The church in Rome was a testimony to God’s power, it had flourished despite the obstacles posed by the surrounding pagan culture. Yet these believers were not perfect; in fact, they had some serious problems. Though they were well established in their faith, their convictions and unity as a group were threatened by racial and cultural division.
The church probably began as a Jewish church about 25 years earlier, after the results of the Pentecost movement defined in Acts chapter 2. None of the Apostles of Jesus were known to have visit Rome prior to Paul writing the letter of Romans.
A little less than 10 years before Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, around 49AD, the Roman Emperor Claudius expelled Jews from Rome. We can see this in Acts 18:2. This would have shifted the membership of the churches in Rome to be more Gentile. Slowly over the years the Jews migrated back to Rome. This created a real tension between the law-observing Jewish Christians & Gentile Christians (who lived free of Mosaic law). Hence the foundation of the letter Paul wrote. He wanted them united in Christ, the Gospel “Good News” he preached.
The main topic in this letter is the gospel – the good news that salvation from sin is available through Jesus Christ. At the core of the Gospel is the truth that God is bigger than the past. No matter who we are or what we have done, we can be saved by grace (undeserved favor from God) through Faith (complete trust) in Christ. We can stand before God justified – declared “not guilty”. That’s good news!
In Romans Paul explains four major points.
- God makes no distinction between us as individuals – we are all guilty, and we are all offered his free gift of salvation.
- We can all be freed from sin’s power through God’s grace in the Holy Spirit within us.
- We are all “in recovery” and therefore have no grounds for arrogance.
- Because of God’s mercy we all must respect one another, despite our differences.
Even though Paul had an agenda to establish the church to support his journey to Spain and the region around Rome, his ultimate purpose of preaching the Gospel is the glory of God, specifically for the Gentiles to come into obedience of faith for the sake of Christ name (Romans 1:5)
Many people have called this letter the greatest theological treatise ever written, but Romans really is a letter about how to live. It teaches us how to deal with our sinful attitudes and behaviors and tells us how to get back on the right track. Paul’s letter applies directly to us, showing us how to recover from the effects of sin and dysfunction in our life.
Paul wrote the letter to people he had never met or been with. The other books written by Paul were in reflection of his experiences. We can pick up this book and realize that it is God breathed and can be consumed just as if we were the original recipients.
The city of Rome
The city of Rome was a very organized and structured city. It had elaborate plumbing, beautiful mansions and an organized government. Almost all the food for the entire city was imported and managed by the government. Similar to how the Pharaoh managed the food supply when Joseph was sold to slavery and began to rebuild his life. Currently there are churches in Rome that mark the burial places of both Paul and Peter.
Christianity was legitimized by Licinius and Constantine around 313AD
Origin of the letter
The book was probably written in the early spring of a.d. 57. Very likely Paul was on his third missionary journey, ready to return to Jerusalem with the offering from the mission churches for poverty-stricken believers in Jerusalem (see 15:25-27 and notes). In 15:26 it is suggested that Paul had already received contributions from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia, so he either was at Corinth or had already been there. Since he had not yet been at Corinth (on his third missionary journey) when he wrote 1 Corinthians (cf. 1Co 16:1-4) and the collection issue had still not been resolved when he wrote 2 Corinthians (2Co 8-9), the writing of Romans must follow that of 1,2 Corinthians (dated c. 55).
The most likely place of writing is either Corinth or Cenchrea (about six miles away) because of references to Phoebe of Cenchrea (16:1) and to Gaius, Paul’s host (see 16:23 and note), who was probably a Corinthian (see 1Co 1:14). Erastus (16:23) may also have been a Corinthian (see 2Ti 4:20). The letter was delivered to Rome by a sister in Christ, Phebe. (16:1)
|Sin||Sin means refusing to do God’s will and failing to do all that God wants. Since Adam’s rebellion against God, our nature is to disobey God. our sin cuts us off from God. Sin causes us to want to live our own way rather than God’s way. Because God is morally perfect, just and fair, he is right to condemn us.||Each person has sinned, either by rebelling against God or by ignoring his will. No matter what our background or how hard we try to live good and moral lives, we cannot earn salvation or remove our sin. Only Christ can save us.|
|Salvation||Our sin points out our need to be forgiven and cleansed. Although we don’t deserve it, God, in his kindness, reached out to love and forgive us. He provides the way for us to be saved. Christ’s death paid the penalty for our sin.||It is good news that God saves us from our sin. But we must believe in Jesus Christ and believe that he forgave our sin in order to enter into a wonderful new relationship with God.|
|Growth||By God’s power, believers are sanctified – made holy. This means we are set apart from sin, enabled to obey and to become more like Christ. When we are growing in our relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit frees us from the demands of the law and from the fear of judgment.||Because we are free from sin’s control, the law’s demands, and fear of God’s punishment, we can grow in our relationship with Christ. By trusting in the Holy Spirit and allowing him to help us, we can overcome sin and temptation.|
|Sovereignty||God oversees and cares about his people – past, present and future. God’s ways of dealing with people are always fair. Because God is in charge of all creation, he can save whomever he wills.||Because of God’s mercy, both Jews and Gentiles can be saved. We all must respond to his mercy and accept his gracious offer of forgiveness. Because he is sovereign, let him reign in your heart.|
|Service||When our purpose is to give credit to God for his love, power and perfection in al we do, we can serve him properly. Serving him unifies all believers and enables them to show love and sensitivity to others.||None of us can be fully Christlike by ourselves – it takes the entire body of Christ to fully express Christ. By actively and vigorously building up other believers, Christians can be a symphony of service to God.|