No Cheap Grace

Are you showing God's grace to you?

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

   - James 2.18

He sells the precious talents of the Gospel of Christ
and demands them back with interest, from the pagans of Ireland.


  - Domnach Sechnaill, Audite Omnes Amantes, Irish, 6th century

Patrick was one of the most effective and fruitful evangelists in all of Church history. He wasn’t dealing with “seekers”, either, but with raw, rough, rude Irish rubes and ruffians. If ever anyone had a tough Personal Mission Field, it was Patrick.

And he won those crude pagans to Christ by the thousands, not by peddling some “feel-good gospel” or by telling them Jesus loved them and would accept them just as they were.

An early gloss of Sechnaill’s poem explains that by “talents” the poet meant “commandments.” The Gospel Patrick proclaimed consisted of commandments, such as “repent” and “bring forth the fruit of repentance.” He demanded of those who came to faith in Christ that they pay back the Lord’s grace with love to Lord with interest, in lives of holiness and good works. He did not preach salvation by works; rather, like James, he preached salvation unto works, and no salvation without them.

We cheapen the Gospel when we make it so easy to believe and become a “follower of Jesus” that nothing in the way of repentance or a transformed life is expected, or forthcoming. This is not the Gospel. John the Baptist, Jesus, the Apostles, the Fathers of the Church, Patrick, and every great evangelist and preacher down through ages has called his hearers to turn from their wicked ways and take up the life of the cross. Cheap grace – grace that does not issue in holiness and good works – is simply false grace.

If we think we have known grace, yet have not enough love for the Lord in return to serve Him obediently in our everyday lives, then we are mistaken about the former notion. Grace leads to love for God and neighbor. Absent that, the grace one claims to know is nothing more than sentiment.

To whom will you show the grace of God by your works of love today?

Psalm 51.10-13 (Passion Chorale: “O Sacred Head Now Wounded”)
Create in me a clean heart, renew me from within!
Take not Your Spirit from me because of all my sin.
Salvation’s joy restore, Lord, and keep me in Your hand;
Thus shall I tell Your strong Word to sinners in the land.

Let the grace You have shown me, Lord, bring forth the fruit of eternal life in the form of love for you and my neighbor.

T. M. Moore, Principal
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[1] Carey, p. 153.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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