The Character of God from the Book of Romans
For a while now I’ve been fascinated with how the Bible describes who God is and what He feels. For some, the idea that God has feelings or emotions and reveals them to us may be a strange thought, but we feel deeply because God is a being full of emotion.
Lately this fascination with who God is has taken a more important turn. It seems at every turn there is someone new presenting a different view of who God is that is contrary to the Bible. This would be understandable if it was an enemy of the faith, but more and more often it’s someone claiming the name of Jesus.
So for the last few weeks, as I’ve been reading through the book of Romans I have been paying close attention to what the apostle Paul says about the emotional makeup of God. Who did Paul say He was? What did Paul say God felt? What is God like according to Paul? The following are some thoughts from my study:
- God’s Wrath: Surprisingly, God has strong, stern, fierce anger, which the Bible calls wrath. This wrath is revealed against those who seek to suppress or lessen the truth of holy living through their actions (1:18), God has vessels designed for wrath (9:22), He is severe towards those who fell (11:22), and this wrath is a basis for Paul warning against believers taking revenge on others (12:19). Obviously this severity is held in tension with God’s kindness (11:22) but it should not be ignored. God feels anger against those who do evil. This is significant because often we want to believe that the Old Testament God who showed wrath was a mischaracterization of God. In fact, Paul, the apostle of grace believed that God still felt wrath.
- God is kind: I love this about God. He deals with us with kindness though He could deal with us a thousand different ways. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance (2:4) and it’s this kindness that He continues to display to us who continue to believe (11:22). This kindness must be held in tension with God’s severity (11:22), since He has both and one doesn’t cancel out the other.
- God is just: God’s justice means He does what is right. He has a just sentence against those who do evil (1:32) and the idea that God would ever be unjust is unthinkable to Paul (9:14). We would do well to remember that God doesn’t bend His thoughts or actions around our thoughts about what is right or not.
- God is merciful: God gives mercy to those who don’t deserve it out of the goodness of His character. The idea that God would invite humans regardless of ethnicity or sin into His very life is mercy that should motivate us to submit to God (12:1) and His mercy is especially revealed in welcoming Gentiles who weren’t looking for God (15:19).
- God feels love: God actually feels affection for human beings. He is not an unfeeling stoic or an unloving Father. In fact, when we follow Christ, we receive from God a love that we cannot be separated from despite our circumstances (8:39) and this love motivates us to pray (15:30). If you understand the meaning of love but don’t feel loved by God, I would encourage you to spend time meditating on these verses. God actually wants to pour out love into our hearts experientially.
- God can be pleased: God can actually be happy based on the actions of His people. Paul says that God is pleased through a life lived by the Spirit and by believers living without judging other believers (14:8). God is ultimately pleased by the death and resurrection of His Son, but he finds pleasure when those who have experienced the reality of the cross live lives trying to please Him.
- God is generous: There is no stingy-ness in God, despite what you sometimes see in His people. Paul says that God “abounds” or overflows with generosity (10:12) to those who call on Him. This is a God who isn’t half-hearted in His commitment to us, He overflows with generosity.
- God is faithful: This means God doesn’t change. Paul says His faithfulness remains in spite of our faithlessness (3:3). If God has spoken, we can trust Him to do it regardless of the situations going on around us.
- God is wise: You can’t read the book of Romans without believing that God is smart and knows what He’s doing. Paul calls Him the only wise God (16:27). He stands out in His wisdom, even though the world often believes that the things God says are foolish. They don’t see the end like He does.
Paul believed that God had a deep well of emotions. God was full of wrath, kindness, justice, mercy, love, pleasure, generosity, faithfulness, and wisdom. He was all of these without denying any of them. This is the God of the New Testament–the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must not deviate from this representation of God, even if it makes us uncomfortable.
What surprised you? Did I miss anything? How does what is revealed here mean for our lives?