Saturday, 26 April 2014

Grace - Cheap, Costly and Hyper

This represents the opening section of something that I think might become a bit of a magnum opus (or at least a Feast) because Grace, for me at least, one of the issues of Christianity. (note: in my nomenclature - Capital G Grace is God's to us)

Grace is, as I understand it, my not getting what I deserve because of the love of a God that caused him to take flesh (incarnate meaning what it says on the tin) and humbling Himself, die upon the cross to reconcile me to God, the Father. Jesus getting what He did not deserve so that I didn't get that which I did deserve! Or to use Wesley's words: 'Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God should die for me? '

In his book 'the cost of discipleship', Dietrich Bonhoeffer contributes much on the subject of  grace and the call to die to self and take up our own cross is clear. Grace,
according to Bonhoeffer, can be 'cheap' in that it can be found in a grace without discipleship, the cross, the Christ (truly man and resurrected). We find forgiveness without repentance preached - it's yours for the taking, free.

Now, I'm not denying that Grace is free, but the danger is that we treat is as something of little value because of the price tag attached to it for us - for it comes at an inestimable price. But let Bonhoeffer help set the scene:

'.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.' (Cost of discipleship. P. 45)

The tragedy of such a grace is that having told us sin is defeated and proclaiming that we are therefore no longer sinful, it is too small a step to find ourselves caught up in sin! After all, costly Grace is taken up with admonishing and correcting and adhering to law, but the cheap side of the market often takes Paul's words regarding the condemnation and impotence of the law to heart and seeks to reside wholly in Grace. A popular and appealing position from where I, struggling to put the old man to death, am sitting.

For me the reality is somewhere in the middle, law having the power to condemn whilst Grace speaks of my innocence (justification).

With Paul's challenge to me (Romans 6) is ringing in my ears: 'What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?' I fear this (perhaps cruelly labelled, 'hypergrace' position  might just be leading us into error. But since so many who occupy this position like to work from Paul's words, perhaps it is best that he speaks up (ibid):

'By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised 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.'
Grace costs us nothing and demands everything! We are dead to sin. New creations who walk 'in newness of life' - this is the walk of discipleship, or no longer being 'under the law' but living within it so that those who are might see how we live and consider their own walk. Because we are 'under Grace' we are enabled, by the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit, to live godly and Christlike lives.

Grace demands discipleship. a discipleship that looks to keeping the commandments and possessing the circumcision of the heart that marks us out as true believers.It confers blessing and screams forgiveness (justification) but to reside in that mercy, under the blood of the Lamb, requires more than us just being willing to receive it - and yet it is not a reward for works either lest we might boast. The cost of Grace is, for me, found in the conviction of sin and the desire to see more of Jesus, the Christ, and less of me each day made more obvious by the shadow of the cross.

And so my journey to dialogue with, challenge and understand this, for me, new and emerging group begins. This is but the first step of, I fear, many and though some may disagree and even doubt my own faith - that's where Grace comes in, isn't it?

Suggested reading
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1959, The Cost of Discipleship, Second edition, London, SCM Press Ltd  (1963 reprint - Macmillan Paperbacks Edition)

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