Are we preaching "cheap grace"?

320 we preach cheap grace

You may have heard before that grace was said, "they are not unlimited" or "they are requirements". Those who emphasize God's love and forgiveness will occasionally meet people who accuse them of advocating "cheap grace," as they disparagingly call it. This is exactly what happened to my good friend and GCI Pastor, Tim Brassel. He was accused of preaching "cheap grace". I like how he reacted. His answer was: "No, I do not preach cheap grace, but far better: free grace!"

The term cheap grace comes from the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who used it in his book "Nachfolge" and made it popular. He used it to emphasize that a person experiences God's undeserved grace as she converts and leads a new life in Christ. But without a life of discipleship, God's fullness does not penetrate to him - the person then only experiences "cheap grace."

The Lordship Salvation controversy

Is salvation the only thing that requires Jesus' acceptance or succession? Unfortunately, Bonhoeffer's teaching on grace (including the use of the term cheap grace), as well as his remarks on salvation and succession, have often been misunderstood and misused. This refers above all to the decades-long debate that became known as the Lordship Salvation controversy.

A leading voice in this debate, a well-known five-point Calvinist, claims time and again that those who claim that only the personal confession of faith in Christ is necessary for salvation are guilty of advocating "cheap grace." would. According to his argumentation, it is necessary to salvage a creed (the assumption of Jesus as Redeemer) and to do to some extent good works (in obedience to Jesus as Lord).

Both sides have good arguments in this debate. In my opinion, there are mistakes in the view of both parties that could have been avoided. It is first of all the relationship of Jesus to the Father and not how we humans behave towards God. From this point of view, it is clear that Jesus is both Lord and Savior. Both sides would find it much more than a gift of grace that we are led by the Holy Spirit to be more closely involved in Jesus' own relationship with the Father.

This focused on Christ and the Trinity view both sides would not see it as something good works, which one earns salvation that we were created to the fact that we should walk in Christ in it (or as something superfluous), but (Eph 2,10) , They would also recognize that we may be delivered without any merit and not according to our works (including our personal creed), but by the work and the faith of Jesus instead of us (Eph 2,8-9 Gal 2,20). Then they could conclude that there is nothing that can be done for salvation, either by adding or clinging to it. The great preacher Charles Spurgeon has made it so clear: "If we had to stab a pinprick into the dress of our salvation, then we would completely ruin it."

Jesus' work gives us His all-embracing grace

As we have already discussed in this series on grace, we should trust much more in Jesus' work (his faithfulness) than in our own doing. It does not invalidate the gospel if we teach that salvation is not by our works, but alone is effected by the grace of God. Karl Barth wrote: "Nobody can be saved by one's own actions, but everyone can be saved by God's action."

Scripture teaches us that anyone who believes in Jesus "has eternal life" (John 3,16, 36, 5,24) and is "saved" (Rom 10,9). There are verses that exhort us to follow Jesus by leading our new life in him. Any attempt to approach God and obtain His grace, separating Jesus as Redeemer and Jesus as Lord, is misguided. Jesus is an undivided reality, both Redeemer and Lord. As Redeemer he is Lord and as Lord he is Redeemer. The attempt to divide this reality into two categories is neither helpful nor expedient. If you do it, you will create a Christianity that divides into two classes, leading its members to judge who a Christian is and who is not. Moreover, one tends to separate our who-is-me from our what-you-me.

To separate Jesus from his redemptive work is based on a business (mutual benefit) view of salvation that separates justification from sanctification. However, salvation, which is entirely grace-based in all respects, is about a relationship with God that leads to a new way of life. The saving grace of God gives us justification and sanctification, as Jesus himself, through the Holy Spirit, became justification and sanctification for us (1, Kor 1,30).

The Savior himself is the gift. Being united with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, we become partakers of everything that is. The New Testament summarizes this by calling us a "new creature" in Christ (2, Kor 5,17). There is nothing that could present this grace as cheap, because there is simply nothing cheap, neither in relation to Jesus nor to the life we ​​share with him. The fact is, the relationship with him causes remorse, leaving the old self behind and entering a new way of life. The God of love desires the perfection of the people he loves and has prepared accordingly in Jesus. Love is perfect, otherwise it would not be love. Calvin used to say, "All our salvation is perfect in Christ."

The misunderstanding of grace and works

Although the focus is on the right way of understanding and understanding, as well as doing good deeds, there are some who mistakenly believe that good work requires continued involvement to secure our salvation. They are concerned that focusing on the grace of God by faith alone is a license to sin (the topic I have covered in Part 2). The preposterous aspect of this idea is that grace does not simply ignore the consequences of sin. Also, this misguided way of thinking separates the grace of Jesus himself, as if grace were the subject of a transaction (mutual exchange) that can be divided into individual actions without involving Christ. In fact, the focus is so focused on good works that one finally no longer believes that Jesus did everything necessary to save us. It is falsely claimed that Jesus only started the work of salvation and that it is up to us to ensure it in some way through our behavior.

Christians who have accepted God's freely granted grace do not believe they have been given permission to sin - quite the contrary. Paul was accused of preaching too much about grace so that "sin could take over." However, this reproach did not cause him to change his message. Instead, he accused his prosecutor of misrepresenting his message and was even more keen to make it clear that Grace was not fit to make exceptions to the rules. Paul wrote that the purpose of his ministry was to establish "the obedience of the faith" (Rom 1,5, 16,26).

Salvation is only possible through grace: it is Christ's work from beginning to end

We owe God great gratitude that he sent his Son in the power of the Holy Spirit to save us, not to judge us. We have understood that no contribution to good works can do us justice or sanctification; If it were so, we would not need a Redeemer. Whether the emphasis is on obedience by faith or by faith with obedience, we must never underestimate our dependence on Jesus, who is our Redeemer. He has judged and condemned all sins and has forgiven us forever - a gift that we receive if we believe and trust him.

It is Jesus' own faith and work - his faithfulness - that bring about our salvation from beginning to end. He transfers his righteousness (our justification) to us and through the Holy Spirit he gives us share in his holy life (our sanctification). We receive these two gifts in the same way: by placing our trust in Jesus. What Christ has done for us helps the Holy Spirit understand and live in us. Our faith is focused on the one (as it is called in Phil 1,6) "who started the good work in you, he will complete it". If one has no part in what Jesus does in him, the confession of his faith is without substance. Instead of accepting God's grace, they resist it by claiming it. Certainly we want to avoid this mistake, nor should we misunderstand that our works contribute in any way to our salvation.

by Joseph Tkach


pdfAre we preaching "cheap grace"?