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Question 184

Q: Based on the Scriptures, can we separate salvation by grace from discipleship?

Some say that discipleship is an option that won’t influence our eternal destiny, because our salvation is eternally secure once we believe in Jesus Christ. But Dietrich Bonhoeffer thinks we can’t separate the two. He talks about cheap grace and costly grace. The costly grace calls us to follow Christ, which means discipleship, and no one is saved by cheap grace, which in his opinion is used as a dispensation from following Christ. He says, “The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.” Pastor Lutzer, what’s your opinion? 

Asked by: John

A: John, I want to commend you, because you’ve asked a very, very important question, and believe it or not, it’s not one that I can answer by saying yes or no.

What we need to do is to separate a couple of things, and we need to think clearly and biblically about the answer to your question.

First of all, I believe that those who are truly saved will be eternally saved. Now you can say, well, if you believe on Jesus and then don’t follow Him, that’s cheap grace. But looked at from another perspective, it’s very expensive grace, because it has come to us from Jesus Christ and that is never cheap grace. When we believe on Christ, we know that we are believing in a grace that really cost God plenty.

Secondly, it’s very important for us to realize that Bonhoeffer, and by the way, I am a great admirer of Bonhoeffer, but in saying what he did, he came close to teaching that we are saved by grace and by works. Because what he’s saying is “if I believe in Jesus and then don’t follow Him then my salvation is jeopardized. Somehow my discipleship adds to what Jesus Christ did.” At least, that’s what it seems to me that he’s saying.

Now having said that, let me clarify: when we believe in Jesus, we can’t just go live as we please. Obviously, we are called to discipleship as an outgrowth of our faith and if someone has no desire to do good works, and to follow Christ after they say they are saved, I have to doubt whether they are truly saved. Futhermore, if we backslide as Christians, God disciplines us, and if we’re not disciplined, the Bible says that then we are not true sons.

So I guess I need to summarize by saying, yes, I believe that those who are truly saved will be saved, and yes, we should be involved in discipleship. That’s what we are called to as a result of our salvation, but there are going to be Christians who will be saved “so as by fire.” They will be in heaven, but they’ll have no good works to show for it. Think about it John, and God help all of us to think clearly about these matters.

Scripture references

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