Home Uncategorized Cheap Grace–The Enemy of the Church

Cheap Grace–The Enemy of the Church

by Kelly Crawford

“In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin.”

There is a heresy so rampant among the church today, so many being swept away by its tickling philosophy, that I shudder. It’s hard to define, to nail down a name for the new doctrine–almost like trying to nail Jello to the wall.

Which is why it’s so dangerous. Bits and pieces of it creep in…some subscribe to a smidgen of it, others fall in head-long.

There is something wonderful about staying where you are, where it’s comfortable. And since Jesus comes to us where we are, it’s seems logical that He doesn’t mind if we hang out there. But it’s not His teaching.

We were DEAD in our sins, and if He saved us, He brought us back to life! We are no longer sinners, but saints! We were once darkness, but now have been brought into light. We don’t want to hang out where we were.

The teachers of this “hang-out heresy” have one major problem: The Word of God. Some ignore it, some have re–written it, some only quote the easy parts, and wag a finger at those who dare to quote the rest.

Christians, we must understand the costliness of God’s grace. The irony of God’s overwhelming love simultaneously balanced with a His hatred of sin. His grace cost too much for us to refuse its redeeming power!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw this deadly teaching and wrote about what he called “cheap grace”:

“Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church…. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing….

In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.

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….

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.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man’ will gladly go and self all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered
him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

God said: “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” Impossible for the one still wallowing in self-pity and false humility, claiming to be a mere “scraggly sheep”. But inseparable from the one who understands the redeeming cost of love for his life. The child of God, a new creature, a blood-bought saint.

He didn’t say, “You are holy because I am holy”…He said “be”…it’s a state of doing, being, sanctifying, growing.


*most holy thing, a saint

(From the same root as the following definitions:)

*exciting reverence, venerable, sacred
* pure
a) pure from carnality, chaste, modest
b) pure from every fault, immaculate
c) clean

Humility, real humility, is knowing that His grace covers me, and knowing that grace makes me new.

“Walk, therefore, as children of light”.

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Truth Seeker November 9, 2008 - 12:39 pm

Hi Kelly,
I don’t know if you’re familiar with Lane Chaplin or his blog but I’ve been following his postings for awhile. I thought this one on “Therapeutic Deism” sounded very familiar to your thoughts.

Here’s the link if you haven’t see it.


It’s really getting to be an epidemic in the church. My family and I have tried several churches (after leaving the one we had been in for 10 years)over the last few years and we cannot find a place where this is not happening. I believe this what happened in the times of Jeremiah the prophet. Read chapter 23…I don’t know if it is as meaningful as everyone as it is to me, but it sure sounds like where we are right now. So many christians are being forced to leave the church. It is so unrepentant, so changed and irrelevant now we really have no choice but to leave it. It is not the place God dwells any longer. He’s been driven out by the people, and now the true converts have been scattered for the time being.
I realize there are still God fearing churches and I don’t want to offend anyone who is in one, but I think that the “good” ones, the HOLY ones are quickly becoming the minority- especially in America.

Word Warrior November 9, 2008 - 12:51 pm


I’ll have to read that…I have been to Lane’s blog before–good stuff.

Again, we shouldn’t be surprised, I guess, at the masses following thier itching ears…narrow is the way, and few there be that find it.

I so want everyone to find it!

Kim M. November 9, 2008 - 3:19 pm

Bonhoeffer knew what it cost didn’t he? He was also willing to die for his Lord (and did!).

Are we willing to become martyrs?

I was thinking about how teens today claim the name of Jesus but the bend so easily to peer pressure. We adults have a hard time with that too. I cried out to the Lord just the other day to make me one who really COULD become a martyr if it ever comes to that point. And this is so hard for me to even say but…to train my children to the same!

