The Cost of Discipleship
This book makes me feel like a baby Christian again - like I did not know anything about my faith.
Exaggeration aside, it was not completely out of my comprehension. It is not a long read, or too academically complicated; but it is the weightiness of the content that tripped me up. Bonhoeffer writes in such minute, almost tedious detail about biblical matters, which is what overwhelmed me at times.
|Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)|
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran pastor and theologian, authored countless books on biblical theology. The Cost of Discipleship begins with a short memoir of who he was (or you can read Eric Metaxas' Bonhoeffer, an amazing, longer read); but the critical objective of The Cost of Discipleship is to demonstrate what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
Cheap grace, he explains,
is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.Bonhoeffer compares cheap grace with costly grace, which is the gospel. Here is how he describes it:
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies a sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son: "ye were bought at a price,": and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.The result of cheapening grace provided a way for the world to become Christianized (or for Christianity to become secularized). Bonhoeffer claims, "The word of cheap grace has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandment of works."
That was only the first chapter. For the remainder of his book, Bonhoeffer seeks to answer the question: How can we live the Christian life in the modern world? He says,
Happy are they who, knowing that grace , can live in the world without being of it, who, by following Jesus Christ, are so assured of their heavenly citizenship that they are truly free to live their lives in this world. Happy are they who know that discipleship simply means the life which springs from grace, and that grace simply means discipleship.He explains the steps to discipleship: first, one must answer the call to discipleship with immediate obedience, which leads to faith alone through Christ; next, one must deny self in order to follow Jesus; in addition, following Christ involves trusting Him, even if you know not where you are going; and finally, a disciple must become an individual, to follow alone - that is, he must "break with his past" and never turn back - as he is called separately "and must follow alone." However, fear not, "our reward is the fellowship of the Church."
For the bulk of The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer uses the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) to make his case for discipleship and how Christians obediently follow Christ. In short, while following Christ is liberating, it is also costly, which may include opposition or even death. Nonetheless, one must give up his life to follow Christ, and Bonhoeffer explains how to do that.
Finally, there are shorter chapters that follow, covering other topics, such as examples of disciples and the Church.
Who should read this book: Theology students, for certain, but also Christians who appreciate biblically sound resources that follow God's Word. The Bible is always best, but biblically supportive books are always insightful, enlightening, and encouraging.