Cheap Grace Essay, Research Paper
The Price of Salvation
“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”(43).
Cheap grace does not give God what He deserves from us; it takes advantage of His grace. The grace of God cannot and should not be reduced to a system for getting to heaven. It needs to be a way of life. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Christians are called to do more than believe; we owe God obedience for sending His son to die in our place. Costly grace requires that we become a disciple of Christ, renouncing our old ways and following the teachings of Jesus Christ. Costly grace is a lifestyle and cheap grace is a convenient way to be saved without any real sacrifice.
Because it is such a convenient way to salvation the practice of cheap grace has become popular in the church. While cheap grace seems to be simpler than costly grace it has many problems. It does not show the world what Christianity really means. When the world sees the effects of cheap grace through Christians they want nothing to do with it. Non-Christians often observe only one difference between the lifestyle of Christians and the lifestyle of themselves, Christians proclaim Jesus. This does not allow them to see Christianity as having any impact on the lives of its people. “Our easy trafficking with the word of cheap grace simply bores the world to disgust, so that in the end it turns against those who try to force on it what it does not want” (186). This has made cheap grace the most deadly enemy to our church.
One of the most important missions of the church is to spread the word of God to those who are un-reached. Cheap grace hinders this objective in a most devastating way. When non-believers see this they are immediately turned off to it because if it has little meaning to its members how can it be important enough for them to give it any attention. Cheap grace gives less importance to Things that were and are important to God. It disregards many of the Biblical traits and challenges that are a part of living the Christian lifestyle. It is important to set a good example for those who do not know Christ.
Another problem is that in extreme cases it does not ask the sinner to even try to change their ways. “Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before” (43). This is not the way that Christianity was meant to be. The people of God the Father must be perfect in order to be in communion with Him. The only way to accomplish this was for Him to send His son in the form of Jesus Christ to die on a cross, paying the penalty for us. God wants us to be with Him and have our sins covered by Jesus but He still wants us to accomplish His purposes and in order to do this we must mimic Jesus’ life as closely as we can. Cheap grace in the church can only offer a cheap covering for the sins; it doesn’t require any lifestyle changes, much less any desire to be delivered from sin (43). The sinner continues to sin without attempting to reform in any way. The Anabaptists took this to extremes. They saw striving to be more like Christ as a rebellion against grace.
“The world has been justified by grace. The Christian knows that and takes it seriously. He knows he must not strive against this indispensable grace. Therefore let him live like the rest of the world” (44).
This is a belief for the spiritually immature. They don’t want to change their ways because it is difficult so they only take pieces of scripture that suit their belief and ignore the scriptures that do not support their position.
“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” (45). Costly grace requires more than just changing one of your beliefs, it requires a complete lifestyle change. The sinner must give up their life to God and become his disciple. This is our duty to God for His sacrifice. Peter was called to costly grace two times. Twice Jesus said to him “Follow me” (Mark 1:17; John 21:22). This was the first and last thing Jesus said to him. Jesus’ call to us is the same. He wants us to “follow Him”. This requires that we seek to adhere to all of His teachings and that we accept His calling for our life. God will reveal to each of us what it is that He has planned for our life and part of costly grace is that we obey God and fulfill our calling in the ministry in whatever God has commanded us.
After the church in Rome started to practice cheap grace a movement to return to the old doctrine of costly grace arose. This was the start of the monastic movement. The monks struggled to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. In order to do this they secluded themselves from the world and the rest of the church. This was necessary for the movement to be complete. However it was the reclusive nature of the monastic movement that caused their message and thus their purpose to be diluted. They wanted the church to see how Christians were supposed to live. But because they had separated themselves from the world the church was able to excuse monasticism as the individual achievement of a select few. The common Christian was not expected to live up to the expectations of the monks (costly grace). Thus it did not threaten the practice of cheap grace. The church was able to continue on as it had without worrying about their ways being attacked.
Cheap grace accepts that only that “only those who believe can obey” (63). That is easy to agree with, it does not call them to any higher standard. Only costly grace can support the second statement of the two, “Only those who obey can believe” (63). “Faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience” (64). The second statement calls the believer to a higher standard. It requires that the call to discipleship be taken more seriously than most Christians ever have or will. I believe that it is possible for one to have faith in God and not be obedient though. There are times in every Christian’s life when they are not obedient to God. We all fall away from God and are disobedient. This is not a matter of a lack of faith or belief in God but rather a time in the life of the believer when they are concerned with the things of this world and not with God. They don’t stop believing in God, they just stop following for a while. Because I believe this I believe that when Bonhoeffer was speaking of the necessity of obedience for one to have faith I believe he meant that in a different dynamic than I am speaking in, a dynamic that does not mean being obedient all the time. The key to this is that it would require obedience as a lifestyle but not as at all times. There has to be room for believers to make mistakes and if their status of one who has faith got revoked every time they sin that would not fit with the concept of Jesus’ work on the cross.
Cheap grace is the last thing that our church should practice. Costly grace is the only way that a Christian can live as Christ wants them to. It is unfortunate that the church has not followed the teachings in the Bible that would point it in the direction of costly grace.
The Cost of Discipleship (1937).