Amazing grace: Do we see it as cheap?


God’s amazing grace — His generous forgiveness — is offered to all who believe in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross. Being a gift, it cannot be earned or purchased. According to the Apostle Paul, “by grae you have been saved through faith ... it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8).

This text has often been misunderstood and misapplied. We are sometimes told that since the account has been paid in advance, everything can be had for nothing. those who teach obedience and personal sacrifice are portrayed as legalists.

But does the acceptance of God’s amazing grace free us of our obligations to Him? Let’s consider what the well-known Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonehoeffer, has to say.

His commitment to Jesus would not permit him to remain silent while the church looked the other way and millions of innocent Jews perished in Hitler’s concentration camps. For his courageous stand, he was imprisoned and later executed.

In his book, “The Cost of Discipleship,” Bonhoeffer says it was the church’s preaching of cheap grace that made it powerless to resist Hitler. He defines cheap grace as “preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, grace without the cross” (page 47). He said that during that era, “the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard” (page 53).

Bonhoeffer’s conclusion: “the word of cheap grace has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandment of works” (p. 59).

Let’s take another look at Paul’s statement in Ephesians 2. After saying that God’s grace cannot be earned, and that there is nothing for believers to boast of, he says: “we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the things He planned for us long ago” (v. 10, NLT).

To find out what the apostle had in mind, we must read the rest of his letter. In chapters 4-6 he admonishes believers to control anger, avoid dishonesty, and not to steal. He warns against corrupt communications and asks them to be faithful to their marriage vows. He begs them to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. He asks children to be obedient to their parents.

In brief, Paul is asking his readers to keep the Ten Commandments — to render obedience to God’s moral law.

The apostle makes it clear, however, that obedience cannot be rendered without divine assistance. Christ must “dwell in your hearts by faith.” (Ephesians 3:17). They must be connected to God’s power.

What motivated Bonhoeffer and many other martyrs to lay down their lives for their faith? Was it not God’s love and amazing grace demonstrated on the cross? His mercy toward stubborn sinners?

This love still melts human hearts today and leads them to worship and obey God gladly. His commandments become blessings, not obligations, but privileges. With the psalmist they shout: “Praise the Lord for His goodness and His wonderful works to fht echildren of men.” Psalm 108.

Amazing, but costly grace: It leaves no room for boasting on our part. All glory belong to God and His dear Son.

Pastor Dieter Hain is a retired Seveth-day Adventist pastor who spent 28 years in hospital chaplaincy, eight at Walla Walla General Hospital. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by email at


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