One may say: “What is costly grace?, how can grace be costly?” Of course grace is for free, that is the very meaning of the word. Surely, grace can never have a price, because then it would not be grace.
However, in his book “The Cost of Discipleship” Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a pastor of the Confessing Church) uses the term “costly grace”. Bonhoeffer said, there are people wanting to have forgiveness, but don’t want to repent their sins. This people believe that God should forgive them, only because they consider the term “God is gracious, Jesus loves you without condition” as a true term. Forgiveness without repentance is “cheap grace”. “Costly grace” means forgiveness in connection with repentance, and the desire to be set free by Jesus.
Many members of the current churches believe in the “cheap grace”. They see no necessity to follow Jesus in connection with forgiveness of their sins. All that people will get lost!!! The true gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ tells us that forgiveness must be connected with discipleship.
By the way, it would not be correct to say, we have to pay forgiveness with discipleship. Not at all. Even in contrary, when someone thinks in this direction, he is in danger to get damned, because he wants to pay a price, he is not able to pay. This is the true gospel, that forgiveness is for free.
Now someone may say: “You are stupid, first you say forgiveness must be connected with discipleship, and now you say forgiveness is for free, how do you mean it?” Here is the solution of the problem: In fact God wants to give us two gifts: Forgiveness and a New Life. Either we take both presents, or God will give us nothing. Assumed, we take both presents, we will not try to pay the forgiveness by our New Life, but the New Life is just a natural thing for us. When God has called us, we live a New Life in the power of that call, and at the same time we have forgiveness in the power of that call.
Someone may say: “I have understood that forgiveness and discipleship is connected, but I have not yet understood the meaning of the term ‘costly grace’.” God had to pay a high price for our redemption: The sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Christ had to become man, and died for us on the cross of Golgatha. The Son of God was punished for our sins. God had a lot of trouble to make grace possible, thus grace should be precious for us. Because our sins brought Jesus to the cross, we cannot remain sinners. Jesus shed his precious blood for us, consequently we have to give him our life.
Although the New Life is a gift, we receive from above, it can cost us a lot on earth. That is the second meaning of the term “costly grace”. The New Life is a life under the rule of Jesus Christ. When we start the Christian life, we must subordinate all areas of our life to Jesus Christ. An example: An employee of a bank wants to become a Christian. Sometimes a bank trys to sell securities to its customers, having more advantages for the bank than for the customer. Of course from its employee the bank requires not to tell the customer something about the disadvantages of a security and thus the employee is forced to lie.
Of course a Christian is not allowed to lie and that means the employee has to make a hard decision. In this case, subordinating his life under the rule of Jesus Christ means to hand in his notice. It is not easy at all to give up a job, and it can cause a lot of trouble, but for Jesus sake one should be ready to offer his job. By giving up his job, the employee doesn’t try to get the favour of God, but he just does a normal or natural thing in Gods eyes.
The worst heresy on earth is the doctrine of “cheap grace”. Everywhere the “cheap grace” is proclaimed: Believe the term “God is gracious, Jesus loves you without condition” and get saved. How can we get rid of false prophets, preaching such lies?
DANGER: There are some sects, making an idol out of disipleship. How do I mean that? True discipleship starts with the call of Jesus Christ. Everthing depends on the call. The call is supernatural. Only the call makes discipleship possible. People trying to follow Jesus without HIS call, make an idol out of discipleship. How does Jesus call someone today? Today He calls us through his holy Church. When Jesus lived on earth he called with audible voice: “Follow me!” Nowadays this call takes place through Holy Baptism. The Baptism is a sacramental act and God acts during Baptism. Peter was a believer by just following Jesus after He had called him. We are believers when we are just obedient after He has baptized us by his Church.
Note: Infant Baptism is valid. Re-Baptism is prohibited. An adult, who has just found Jesus in his riper years, can refer to his sacramental Infant Baptism, he mustn’t be baptized again. Even in the USA there are Churches, keeping the one Holy Baptism as sacrament: Presbyterian, Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran etc.. All re-baptizing sects don’t belong to the true Church of Jesus Christ.