I am dying to copy and link to your blog. This post will help the post I wrote the other day!

authenticallyme November 9, 2008 - 8:12 pm

i do think grace exaggerated (if that is possible)…maybe i should say grace misinterpreted.or grace taken advantage of…….is an issue, but no more of an issue than its counterpart-shame, guilt, legalism. in my experience, it is the SHAME and the improper treatment/prescription given to those who sin, that further confuses them. i am a person whose spiritual needs lean toward needing more grace, and less punishment in life. more grace never lets me have the ‘easy way out’….in contrast, it helps me see more clearly. shame, and punishment, OTOH, keeps me stifled, most of the time, and then i get stuck in my patterns of sin. being ‘harder’ on people is never an answer either. many only go further into shame, forgetitng how much God loves them, and feeling completely unworthy of that love. why do you think addicts, keep using. why do people with food addiction, cave? why would an anorexic person keep starving themselves? the cycle of shame. it is toxic…ive lived through it an no amount of talking, preaching, scolding, or ‘waking me up’ and sending me off to another discipleship class or teaming me up with yet another ‘prayer partner’, helped. people reminding me incessantly that God loves me just like i am, and can deal with me right where im at……now THAT encouraged me. to have kept that truth from me…would have harmed me, not helped.

on the other side of the coin, i find it interesting that every year at the last church i attended, at their annual business meeting, there were never ANY records of church discipline for the year. not one. lol. i guess we have all arrived.

Word Warrior November 9, 2008 - 8:22 pm


That’s just what I don’t get…where in this post do you sense that I’m suggesting we embrace a gospel of “shame”?

I hear this a lot from the “cheap grace” camps…and it usually comes from those who maybe have been abused, etc. I’m wondering where the disconnection is?

The fact that we are saved, redeemed, our sins have been covered–that’s the end of all the shame…FOREVER!

Striving to “be holy as I am holy” is not a call to rigid, stern lives void of mercy.

It’s a freedom. Because I now stand spotless before a holy God, because of His Son, my Advocate, I am free to pursue a life of holiness, to hate my sin–not because it condemns me, but because I am a blood-bought saint desiring to love holiness and become less and less entangled with my carnal nature.

I want to move toward “less of me, and more of Him”…

There something I’m not getting in all this accusation of legalism. Someone is confused.

Terry @ Breathing Grace November 9, 2008 - 8:34 pm

Belive it or not, I first heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer on a secular television program about 5 years ago. I started reading his writings about cheap vs. costly grace and I have to say I agree wholeheartedly. We, as a church, need to repent.

authenticallyme November 10, 2008 - 12:50 am


I didnt say you DID say we should embrace a gospel of shame. I was just telling it like *I* see it, thats all. I somewhat disagree with the book excerpt, and stated why I think so. I was sharing my experience, and showing the other side. Sometimes I dont know how far ‘off-topic’ I can go….and still have it contaioned within the topic. I also am likewise confused as to where I am accusing anyone? I tried to use statements that were FROM me, and not deliberately AGAINST anyone else. I am at a loss as to where I talked negatively …just was trying to show the other side. Perhaps we have both grown sensitive to the other side of the coin that we believes harms people….I dont know…..I dont see where I ‘accused’, or why you state ‘someone is confused’? do you mean me?

I even began my post saying I agree grace can be exaggerated, and its a problem, and then ended with how church discipline is practically non-existant. I tried to wrap my potetially-seen-as-negative-comment in some “commonalities”.

Word Warrior November 10, 2008 - 8:07 am


I’m probably using the word “accusing” more at the “cheap grace camp” than at you personally, sorry.

I’m just frustrated as I watch the gospel of Christ be redefined and lead so many astray.

authenticallyme November 10, 2008 - 9:41 am

ok, Kelly…..understood.

Ana Smith November 12, 2008 - 5:58 pm

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Christ commanded us to make disciples, not to offer cheap grace by simply repeating a sinner’s prayer and walking down the aisle.

Bonhoeffer also said, “The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise God-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die….The only man, who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.”


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