What Dietrich Bonhoeffer said about the Church and the Cost of Discipleship

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“It is not we who build. Christ builds the church.”

“This is the end — for me, the beginning of life.”

These are the reported last words of German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed in Flossenbürg concentration camp in 1945.

Bonhoeffer didn’t only write about costly discipleship and grace. His life fully reflected his work and Scripture. It was a life he surrendered into the hands of Jesus, not just on the day he died, but years before that. As a pastor in Nazi Germany, he worked tirelessly to encourage the church to stand up for issues of social justice and human dignity.

Even now, Bonhoeffer’s works and ideas challenge church views of Jesus, grace and the Christian walk. May these quotes encourage you to remember the purpose of the church: to preach and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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“The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and His work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity.”

“The believer feels no shame, as though he were still living too much in the flesh, when he yearns for the physical presence of other Christians.”

“The Cross is not the terrible end of a pious happy life. Instead, it stands at the beginning of community with Jesus Christ. Whenever Christ calls us, His call leads us to death.”

“A community of Jesus which seeks to hide itself has ceased to follow Him. “Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on the stand.” … The bushel may be the fear of men, or perhaps deliberate conformity to the world for some ulterior motive.”

“I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.”

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER

“It is a great comfort which Jesus gives to His church. ‘You confess, preach, bear witness to Me, and I alone will build where it pleases Me. Do not meddle in what is not your providence. Do what is given to you, and do it well, and you will have done enough… Live together in the forgiveness of your sins. Forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts.’”

“Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church. We are fighting today for costly grace.”

“Sanctification means driving out the world from the Church as well as separating the Church from the world. But the purpose of such discipline is not to establish a community of the perfect, but a community consisting of men who really live under the forgiving mercy of God.”

“The will of God, to which the law gives expression, is that men should defeat their enemies by loving them.”

“How would you expect to find community while you intentionally withdraw from it at some point? The disobedient cannot believe; only the obedient believe.”

“Fruit is always the miraculous, the created; it is never the result of willing, but always a growth. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of God, and only He can produce it. They who bear it know as little about it as the tree knows of its fruit. They know only the power of Him on whom their life depends.”

Pastor Peter Eng

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