Complete Study Of The Book Of Romans

Introduction

‘I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew); their names are, What and Why and When and How and Where and Who’. Rudyard Kipling.

In approaching any book in the Bible, it is good to remember this little rhyme, because it will impress upon us the importance of first taking the basic questions; such as;

WHO was the writer? To WHOM was he writing? WHEN did he write? From WHERE did he write? WHAT did he write? And WHY did he write it?

1. Authorship.

In the case of this particular latter, we need not spend much time on the question, of who was the writer, because we are well enough acquainted with him, we know him as Paul the Apostle.

We need not doubt this, because he identifies himself in the very first voice, no! The very first word of the letter, is ‘Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ’. Romans 1:1

Notice that Paul, the inspired author, dictated this epistle to ascribe, to Tertius. ‘I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.’ Romans 16:22. This ensures accuracy in the writing.

Of course, it is always possible that someone else used the name of Paul to gain acceptance of a letter that Paul did not write, but in this case, we may dismiss such a suggestion immediately, because the letter carries internal evidence of its genuineness as a letter from the apostle.

Without spending time on this point, it is enough to say that, the style of writing, the language (vocabulary) the personal references and the doctrines it teaches.

Indeed, the very atmosphere and feel of the letter declares it to be a genuine letter from Paul himself. So much so that there has seldom, if ever, been a serious attempt to deny the Pauline authorship. And therefore we shall not take up any of our time in discussing the matter any further.

2. Probable chronology of Paul and the Roman Empire in New Testament times.

The date accepted for the establishment of the church on the first day of Pentecost after the Ascension of Christ is A.D.33.

The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus must have occurred soon after this date, because;

1. The persecution of the church began very quickly so that those in the city of Jerusalem and, presumably, those in the surrounding areas were scattered, Acts 8:1. The death of Stephen quickly followed about A.D. 33-34.

Saul’s involvement in the murder of Stephen, Acts 7, and the statement in Acts 8:1 and Acts 8:3 shows that he played a leading role in the persecution. ‘Consenting’ to the death of Stephen means that he ‘voted in favour’ of it, Acts 26:9-12 and Acts 22:3-5.

2. It also suggests that Saul was already a member of the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish Council, which, in turn, implies that he was at least 30 years old at the time, because this was the age below which no one could become a member, He states that he was ‘advancing’ in Judaism beyond others of his contemporaries.

Furthermore, his easy access to the High Priest and the letters authorizing him to represent the High Priest in Damascus, imply that he was considered a real enemy of this new sect.

3. This would have happened quickly, because the Priesthood would want to stifle the church ‘at birth’, so to speak. Therefore, his conversion on the road to Damascus probably happened soon after the death of Stephen, i.e., 33-34 A.D.

4. Galatians 1:ff, tells us that after his conversion he went ‘into Arabia’, where he received the revelation which confirmed his divine and commission then back again to Damascus, and it was 3 years before he went back to Jerusalem, Galatians 1:18, where he stayed with Peter for 15 days.

But, rather significantly, he saw none of the other Apostles, although, according to Acts 8:1, they remained in Jerusalem. A.D. 37-38.

5. Perhaps understandably, when the converted Saul returned to Jerusalem the Christians were suspicious of him and, he was not warmly welcomed by the leadership. He admits, in Galatians 1 that he was ‘not known by face’ to the churches in Judea, although they had certainly heard that the man who had persecuted the Church was now preaching the Gospel.

The outcome was that he returned to Cilicia, probably home to Tarsus and to Syria, which were non-Jewish territories, where Barnabas came looking for him. When he found Saul he took him to Jerusalem ensuring a much warmer welcome from the Christians!

6. This was probably about 38A.D, after which Barnabas and Saul went out from Antioch in Syria, on the First Missionary Journey, at the end of which they returned to Jerusalem.

Back in Jerusalem, they met Agabus a prophet, who predicted that there would be a ‘great famine,’ a famine throughout the Roman world, which would come ‘in the days of Claudius’ A.D. 41-54

This prediction must have been made before A.D.41 because that was the year in which Claudius became Emperor. The accuracy of the prophecy is proved by the fact that Josephus records that there was a famine in Judea in A.D.46.

