Matter of Faith: Quid pro quo and repentance


From: Jamie Smith


Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase describing an exchange of things similar in value. Our salvation and forgiveness of sins can be thought of as a quid pro quo transaction between God and His Son.

Scripture is a progressive revelation concerning God and His purpose for His creation. We are taught along the way. In the past, to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins had its place (Acts 2:38). Forgiveness followed repentance. Repentance was given by a person to God in exchange for forgiveness. It was like a quid pro quo contract.

I was in a well attended Winona church years ago and heard a pastor say that he was often asked why that church never recited the “Lord’s Prayer.” Among other things he said that we shouldn’t be forgiving others their trespasses in order that ours should be forgiven. That was the situation under the law. We are under grace. Wow. For once I was in agreement with someone in a mainline church.

When we really consider it, we cannot accomplish true repentance when we are under a quid pro quo mandate. Our repentance will always be sullied by our selfishness. “I don’t like what my spouse did to me but I need to forgive her in order that I am forgiven for the crappy things I have done.” As long as there is an “in order that ...” our thoughts are corrupted. There will be an improper element of selfness. We cannot escape it. That is how we are built.

After the weekly confessional in church, I would feel good when I repented in order to acquire forgiveness. But my focus was on my mental activity rather than on the accomplishment of Christ’s finished work made possible due to His faith in His God and Father.

I have been given a strong component of flesh. Maybe stronger than most. I still repent, but it is now with gratitude rather than with petition. I repent because I am thankful for my salvation and justification. I make gradual and hard fought personal progress due to the power of that realization. I repent, understanding that I am dead to sin since I figuratively died with Christ. Instead of repenting in the valley of heavy darkness, I have joy and happiness on the peak in light. This is due to my knowledge of the superfluous grace of God. I am loosed from my load, shrug it off my shoulders and walk with a light step in the freedom that Christ has freed me.

It is only deep repentance when I repent knowing that I am getting nothing in return from God. He will not think better of me because I repent. My forgiveness does not depend on it. I am complete in Christ. I repent as a natural result of knowing God’s love for me and His creation. His love never fails. That brings the power to truly repent, which is to change.


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