Altar Call Ė Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

May 31, 2015

 

Grace is not reserved for the qualified

 

There is a great principle we may learn about grace. Godís grace is not reserved for people who are qualified to receive it. Instead the grace of God qualifies those who receive it.

This is a reversal of the way we usually think. We select and honor superior persons for outstanding achievement. God offers his grace freely to people who have in no way earned it or deserved it.

Look, for example, at what the Bible says about Jacob in the Book of Genesis. Nowhere does the biblical record reveal anything honorable Jacob did to deserve Godís favor. Indeed, all his deeds were dishonorable. Cunningly, he had persuaded his foolish brother Esau into selling his birthright for a bowl of stew. Then with his motherís deceitful assistance Jacob cheated Esau out of his fatherís blessing. Jacobís sordid behavior caused his brother to hate him so much that he determined to kill him.

Incredibly, this is the man God chooses to appear to in a dream, the man with whom God establishes a covenant similar to the one he had made with Jacobís grandfather Abraham. We would have thought it a nice gesture if God had shown his favor to Esau since Esau had suffered such mistreatment by his brother Jacob. We would have been pleased to read that God punished Jacob for his wickedness. But that is how we think, not the way God thinks.

God does not even chastise Jacob or insist that he promise to become a better man. God laid out no conditions for Jacob to meet. We, however, would have demanded that Jacob ask Esau to forgive him and return to Esau his rightful share of their fatherís inheritance. This God does not do.

How shall we explain Godís decision to bless Jacob with this extraordinary covenant? The answer is this: God is God and he gives his grace to whomever he chooses. God is not responsible to us nor does he owe us an explanation of his action. God qualifies the undeserving rather than give his grace to those we think may deserve it. In fact that is why his favor is called grace.

Look again at the story of Jacobís dream at Bethel. As far as we know, Jacob had never even spoken to God. Yet God speaks to Jacob in a dream. And examine the dream Ė and the ladder in the dream. We would presume that God would be at the top of the ladder that stretched from earth to heaven. The ladder would help us to climb up to God. Right?

No! Look where God is in the dream; he is standing beside Jacob! On the ground beside Jacob God promises Jacob that he will be with him wherever he goes, that his offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and that all the families of the earth will be blessed through his family. God even promises Jacob that he will bring him back to the land under his feet and that he will not leave him until he has done all he has promised to do.

Understandably, Jacob was scared to death when he woke up. He realized that he had encountered the eternal God. He knew that he had been in the awesome presence of the God of Abraham even though he had not yet decided that this God would be his God also.

For a moment it seems that Jacob has been changed by his encounter with God. He takes the stone he had used for a pillow and pours oil on it, indicating his desire to make Bethel a place of worship. He appears to understand that he is standing on holy ground. But then he does something stupid; he attempts to bargain with God!

God offered Jacob unconditional grace and Jacob responded with conditional acceptance. He would accept Godís offer ďifĒ God would do Jacobís bidding. He would build a house of worship at Bethel and even begin tithing Ė if God would meet his demands.

Though Jacob had encountered the living God he did not yet have a new heart. He still thought he could cut a deal with God. He shows no sense of gratitude for the amazing covenant God has made with him. Jacob still had a lot of growing to do. And the same can be said about most of us.

Questions arise that we may ask ourselves. Am I still trying to cut deals with God or have I learned to accept humbly his unconditional grace? Have I decided to let God be God and accept the fact that I can never earn nor deserve his grace? Am I willing to believe that by receiving Godís grace I will become qualified to serve him?

The more I learn about grace, the more I understand why it is called amazing grace! + + +