Understanding Bonhoeffer’s Thoughts on Grace
While Sonny believes that he understands the concept of what Bonhoeffer talks about in chapter 1, I don’t believe that I completely understand it. Since it is hard for me to understand, I have been hesitant to dig into the book again and try to get a handle on what Bonhoeffer is trying to get me to understand. Today I am digging in again!
In the second paragraph of the chapter, talking about cheap grace, Bonhoeffer states: “Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she she showers blessings …”. The points I take from this are:
- Grace is not the church’s treasury. Grace is a gift of and from God!
- The church does not bestow blessings, God bestows the blessings.
Still talking about cheap grace, Bonhoeffer goes on to say that grace is the source of the forgiveness of sins. I guess that is true! He also says that “An intellectual assent to that ideas held to beef itself sufficient to secure the remission of sins.” I think I have experienced that idea in congregations that I have visited. The idea is that if you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, your sins are forgiven. If that is true, what do you do with James 2:19? “Even the demons believe – and shudder.” Satan and his minions believe that Jesus is the son of God. They also know that they are loved by God because, like us, they are His creation. So, in believing, is their sin forgiven? I believe that under the doctrine of cheap grace, they are forgiven ! I think that is part of Bonhoeffer’s point.
“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.” Think about it …, God would not be God if sin were justified! If everything can remain the way it was before, then “the Christian can live like the rest of the world (that is what appears to me to be happening). It would be presumptuous to aspire to live a different life under grace from the old life under sin. If we aspire to live righteously rather than sinfully, it would call into question the efficacy of God’s grace! If that is the case, what is the meaning of Romans 6:1-7?
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can nwe who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.
Sonny asked me for my thoughts on “yet it is imperative for the Christian to achieve renunciation, to practice self-effacement, to distinguish his life from the life of the world. He must let grace be grace indeed, otherwise he will destroy the world’s faith in the free gift of grace.” in a text message. It is important to remember that Bonhoeffer is still talking about cheap grace. What he is saying is that if we attempt fo follow Christ, to live righteously as He lived, then grace would not be grace. The blessings we receive could and would be attributed to our good works, something we have earned, not God’s unmerited favor! Again, if that is the case, what do we do with Romans 6:1-7?
So, cheap grace is defined as forgiveness without repentance, baptism without discipline, communion with confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross and grace without Jesus Christ. (pg 44-45)