Introduction To The Book Of Romans
The book of Romans is the longest and the clearest exposition by the Apostle Paul on the Gospel. This book contains the doctrinal foundation for the Christian faith, and it is for this reason that it was arranged first in order among the New Testament epistles. The truths presented here must be understood before proceeding to other doctrinal matters.
In this letter, Paul dealt with a larger number of doctrinal issues than in any other of his epistles. His treatment of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith was so masterfully done that its divine inspiration cannot be questioned. The depth with which Paul treated these great subjects shows that this knowledge was truly given to him by the direct revelation of God (Ga 1:12).
An understanding of the truths in Ro 3 transformed Martin Luther's personal life and ignited the fires of the Reformation that shook the world. Indeed, an understanding of the truths expressed in this book are essential not only to the salvation of every individual but also to the maturing and success of every Christian.
Paul is undoubtedly the author of the letter to the Romans. The first verse of this epistle clearly states so (Ro 1:1). There is no dissenting opinion of this among the early writings of the church. The writer also sent greetings to Priscilla and Aquila (Ro 16:3, see note 2 at Ac 18:2), his helpers, and also to Timotheus, his workfellow (Ro 16:21). The book of Acts confirms these people worked closely with Paul.
The Recipients of the Book of Romans
Paul addressed this letter to all the Christians that were in Rome (Ro 1:7). There is no scriptural account of any apostolic mission taking the Gospel to Rome, so it may therefore be supposed that these Christians were converts from the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given (Ac 2:10) and from the personal witness of believers as they traversed the empire.
These saints in Rome were a diverse group: Gentiles who had come from pagan worship to trust in Jesus as their Savior, and devout Jews who had believed in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. This gave rise to many problems among the believers, and these were aggravated, no doubt, by the fact that no apostle had been to Rome to settle disputes and provide doctrinal teaching and guidance.
The Jewish Christians were adamant that the Gentiles had to convert to Judaism through the rite of circumcision. They lacked proper teaching in the revelation of grace that was given to Paul. Therefore, Paul felt an obligation, as the apostle to the Gentiles (Ro 11:13), to instruct them in these matters and hence this letter.
Date and Place of Writing
This letter to the Romans was probably written during Paul's third missionary trip, around A.D. 57-58, when Paul was in Corinth or that vicinity (Ac 20:2-3).
The date can be deduced from some of Paul's statements in Ro 15:25-28 about how he was headed to Jerusalem to take the offering from the saints in Macedonia (see note 1 at Ac 16:9) and Achaia (see note 11 at Ac 18:12) to the poor saints in Judea (see note 1 at Joh 4:3). This places the writing of this book toward the end of Paul's third missionary trip (see note 2 at Ac 18:23) as he headed for Jerusalem.
Phebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea (see note 1 at Ac 18:18), was the one who carried this epistle to the church in Rome (Ac 16:1, subscript at Ac 16:27). So it can be supposed that Paul was in Phebe's hometown of Cenchrea or in Corinth (see note 1 at Ac 18:1) when he wrote this letter.
About the Author
Some facts about Paul's persecution of the church, his conversion, and the intervening time until the beginning of his ministry have been dealt with in note 4 at Ac 7:58, note 1 at Ac 9:1, and note 1 at Ac 9:26. Information about Paul's life after the close of the book of Acts is included in note 1 at Ac 28:30. Many notes about Paul's exploits, character, and hardships are found throughout the book of Acts.