Cheap grace vs. costly grace

Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34-35).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and professor who was executed by the Nazis in the closing days of World War Two.

He wrote about costly grace vs. cheap grace.

Cheap grace “is the deadly enemy of our church.” It means “grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares.” Since Jesus has died for us and has made us right with God, our account has been paid in advance. As a result, “everything can be had for nothing,” they think.

He continues: “Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before.” Cheap grace “is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ…”

Many have “gathered like eagles round the carcase of cheap grace, and there we have drunk on the poison which has killed the life of following Christ.”

Brothers and sisters, what Jesus has done FOR us is inseparable from what he is doing IN us. Grace gives birth to grace.

“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 [person] 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.’”*

To be sure, ours is a stumbling obedience. As I read Bonhoeffer’s words I know I have often missed the mark. This is why we need God’s help, turn from sin, pray, and embark on a new day.

Grace taken for granted is grace misunderstood.

What Jesus has done FOR us is inseparable from what he is doing IN us.


–*Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1959), 43-45, 53.

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