Reading 1,03 - 16 Chapters - 433 verses - 9,447 words
The writer of this letter was the apostle Paul (see 1:1). No voice from the early church was ever raised against his authorship. The letter contains a number of historical references that agree with known facts of Paul's life. The doctrinal content of the book is typical of Paul, which is evident from a comparison with other letters he wrote.
Date and Place of Writing
The book was probably written in the early spring of A.D. 57. Very likely Paul was on his third missionary journey, ready to return to Jerusalem with the offering from the mission churches for poverty-stricken believers in Jerusalem (see 15:25-27). In 15:26 it is suggested that Paul had already received contributions from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia, so he either was at Corinth or had already been there. Since he had not yet been at Corinth (on his third missionary journey) when he wrote 1 Corinthians (cf. 1Co 16:1-4) and the collection issue had still not been resolved when
he wrote 2 Corinthians (2Co 8-9), the writing of Romans must follow that of 1,2 Corinthians (dated c. 55).
The most likely place of writing is either Corinth or Cenchrea (about six miles away) because of references to Phoebe of Cenchrea (see 16:1 and note) and to Gaius, Paul's host (see 16:23), who was probably a Corinthian (see 1Co 11 4). Erastus (see 16:23 and note) may also have been a Corinthian (see 2Ti 4:20).
The original recipients of the letter were the people of the church at Rome (1:4 who were predominantly Gentile. Jews, however, must have constituted a substantial minority of the congregation (see 4:1; chs. 9-11;1:13). Perhaps Pail; originally sent the entire letter to the Roman church, after which he or someone else used a shorter form (chs. 1-14 or 1-15) for more general distribution. See 2Pe 3:15.
Paul's primary theme in Romans is the basic gospel, God's plan of salvation and righteousness for all humankind, Jew and Gentile alike (see 1:16-17). Although justification by faith has been suggested by some as the theme, it would seem that a broader theme states the message of the book more adequately."Righteousness from God" (1:17) includes justification by faith, but it also embraces such related ideas as guilt, sanctification and security.
Paul's purposes for writing this letter were varied:
1. He wrote to prepare the way for his coming visit to Rome and his proposed mission to Spain (1:10-15; 15:22-29).
2. He wrote to present the basic system of salvation to a church that had not received the teaching of an apostle before.
3. He sought to explain the relationship between Jew and Gentile in God's overall plan of redemption. The Jewish Christians were being rejected by the larger Gentile group in the church (see 14:1 and note) because the Jewish believers still felt constrained to observe dietary laws and sacred days (14:2-6).
When Paul wrote this letter, he was probably at Corinth (see Ac 20:2-3 and notes) on his third missionary journey. His work in the eastern Mediterranean was almost finished (see 15:18-23), and he greatly desired to visit the Roman church (see 1:11-12; 15:23-24). At this time, however, he could not go to Rome because he felt he must personally deliver the collection taken among the Gentile churches for the poverty-stricken Christians of Jerusalem (see 15:25-28 and notes). So instead of going to Rome, he sent a letter to prepare the Christians there for his intended visit in connection with a mission to Spain (see 15:23-24 and note on 15:24). For many years Paul had wanted to visit Rome to minister there (see 1:13-15), and this letter served as a careful and systematic theological introduction to that hoped-for personal ministry. Since he was not acquainted directly with the Roman church, he says little about its problems (but see 14:1-15:13; cf. also 13:1-7; 16:17-18).
Paul begins by surveying the spiritual condition of all people. He finds Jews and Gentiles alike to be sinners and in need of salvation.That salvation has been provided by God through Jesus Christ and his redemptive work on the cross. It is a provision, however, that must be received by faith—a principle by which God has always dealt with humankind, as the example of Abraham shows. Since salvation is only the beginning of Christian experience, Paul moves on to show how believers are freed from sin, law and death—a provision made possible by their union with Christ in both death and resurrection and by the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Paul then shows that Israel too, though presently in a state of unbelief, has a place in God's sovereign redemptive plan. Now she consists of only a remnant, allowing for the conversion of the Gentiles, but the time will come when "all Israel will be saved" (11:26; see note there). The letter concludes with an appeal to the readers to work out their Christian faith in practical ways, both in the church and in the world. None of Paul's other letters states so profoundly the content of the gospel and its implications for both the present and the future.
