And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
These passages always get me wondering about the difference between salvation and discipleship. Are they they same? Can you have one without the other? How can salvation be free when Jesus says discipleship is costly? I think it’s a “yes and yes” situation.
Because there are people far wiser than myself, I have borrowed from some of their expertise. In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that when Christ calls a man, He bids him to come and die. Bonhoeffer describes “cheap grace” and “costly 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.”
I feel as though I tend to strongly agree with this point of view of God’s grace – that while it cost us nothing, it cost God so much; therefore we cannot view it as “cheap.” For so many years I did just that, and the result was a complete lack of repentance, fear and anxiety, shame and guilt, giving myself over to sin time and time again, and absolutely no fruit or evidence of a new creation. For many years I claimed to be saved, said that I was a Christian, but I treated that grace very cheaply, as though it had not cost Someone His life. So to me, discipleship becomes the natural overflow from a heart that has fully accepted the costly grace that God has given us.
However, I cannot deny that there are distinctions between salvation and discipleship given in scripture. I found this article that discusses the differences between the two, as well as how they are integrally connected. They provided this list that contrasts the two:
1. Christ’s invitation to salvation is, “Come unto me” (Matthew 11:28); His call to discipleship is, “Come after Me” (Matthew 16:24).
2. Salvation is about the Cross of Christ (Matthew 16:21); discipleship is about your own cross (Matthew 16:22-24).
3. At salvation, you receive a gift, eternal life (John 4:10 and Romans 6:23); in discipleship, you give a gift, your body (Romans 12:1).
4. The salvation decision (putting faith in Christ for eternal life) must be made only once (John 5:24, 6:37-40, 10:27-28); the discipleship decision (commitment to obey Christ) must be made again and again (Luke 9:23).
5. Salvation is a sure thing (Romans 8:1, 8-11, 28-30, 33-39); discipleship is always in danger of failing (Luke 14:25-35).
6. Salvation is about grace (Ephesians 2:5-9); discipleship is about works (Revelation 22:12).
7. Eternal life is the result of salvation in Christ (John 3:16); eternal rewards are the result of successful discipleship (Matthew 16:27).
The author of the article made the case that you can be saved and not fully walking as a disciple and that you can be unsaved while seemingly walking as a disciple (think Judas). Here’s where I have come to rest: Discipleship is not the only indicator of salvation; however, it is the result. Paul writes that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit when we believe in the Gospel of Truth. He also writes that the Spirit in us wars against our flesh, and that if anyone does not have the Spirit in him then he does not belong to Christ. So if our belief in the Gospel was genuine, and we therefore received the Holy Spirit, there should be a gradual procession into discipleship. Sanctification is a process, and it is God working in us to give us the will and ability to do what pleases Him. If that desire for discipleship is not there, perhaps neither is the Spirit.
LORD, thank You for Your costly grace! May I never see it as something cheap that gives me the license to spend it freely. Thank You that You have called us into discipleship, not so that we can earn salvation, but so that we can experience more of You as we become conformed to the image of Christ. More of You is always the greatest reward, no matter the cost! AMEN!