The book of Romans is about two things: it is about the gospel and it is about God. That Romans is about the gospel might be widely assumed and understood, since the themes of justification and sanctification are particularly prominent in the book. And since Romans is in the Bible, it is slightly obvious to say it’s about God; after all, God wrote the Bible to reveal Himself to His people. So of course Romans is about God.
But Romans is particularly about God. The name “God” appears 153 times in the book; that is about once ever 43 words, almost 10 times per chapter, and more than once every three verses. But how much is that compared to other NT books? This average frequency is more than in any other NT book, except the much shorter books of 1 Peter and 1 John. “Paul writes on a number of topics, but everything is related to God. He sees law, for example, not in the abstract but in relation to the way of God. He sees Christ as bringing about ‘the righteousness of God’. He sees sin as sin against God. And so on. Romans may truly be described in a way that no other book can be, as a book about God. It is perhaps this that gives it its importance and its appeal.” [Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, 20.]
What are some of the things that are revealed and emphasized about God in this book?
- The wrath of God (1:18; 1:24ff; 9:22ff; 12:19-21) and the judgment of God (3:6). Note also how the wrath of God is paired with the righteousness of God (2:5; 3:5, 30), affirming that God is right in His wrath, and also with the patience of God (9:22). It is worth noting that, “Now if God intends us to do good works it follows that he is not indifferent to the way we live. One day he will call on us to give account of ourselves (Rom. 3:19). Paul refers often to the fact that evil deeds register before God. For example, people who boast in the law and yet break it are not simply making themselves into hypocrites and treating the law lightly, but they are dishonoring God (Rom. 2:23); they are causing his name to be blasphemed (v. 24). When Paul quotes from Scripture to show that people are evil, the passages he sites relate this to God: ‘no one searches for God’; ‘there is no fear of God before their eyes’ (Rom. 3:11, 18). Again, the trouble with ‘the mind of the flesh’ is that it is hostile to God; it does not and cannot submit to God’s law; it cannot please God (Rom. 8:7-8). Therein lies the tragedy of the natural man. People may talk back to God (Rom. 9:20) and disobey him (Rom. 11:30). Even religious people, those zealous for God, may be bereft of knowledge in spiritual things; they may not perceive that saving righteousness is ‘the righteousness of God’ and accordingly do what is quite wrong; they may try to establish their own righteousness (Rom. 10:3).” [Leon Morris. New Testament Theology. (Kindle Locations 368-376).]
- And the reason that God has wrath is because He is a God of ordinances and law (1:32; 3:2; 7:22, 25; 8:7; 12:2; 13:2; 15:32). Interestingly, the word “law” does not appear after chapter eight. These concepts of ordinances and law also pair with the truth of God (1:32; 3:4, 7; 15:8).
- The righteousness of God (1:17; 3:5, 21-22, 25; 6:13; 10:3 [2x]), and He also credits righteousness to believing sinners (3:26, 30; 4:6; 8:33). He is incapable of injustice (9:14) and has a place of judgment even for believers (14:10) where they will give an account to Him for their lives (14:11).
- The kindness, mercy, grace, and patience of God (2:4; 3:25; 9:16, 22; 11:22; 12:1; 15:5, 15, 33; 16:20). He is a hopeful God (15:13). Often these are in the midst of sections on the wrath and judgment of God giving hope to those who deserve God’s wrath and condemnation. Even though He judges, He also justifies and reconciles those who are worthy of judgment (3:26, 30; 5:11; 6:22).
- The glory and magnificence of God (1:23; 3:7, 23; 4:20; 5:2; 11:33-36; 15:7). And because God is glorious, He is worthy of receiving glory from us (15:6, 9; 16:27).
- The love of God, particularly for His people (1:7; 5:5, 8; 8:39; 15:30 [“love of the Spirit”]).
- The grace of God (5:15; 15:15) — a grace that accepts sinners (14:3). In His grace, He is a God of peace (15:33; 16:20) to those who are His and for us (8:31).
- Because God loves His people, He is the Father who adopts them into His family as His children and sons (1:4; 8:14, 16, 17, 19, 21; 9:8, 26).
- Since God is as great as He is, there are various ways that the follower of God should respond to Him. God should be feared (3:18), loved (8:28), praised (14:11), glorified (15:6, 9; 16:27), prayed to (9:20; 10:1; 15:30), pleased (8:8), and thanked (6:17). Conversely, He can also be dishonored (2:23), blasphemed (2:24), and disobeyed (11:30).
It is worth saying that, “Paul was a God-intoxicated man, and he spoke constantly about the One who was central in his thinking. Everything he dealt with he related to God. He taught that God is sovereign over life in all of its aspects, so that there is no part of our experience of which we can say that God is irrelevant to that.…Wherever he looks, Paul sees God.”[Leon Morris, New Testament Theology. (Kindle Locations 324-326, 609).]