“Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church. We are fighting today for costly grace.” So said Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German preacher in the late 1930’s. “Cheap grace means grace sold in the market,” he continued, “the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the church’s inexhaustable treasury, from which she showers blessings, grace without price, grace without cost. Because…everything has been paid, everything can be had for nothing” (The Cost of Discipleship, page 45).
Cheap grace. This is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms, although sometimes we treat it as if the phrase was redundant. We are so presumptuous about the blood of Christ, his suffering on the cross. We glibly accept it, then make statements like, “It doesn’t matter what God’s word says, God’s grace will forgive us!”
Understand this: grace forgives human frailties when confessed (1 John 1:8,9); it does not forgive open rebellion.
A concept of cheap grace does three harmful things to the Christian.
* It encourages a loose attitude towards God’s holy commands
* It diminishes the enormity of Christ’s death on the cross
* And it weakens our desire to become Christ’s disciples, committed and determined to never turn back from serving God.
The gift of grace was free, but the payment for our sin was historically high, by “the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:19). The value of a gift lies not in the cost to the receiver, but to the redeemer! A familiar message on bumper stickers lately has been the following: “Freedom wasn’t Free.” It is a reference to those who risk their lives daily on the battle front to keep us free. The same thing is true of grace. Our bumper sticker should read, “Grace wasn’t Free.” Freely given, yes, but not free.
“Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” (Romans 6:1).
By the way, Bonhoeffer knew what he was talking about when he spoke of sacrifice and discipleship. He was put in a NAZI concentration camp for refusing to toe the party line, and was executed in 1945. Grace is not cheap, and neither is discipleship.