Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship

Deitrich Bonhoeffer
Most preachers today are preaching cheap grace.  But this is not the true gospel.  True grace is costly.

Years ago, when my friend, Mike, was discipling me, we read a book together, called The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  It challenged and enriched my understanding of grace and what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  Let's look at some quotes from Bonhoeffer.

 “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship 

“Grace at a low cost, is in the last resort simply a new law, which brings neither help nor freedom.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship 

"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. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?...

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is available at Amazon.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell 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, 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.” 
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship 

But the disciple had the advantage over the Pharisee in that his doing of the law is in fact perfect. How is such a thing possible? Because between the disciples and the law stands one who has perfectly fulfilled it, on with whom they live in communion...Jesus not only possesses this righteousness, but is himself the personal embodiment of it. He is the righteousness of the disciples...This is where the righteousness of the disciple exceeds that of the Pharisees; it is grounded solely upon the call to fellowship with him who alone fulfills the law.
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship    

Willingly He Died
I think the way a man dies says a lot about his character.   According to the Wikipedia article about him, "Bonhoeffer was condemned to death on April 8, 1945...without witnesses, records of proceedings or a defence...He was executed there by hanging at dawn on April 9, 1945...the execution was particularly brutal. Bonhoeffer was stripped of his clothing and led naked into the execution yard, where he was hanged with thin wire for death by strangulation."

The article goes on to state that. "The camp doctor who witnessed the execution wrote: 'I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer ... kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.'”

In Bonhoeffer's death, we see a lovable man who was entirely submissive to the will of God, as the doctor who witnessed it said.  He was able to die this way, because he had died to self long beforehand.  He lived what he believed, and he possessed the costly grace of Christ.  Within him lived the Lamb of God, Who said, "I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting. For the Lord GOD helps Me, Therefore, I am not disgraced; Therefore, I have set My face like flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed." (Isa 50:6-7).

When Jesus was crucified, it was not as though He was dragged away against His will.  He could have easily prevented His own arrest.  But He came to die for our sins, and He did not shrink back.  He did not resist the brutality directed against Him.  No, He offered Himself willingly.  And He expects us to do the same, as Bonhoeffer did in his life and in his death.

I want to make an appeal to you, my friend.  If you are a preacher, please seek the Lord for a true understanding of this costly grace, before you preach another message.  Then speak as a voice for God about it.  Please do not simply be an echo of all the other voices in the world, preaching cheap grace.

To those who are not preachers, if you are a Christian, and you never realized the grace of God was so costly, I ask you to get with the Lord.  Cry out in repentance for all known sin in your life.  Ask the Lord for this costly grace that will cost you everything.  Come and die, so that you may follow Jesus.  This is true grace.  This is the true gospel.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note: This post is a follow up on the following articles I've written recently:

The Law of Love in the New Testament
The Law Established Through Faith
Is Obedience Optional?
The Law Fulfilled in Us
Keeping Sundays Holy
Resting from Work
Is Tithing Required for Christians?
Salvation with Fear and Trembling
Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?
The New Covenant
Obedience by the Spirit
The Highest Form of Slavery
Called to be Blameless 

I invite you to read my daughter's poem, called "The Cost." You can also find my complete collection of blogs at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.


  1. Len thank you for posting these powerful sayings of Bonhoeffer. There is much to chew on here.

  2. Thank you for your comprehensive detail about seeking the Lord.

  3. Thank you for this awesome article. It has given me a lot to think about. I read, Luke 14: 33.
    "Whosoever he be of you that forsake not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple."
    I read that, Christ must be loved more than our relatives. Christ must be loved more than our own lives, and Christ must be loved more than anything else. Luke 19: 41. Luke 14: 25-27; 9: 26; and Mark 8: 34-37. I decided to by the book, "The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I need to read and study this subject much more.
    Thank you.


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