The Standard July 8, 2021
With tremendous grace, God reaches down and saves us when we don’t deserve it, all because of our faith in Jesus Christ. We never could earn this gift.
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:1-10)
After we experience this saving grace through faith, God has good works for us to do. Jesus repeatedly expounded on the importance of obedience stemming from our love for and gratefulness to God. “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:5) “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.’” (John 14:23-24a) “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:10)
In the early 1500s a young monk named Martin Luther agonized about how he ever could please a perfect God, striving to earn God’s pleasure by his own merit. Finally, when reading Romans 1:17, Luther had an awakening. “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”
It is inconceivable for a person to be justified by faith in Christ yet to have little desire to love and obey God. We should be so grateful for God’s gifts that we live like Jesus lived.
In The Cost of Discipleship Dietrich Bonhoeffer illustrates this as cheap versus costly grace. “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. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly 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. 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.”