The term ‘Cheap Grace’ was coined by the German pastor Deitrich Bonhoeffer. He was a man who sought to oppose the Nazis in World War 2 and paid for it with his life, being executed by them tragically only a few days before the war ended. Bonhoeffer defined cheap grace as:
“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. 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.”
It is similar to what I have described as the spiritual virus of Christianity-Lite. A faith which looks ‘Christian’ but doesn’t have the cost, a cost Bonhoeffer knew only too well, nor does it save.
Cheap grace is not the Grace of God, but it is what many church members futilely rely on for their salvation. It is a Satanic deception that seduces church members into believing they can be forgiven without heart wounding and desperate pleading for repentance and mercy.
It is grace that can be received without the requirement of submitting to church leadership and discipline. In fact the very thought of discipline is a foreign concept to many. It is grace that freely marches up to participate in the Lord’s Supper, without having confessed sin. Indeed it is grace disconnected from the Cross, and so it does not absolve us from our sin. Cheap grace is the result of the dumbing down of Sin, it being ‘saccharined’ to the level of being ‘naughty’, instead of the black, evil, pernicious poison that the Holy God detests, and which separates the sinner from Him for eternity.
If we want to know how seriously God takes our sin, let us look and see what the Father did to His Son—inflicting excruciating agony on Jesus—physical agony yes but far worse spiritual agony, when for a nano-second the Son was torn, wrenched from His union with His Father, because He bore our sin. An awful judgement inflicted on Jesus that all those who rely on ‘Cheap Grace’ for their salvation will experience.
In contrast there is ‘Costly Grace’ the priceless grace of free, unmerited, undeserved, unworked-for forgiveness which flows from the Cross in a river of blood. Costly Grace is the treasure in the field which a person is willing to go and sell ‘all they have’ to get, the ‘pearl of great price’ for which the pearl trader will sell all his possessions. (Matthew 13:44,45) Costly Grace is the call in response to which a person will let go of their nets, that is all they have. It is costly because it costs the surrender of their life. It is costly because we were ‘bought at a great price.’ (1 Corinthians 6:19,20)
Costly Grace, is the offer and encouragement of forgiveness for the blackest sin, healing for the most broken heart. However it is only received when a person is willing to surrender all they have to follow the Jesus who is the wounded, bloodied source of such costly but beautiful Grace.
So as Bonhoeffer made clear, the choice lies before us. The choice between ‘Cheap grace’ – the grace of comfortable Christianity, Christianity-Lite which locks the door of heaven, or ‘Costly Grace’ – the grace received when we surrender our heart, in a plea for mercy, and in the broken repentance which paves the way to heaven.
How many are there reading this who have been church members for years, but still are relying on ‘Cheap grace’, the grace which flows not from the Cross, but from the seductive persuasions of Satan himself, and DOES NOT SAVE.
For others, we can savour and rejoice in the sweet, fragrant joy of ‘Costly Grace’ knowing we are already accepted as sons and daughters of God.