“You may be thinking, Geez Stephen, calm down with all this cheap grace talk. Why are you frothing at the mouth so much about this? It’s just splitting theological hairs. Except that it’s not. The moment we add a single condition or requirement to the gospel, we have totally castrated it. It’s no longer good news.”
I can’t tell you how much I hate the phrase “cheap grace”.
More than I hate bro-country music (sorry Florida-Georgia Line).
More than I hate those online quizzes which “predict” your perfect spouse based on the type of fruit you like.
More than I hate the Star Wars prequels.
Those things are trivial. The words “cheap grace” are not.
Why am I huffing and puffing and steaming so much about it? Because using the phrase “cheap grace” is an insult to the gospel and to Christ.
Let me explain.
Bonhoeffer and Cheap Grace
The phrase originated with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote in his book The Cost of Discipleship:
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
First, let me say that I really do understand what Bonhoeffer was getting at. He was concerned that forgiveness and salvation were being offered and that discipleship was being neglected.
It’s a legitimate concern.
And I too think it’s absolutely essential that we call followers of Christ to discipleship, church membership, baptism, and daily taking up the cross.
But there’s also a huge problem with the phrase “cheap grace”.
It’s Free Grace or No Grace At All
The testimony of scripture, from beginning to end, is that the offer of salvation in Christ is completely and totally free.
No strings attached.
I come sinful, broken, and needy to God and he gives me the righteousness of Christ. I don’t have anything to offer God. The only thing I contribute to my salvation is my own sin. Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.