In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer penned the words, "Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate" (1959:47). Cheap grace means living as though God ignores or condones our sins. But forgiveness means that sin is real, and must be dealt with. We cannot ignore it, because God does not ignore it. The denial of sin is not grace: it is a lie. Cheap grace means living without the demand of obedience upon us.
And where there is no call for obedience, then all things are tolerated. "Do your own thing" becomes the motto. And so nothing can be labeled as "sinful." No act is clearly right or wrong. Thus, there is no need of forgiveness. But because John insists that God calls us to obey the com mands that have been given, he also reminds us that when we fall short of keeping them, there is forgiveness in Christ. And, to come at it from the other angle, where there is forgiveness available, it follows that cer tain actions—whether thoughts, words or deeds—can be dealt with only when one confesses and is forgiven. In short, the call to confession and the offer of forgiveness go hand in hand with the call to obedience. Cheap grace is grace without obedience, and the Elder knows no such grace. It is not the grace given to us in Jesus Christ.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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