THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
The Epistle to the Romans is the most formal and systematic of Paul’s epistles. The main theme of Romans is that righteousness comes as a free gift of God and is receivable by faith alone. The Book of Romans stands at the head of the Pauline epistles because it is the longest of his letters, but it is also Paul’s most important epistle. Repeatedly in its history, the church has found in this epistle a catalyst for reform and new life. The Epistle to the Romans, perhaps more than any single book of the Bible, has exerted a powerful influence on the history of Christianity.
Structure of the Epistle.
The Epistle to the Romans consists of two halves, a doctrinal section chaps. (1-8) and a practical section chaps. (12-16), separated by three chapters on the place of Israel in the history of salvation chaps. (9-11).
Paul declares his main theme in the first chapter-that the gospel is the power of salvation to everyone who believes (1:16-17). This declaration is then held in suspension until 3:21, while Paul digresses to show that all peoples are in need of salvation: the Gentiles have broken the law of conscience, and the Jews the Law of Moses (1:18-3:20).
Authorship and Date. There can be no doubt that Romans is an exposition of the content of the gospel by the strongest thinker in the early church-the apostle Paul. The epistle bears Paul’s name as author (1:1). Throughout, it reflects Paul’s deep involvement with the gospel. Paul most likely wrote the epistle during his third missionary journey as he finalized plans to visit Rome (Acts 19:21). His three-month stay in Corinth, probably in the spring of A.D. 56 or 57, would have provided the extended, uninterrupted time needed to compose such a reasoned commentary on the Christian faith.
Historical Setting. Romans was written to a church that Paul did not found and had not visited. He wrote the letter to give an account of his gospel in preparation for a personal visit (1:11). Paul wrote most probably from Corinth, where he was completing the collection of money from the Macedonian and Achaian Christians for the “poor saints” in Jerusalem. After delivering the money, he planned to visit Rome and, with the Roman’s support, to travel to Spain. The epistle, therefore, served as an advanced good-will ambassador for Paul’s visit to Rome and his later mission to Spain (15:22-33).
(from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)
The above is a brief, but well written introduction to the Epistle to the Romans which we will study over the next several weeks. Please read this again and then turn to your Bible and read Romans Chapter 1. Romans is the most important Book on Christian Doctrine in the Bible and every believer in Christ should know something about it.
So now, let us take our time and in prayer and obedience open our minds and hearts to the study of God’s word and the Doctrine from his Son Jesus the Christ as recorded in Romans. Please prayerfully and carefully read Romans 1:1-7, and then answer the following questions from our first Bible Study Assignment from Romans:
Who wrote the Epistle to the Romans? How do you know from Scripture?
When do you think the Epistle to the Romans was written?
In Verse 1, the writer calls himself “a servant of Jesus Christ.” What does the word servant mean as used by the writer in Romans 1:1?
What does the writer mean when he says he was “called to be an apostle?”
What is an apostle as used here by this writer?
Is an apostle the same as a disciple? What’s the difference?
What is the “gospel of God” or good news that is referred to in Verse 1?
What are the “Holy Scriptures” the writer is talking about in Verse 2?
Where do you find in the “Holy Scriptures” the promise of the Gospel that the writer is talking about in Verse 2?
What do you think the writer means when he writes in Verse 5 that he “received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles?”
Who are the Gentiles he writes about in Verse 5?
In Verse 7, the writer addresses some in Rome as “saints.” What is a saint in this context and do we have the same kind of saints today?