THE APOSTLE PAUL'S LETTER TO THE CHURCH OF ROME
(Written from Corinth roughly 56AD)
Rome at the time of Paul's letter
The Roman Empire's Capital had a population of over 1 000 000 people at the time.
THEME OF ROMANS
Romans lays out the basic foundations of the Christian faith in a systematic, methodical way.
The Apostle Paul had spent years travelling around Asia Minor and surrounds, establishing churches as far as he went, but had not been to Rome yet. Since Rome was so far removed from the other churches and no apostles stayed there, he longed to encourage the believers and make sure they stood firm in the gospel (Romans 1:9-13). But knowing it would be many days or even years before he was likely to get there, he wrote them a letter. In it, Paul took care to lay out the foundations of the Christian faith. For this reason, Romans is Paul's longest letter and many consider it his most important one, hence it is placed in the Bible as the first of his letters.
It might be of interest that many of the points covered in this letter, are also found in the letter to the churches of Galatia.
SHORT-PHRASE OF ROMANS
– The writers words simplified –
We have taken each chapter of Romans and summarised the core message in a short-phrase (shortened paraphrase). That creates a condensed version of Paul's main train of thought. We suggest you go through this summary, before reading the full text through in your Bible.
God has powerfully witnessed (through the resurrection) that Jesus Christ is His Son. As a result, those who put their faith in Him, both Jews and Gentiles, can experience God's grace. But those who refuse to recognise God's authority, will experience His wrath and be delivered to the entanglements of their own evil desires.
Therefore receive God's bountiful grace. And do not judge others or you will pour judgement on yourself, after all, didn't God have to forgive you of the same sins you point to in others? God judges fairly and impartially, and even sees the secrets of the heart. He will be the judge, offering grace to the obedient and judgement to the rebellious.
If God's judgment is unbiased, then what good is it to be a Jew? Mainly that Jews were given the teachings of God. But Jews are no better than Gentiles because all have fallen into sin and unrighteousness. Even though the Jews had God's law, their failure to keep the law condemned them. So in the end all men are fallen sinners. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to reconcile all men back to Himself. That way all will see that God is the one who justifies, and the law cannot save anyone.
Abraham was justified by faith in God, even before he was circumcised. Therefore righteousness was credited to him before the law was ever given. Circumcisions then became a sign of the righteousness he had been given through faith, not a sign of his obedience to the law. And he became the father of all who would put their faith in God's saving power. In the same way we are also made righteous, by putting our faith in Jesus Christ.
So through faith in Jesus, we have peace with God. Even while we were still sinners Jesus died for us. If God loved us while we were sinners, how much more will we be spared His wrath now? Sin entered the world through one man's disobedience, and lead to the death and condemnation of all men. But righteousness became possible for all men again, through the obedience of one Man – Jesus Christ.
If it is God's grace and not our good deeds that justify us, why can't we just keep on sinning? Because we put our old ways to death when we were baptised. Our sinful self was crucified with Christ, so that we died to sin and now we live to God. Sin no longer has power over you because you are not under the law but under God's grace. You are freed from sin but made servants of righteousness.
Before we died, the law made us long to sin and brought forth the fruit of death in us. But now, because we are in Jesus and Jesus has died, we have also been freed from the law. Don't you know that the law only has power over a man while he is alive? We died to the law by the death of Jesus Christ. So that now, we are made alive again to serve God in the power of His Spirit. Was the law evil then? No! Even though the law is good, evil is present within me, that is – in the old un-dead me. For though I wanted to follow God's law, sin had power over me. Who could save me from the wretched creature that I am?
Thank God that in Christ Jesus we can be free of that law of sin and death! For we were powerless to keep the law, so Jesus came in the likeness of our humanity, to fulfil the law on our behalf. Now righteousness is fulfilled in us who walk in the ways of God's Spirit. Every man that has the Spirit of God belongs to Him, and is an heir with Christ. But like Jesus, in this fallen world we will suffer troubles. Fear not for the Spirit will help us to pray in our time of need, and we know that all things will eventually work to our good. So despite all our troubles, we are more than conquerors because nothing can separate us from God's love,
God gave Israel the rich heritage of the law and the promises, the Biblical fathers and Jesus Christ, which all came through them. But they have rejected the Messiah. Even so God's word has not gone out in vain, because Israel is not those born of Abraham's flesh by lineage, but Israel is the children of the promise – those whom God has chosen to be His – weather they be Jew or Gentile. And the Gentiles have found righteousness because they trusted God by faith. The Jews have lost their righteousness because they trusted in the merit of their own works of keeping the law.
Oh, if only the Jews might be saved. But they keep wanting to earn their own righteousness. Christ is the end of the law for those who believe in Him. There is no longer a difference between the Jew and the Gentile because Jesus is Lord over all and merciful to all who call on Him. Therefore the gospel must go out because who will believe the good news unless they hear it?
Has God cast His people aside? No, there is a remnant of the Jews that have been saved by grace and not works. But through the fall of the Jews, salvation has come to the Gentiles. And through the Gentiles, the Jews are provoked to jealously to bring them back home. If the Gentiles are wild olive branches grafted into the cultivated olive tree (Jesus), then the fallen Jews can more easily be grafted back into the tree they were cut from. See then the goodness and severity of God. But in the end the Jews will return because their calling was never revoked. Oh how deep the riches of God's wisdom!
Therefore present yourselves to God as a living sacrifice and do not be like the world. Do not boast but remember that we are all one body with different gifts to contribute. Therefore love one another and hate evil. Do good to those who harm you, care for your enemies and live at peace, if at all possible.
Be subject to the powers that be, and give to men their due. Pay your taxes, honour those who are due honour. Owe nothing to anyone, only love, because love fulfils the whole intent of the law.
One of you eats anything he likes, and another of less faith is a vegetarian. Do not let the one who eats judge the one who doesn't. One thinks certain days are more important, another thinks all days are the same. Let both do it by the conviction of their hearts as unto the Lord, for in all things we belong to Him. The Lord has taught me that nothing is unclean. But if you believe it is unclean, then to you it is, and your conscience will accuse you if you eat. But the Kingdom of God is not about food but about righteousness, so do not let these simple matters get in the way.
The strong should bear with the weak, so look after each other. Be united together, of one mind, praising God with one voice, both Jews and Gentiles together.
PAUL FINALLY IN ROME
Though Paul did not get to Rome until the last years of his ministry, he did spend more than two years there under house arrest. During that time he was able to minister and write to churches he had established, including: all the churches in the region of Galatia, and the cities of Ephesus, Philippi and Colossae.
Luke had travelled with Paul until he was arrested and taken to Rome, and stayed by his side through all his final challenges. It was Luke who went on to write the book of Acts, detailing the works of the Apostles and also the third gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Cities Paul's letters were written to.
(These original letters were still in their respective churches more than 150 years later and probably survived until Roman Emperor Diocletian made a point of destroying them around 300AD).
We have many known references, quotes and endorsements of the letter to the Romans from the earliest days of the church. These include: Clement of Rome (95-97AD), Polycarp (110-150AD), the Didache (120-150AD), Justin Martyr (150-155AD), Tertullian (150-220AD), and Origen (185-254AD), Irenaeus (130-202AD), Clement of Alexandria (150-215AD), Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386AD), Eusebius (325-340AD), Jerome (340-420AD), and many others. Even the Dead Sea scroll findings, dating back to 68AD, contain a fragment from a commentary on the letter to the Romans, showing that it was in wide circulation amongst the churches by then already.