The book of Romans (Romans 1)

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That Paul is the author of Romans (Romans 1:1) is virtually undisputed. The book is generally dated to A.D. 57, probably during Paul’s third missionary journey (Acts 20). He desired to carry the gospel to the west, having nearly completed his work in the eastern Mediterranean (Romans 15:19, 24). Most scholars believe that Paul wrote this letter from Corinth.

Paul’s original readers were the believers – predominantly Gentiles (1:13) – in Rome. Paul introduced himself to the Roman church (one he had not personally founded) and explained why he intended to visit.

For many years Paul had desired to visit Rome to minister there (1:13-15). Some surmise that he was hoping to use Rome as a base for his missionary venture to Spain and so wrote this letter to explain the nature of his work. Others suggest that the epistle had a pastoral purpose of healing divisions within the Roman church (14:1-15:6), while still others posit that it was apologetic in purpose, that Paul’s gospel was under attack and that he needed to defend his core teaching that “the righteous will live be faith” (1:17) against the slanderous accusation that he was preaching an antinomian and libertine gospel (3:8). Whatever Paul’s overriding purpose, it is clear that a major concern of the book is the relationship between Jew and Gentile in God’s overall plan of redemption.

As you read, be alert for the recurring topics of faith and works, law and grace, sin and righteousness, judgement and justification. Notice the systematic and comprehensive explanation of the gospel as presented by Paul: Gentiles came from a background of idolatry and unbelief, as over against Jews, whose heritage included knowing the law and promises of God; yet all have sinned (chapters 1-3). Justification is by faith and not by works, yet this does not provide license to live in sin (chapters 4-6). Jews, who had previously sought righteousness by works, did not find it, whereas Gentiles, who did not seek God through the law, found Him and had been grafted into the true Israel of faith. This is by divine election and the plan of God – who has nevertheless remembered His people Israel (chapters 9-11). From this foundation of faith, Paul  moved into concerns that relate to the everyday Christian life (chapters 12-15).

Did you know that Jews of that day regarded themselves as superior to Gentiles because they (the Jews) possessed the Mosaic Law (2:1)? Did you know that large amounts of wealth were often stored in pagan temples (2:22)? Did you know that in New Testament times baptism so closely followed conversion that the two were considered aspects of a single event (6:3-4)? Did you know that adopting was common among the Greeks and Romans, both of whom granted an adopted son all of the privileges of a natural son, including inheritance rights (8:15)?


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