Introduction to Romans
The New Testament letters are a very personal means of revelation from God. They are written by men yet inspired of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The personality and experience of the writer may be seen, but the message is from God (1 Cor. 14:37). The letters address issues in the 1st century church, but they remain timeless in their relevance and application. Paul wrote 9 letters to churches and 4 to individuals, and other messages that are not included in Scripture. Romans is the longest and most profound of Paul’s letters, perhaps his greatest written work.
Romans was written around A.D. 57, on Paul’s 3rd evangelistic journey (Acts 20:2-3). The place of writing was likely Corinth or a nearby community. Paul had not yet been to Rome at the time this letter was written, but he had met several members of the church at other places (see greetings in Ch. 16). It is not known just who established the congregation in Rome, but it was well-known by the time Romans was written (1:8). Paul eventually went to Rome as a political prisoner. While there he was facing charges, but he used the opportunity to proclaim Christ (Acts 28:30-31). Acquitted on his first court appearance in Rome, he was arrested again a few years later. This time Paul’s life would be sacrificed for the cause of Christ (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
In the 1st century, Rome was the center of a powerful world empire. Rome boasted of military might but was compromised by political intrigue. This is a common problem with mighty nations. Although it was a fabulous city by worldly standards, it was corrupt to the core. Rome was filled with stunning architecture but weakened by staggering moral decay. No place needed the gospel more than Rome. Paul paints a background of the universal need of forgiveness of sins and reveals the solution– the gospel of Christ. Romans 1:16-17 is the key passage in the letter. In the gospel, God’s way of making men righteous (right with God) is revealed. The gospel is God’s powerful means of converting sinners to become saints. Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God is both just and the justifier of those who believe in him and obey him (Rom. 3:26). Jesus died for the undeserving sinners of the world (Rom. 5:6-8), and by grace and faith we may obtain the salvation he purchased for us.
Romans is a “theologically loaded” book. The greatest themes of the Bible fill its pages. However, it is not a document for mere speculation, but for application to our lives. After a lengthy and magnificent doctrinal section, a long section of practical application begins in chapter 12. Proper behavior is built on proper belief. God’s plan can bring us out of condemnation to justification. If we love him and submit to his gospel call, he works all things together for our eternal benefit (Rom. 8:28). It has been well said– “If you get Romans, God gets you.”
God is sovereign in his actions. He is Creator of the world and answers to no one. God himself is the standard of righteousness. Please join us over the next few weeks in reading this letter prayerfully and carefully. It should change us for the better.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Romans. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.