Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that means “this for that.” It implies an exchange of things of roughly equivalent value, a trade-off. In politics, it leads to an expectation of influence or benefits. In business, it means special perks. Unfortunately, it can also lead people to expect favors in return for a nice night out. Recently at a local high school, kids were given an early dismissal in exchange for having no tardies or discipline issues. Time off for good behavior, I suppose.
Because the notion of quid pro quo is so pervasive, it can influence our theology. A couple of weeks ago, someone remarked to me, “If we lead a godly life, He does things for us, doesn’t He?” She meant that God would intervene, that He would provide, that He would give us what we asked for, if and when we did our best to be good. I was supposed to answer yes. I didn’t. Let me address some of the reasons why.
1. We don’t obey God or lead a godly life because of what we get out of it. We do it out of love. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15). Love, genuine love at least, is not selfishly motivated by what it gets. Satan’s whole premise in Job was that Job only served God because he was prosperous. Take away the prosperity and the devotion would disappear. Job destroyed that argument.
2. We are in Christ. Paul explains that it was God’s plan. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30). Being in Christ means He became our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification and our redemption. It has all been accomplished. The things we do, even if they are completely godly and righteous, cannot add to the complete righteousness of Christ which has already been credited to us.
3. We enjoy the manifold blessings of God. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3) We have been given every blessing. Already. Because we are in Christ.
4. “Circumstantial” blessings, the “doing things for us” kind, are contrary to the real-life experience of many, many believers. Again, see Job. Check Hebrews 11:35b-38. Consider the situations of our brothers and sisters in nations hostile to Christianity. How cold and insensitive would it be to suggest that the reason God wasn’t doing things for them was due to their ungodliness. The way God chooses to act and the moment in which He does is governed by His sovereign will. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will. (Ephesians 1:11).
5. A quid pro quo gospel diminishes Christ’s work and God’s grace. If there is something we do, or something we contribute, then it’s not the grace of God at work. The very definition of grace is that it is neither deserved nor earned. The beauty and wonder of the gospel is that God supplies that grace without hesitation, reservation, qualification or limits. Quid pro quo buries that underneath complications and conditions. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3).
Paul used very strong words when he warned the Galatians about other gospels. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8). A quid pro quo gospel is one of those “other” gospels. Take Paul’s warning seriously. Live confidently in Christ in possession of the grace of God and His manifold blessings.