For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

2 Timothy 4:3


The meaning of the word “grace” puzzled me for a long time. But I’ve come to understand that God’s grace simply consists of his favour and kindness toward us. Through his grace he sent his Son to die for us, forgiving our sins.

How costly was this gift to us? After all, it cost our Lord Jesus great suffering on our behalf.  Was God’s grace cheap or costly?

Many evangelical churches preach that the forgiveness provided by Christ’s sacrifice is unconditional. When Jesus died, they say, all our sins were forgiven—sins from the past, today, and tomorrow. According to them, we need not worry any further. We’re free.

Church-goers will find this teaching appealing. But it’s not biblical and it does not tie into the life Jesus called us to when he invited us to follow him and take his yoke upon us. Not only that, unconditional forgiveness could be harmful. I feel that very strongly.

In the classic, The Cost of Discipleship, author and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote an exposition centered on The Sermon on the Mount where he spelled out what it means to follow Jesus. It was first published in 1937 when the rise of the Nazi regime was underway in Germany. In the book, he outlined his theology of costly discipleship. This led to his hanging at the young age of 39.

Does it make you wonder, what the Nazi’s had against costly discipleship to hang someone over it?

Bonhoeffer distinguishes be­tween “cheap grace” and “costly grace.” Cheap grace requires nothing from us. Bonhoeffer describes it as “grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” Since repentance is not required, we are not changed by cheap grace, and so it’s not really from God. Costly grace, on the other hand, “is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.”

In effect, Bonhoeffer is saying that cheap grace is to hear the following preached: “Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness.” This is far from what God had in mind when he sent his Son to suffer on the cross.

To remain in fellowship with God, we must repent and continue repenting when we do wrong. Not doing so can cause harm, as I show below. People could get hurt—sometimes badly hurt. What would stop an unrepentant sinner:

  • from hurting someone and not worrying about the consequences?
  • from thinking he doesn’t need to feel guilty?
  • from not worrying about the pain he caused?
  • from not thinking he needs to compensate for the hurt caused?
  • from not feeling responsibility to bring peace to a situation through reconciliation?

One more word from Bonhoeffer: “What has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.”