Acts 15 tells us that in Jerusalem he met with the Apostles and Elders to settle the question relating to the Gentile Christians and the Law of Moses. It was here that Paul was urged to ‘remember the poor’, as he visited the Gentile churches. This became the second dominant mission of the apostle, as is evident from his epistles.

7. In Acts 18, we see Paul in Corinth. This would be in A.D.51, because at that time Gallio, the brother of the more famous Seneca, was serving as Governor, and history records that he served for the usual two-year term, 51-52 A.D. having been appointed by the Roman Senate.

Verse 11 tells us that Paul remained in Corinth for 18 months, during which time he wrote his letter to the Romans.

8. In A.D. 52 Paul visited Jerusalem for the Passover, and then returned to the Church in Antioch. This was the end of the 2nd Missionary Journey.

9. Third missionary Journey, ending in Jerusalem. A.D.57-59

This would be when he was falsely accused of defiling the Temple by taking in Gentiles. Rescued from the mob by the Romans and eventually delivered to Procurator Felix in Caesarea.

10. Felix kept Paul a prisoner for 2 years, expecting to be offered a bribe to free him until Festus arrived to take over the Governorship. Acts 24.

11. After Paul had exercised the right of a Roman citizen to be heard by Caesar, he was sent by ship to Rome to await his trial by Nero, who was now Rome’s ruler. Roman law required a trial to take place within two years; after that, the case was dismissed. A.D. 60.

Acts 28:30 reveals that Paul remained, under guard, in a house which he had rented, to his house 4 miles outside of the city, where he committed suicide. He had become Emperor at 17 years of age, and reigned from A.D. 54 to A.D 68, and was just 31 years old when he died.

12. Four years earlier, in A.D. 64 most of Rome was destroyed by fire, for which Nero is generally held to have been responsible, and almost certainly was! He found it easy to place the blame for the Fire on Christians and fierce persecution of the Church began.

Acts 28 closes with Paul teaching all who came to him and enjoying relative freedom. It is reasonable to think that he was executed during that period of persecution, and it may be said that, in that sense, Nero was responsible for the death of Paul.

3. Time and place of writing.

Let me remind you of the Galatian letter. We see that it was on his first missionary journey that Paul met the guiltiness for the first time, Acts 13-14. Then, after returning to and staying in Antioch for a time, he travelled beyond Galatia, across the Aegean Sea, to Europe (Macedonia and Achaia) where he established a church in Corinth, among other places, Acts 16.

His 3rd journey took him into Asia and for 3 years his labours were centred in Ephesus, the Provincial capital. When he left that city he revisited the brethren in Macedonia and Achaia and wrote this letter to the Romans from Corinth during his brief stay there.

Evidence from the letter itself

‘Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem.’ Romans 15:25-26

‘I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.’ Romans 16:1

Phoebe from Cenchrea. ‘Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works.’ Romans 16:23

Gaius (See 1 Corinthians 1:14) Erastus the city treasurer. (See 2 Timothy 4:20.)

1. There is a strong indication that it was written in Corinth on the third missionary tour which was about 57 or 58 A.D.

Reasons

Paul was taking the contribution of the churches of Macedonia and Achaia to the poor saints in Jerusalem.

‘Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem.’ Romans 15:25-26

Paul and certain other brethren were in Corinth on the third missionary tour at this time and were on their way to Jerusalem with the offering for the poor saints. Acts 19:22 / Acts 20:3-4 / Acts 20:16 / Acts 24:17-18.

It was probably written at Corinth because the names of two people associated with the city are mentioned as being present with Paul at the time of writing. Romans 16:23 / 1 Corinthians 1:14 / Acts 19:22 / 2 Timothy 4:20.

4. To whom was the letter written?

Well, the title says, ‘To the Romans’, at least, in all the versions available today. And I do not doubt that this is absolutely accurate. However, it is a curious fact that there are a few ancient manuscripts in which the word ‘Rome’, found in Romans 1:7 and Romans 1:15, is omitted. And these are the only two places in the letter where the destination of the letter is actually named.

However, there has never been any doubt that it was written by Paul, to the brethren in Rome.

In the course of our studies you will be hearing about Marcion, a heretic who lived at the beginning of the 2nd century (probably born about 120 A.D.) and who denied that the Body of Jesus was real, it was a phantom.

To quote the words of John in 2 John 7, Marcion denied that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. And he rejected most of the New Testament because it did not agree with his teaching.

