An excerpt from the forthcoming book PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace
God’s choice to adopt certain sinners as his children solely on the basis of his own good pleasure is sometimes known as “unconditional election.” In the simplest possible terms, unconditional election is God’s eternal choice of some persons unto everlasting life—not because of foreseen merit in them, but because of his mere mercy in Christ. And this is what we’re talking about when we say “outrageous grace.” It’s grace that seems incredible and scandalous because it doesn’t depend on anything that we have worked or willed or decided or done. It depends solely on God’s gracious choice.
Why Did God Choose Jacob and Not Esau?
Outrageous grace was what Paul was getting at when he wrote the opening sentence of his letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:3-12), and that was also Paul’s point in the ninth chapter of his letter to the Christians in Rome. That’s where Paul dealt with the difficult question of why God chose Jacob as the heir of his promises instead of Jacob’s twin brother Esau.
According to Paul, God didn’t make this decision because Jacob’s faith or ethics somehow trumped Esau’s. Sure, Jacob’s twin had a hairy back, strong body odor, and some serious impulse-management issues (Genesis 25:24-34; 27:14-45)—but Jacob was downright sleazy. By the time he drew his first breath, Jacob had already managed to convert his mother’s birth canal into a wrestling ring, his livestock deals would have triggered a stroke down at the Better Business Bureau, and we’re not even going to mention the man’s dealings in the bedroom (Genesis 25:19-26; 27—34).
Why, then, did God choose Jacob over Esau?
Here’s why: “Before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—[Rebekah] was told, ‘The older will serve the younger'” (Romans 9:10-11). God made this determination simply so that his own “purpose in election might stand.”
The Scandal of Grace
When God determined in eternity past who he would enliven and call to himself, he didn’t make his determination on the basis of any “desire or effort” that he foresaw in any of us (Romans 9:16). God made this decision for his own glory to accomplish his own purpose in his own way. And once again, Paul left the question of why God doesn’t save everyone as a mystery (Romans 9:19-29; 11:33-36).
So should we.
It is—as a sixteenth-century pastor and theologian named John Calvin once pointed out—”better to limp along the path” clearly revealed in God’s Word “than to rush at full speed outside it” by speculating about perplexities that God has left as mysteries.”
From the perspective of human pride, such grace seems scandalous, outrageous, and unfair—and that’s precisely the point. God’s grace is a scandal and an outrage that shatters the balance scales where we’ve meticulously stacked our best deeds for all the world to see. But this same outrageous grace is also the key that opens the door to freedom and joy because it reveals the truth that our standing before God has never depended on how well we perform.
What is PROOF? Click here to find out.