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Of Sin and Grace

Posted by on in General Secretary's Blog
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In his widely read book, The Cost of Discipleship, German theologian and Christian martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, praised Martin Luther for rediscovering the gospel of pure grace. For his part, however, Bonhoeffer warned of the danger of cheap grace.

Cheap grace, he said, is “preaching ... forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. … Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate" (London: SCM Press Ltd, 1959, p. 36).

I often remember Bonhoeffer’s warning on Sundays as I join in congregational worship. In some sections of the Baptist family, public worship does not feature significantly the public act of confession and absolution. I say “in some sections” because I know that many Baptist churches insist on these, or even confession alone, as an important feature of their Sunday worship.

Meanwhile, in our daily life as Christ-followers, believers can sometimes be frustrated by the weaknesses they exhibit. Their growth is sometimes sporadic and they are disappointed by the frequency of their return to erring ways. It is not that they expect to lead a life marked by perfection, but that they live with the awareness of their sinfulness and they desire to register some progress in their walk with Christ.

When they have opportunity to confess their sins in the context of their church family gathered for worship, they can remember that their situation is not unique. Human frailty afflicts all Christians. They are not the only ones who experience failure in discipleship – through what they have done and what they have left undone, and through the sinful desires and hopes that occupy their minds.

When corporate worship includes space for prayers of confession, worshippers can make use of the opportunity – individually and as a community – to share their concerns with God. In addition, through the act of absolution, which may be understood as a prayer of assurance, they are reminded of the wideness of God’s mercy and the bounty of God’s grace.

During this year, which is being commemorated as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, may it be that many Christians will reflect anew on the mystery of divine grace and the centrality of this grace in the life of faith.

Neville George Callam, a Jamaican, has been serving as general secretary and chief executive officer of the Baptist World Alliance since his election in Accra, Ghana in 2007.


  • Guest
    Roseanna Henderson Monday, 02 October 2017

    On Cheap Grace - I start with my own spiritiual walk and and self -examination. Having a desire not to try and be perfect, but to never forget the suffering and the shedding of the precious blood of Jesus that was required that we may be partakers of God's grace. Though salvation is free it was not cheap. We have got to remember what it cost then we will understand why the privilege of confession requires a turn in a new direction from that that is being confessed and a desire to never go in that direction again. Thank you Rev.Callam

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Guest Monday, 06 July 2020