Editor's note:

One can return to the words of Bon­ho­ef­fer again and again, as some­one might return to the edge of a furi­ous ocean that spat­ters freez­ing salt water across his face in a thou­sand brac­ing pricks. He fills the hunger for Christ in a very par­tic­u­lar way — much like the bit­ter herbs that bring a new dimen­sion to the Passover meal and cleanse the palate. There is a stark, uncom­pro­mis­ing beau­ty in what he writes.

As we seek to be dis­ci­ples of Christ by dwelling in his pres­ence, let us not for­get that this priv­i­lege, this grace, has cost him every­thing and should do no less for us. In this, Bon­ho­ef­fer reminds us well.

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from 25 Books Every Christian Should Read

Cheap grace is the dead­ly ene­my of our Church. We are fight­ing today for cost­ly grace.

Cheap grace means grace sold on the mar­ket like cheap- jacks’ wares. The sacra­ments, the for­give­ness of sin, and the con­so­la­tions of reli­gion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is rep­re­sent­ed as the Church’s inex­haustible trea­sury, from which she show­ers bless­ings with gen­er­ous hands, with­out ask­ing ques­tions or fix­ing lim­its. Grace with­out price; grace with­out cost! The essence of grace, we sup­pose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, every­thing can be had for noth­ing. Since the cost was infi­nite, the pos­si­bil­i­ties of using and spend­ing it are infi­nite. What would grace be if it were not cheap? 

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. An intel­lec­tu­al assent to that idea is held to be of itself suf­fi­cient to secure remis­sion of sins. The Church which holds the cor­rect doc­trine of grace has, it is sup­posed, ipso fac­to a part in that grace. In such a Church the world finds a cheap cov­er­ing for its sins; no con­tri­tion is required, still less any real desire to be deliv­ered from sin. Cheap grace there­fore amounts to a denial of the liv­ing Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incar­na­tion of the Word of God. 

Cheap grace means the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of sin with­out the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of the sin­ner. Grace alone does every­thing, they say, and so every­thing can remain as it was before. All for sin could not atone.” The world goes on the same old way, and we are still sin­ners even in the best life” as Luther said. Well, then, let the Chris­t­ian live like the rest of the world, let him mod­el him­self on the world’s stan­dards in every sphere of life, and not pre­sump­tu­ous­ly aspire to live a dif­fer­ent life under grace from his old life under sin. That was the heresy of the enthu­si­asts, the Anabap­tists and their kind. Let the Chris­t­ian beware of rebelling against the free and bound­less grace of God and des­e­crat­ing it. Let him not attempt to erect a new reli­gion of the let­ter by endeav­or­ing to live a life of obe­di­ence to the com­mand­ments of Jesus Christ! 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! Of course he would like to go and do some­thing extra­or­di­nary, and it does demand a good deal of self-restraint to refrain from the attempt and con­tent him­self with liv­ing as the world lives. Yet it is imper­a­tive for the Chris­t­ian to achieve renun­ci­a­tion, to prac­tice self-efface­ment, to dis­tin­guish his life from the life of the world. He must let grace be grace indeed, oth­er­wise he will destroy the world’s faith in the free gift of grace. Let the Chris­t­ian rest con­tent with his world­li­ness and with this renun­ci­a­tion of any high­er stan­dard than the world. He is doing it for the sake of the world rather than for the sake of grace. Let him be com­fort­ed and rest assured in his pos­ses­sion of this grace — for grace alone does every­thing. Instead of fol­low­ing Christ, let the Chris­t­ian enjoy the con­so­la­tions of his grace! That is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of sin with­out the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of the repen­tant sin­ner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of for­give­ness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow upon ourselves. 

Cheap grace is the preach­ing of for­give­ness with­out requir­ing repen­tance, bap­tism with­out church dis­ci­pline, Com­mu­nion with­out con­fes­sion, abso­lu­tion with­out per­son­al con­fes­sion. Cheap grace is grace with­out dis­ci­ple­ship, grace with­out the cross, grace with­out Jesus Christ, liv­ing and incarnate. 

Cost­ly grace is the trea­sure hid­den in the field; for the sake of it a man will glad­ly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the mer­chant will sell all his goods. It is the king­ly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which caus­es him to stum­ble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the dis­ci­ple leaves his nets and fol­lows him. 

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.

Such grace is cost­ly because it calls us to fol­low, and it is grace because it calls us to fol­low Jesus Christ. It is cost­ly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is cost­ly because it con­demns sin, and grace because it jus­ti­fies the sin­ner. Above all, it is cost­ly because it cost God the life of his Son: ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much can­not be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reck­on his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but deliv­ered him up for us. Cost­ly grace is the Incar­na­tion of God. 

Cost­ly grace is the sanc­tu­ary of God; it has to be pro­tect­ed from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. It is there­fore the liv­ing word, the Word of God, which he speaks as it pleas­es him. 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 man 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.” 

Join the 2020-21 Renovaré Book Club

An inten­tion­al way to read for trans­for­ma­tion. Cur­rent­ly under­way and runs through May 2021.

Learn More >