Counting the CostLuke 14:25-33Theme: Paying the price.This week’s lessons teach us that there is no such thing as “easy Christianity.” LessonOn what basis did the early preachers of the gospel, including the Lord Jesus Christ, call for repentance and demand a change of mind? Solely on the revelation given by God in Scripture. What Scripture condemns must be repudiated. What Scripture commends must be affirmed. No one can have sola Scriptura without paying a cost in the moral realm.
The second greatest distinctive is sola fide. It teaches that salvation is by the work of Christ received through faith alone. It is to protect this truth particularly that some teachers repudiate any thought of cost in obtaining salvation. But saving faith is not mere intellectual belief, as we have seen several times already. It is a living union with Christ, who is both Savior and Lord. It involves commitment to him. No one can be a follower of Jesus who clings to lesser loyalties.
One cost we must be willing to pay in this area is loss of the world’s good opinion. Bishop J. C. Ryle wrote of this in an excellent exposition of Luke 14:28:
A man… must be content to be thought ill of by man if he pleases God. He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered, persecuted, and even hated. He must not be surprised to find his opinions and practices in religion despised and held up to scorn. The Master says, ‘Remember the word that I said unto you: the servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also’ (John 15:20). …The cup which our Master drank must be drunk by his disciples. They must be ‘despised and rejected of men’ (Is. 53:3). Let us set down that item last in our account. To be a Christian it will cost a man the favor of the world.1
Sola gratia teaches that salvation is by the grace of God alone, with no mixture of human works added to it. “Ah,” says someone, “that is exactly what we have been contending for: no good works. When you talk about the cost of discipleship, of paying a price for salvation, you are saying that there is something to be done, some work to be performed, without which one cannot be a Christian.” No, that is not the point. In fact, it is a 180-degree distortion. Sola gratia means that it is precisely these good works that must be given up. The cost to the believer here is his own self-righteousness.
This is a high cost to pay, and many will not pay it. When Dr. Herbert Mekeel first came to the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church in Schenectady, New York, and began to preach the gospel as it had not been preached for many years prior to his coming, a woman who was a long-time member accosted him after a morning service. “Mr. Mekeel,” she said, “I am leaving this church, and I am never coming back. No man is ever going to call me a miserable sinner.” She would not pay the price of her self-righteousness.
1 J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 1959), p. 71.
Why does Scripture set the Christian against the tide of the world?
What is the teaching of sola fide?
From today’s lesson, what must we be willing to lose to follow Jesus?
What does sola gratia teach?
What is the cost to the believer in sola gratia?
PrayerForsaking your own righteousness is the only way to live by grace. Are you resting on your own works or on Christ’s finished work on your behalf? Ask God to reveal any ways in which you might be relying on your own righteousness.