Many people live in a world of quid pro quo or “this for that.” It’s the mentality of “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.” This can be a stumbling block for people new to the gospel, because the biblical teaching of salvation is far from quid pro quo. In fact, it’s more like nihil pro quo (nothing for that).
By nature, we all are dead in our sins. We can’t contribute anything positively toward our standing before God. The only thing we can do is heap more and more judgment upon ourselves. But the good news of the gospel is that God makes his people alive together with Christ (see Ephesians 2:1-10). It’s by grace that you are saved!
Many people feel the guilt of their sin, but they don’t know what to do about it. They have an overwhelming sense that they are not “right” with God, but they grasp for small ways to alleviate that guilt. They do a good deed here; they contribute to a charity there. But none of these gestures can do anything to counteract the infinite burden of sin. We need grace.
Specifically, we need the righteousness of Christ. This is the glorious teaching of the Bible we call justification. Through justification we receive Christ’s righteousness by grace alone through faith alone. We don’t contribute to it. We don’t earn it. We receive it gratis. To be saved, you must believe in Christ alone—that he died for your sins and that he was raised from the dead for your justification (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). When you believe in Christ alone for your salvation, your sins are placed upon him and you are “clothed” in his righteousness (see Philippians 3:9).
By faith you no longer stand guilty, you have been acquitted. You no longer have a condemning judge, but a loving Father. That is the great exchange. It’s not quid pro quo; it is the gospel of grace.