Counting the CostLuke 14:25-33Theme: Paying the price.This week’s lessons teach us that there is no such thing as “easy Christianity.” LessonAccording to Luke 14:33 there is a cost to discipleship. A failure to see this causes some to start out on the Christian life but later fall away and perish. The cost must be paid if a person is to be Christ’s disciple and be saved.
What a furor this raises in some evangelical circles! It is because mention of “cost” sounds like works-based salvation, which is, of course, soundly condemned in Scripture, and evangelicals do not want the gospel to be destroyed in this manner. One writer says, “Any teaching that demands a change of conduct toward either God or man for salvation is to add works or human effort to faith, and this contradicts all Scripture and is an accursed message.”1 Such people rightly want to rule out any gospel that is not sola Scriptura (according to Scripture alone), sola fide (by faith in Jesus Christ alone), and sola gratia (by the grace of God alone). But let us look at each of these distinctives.
Sola Scriptura means “by Scripture alone.” It affirms that the written word of God (the Bible) is the only fully authoritative rule for Christian faith and practice. Particularly, it must be supreme over any church teachings or traditions. This is a valuable doctrine, of course. Protestants especially rightly value it. But it is evident that if Scripture, being the Word of God, is supreme, then it is supreme not only over other people and other traditions but over me and my traditions too. And this means that I must give up anything in my thought or practice that is contrary to Scripture, if I would follow Christ. This is what the apostle Paul did. He said of his spiritual warfare, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world…. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-5). We must pay the cost of the destruction of our own religious opinions to be a Christian.
Sola Scriptura also embraces the doctrine of repentance, for repentance means turning from sin (including sinful thoughts) to follow Jesus. It means renouncing and repudiating what we have thought but now discover to be contrary to God’s revelation.
There is a great error in the modern church at this point. When the gospel is preached, it is customary to speak about forgiveness, saying that we must confess our sin and turn to God where alone we can find forgiveness for that sin. That is true enough, of course. 1 John 1:9 teaches it. But what is equally true and yet not frequently said is that the gospel also requires repentance, which is not mere confession of sin but is a turning from it as well. The Greek word for repentance actually means “a change of mind.” Repentance was the burden of John the Baptist’s preaching: “He preach[ed] a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). When Jesus began his public ministry, his message was: “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). Later, the disciples “went out and preached that people should repent” (Mark 6:12). Peter declared, “Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). On Mars Hill the apostle Paul declared, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
1 From a book entitled Handbook of Personal Evangelism, by A. Ray Stanford, Richard A. Seymour, and Carol Ann Streib. The quotation is in Ernest C. Reisinger, Today’s Evangelism: Its Message and Methods (Phillipsburg, N.J.,: Craig Press, 1982), p. 31.
What place does Scripture hold in the life of a believer?
What is the true meaning of repentance?
What frequently happens to those who hear only a partial gospel?
DefinitionSola Scriptura: the teaching that Scripture alone is the only fully authoritative rule for Christian faith and practice.
Further StudyFor a deeper understanding of the role of repentance from sin as accompanying salvation, study the passages mentioned in today’s lesson: Mark 1:15-18, 6:7-12; Luke 3:3-8; Acts 3:17-19, 17:29-30.