Cheap Grace

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Cheap grace is preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”—Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

These words are just as true today as they were when they were uttered several decades ago. Cheap grace—if you can call it grace at all—has always been a problem in the kingdom. It was present in the early church. Paul the apostle warned the Christians to whom he wrote in his letters that their actions must match up to their professed belief in Jesus. This does not mean that perfection is required from us. That’s not possible! Jesus was the only person who was perfect. Living in grace simply means that we take sin seriously. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, therefore we must never take our transgressions lightly. Our salvation does not give us a license to sin!

Romans 6:1-4 deals directly with this subject: “What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

The apostle John seems to have the same concern as he pens these Holy Spirit-inspired words: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2).

Every Christian will struggle with temptation. Every believer will continually have to fight against sinful desires. This is simply the nature of this battle between good and evil in which we are all engaged. However, to throw up our hands in surrender to sin is not an option. We must fight the good fight. No one who claims to follow Jesus can choose a lifestyle of disobedience. This would cheapen grace to the point that we could no longer truthfully call it grace. Scripture is very clear on this.

One of the reasons that the church was so strong in our nation’s history is that its members took grace seriously. They did not lower their standards to the standards of the world. They knew that holy living was not optional; it was a requirement.

Today you will find a much different story. It seems that cheap grace has become an epidemic in the church in America today. Worldliness has crept into many congregations, and if you were to point that out you would be met with indifference, or perhaps even anger. Tolerance is the new ideal, and the greatest sin in many people’s eyes is to offend someone with the truth of Scripture. Repentance is rarely seen. Still rarer is church discipline. When is the last time you heard of a church disciplining one of their members for the serious nature of their sinful behavior? (Take your time. I can wait.)

Many Christians would love to see revival in our country. But it won’t happen if cheap grace is allowed to become the standard. Let’s replace cheap grace with biblical grace. Souls depend on it. Maybe yours.

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