Costly grace vs cheap grace

In John 14:16-17, Jesus is foretelling his death. He promises another helper in referring to the coming of the Holy Spirit. In John 14:18-21, Jesus promises that he himself will also return. 

John 14:18: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

When Jesus says I will not leave you as orphans, that seems to have a double meaning. The disciples will not be orphans both because they will be given the Spirit of truth who will be the helper with them forever. And they will not be orphans because Christ himself will return. And at the end of the verse, he says: I will come to you. 

Scholars have interpreted that last part of the verse in different ways. But the best evidence is that Jesus is talking about the resurrection. That on the night before he was to go to the cross, Jesus was promising his disciples that he would come back. 

Given what will follow, I believe that is what makes the most sense because Jesus will start talking to the disciples about what is revealed and what the world is blind to, both in light of the resurrection. 

There is an immediacy to Christ’s coming back which I think fits better with the resurrection appearances. 

John 14:19: Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 

Here, Jesus is clearly talking about the circumstances of his death and resurrection. When he says the world will see me no more, it’s referring to the sinful and fallen humanity. Those who are not of God and who are not his disciples. And on the eve of his death on the cross, it is true that the world will not see him again. 

His resurrection appearances will be exclusively to those who are his disciples or to those who will become his disciples, such as when he appears to Saul. And while the world will not see him again, the disciples will see the risen Lord. This will be covered in chapters 20 and 21 of this gospel. 

And not only will the disciples see Jesus, they will have life because of Jesus. 

Because I live, you also will live. 

Life in Christ has been talked about all throughout this gospel. 

In John 11, when Jesus’ friend Lazarus had died, Jesus had proclaimed:

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 

The Gospel 

Again, the world loves to create its own gospel. It loves to undermine the truth. It loves to tell you there are other ways. It loves to tell you that you can make your own way. 

But the Gospel of John is continually confronting us with the fact that it is Christ and Christ alone who is the way to life and who is the giver of true life. That there is one gospel and this is it. That Jesus would go to the cross and die for the sins of the world. 

John 14:20: In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

In the day that Jesus is raised from the dead. On the first Easter, you will know. When you encounter Jesus, you will know. And we too are invited to know the risen Lord. To know that he died, and rose, and lives forever and that life is found in him. We are invited to know him and live in the truth of who he is and what he has done through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

John 14:21: Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

It’s noteworthy that Jesus is mentioning obedience to his commands for the second time. When he says whoever has my commandments and keeps them, the point is that it’s not just knowing his commands. It’s also about following….Him. 

Grace and Law 

There is this complicated balance within churches of grace and law. Too many churches go too far to one extreme or the other. 

If you go too far to the extreme of law, you have a church that’s very legalistic and self-righteous. The danger of that is that you can start to withdraw your faith from Jesus and ultimately start to put your faith in yourself. Your goodness, your righteousness. 

And when you do that, you’ve missed the whole point. 

You can follow a bunch of rules and not even believe in the gospel at all. Following all the rules is worthless without faith because you’ll never be good enough. 

But on the other side of the coin, you have churches that go too far to the grace where we lose sight of the commands of Christ and accountability, and repentance 

The danger of this is that we can start treating grace like it’s a license to sin. 

God is loving. So it doesn’t ultimately matter what you do because he’s a loving God who loves to love people. 

This devolves into what Dietrich Bonhoffer called “cheap grace.” 

And what that means is that it cheapens the gospel, it cheapens what Christ has actually called us to. 

Quoting from the Cost of Discipleship. I’ve read this before but it’s a classic. 

Cheap grace 

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

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 the 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.” 

What we need is balance between the two. Now it’s interesting in our passage. 

And I think the key to balancing all of that is right in our passage. Let’s look again. 

Jesus says: you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 

Jesus speaks of his unity with the Father. He’s said similar things elsewhere in this gospel. 

But what’s unique to this passage is that Jesus also adds and you in me, and I in you. 

That we will be in Christ. That when we have faith in the gospel, we are united with Christ. That’s not to say that we are Christ, or are somehow deified. 

But we are forgiven in Christ. We are loved in Christ.We have union in Christ.  

Jesus and the Father have perfect unity with each other. And we have a share of that when we are in Christ. Now we are still human and still sinful so it is not yet the perfected union that it will be. But we are in Christ and Christ is in us through the Spirit. 

And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 

That to love Jesus is to be loved by God. Because Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the one whom God sent. Jesus is the one who goes to God on our behalf. Jesus is the one who sits at the right hand of God. 

Again, John’s Gospel does not give wiggle room. Jesus is not just a great teacher. 

He is the way, the truth, and the life, and he is the one who gives us the privilege of being loved by God. 

And Jesus says he will love us and manifest himself to us. 

That we will have a greater and greater sense of the truth and love that are in Christ, as a result of having the Spirit, as we live for Christ and walk with Christ. 

And that is why our lives matter and what we do matter. 

Because our lives are not our own. When we truly know Jesus, when we truly love Jesus, that Jesus changes us from the inside out. True faith creates a new person who can never again be the same. 

And the world does not understand that message. 

The world thinks Christianity is just a guy telling people to be good, and mocking that idea because anyone should be able to figure that out on their own. 

Christianity is living a new Spiritual life in Christ to the glory of God. 

And because we’re still finite people living in a fallen world, we will do that imperfectly, and the good news is that there is grace and forgiveness when we fail. 

But the costly grace of the gospel is that Jesus calls us to live for he who paid the ultimate price for our forgiveness. 

And that’s either beautiful to you or detestable. 

It’s either the wisdom of God or it’s an absurdity. 

But what is it to you? Is it the bedrock on which to build your life? And is it shaping who you are?