The Book of Romans is considered as one of the greatest letters Paul wrote. Some have said that it contains the heartbeat of Christianity. Alexander Campbell said the message of Romans becomes a key to all of Paulís letters. A man by the name of John R. W. Stott describes Romans this way:
The Epistle to the Romans is the fullest and most coherent manifesto of the Christian gospel in the New Testament. In it the apostle Paul unfolds ďthe whole council of God.Ē Ö There is a grandeur, a comprehensiveness, a logic about his exposition which has commanded the admiration and compelled the study of all succeeding generations.
Many more quotes could be made that all talk how great this letter is. It is also the longest letter that Paul wrote. Though this was the 6th letter Paul wrote, you will notice that it is the first letter of his in the New Testament right after the Book of Acts. Some think maybe the reason it was put first was because it was the longest and because this letter is considered his masterpiece. Paul did not write the letter with his own hands but dictated it to Tertius (Tur-shee-uhs) who added his own greeting near the end of the letter (Romans 16:22). Of course, if you want to get technical, the Holy Spirit is the true author of Romans. It is implied that Phoebe was the one who delivered this letter to Rome (Romans 16:1). Most believe that Paul wrote this letter while he was at Corinth for 3 months on his third missionary journey around A.D. 57-58.
Since Paul is the writer of this letter, I want to take a quick look at his life by looking at his timeline.
3 BC Ė AD 34
AD 35 Ė AD 43
First Missionary Journey AD 44 Ė AD 49
2nd Missionary Journey AD 50 Ė AD 54
3rd Missionary Journey AD 54 Ė AD 58
In Jerusalem, and the Journey to Rome AD 58 Ė AD 62
AD 63 Ė AD 67
Now that we have taking a glimpse into the life of Paul, letís get back to the Book at hand. In this Book, Paul deals with such things as the necessity to be saved by having an obedient faith and how sin will separate us from God. He goes to great lengths to explain that we are not justified by the Law of Moses, but by the Law of Christ through faith. He also explains in detail what the grace of God is all about and what happens to us when we are baptized into Christ (Rom. 6). Romans 12 gives some great advice on how to live the Christian life, and Romans 8 ensures us that nothing will separate us from the love of God. This letter was written to the Roman Christians, which would have been a mixture of Jews and Gentiles.
Rome was the capital and largest city of the Roman Empire, Rome may have had as many as 1 million inhabitants during Imperial times. Rome was likely named after the Etruscan family "Rumlan." Legend holds that the city was founded on or about 753 B.C. (though some have suggested the site was first occupied as early as 2,000 B.C.) Rome plays a significant role in the New Testament. Aquila and Priscilla were banished from Rome by Claudius (Acts 18:2). Paul was kept under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:16,17,30,31). Paul addressed the epistle of Romans to Christians living in the city. According to secular history Paul and Peter lost their lives in Rome. Rome was located about 15 miles from the sea, but because the Tiber River was navigable, Rome became a major seaport city. Rome was the center of an extensive road system, which helped create the notion that "all roads lead to Rome." (Manna Bible Maps).
The Catholic Church claims the Peter was the one who established the church in Rome and that Peter served as a Bishop there for 25 years until his death. However, there is no evidence to back this claim up, but there is evidence that contradicts their claims. For example, at the end of Romans where Paul mentions those he knew from Rome, he never mentions Peter. Paul never mentions Peter in the letters that he wrote from Rome either. Now, we donít know for sure who started the church in Rome, but we do know from history that Jesus was known in Rome around A.D. 49. While we donít know who started the church in Rome, itís possible that some of the Jews that lived there went to Jerusalem for the Passover and learned about Jesus and then taught about Him when they went back home or perhaps it was some other Christians who were carrying out the Great Commission.
The purpose of this letter:
1. It was to let them know that he wants to come to them and preach (1:11, 15).
2. He wants them to understand that the Gospel of Christ is Godís saving power for all who believe, whether Jew or Gentile.
3. He reviews and reminds them of several things regarding the gospel (15:15).
4. He tells them of his plans of going Spain and hopes they will offer him some finical support (15:22-24,28).
The key words of Romans:
∑ Righteousness and related words are found 66 times
∑ Law is found 75 times
∑ Faith, belief, and believe are found 61 times
∑ Sin, sinner, and sinful is found 58 times
∑ Death, die, and kill is found 48 times
∑ Flesh, fleshly, and carnal are found 30 times
∑ Grace is found 25 times
∑ Holy and related words are found 24 times
The theme of this letter can be seen in:
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. †
Some of the great doctrines taught in the Book of Romans:
The Book of Romans is designed for those who hungry to know more than just the basics. While Romans covers some of the basics, it is a more complicated letter that is often misunderstood and misinterpreted by those wanting to push their various doctrines.
As students of the Bible, we need to be able answer those who use Romans 1-4 to teach that we are saved by faith only and use Romans 5 to teach original sin and use Romans 9-11 to support their dispensational doctrines. By the time I am through with Book of Romans, you should be able to deal with these false doctrines I mentioned and many more. I want to be clear, Romans can be challenging at times and there may be some things that we donítí agree on completely.
Mr. Halley suggest two reasons Romans is difficult to understand:
One is Paulís literary style. He had a habit of starting a sentence, and then digressing, and digressing, and digressing, so that, in some cases, phrases, instead of modifying that which immediately precedes, modify something way back, making it hard to see the connection. The other reason is that the Epistle is about a problem that, to us is no problem at all, but was then a live burning problem: whether a Gentile could be a Christian without becoming a Jewish Proselyte (Halleyís Bible Handbook rev. ed.).
Even though parts of Romans can be challenging to understand, I believe it can be understood and should be understood.
Here is a quick outline of Romans:
Romans 1 Greeting; Godís judgment on the unrighteous Gentiles
Romans 2 Godís judgment on the unrighteous Jews; Circumcision is of no value in the
Romans 3 All people are sinners; Godís righteousness in everything; Righteousness
obtained through faith
Romans 4 Abrahamís justification through faith; Godís promises realized through faith
Romans 5 Peace with God is possible through Jesus, repairing the tragedy of sin as
introduced by Adam and continued by all people
Romans 6 Dying to sin and living to God; Slavery to righteousness rather than to sin
Romans 7 Christians are released from the law of Moses; Humanityís inability to keep
Romans 8 Life in the Spirit; Future glory through the love of Christ
Romans 9 God is not unjust in His inclusion of Gentiles
Romans 10 The necessity of preaching the gospel so that all may hear and be saved
Romans 11 The possibility of salvation for Israel, even while God grafts in Gentiles
Romans 12 Living life as a sacrifice in response to Godís sacrifice of grace; Life in the
body of Christ
Romans 13 Submission to governmental authorities; Love and moral purity
Romans 14 Do not pass judgment or be a stumbling block in matters of judgment
Romans 15 Learning from the Old Testament; The example of Christ; Paulís plans
Romans 16 Personal greetings; Final instructions
A simpler way to outline Romans is to divide into two equal parts. In chapter 1-8, Paul establish his premise and in chapters 9 -16 he applies his premise.
There is much for you and I to learn from this great Epistle from Paul. I hope you will be able to be here for all the lessons and I hope you will read the Book of Romans through many times over the coming weeks. While sometimes, Romans will make our brains hurt and make us scratch our heads, once we begin to see the connections and have better understanding of Paulís letter, then we will be uplifted and encouraged to dig deeper into Romans and all that it offers us.