GENERAL FACTS ABOUT ROMANS
Romans was not the first New Testament letter to be written, but it comes first in our Bibles for two reasons: It is one of the longer letters, and the longer letters were placed first; and it can be called the most important of the letters because of its very clear presentation of the Gospel. There is no question about who wrote the Letter to the Romans. The Apostle Paul names himself as the author in the very first word of the letter. His first chapter in verse 7 also tells clearly to whom the letter was first addressed: “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.” In other words, the letter was sent to Christians in Rome. Evidence within Romans also helps us determine quite certainly when and where the letter was written. It was probably written toward the end of Paul’s third missionary journey when Paul was in Corinth. The year would be 57 or 58 A.D. On what evidence do we base this? In 15:25-27 Paul says that he is about to go to Jerusalem with an offering he had collected in Macedonia and Achaia for the Christians in Jerusalem. This corresponds with what we hear about Paul’s travels at the end of his third mission trip in Acts 20. Acts 20:3 says that he stayed in Greece for three months at that time before going on to Jerusalem. At least some of that three months must have been spent in Corinth. Corinth is also pointed to as the place of writing by the following passages. In 16:23b Paul sends greetings from “Erasmus, who is the city’s director of public works.” An inscription found at Corinth mentions an Erasmus who was a city official there. In 16:23a Paul sends greetings from Gaius, at whose house he seems to be staying; [1 Cor. 1:14] mentions a Gaius in Corinth; this may well be the same Gaius.
THE CHURCH AT ROME
Rome was the capital city of one of the world’s greatest empires – an empire that reached from Britain to Arabia. How did the Christian church get established in the great city of Rome? Paul did not start the Roman church, since it is clear that he had not even been to Rome when he wrote his letter to the Roman Christians. There is no real evidence that any of the apostles started the church in Rome. Romans were in Jerusalem on Pentecost Day and hear Peter’s sermon [Acts 2:10]. Some of these Roman visitors were evidently converted to Christ; and when they returned to Rome they established a Christian church. About 25 years later when Paul wrote to them there was a large group of Christians consisting of both Jews and Gentiles.
PAUL’S PURPOSE FOR WRITING TO THE ROMANS
We can name at least four purposes of Paul in writing to the Romans. 1) Paul intended to visit Rome while on his way to Spain (15:23-24). His letter would prepare the Roman Christians for his visit. While in Rome, Paul perhaps intended to seek the support of the Roman Christians for his missionary journey to Spain. As Antioch had been the starting place for his mission journeys in the east, perhaps he thought Rome could be the starting place for mission journeys in the west. 2) More complete instruction in doctrine was needed among the Roman Christians. Perhaps an apostle had never been present to thoroughly instruct them. A letter from Paul could do much to instruct the Romans thoroughly in an understanding of the Gospel. 3) There seems to have been some problems between the Jews and Gentiles in the Roman church. Through his letter Paul wanted to show both Jews and Gentiles that they are united by faith in Jesus Christ (3:27-29). 4) By his letter, Paul also intended to encourage the Romans in their Christian living (Chaps. 13-15).
THE SPECIAL EMPHASIS
In Romans Paul seeks to emphasize especially one all-important truth: MAN IS JUSTIFIED BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST. When Christ died on the cross and paid for all sins, God justified the whole world; that means that He declared the whole world to be righteous or holy. As individuals we receive this gift of justification through faith in Christ. The law could justify no one, because everyone has broken it; that is true of both Jews and Gentiles; the law has no power to declare anyone holy. But both Jew and Gentile are justified freely by God’s grace through Jesus’ great work on the cross. This is the great and comforting truth that Paul emphasizes in Romans. The doctrine of justification is the central doctrine of the whole Bible. A church either stands or falls with the doctrine of justification. If a church announces justification through faith in Jesus Christ, that church is a Gospel church and offers life and salvation. If a church pushes aside the Bible’s teaching of free justification, that church is a law church and has nothing to offer to sinners. A church that loves the Book of Romans with its clear and beautiful teaching of free justification through Christ is a church that stands firmly on the Gospel; it is a church that can hand life to sinners.
THEME AND OUTLINE
Theme: “MAN IS JUSTIFIED BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST” 1. Paul explains the doctrine of justification (1-11). 2. Paul encourages holy living from those who are justified (12-16).
SOME IMPORTANT PASSAGES FROM ROMANS
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (3:23-2). “We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law” (3:28). “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8). “Just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (5:19). “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (6:11). “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship” (12:1b)