What is cheap grace?


By BibleAsk Team

The concept of “cheap grace” has been a topic of theological discussion and debate, particularly within Christian circles. Coined by the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his seminal work “The Cost of Discipleship,” cheap grace refers to the idea that salvation and forgiveness can be obtained without genuine repentance and a commitment to a life of discipleship. This concept challenges the notion of grace as a free gift and emphasizes the transformative nature of true repentance and faith. To delve deeper into the understanding of cheap grace, it is essential to explore key biblical references in the Bible that shed light on this theological concept.

Defining Cheap Grace

Before delving into the biblical references, it is crucial to define cheap grace. Bonhoeffer argued that cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. It is the idea that we can claim forgiveness and salvation without acknowledging the true cost of discipleship. Cheap grace, according to Bonhoeffer, devalues the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and undermines the transformative power of genuine repentance. It fosters a complacent attitude toward sin and fails to recognize the call to live a life of obedience and holiness.

Biblical References on Grace and Repentance

  1. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV) “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

    This verse is often cited to highlight the unmerited nature of God’s grace. However, the following verse, Ephesians 2:10, emphasizes that believers are created for good works. Cheap grace would distort this balance by divorcing salvation from a transformed life marked by good works.
  2. Romans 6:1-2 (NKJV) “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”

    This passage from Romans addresses the misconception that grace provides a license to sin. Paul strongly rejects such an idea, affirming that grace is not an excuse for a life of continual disobedience.
  3. James 2:17 (NKJV) “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

    James emphasizes the inseparable connection between faith and works. Cheap grace would separate the two, allowing for a faith devoid of transformative actions and genuine repentance.
  4. Luke 9:23 (NKJV) “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.'”

    In this verse, Jesus sets the standard for discipleship. Cheap grace undermines the call to self-denial and daily commitment to follow Christ. It suggests that one can claim salvation without embracing the sacrificial nature of true discipleship.
  5. Romans 3:31 (NKJV) “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.”

    This passage highlights the need to keep God’s law (Exodus 20:2-17) by His enabling power.
  6. Matthew 7:21 (NKJV) “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”

    This passage highlights the importance of obedience in the Christian life. Cheap grace would allow for a superficial acknowledgment of Christ as Lord without genuine obedience to His will.
  7. 1 John 5:3 (NKJV) “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”

    This passage highlights the fact that true love to God will always lead to the keeping of His commandments (Exodus 20:2-17).


In examining these biblical references, it becomes evident that the concept of cheap grace contradicts the holistic message of the Bible. Grace is indeed a free gift, but it is not a license for complacency or a justification for a life devoid of repentance and obedience. True grace transforms lives and leads to a commitment to follow Christ in all aspects of life. As Christians reflect on the concept of cheap grace, they are called to embrace the fullness of God’s grace while recognizing the cost of discipleship, obedience to God’s law, and the transformative power of genuine repentance.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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