But when Tertullian wrote against this man, he referred to the churches to which Paul wrote, as being the Guardians of his letters and referred to them as; ‘With whom the authentic letters of the apostles are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each one. Is Achaia near to thee? Thou hast Corinth. If thou art not far from Macedonia, thou hast Philippi; thou hast Thessalonica. If thou art able to go into Asia, thou hast Ephesus. If thou art near to Italy, thou hast Rome’. (Tertullian; ‘Prescriptions against Heretics’, 36)

The point of this is, that even the rest prominent heretics of the early years of Christianity did not dare to deny that the letter to the Romans was written by Paul. All of the so-called early ‘Church Fathers’ recognized this as fact.

5. What do we know about the church in Rome? How did it begin? Who established it?

1. Certainly not Paul himself, because he makes that clear for us in Romans 1:11-15 and Romans 15:22-24.

2. And unlikely any other apostle. Romans 1:11.

3. The Gospel was most probably carried to Rome by some of those who had been present in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost when Peter preached the Gospel to its fullness for the first time and 3000 responded to the message. Acts 2:10 records that there were present ‘visitors from Rome’.

4. It has existed for many years.

‘But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you.’ Romans 15:23

5. Their faith was known throughout the world.

‘First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world’. Romans 1:8

In any case, Rome was the greatest centre of the world at this time. The capital of the Empire, and, that being the case, all roads led both from and to Rome, so it is not difficult to believe that the Gospel would very quickly find its way there.

This is why, when Paul eventually reached Rome, he was met by the brethren, in all probability, some of those who read this very letter. And, in Romans 16, we see that many of those who were members of the church in Rome were people who had been associated with Paul, at one time or another, as he had gone about his work in other parts of the empire.

We notice, for instance, his old travelling companions, in Romans 16:3. Epenetus in Romans 16:5. He had been converted in Asia (Ephesus), but, like Aquila and Priscilla, had found his way to Rome. And so had certain of Paul’s own relatives, mentioned in Romans 16:7.

Indeed, he mentions several others who had worked hard for the faith and who had been his fellow workers. And, since he has never been to Rome himself, they must have associated with him elsewhere.

6. We do know that the church in Rome

1. Became a strong church. Romans 1:18 and Romans 15:1.

2. Was known for its excellent reputation, throughout the Roman world. Romans 16:19.

3. Was a mature church. Romans 15:14.

4. Contained relatives of Paul who became Christians before he did. Romans 16:7.

5. And even had members who were serving in Caesar’s household. Romans 16:8.

6. It is interesting to note that in Romans 16, no fewer than 10 women are mentioned.

1. Phoebe

2. Priscilla

3. Mary

4. Tryphena and

5. Tryphosa (twins)

6. Persis

7. The mother of Rufus

8. Julia

9. The sister of Nereus and

10. Olympas.

This indicates the effect that Christianity was having on the status of women in New Testament times. Roman Catholic doctrine claims, without proof of any kind, that Peter was in Rome as the first pope for 25 years; i.e. from 43 to 68 A.D, when Peter is said to have been martyred.

In Romans 16 Paul mentions at least 26 friends, relatives and co-workers but makes no mention of ‘Pope Peter’! The reality is that even according to Roman Catholic doctrine; Peter could not have been ‘Pope’ because he was married and Catholic teaching says the Pope is to be celibate.

In fact, the Pope is not scripturally qualified to be an Elder, Bishop. Presbyter, or even a Deacon, because he is unmarried. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

7. Why was this letter written? There are several reasons which we may assign for the writing the letter.

Notice that unlike other letters, such as the Corinthian letters or the letter to the Galatians, it was not written to correct doctrinal error or improper behaviour.

1. To inform the Roman Christians that Paul planned to come to Rome.

2. To establish the fact that the Gospel of Christ is God’s saving power to all who believe, whether Jew or Gentile.

3. To emphasize that the Gospel is God’s only Plan for Man’s salvation.

4. To establish the fact that justification comes by grace, through faith, apart from the Mosaic Law, and that Grace is not based on the merit system; i.e. not by works

5. To prove the explain God’s apparent rejection of Israel.

The letter contains Paul’s most complete and detailed exposition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which he describes as ‘my Gospel’.

