucified life, he speaks of “easy believism,” confessing a belief in Jesus, but not changing one’s attitude or ways.  Bonhoeffer says the same thing about cheap grace.  And the Apostle Paul says the same thing in the Scripture above.

Yes, God freely gives Grace in that God loves us, even when we are sinners, but we are not to stay in that sinful state.  We are to become more and more like Jesus every day by repenting of our sins and following righteousness.

So, let us turn from easy believism and cheap grace.  Let us run toward our Savior and pick up our cross, regardless of the cost.  As C. S. Lewis wrote, we may find that we sacrificed nothing – nothing that mattered at least.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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