Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Beattitudes

In Bonhoeffer’s classic work The Cost of Discipleship he begins his concluding thoughts on the beatitudes with the following words,

Having reached the end of the beatitudes, we naturally ask if there is any place of this earth for the community which they describe. Clearly, there is one place, and only one, and that is where the poorest, meekest, and most sorely tried of all men is to be found – on the cross at Golgotha. The fellowship of the beatitudes is the fellowship of the Crucified. With him it has lost all, and with him it has found all. From the cross there comes the call ‘blessed, blessed.’” (113-114).

Notice he does not say the community is found “at” the cross “on” Golgotha, rather he says, “on” the cross “at” Golgotha. If we flip those two words we miss the whole point. Would we do better to sing, “On the cross, on the cross where I first saw the light and the burdens of my heart rolled away…”? Faith comes standing at the cross, discipleship comes on it. Why else would Jesus say, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34). Once we live out the cross in our day to day lives we will know that we really are Christ-followers. Our approach to the cross makes the difference between accepting Jesus as Savior and accepting him as Lord.

0 Responses to Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Beattitudes

  1. preacherman says:

    Great post.
    Thanks for sharing this with us Matt.

  2. Sorry to crash your blog, but the last sentence of your post intrigued me.

    How does one accept Jesus as Savior and not as Lord?

    Mike

  3. mattdabbs says:

    Not a problem at all. Feel free to comment any time. What I meant by that is that some people want salvation without discipleship. They want to be saved but with little commitment on their part. Jesus as Lord means he is master and calls the shots. We all need him to be our Savior and Lord.

  4. So…this person does not actually exist? That is, a person who only accepts Jesus as Savior and not as Lord. Or am I misunderstanding your response?

  5. mattdabbs says:

    These are the people who sit in the pew comfortable thinking they are saved but who have never actually turned their lives around or gotten series about Jesus call to “follow me.” They call themselves Christians and are happy to say they are “saved” but their lives still look like the world because they never got serious about discipleship. They do exist. The question is whether or not they are actually Christians.

  6. Well, if they are believers then there is no question that they are Christians (Acts 16:31). This “getting serious” about discpleship sounds like a bar that people need to get over in order qualify for being a Christian. This burden should not be a prerequisite to having assurance (Matt 11:28-31).

    Hasn’t Christ already lived the “purpose driven life,” so that our salvation doesn’t depend on our need to fulfill it?

  7. mattdabbs says:

    I see the danger you are talking about and we certainly don’t want to set standards that are not in scripture. Yet even the demons believe. What would you call someone who has been baptized and calls themself a Christian and yet doesn’t live daily for Christ? Are they a Christian or not? Hebrews 6:6 says that such a person has crucified the Son of God all over again. I am not posting this to say who is in and who is out because that is not my place. I am posting this to encourage people to be serious about their faith/belief and make sure that they grow on to maturity. I appreciate your questions and your well informed comments and concerns. Keep them coming if you feel it is appropriate. I am always open to listen and learn.

  8. I am sure that you recognize this is a senstive issue that must be handled delicately. Let me respond to some of your questions/statements though.

    Yes the demons “believe” in that they acknowledge Christ. However, they do not “believe” in the same way as the Christian. The Christian trusts in Christ for salvation in addition to acknowleging (or assenting) him. Any time belief is referred to in the Scriptures towards believers it is meant as trust.

    As for your question I think I know what you mean, but in order to really answer it I must disagree with your conclusion. First, Hebrews 6:6 is speaking of people that fall away not people who maintain a profession of faith. Thus, it is not applicable to the scenario that you have created. Secondly, you and I are not qualified to answer whether the person is a Christian or not. I tend to think that I am a serious Christian and that I would fit your criteria. However, if I am really honest with my self I would have to concede that I do not live daily for Christ. In fact I am certain that nobody does this. Sure they may appear to be meeting this criteria externally, but on the inside they may just be men pleasers. Read Luke 18:9-17 and you will understand why I am hesitant to agree with your conclusion.

