GRACE AND DISCIPLESHIP
I am reading for a second time, The Cost of Discipleship by German Theologian and Pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer got a good picture of what it means to follow Christ, the meaning of the cross of Christ, Cheap Grace vs costly grace, and finally the relationship between the disciple and his master. I remember reading that book for a New Testament Theology class at Southern Seminary. The cost of discipleship has revolutionized my understanding of the cross and discipleship. For example, Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Furthermore, he comments on the “Grace of God,” “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. 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” (45). Contemporary Christianity has lost the biblical vision of discipleship and the sacrifices involved in following Christ. Moreover, Bonhoeffer makes the following observations:
“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.’ 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….” (46)
THE CALL TO DISCIPLESHIP
“The call goes forth, and is at once followed by the response of obedience. …. It displays not the slightest interest in the psychological reason for a man’s religious decisions. And why? For the simple reason that the cause behind the immediate following of call by response is Jesus Christ Himself.” (61)
“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. It remains an abstract idea, a myth which has a place for the Fatherhood of God, but omits Christ as the living Son. … There is trust in God, but no following of Christ.” ( 64)
“If we would follow Jesus we must take certain definite steps. The first step, which follows the call, cuts the disciple off from his previous existence. … The first step places the disciple in the situation where faith is possible. If he refuses to follow and stays behind, he does not learn how to believe.” (66-67)
The book is very challenging, dealing with the ethics and implications of biblical discipleship.