I love this.
All we see.
All we know.
All we understand (or think we understand) about God . . .
These are just the fringes.
There is so much more.
He is so much more.
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.
You’re probably familiar with the story. Israel had endured three and a half years with no rain. Elijah met the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel and God demonstrated the He alone was God. Then Elijah says, “There is the sound of abundance of rain.”
The dictionary defines abundance as plenty, having an ample amount. Theologically, I think it goes beyond that. The abundance of rain meant that not only were the immediate needs in Israel met, but they didn’t have to worry about the future. They could plant crops. The livestock would survive. The pressure was off.
Rain isn’t all that is abundant.
‘The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression.’ Numbers 14:18a
God’s mercy is abundant. That means not only does He forgive our sins, but we don’t have to live in fear
He is excellent in power, In judgment and abundant justice; He does not oppress. Job 37:23b
He is abundant in justice. We don’t despair at unfairness and inequity. Wrongs will be made right.
In His days the righteous shall flourish, And abundance of peace, Until the moon is no more. Psalm 72:7
God brings peace not only in our hearts and relationship, but we are no longer His enemies through Christ. We don’t have to question where we stand with Him.
O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption. Psalm 130:7
We are redeemed from sin, but God continues to work turning our failures into something He can use for His glory. We don’t have to worry.
Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth. Jeremiah 33:6
His truth is vast in scope and relevance. It does not expire.
I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Jonah 4:2b
Lovingkindness is God’s covenant love. He doesn’t rescind it because of what we do. It is steadfast and secure.
For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17
We receive an abundance of grace through the work of Christ. That grace covers, completely covers, our sins and shortcomings. It doesn’t run out. There is no fine print.
To recap: Mercy, justice, peace, redemption, truth, lovingkindness, and grace. Not just to meet today’s needs, but tomorrow’s, the next day’s and so on. We don’t have to wonder if that one thing we did can be forgiven. We don’t have to be concerned about whether the promises still apply. God has dealt, currently deals, and will continue to deal with us out of His abundance.
What is good?
Job defines it just the way we would. Good is what pleases us. It’s what is satisfying to us. It makes us comfortable. It makes our life easier, less complicated. It benefits us.
By the same token, adversity is anything uncomfortable or painful. It causes us difficulty or runs contrary to our plans or our wishes.
We avoid adversity whenever possible, and chase after good.
But sometimes, especially in the middle of the situation, we don’t know which is which. If my dog gets out and makes me late, maybe that’s not adverse, but it is at least contrary to my plans and definitely annoying. If I find out later that the delay meant I missed being in a four-car pileup at the on ramp, then maybe it was good after all.
It’s that inability to see and know everything that skews our view of what’s good and what’s bad.
God isn’t bound by those same limitations, and He is the very definition of good. Therefore, by extension, anything that drives me to a deeper dependence on Him, or brings my thoughts and actions more in line with His, is good. Anything that feeds my selfish instincts, my laziness or my apathy is bad.
More often than not, it’s the comfortable and the easy, the very things I strive for, that are bad. And it is the uncomfortable or difficult, the things that I avoid, the things I usually ask God to relieve me of, that are working in my ultimate favor.
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