Centrality of Christ
While the centrality of Christ may not be everywhere apparent throughout the book of Romans, it is a major theme because it underlies every other topic throughout the book. The Apostle Paul begins the letter with a strong Christological statement. Romans 1:2-4 states, “the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (NIV). Several passages throughout the book present God’s act in Christ as the center of God’s revelation (i.e. 3:21-26; 5:12-21). Furthermore, this theme is seen by the constant refrain “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (especially in Chapters 5-8). Romans is a complex and sometimes daunting theological letter and much has been written about it (from Augustine to Luther to Barth to many others), but I think this most basic underlying Christological theme of God’s act in Christ, must not be overlooked. Douglas Moo writes, “while Christology is nowhere in Romans the expressed topic, it is everywhere the underlying point of departure” (25).
In view of my prior paragraph, I risk being accused as over-simplifying and neglecting the whole book of Romans by proposing the basic theme of salvation as a major theme and by quoting from chapter one again (I really did consider the rest of the book). Nevertheless, Romans 1:16-17 states, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (NIV). This appears to be a strong thesis statement for the Apostle Paul that sets the salvation theme for the rest of the letter. Throughout the letter Paul explains God’s salvation as the transformation, renewal and regeneration of the world which involves the incorporation of the Gentiles and the continued significance and relationship with Israel. For Paul, the gospel message was his main focus which primarily involved the theme of salvation. Other statements by Paul with a strong salvation presentation are Romans 10:9 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (NIV), and Romans 13:11 “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (NIV).
Moo, Douglas J. “The Epistle to the Romans” Stonehouse, Ned Bernard, et al. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1974.