"The Just Shall Live By
Romans is the "most
profound work in existence," said Coleridge. John
Murray writes: "No one can read the epistle with any
degree of attention without noting the emphasis
which falls upon the grace of God and, more
particularly, upon justification by grace through
faith. In this Gospel Paul gloried . . ."
The author gives his name as Paul the Apostle (Rom.
1:1; cf Acts 26:4-11). Paul’s amanuensis for this
letter was Tertius (16:22).
TIME AND PLACE:
Paul wrote the letter from Corinth towards the end
of his three months stay in Greece, and near the end
of his third missionary journey (Acts 20:2ff; Rom.
16:1-2; 15:23, 25). The time of the year is in the
spring if we combine statements in the Acts and the
Epistle. Paul says, "I am now going to Jerusalem
ministering to the saints" (Rom. 15:25). In Acts
20:3 we read that Paul spent three months in
Corinth. In II Corinthians we have a full account of
the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. The
account of the journey from Corinth to Jerusalem is
given in Acts 20:3-21:17. Therefore, the epistle was
written in the spring between Passover at Philippi
(Acts 20:6) and Pentecost in Jerusalem (20:16;
21:17). This would mean he left Corinth not later
than March of that year. Paul refers to this journey
in his speech before Felix (Acts 24:17; cf. Rom.
15:26). The precise year is not as easy to arrive
at, but most scholars agree on A.D. 58 or 57. Paul
sent the letter to Rome by Phoebe, one of the great
Christian women of Cenchrea near Corinth (Rom.
The city of Rome was the most important city in the
world during the first century, and the church at
Rome is the recipient of the most important letter
of its day (1:7). The population of the city was
around a million, and "all roads lead to Rome."
Along those same roads the Gospel would quickly
spread throughout the Roman world. It is almost
certain that no apostle founded the church in Rome.
The church may have been organized by Jews who were
present in Jerusalem and who were converted on the
day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10). These converts would
have been well grounded in the Old Testament
Scriptures, and the illuminating power of the Holy
Spirit would guide them. It is composed of Jews and
Gentiles, although it is considered a Gentile church
(Rom. 1:13; 11:13; 15:15-16). Because Paul had never
been to Rome when he wrote the letter, we know he
did not start the church. We know that Peter was
still in Jerusalem at the time of the Council (c. A.
D. 49) whereas it is almost certain that a church
existed in Rome prior to this. Suetonius records
that Claudius banished Jews form Rome in A.D. 49.
There is a strong possibility that Christians were
somehow mixed up in this matter because Priscilla
and Aquila were banished under this edict of
Claudius. Moreover, the date is before Peter moved
from Jerusalem. It is very unlikely that either Paul
or Peter founded this church, although both were
probably martyred in the city of Rome according to
Clement of Rome and Tertullian. However, it tells us
nothing about the origin of the church at Rome. "The
church in Rome is plainly composed of both Jews and
Greeks, though who started the work there we have no
way of knowing. Paul’s ambition was to preach were
no one else had been (Rom. 15:20), but he has no
hesitation in going on to Rome," observes A. T.
Robertson. The list of twenty-six members of the
church in Rome in chapter 26 would indicate that
Paul had friends there. "It is quite possible for
Paul to have many friends in Rome whom he had met
elsewhere. People naturally drifted to Rome from all
over the empire."
This is Paul’s own personal letter of introduction
to the church. Paul has not yet been to Rome when he
writes this letter, and he wants to introduce
himself to the believers there before he arrived so
they would know what he believed and preached (Acts
19:21; Rom. 1:14-15; 15:15-17). Paul planned to go
to Rome and then on to Spain (Rom. 15:24, 28) after
delivering the offering for the poor in Jerusalem.
His plans were altered when he was arrested in
Jerusalem and then finally arrived in Rome as a
prisoner (Acts 28).
The theme is justification by faith in Jesus Christ
(1:17). "It is not a book of formal theology though
Paul is the greatest of theologians," writes A. T.
Robertson. "Here Paul is seen in the plenitude of
his powers with all the wealth of his knowledge of
Christ and his rich experience in mission work."
justify (14 times)
ANCIENT LETTER WRITING
AND THE LETTERS OF PAUL
Paul’s writing material
was composed of strips of the pith of a certain
bulrush that grew on the banks of the Nile. These
strips were laid one on top of the other to form a
substance very much like brown paper. This material
was called papyrus.
It is important to keep
in mind when we read Paul’s letters that we do not
possess the letter which he was answering, nor do we
know fully the circumstances with which he was
dealing. It is only from the letter that we can
deduce the situation that prompted the letter.
Moreover, Paul’s letters follow exactly the same
pattern as ancient letters.
Rom. 1:1; I Cor. 1:1; II Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Eph.
1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:1, 2; I Thess. 1:1; II Thess.
In every case Paul prays for the grace of God on the
people to whom he writes: Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 1:3; II
Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:3; Col. 1:2; I
Thess. 1:1; II Thess. 1:2
Rom. 1:8; I Cor. 1:4; II Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:3; Phil.
1:3; I Thess. 1:3; II Thess. 1:3
The Special Contents.
This is the main body of the letters.
and Personal Greetings. Rom. 16; I
Cor. 16:19; II Cor. 13:13; Phil. 4:21, 22; Col.
4:12-15; I Thess. 5:26
With very few exceptions,
all Paul’s letters were written to meet an immediate
situation and not treatises which he sat down to
write in the peace and silence of his study. In most
of his letters there was some threatening situation
in Corinth, or Galatia, or Philippi, or
Thessalonica, or Colosse. Paul wrote to meet the
need of the immediate situation.
Paul’s letters were
spoken. Like most people in his day, Paul did not
normally pen his own letters but dictated them to a
secretary called an amanuensis. At the end of his
letter he added his signature and personal notes in
his own hand writing. From Rom. 16:22 we know the
amanuensis was Tertius.
Title: Introduction to
Series: Introduction to