Characterizations of God in the Pauline Writings, I: The Epistle to the Romans. (Warning: a long one.)
With this week's readings I'm going back to a larger project that I started on 4/10/2005 with "Characterizations of God in the Psalms" and continued with "Characterizations of God in the Synoptic Gospels." You may have noticed that the Jesus of the Synoptics, though he said much, didn't have a whole lot to say about God; but what He did say about our Heavenly Father (a characterization of God that we owe to Jesus) was powerful and memorable. Before we go on to the Gospel of John I want to lead us first through the writings attributed to Paul. It seems like Paul couldn't stop marveling about God, always expressing, in one way or another, his wonder that a Being as severe as God could also be so tender and all-loving. I
found Romans quite difficult to break into passages that could be classified as one thing or the other.
We have about as many different mental images of God as there are souls in creation, and I'm sure that that's as it should be: to some God is the unspeakable formless Ground of Being; to some God is a Person, fierce or tender, according to the qualities of the worshipper's soul: "With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful;...with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward," Psalm 18:25-26. According to James 2:19, even the devils believe in God - and tremble! Hindu devotees of the One God vary widely in their characterizations of God: to the followers of the Sankhya philosophy of India, God is a person, eternally separate from all other persons, omniscient but without power over nature, whose doings God merely witnesses, while to followers of the philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta God is at once the Self at the heart of all beings and also the Prime Mover of nature.
To some God is truth and integrity, which may lead the person to refuse on
principle to believe in God - until the Source and Author of Integrity surprises the believer with a revelation that says, "I am!" To others God is our Father, our Mother, our Owner, our Very Self, or our Only Beloved; and then God may surprise us by appearing to us as Something Else Than We Had Thought, when the time seems right for our understanding to be expanded. Always beyond the grasp of the intellect, but always loving us and present to our love, God ever remains the Indescribable One. - JJE
God the good, our loving Adoptive Parent, the Giver of grace, eternal life, and all good
[Paul...] To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
For if through the offence of one [Adam] many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.  For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.  But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 8:11-18, 21
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.  For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.  The Spirit itself beareth witness with
our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.  What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
Romans 10:12-13 [Verse 13 is a direct quote from Joel 2:32.]
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.  For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Romans 11:1-8 [God the Savior of the elect]
I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed ofAbraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.  God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,  Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.  But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.  Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.  And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.  What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election
hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded  (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.
Romans 11:11-12, 15, 22-27 [God the Savior of all Israel]
I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.  Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?...  For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? ... Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.  And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.  For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree
which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?  For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.  And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:  For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
Romans 11:30-36, 12:1 [God the merciful Savior of all]
For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:  Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.  For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.  O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!  For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counseller?  Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?  For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. [12:1] I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Romans 14:3-4 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.  Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
God the righteous and impartial, the incorruptible; the Rewarder of good and evil deeds
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.  For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,  And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Who will render to every man according to his deeds:  To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:  But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath....
But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:  For there is no respect of persons with God.
But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)  God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.  For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
Romans 12:19 ["Vengeance is mine" a quotation (Deut. 32:35) from the Song of Moses, which makes up the 32nd chapter of Deuteronomy, given by God, as Moses turned 120 and prepared to die, to sing to the people of Israel, Deut. 31:19, 22]Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
The Wrath of God the Judge, who "cannot be pleased" by the carnal mind
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;  Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.  And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
The Quickener of the dead<
Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,  (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,)before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
And therefore it [faith] was imputed to him [Abraham] for righteousness.  Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;  But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;  Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:  Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
The Witness; the Hearer of Prayer; our Owner
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;  Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
Romans 14:7-8, 11-12
For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.  For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's....  For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
The only source of power
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:  For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.  Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.  For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
The Revealer of God's own Nature, and of the Saving Gospel
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)...
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:  Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.  That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
The God we serve
For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.  Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.  Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.  For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.  If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.  For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity
to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
The God of Patience and Consolation, and of Peace, the Everlasting and Only Wise
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.  For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.  Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:  That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:  To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.