Not What We Do, But What God Does

Paul writing early in his letter to the Roman churches boldly tells them “it’s not what we do, but what God does.” Then he repeats it just a bit later. When a writer repeats a thought, it must be important.

Let us put this in a context. Discussing spiritual formation, Paul began with a litany of the ways we humans (read I) fall short of living the kind of life God wants. This way of life (remember, lust, grasping, groping, evil thoughts…) separates us from God. We call that sin.

The Jewish people following from Moses, developed rules, or laws, that if we follow them to the letter, we will re-establish that close relationship with God.

It didn’t work.

Paul was brought up in that tradition. He devoted his life to studying it and trying to follow it.

Then came Jesus. He talked with Paul. Told him there was a different way.

It’s not what we do. It’s what God does. We call that grace. I think Jesus called it love.

How many of us say that we are under grace yet try to live as if under law? We set up lists of rules. If someone doesn’t follow them, then they cannot be part of our organization.

Paul, after his conversion from Phaiseeism, devoted his life to explaining what Jesus meant by “love one another as I have loved you.” And also the two commands Jesus left his followers, love God and love your neighbor.

After Paul repeats “it’s not what we do, but what God does”, then he tries to show us that we will naturally do those things that put us right with God. Not because we are trying to follow laws. No, it is because we understand that God made us right with him also making us free to live a good life.

Later, Paul will give us a glimpse of what it means with examples.

It’s a matter of attitude.

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