    What is your understanding of the Gospel? Would you agree with my 11/17/07 post?

  9. mattdabbs says:

    I think we are on the same page. I am not advocating a works righteousness. I am saying that as Christians we are to mature and grow. That only comes through discipleship. Jesus told his disciples in Mtt 28:19ff to Go, baptize, and teach. When we leave out the third we have just as big of a problem as if we left out the first two.

    Obviously salvation is a gift that we cannot earn or attain. It is given freely to those who believe. Does someone really believe if they say “I believe Jesus is the son of God” with their mouth but then their life is in total rebellion with no signs of remorse or repentance for any further wrong done? There is a difference between someone who makes mistakes but has the desire to stay in a relationship with God and someone who makes mistakes and just doesn’t care.

    As far as your post on 11/17 we would all have to agree that Jesus did indeed come to take away the sins of the world.

    Today we have people who would say they believe Jesus is the Son of God and yet come to church solely for business connections or social standing. That is a shame. Would you then say they just don’t believe or is it possible to believe, not care enough to live repentently, and still somehow think you are going to heaven? It amazes me that some people claim to be Christians and yet live in total rebellion. They would say they believe but their actions speak a different message. I am not the judge, thank goodness. But I would certainly encourage a person in that situation to change.

  10. Matt,

    This is an interesting discussion, because I find myself wanting to agree with you…yet I am always reminded of reasons why we should not make these judgments. Before I respond, I should say I don’t I know anyone who fits your criteria. Thus, it is hard for me to say, amen.

    Let me elaborate on the reasons I am still finding this problematic. First, let’s look at the Church at Corinth which was a moral mess. They were immoral, factional, doing who knows what during the Lord’s Supper and flaunting spiritual gifts. Yet, the Apostle Paul at the beginning of his letter calls them “saints” who “have been sanctified in Christ Jesus”. Then he begins his letter not with exhortations on holiness, but explaining to them the Gospel. On the other hand you have the Church at Galatia zealous for righteousness. In there zeal to impose rigorous holiness standards they lose sight of the Gospel and begin preaching another Gospel. The Apostle Paul was much more angry with the Galatians who he called “fools” than the Corinthians.

    Let’s also look at King David who is identified as a “man after God’s heart”. Yet, this saint was a polygamist, an adulterer, a murderer, a terrible father (spoiling his children rotten) and full of pride (census). These sins were all committed after he obtained the title “man after God’s heart,” and I know that will see him in heaven one day. The Scriptures have plenty of other examples as well.

    My point is that some of the worst sins are committed by believers. And as long as they trust in Christ they have and will be forgiven. Christ died for believer’s sins past, present and future. As long as someone confesses Jesus with there mouth I cannot make the judgment if there confession is genuine or not, even if they continue to sin. Moreover, if their sins are serious then it sounds like the Elders of the Church should be thinking of Church discipline. And if they repent then they are entitled to remain members in good standing. This is definitely a sensitive subject that should be handled delicately.

    Do you know much about the Anabaptists or Donatists?

    Mike

  11. Matt Dabbs says:

    Here is the key to all you have written and that ties together what we are both trying to say, just in different ways, “as long as they trust in Christ they have and will be forgiven…” My point is that those who refuse to mature in their faith really don’t trust Christ.

    I have studied the Anabaptists very briefly a couple years ago. The Donatists, I don’t remember off the top of my head. It has been a while. When I get back to where I can look at some of that info I will have a look. Again, thanks for the enlightening comments. Thanks for correcting me where I may have said something a little too strong.

  12. I think you need to define maturity. By this do you mean everyone who trust’s Christ will make it to the mid-week bible study, have daily quite times, not smoke, drink or chew, etc… As you can see this can be a highly subjective term.

