Introduction to Romans
Martin Luther once said of this book, “It is the chief book of the New Testament. It deserves to be known by heart by every Christian.” As we read through this gospel we will not only build on our doctrinal knowledge of Christianity, but also we will learn how to live the Christian life. This letter can have a tremendous impact on the Christian life. It is one of the most practical books ever written concerning the believer’s walk with the Lord. J. Sidlow Baxter wrote, “This is Paul’s magnum opus—the most important book in the Bible; more than any other it has determined the course of Christian thought.”
Most everyone from the conservative evangelical to the liberal heretic agrees that Paul wrote this book. Many early Christians such as Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr and Polycarp believed in Pauline authorship. Even the early canons of Scripture (such as the Muratorian canon) all attribute the epistle to the “apostle of the Gentiles.”
Clearly the Bible teaches that Paul himself wrote the letter (1:1). Also the theology, textual style and spirit are Paul’s. Romans 15:15-20 is a summary of the ministry of Paul, which coincides with the book of Acts. Also the cities, people, and events were also experienced by Paul.
Paul’s story is truly remarkable. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, which was the Jewish version of the Supreme Court. Not only was he one of the top Jews in Israel, but he also was an intelligent scholar. He was one of the most famous Jewish zealots who abhorred Christians and their Christ. He hated Christianity with a passion. Acts chapter 8 and the beginning of chapter 9 describe in detail his zeal against Christians. On the outside, he was a man that many would consider to be beyond the point of salvation.
However, this story is not all bleak. As Jesus said, “with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26). Jesus personally paid a visit to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6). Isn’t it great how the Lord views people! He saw Paul not for what he was, but for who he would become—“a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (1:1). He went from hating Christians to being “a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.”
Date and Place
It is very difficult to determine the exact date of the letter. Most people figure that it was written after 53 A.D., since Paul had already began his third missionary journey. Since Paul had not been to Rome yet, this letter was written before 59 A.D. Most people place the date between 56 A.D. to 58 A.D.
It is likely that Romans was written in the city of Corinth. The reason being that Cenchrea, the port city for Corinth (16:1) and other details give validity to this location. It was also written after the books of 1 & 2 Corinthians. The reason we know this is that in the letters to the Corinthians Paul was taking up a collection for the needy saints in Jerusalem (1 Cor 16:1; 2 Cor 9:1). In Romans 15:25 Paul mentions that he is ready to go to Jerusalem since has already collected the gift.
This gospel is written to expound upon Christian theology and doctrine. Book by book, verse by verse, each principal builds on one another until a solid theological foundation has been established. While many parts of this epistle make for difficult reading, a thorough study of this book will strengthen your faith.
Prophecy Concerning Israel
Since Rome had many messianic Jews living there, Paul felt that it was important for the Gentile Church to know God’s plan toward Israel. Since Israel rejected the Messiah, God has focused his energy on evangelizing the world through the Church. however, once the Church is raptured, God will refocus his attention on His chosen people.
This letter is more than just theological theory. Romans also teaches believers how to walk the Christian walk. It helps Christians to deal with each other as well as how to serve other people. It talks about a Christians role concerning government, and people in authority. In a nutshell, it deals with Christian ethics in a practical way.
1. The Gospel
Depravity of humanity
Grace of God
Justification by Faith
Sanctification through the Spirit
Security of the Believer
Divine Sovereignty and Human Will
Present and Future of Israel
3. Christian Conduct
Since many false teachers and poor doctrine abound everywhere, Romans is prophylactic (Barclay, Commentary on Romans, p.2). A Prophylactic is something that guards against infection. By studying the epistle, we will be better able to guard against the wrong ideas and twisted notions that are taught in many circles today. May God grant each of us insight to apply these truths in our lives.
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