1. The most systematic of Paul's letters. It reads more like an elaborate theological essay than a letter.
2. Emphasis on Christian doctrine. The number and importance of the theological themes touched upon are impressive: sin and death, salvation, grace, faith, righteousness, justification, sanctification, redemption, resurrection and glorification.
3. Widespread use of OT quotations. Although Paul regularly quotes from the OT in his letters, in Romans the argument is sometimes carried along by such quotations (see especially chs. 9-11).
4. Deep concern for Israel. Paul writes about her present status, her relationship to the Gentiles and her final salvation.
How to read Romans
The ultimate power for a transformed life is the power of God. Romans reveals that God has won the victory over sin and death through Jesus, who paid the penalty by dying in our place. He broke sin’s enslaving power over us. Through God’s power, Christians can reflect the attitudes and actions of those who are deeply loved by God. A prayerful study of Romans will uncover the key to the Spirit-filled life: a simple and ongoing response of faith in Jesus and his work on the cross. Be prepared! Martin Luther, John Wesley, and many other notable persons of faith found their lives transformed by the message of this book. They then went on to become world-changers as they applied the truth that faith is all that is necessary to become acceptable to God. Like these men and women of God, take hold of this book until its message takes hold of you!
Romans is one of the most highly organized books in the New Testament. After a brief introduction, Paul declares that all humans, regardless of background or nationality, are sinners and thus are not able to have a relationship with God (Rom 1:18-3:20). Next he explains how God justly dealt with sin, making the divine-human friendship possible (Rom 3:21-8:39). Paul then argues that our faith in response to God’s work through the cross is the key for our justification (salvation) and continues to be the way to gain access to the power of the indwelling Christ in order to say no to sin and yes to God. In chapters 9-11 Paul summarizes how God’s redemptive work through history has prepared a way for the Jews as well as for people of every other nation (Gentiles) to benefit from his gift of grace through Jesus’ death on the cross. In the final five chapters you’ll receive practical guidance on how to live out your faith in unity with other believers so that “that with one accord you may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 15:6).
Romans Interpretive Challenges
As the preeminent doctrinal work in the NT, Romans naturally contains a number of difficult passages. Paul’s discussion of the perpetuation of Adam’s sin (5:12-21) is one of the deepest, most profound theological passages in all of Scripture. The nature of mankind’s unión with Adam, and how his sin was transferred to the human race has always been the subject of intense debate. Bible students also disagree on whether 7:7-25 describes Paul’s experience as a believer or unbeliever, or is a literary device not intended to be autobiographical at all. The closely related doctrines of election (8:28-30) and the sovereignty of God (9:6-29) have confused many believers. Others question whether chaps. 9 - 11 teach that God has a future plan for the nation of Israel. Some have ignored Paul’s teaching on the believer’s obedience to human government (13:1-7) in the name of Christian activism, while others have used it to defend slavish obedience to totalitarian regimes.
God's character in Romans
God is accessible - 5:2
God is eternal - 1:20
God is forgiving - 3:25
God is glorious - 3:23; 6:4
God is good - 2:4
God is incorruptible - 1:23
God is just - 2:11; 3:4, 26
God is longsuffering - 2:4, 5; 3:25; 9:22
God is loving - 5:5, 8; 8:39; 9:11-13
God is merciful - 9:15, 18
God is powerful - 1:16, 20; 9:21, 22
God is a promise keeper - 1:1, 2; 4:13, 16, 20; 9:4, 8; 15:8
God is provident - 8:28; 11:33
God is reconciling - 5:1, 10
God is righteous - 2:5; 3:25, 26
God is unsearchable - 11:33
God is wise - 11:3; 16:27
God is wrathful - 1:18; 2:5 , 6, 8; 3:5, 6; 5:9; 9:18, 20, 22
Christ in Romans
The book of Romans, functioning primarily as a doctrinal work, presents Christ as the Redeemer of mankind. Paul declares that faith in Christ alone bridges the chasm between the almighty God and sinful humanity. Thus, man is justified through the work of Christ on the cross.