    The reason I asked about your familiarity with the Anabaptists (16th century) and the Dontatists (5th century) is that both groups sought a perfect church on earth. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with seeking that goal, however when it causes you to withdraw from the rest of the church to congregate with and only allow “serious professing” members, there is a danger. The problem is that the Church will have “wheat” and “tares” until our Lord returns. These groups sought to “weed” out the tares themselves. Not saying that this is you, but the distinctions made above have a potential of leading to this.

  13. mattdabbs says:

    I don’t need to define maturity. Scripture does that well enough on it’s own. We get into trouble when we set the bar of maturity to “[fill in the blank]‘s definition” rather than Christ’s.

  14. That is an appropriate response…the Law of God sets the standard for our behavior. However, your distinction is still a cause for concern.

    I guess it still requires some clarification on the statement “those who refuse to mature in their faith really don’t trust in Christ.” What does this mean? Does it mean that our progressive improvement in obeying God’s Law is an evidence that we truly have faith? And those who do not manifest this evidence truly do not have faith? What about those who struggle with this? Does this mean that we are to assume that they do not have true faith?

  15. mattdabbs says:

    If you struggle it probably shows you are on the right track…wouldn’t you say? It is those who don’t struggle and don’t care that I worry the most about.

  16. I think you misunderstood…I was referring to those who struggle to manifest the evidence of maturity. Thus, it would be difficult to differentiate them from an unbeliever except that they go to Church on Sunday.

    I would agree with your statement, however that those who struggle with seen only do so because the Holy Spirit is convicting them.

    I guess my issue with this entire discussion is that it causes us to look within ourselves to see if we manifest certain qualities rather than outside of ourselves to Christ and His righteousness. We do not need to rely on these things for assurance…if we believe in Christ we can be assured that we are saved period.

  17. mattdabbs says:

    If I hear you right, I am hearing you say we need to be careful because some people trust in Christ but may not manifest it by being a “super apostle” who seems to struggle with nothing. I want to be 100% clear that we are only saved by Christ and even one sin is all it takes for us to be lost and in need of that salvation. Grace and mercy are necessary for you, for me, for Paul, Peter, or any other person in the entire world.

    You wrote, “I guess my issue with this entire discussion is that it causes us to look within ourselves to see if we manifest certain qualities rather than outside of ourselves to Christ and His righteousness. We do not need to rely on these things for assurance…if we believe in Christ we can be assured that we are saved period.”

    I am curious to see how do you think these verse go along with your concern?
    “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?…Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection. This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.” – 1 Cor 13:5ff

    We don’t need to go around pointing fingers at people who “don’t have it together” because we cannot make those judgments of who trusts Christ and who does not. However, if I see someone in total rebellion, I am going to warn them to watch their step.

    Last, the Bible does talk about the importance of spiritual maturity and a concern for the spiritual health of those who do not grow. If the apostles were concerned about it, I think I would be justified to be concerned about it as well (even for myself at times). I will not take it any further than that.

  18. So are you saying that we should look to Jesus within us for our salvation?

  19. mattdabbs says:

    I am asking you to respond to that passage before I can really take it any further.

  20. Sorry, I am almost to the finish line and will be able to respond in the next few days.

  21. Actually, I think you need to respond to my question first. I don’t understand what you are fully implying by this passage.

    Although let me clarify that I affirm that there is a subjective side to this that we can look to internally, as is suggested by the 2 Corinthians passage. I don’t think I denied that. The problem with this is that it is subjective and what I said is that we do not need to rely on this when we can look to the objective work of Christ. The work of Christ happened outside of us and if we believe in Him and His work we can now for certain that we are saved.

    So I am a little confused how you are using this passage to fully refute my statement.

    I am going to be starting a new section of the Gospel of John, which will be addressing a similar topic. I would like to receive your feedback as I work through this section, if you have time. Today’s post will simply be an introduction to a more thorough examination of the text.

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  23. Philip III says:

    I liked this Bonhoeffer quote. That’ll preach!

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