Only by grace appropriated through faith in Christ and altogether apart from the Law are we saved! Paul stresses that true faith is always active, faith obeys!

‘For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ Romans 1:17

6. He wished to fulfil a long-standing ambition.

For a long time, Paul had cherished the desire to visit Rome. He mentions this in Acts 19:21, whilst he was Ephesus. He refers to his planned visit to Jerusalem and says, ‘After I have been there, I must see Rome also’.

In the letter itself, he reminds his readers that he has not, as yet, been able to fulfil this ambition. Romans 1:11 and Romans 15:22-24.

Of course, there were sound reasons for his wish to visit Rome. He was not planning to go as a sight-seer, or as a tourist, to admire the splendour of the city which was the centre of the world of its time.

In fact, Paul never went anywhere as a tourist. He wanted to go to Rome because, at this time, there was a church in Rome, and, he could see the potential of the possibilities in Rome.

As I have already said, all roads led to Rome and from Rome. He saw it as the gathering place of all the nations and races of the ancient world, and therefore he saw it as a prime centre for missionary activity.

He wanted to visit Rome to preach the Gospel, to teach coverts, and thus to make missionaries who would take the Gospel to the farthest outposts of the Empire. He realized that a strong church in Rome could prove to be a powerful agency in evangelising the world.

We need to think about this fact, for a moment or two. I think we may learn something from Paul in this matter. It is quite evident that, as an evangelist and missionary, Paul believed in placing himself where his efforts could be most effective and worthwhile.

He did not go off and hide himself in little villages, or in obscure places where there were few people. He sought to sow the Gospel in places where the impact would be the greatest and where it would the greatest impact.

And, whilst on this subject, let me also observe that Paul did not embark on any plan of missionary activity, without carefully weighing up the possibilities and considering how the work might later develop.

He did not rush off to a place in one part of the empire, work, there for a time, and then rush off in some other direction to try his hand there.

On the contrary, his programme reached out in logical stages. Consider, for instance, his very first journey. One city led him to the next, so that by the time he had finished, there was a chain of congregations, within striking distance of each other, capable of having fellowship with each other, and able to help each other when the need arose.

I have known young evangelists to make some very foolish and elementary mistakes, as they have set about their work. Because they have been so determined to begin an entirely new work, they have gone off to someplace where there has been NO church and no church members, either. And no established congregation near enough at hand to give them support or encouragement.

And, time and time again, because they have isolated themselves in this way, they have become discouraged when things have not worked out as well as they had expected, and they have not set the world on fire!

And the work has eventually ceased, leaving them depressed and disheartened, and leaving the people who backed them in their venture, disappointed and disillusioned with mission work.

8. Paul worked from established centres He saw evangelism as the dropping of a stone in a lake. The ripples of energy radiate from the centre, they spread out, wider and wider, until they reach the farthest shore of the lake. That is what happened in Asia, with Ephesus as the centre. Acts 19:10 tells us that all of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

That is how he felt about Rome, and that is why he longed to go there. Indeed, he even saw Rome as the jumping-off place to Spain!

‘So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way.’ Romans 15:28

Well! In Acts 23:11 we read that the Lord assured him that this wish would be granted. In the event, however, it was not granted in quite the way that Paul had envisaged, because, as you know, he finally reached Rome as a prisoner. Still, the Lord said to him, ‘As you have borne witness about me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also at Rome.’

And this is why, in the opening verses of this letter, he tells the brethren in Romans 1:15 ‘So I am eager to preach the Gospel to you also who are in Rome.’

This introduces a 2nd reason for the writing of this letter, prior to Paul’s visit to Rome. He wants the church in Rome to understand what it is that he actually preaches.

Paul is not unaware of the fact that there were certain people who were likely to have spread rumours about him in Rome, to undermine his authority, and so he feels it necessary to let them know the exact nature of the message he carried, and so he writes in Romans 16:25 of what he calls, ‘my Gospel’ so that you might describe the letter to the Romans as ‘The Gospel according to Paul.’

After all, remember, that the Roman Christians did not know him personally, at least the majority didn’t know him. And they had obviously heard something about his teaching as Romans 3:7-8 reveals. We shall be looking at the meaning of this in more depth later, but, for the moment let me say that Paul’s critics were claiming:

1. That he taught men that sin is not so terrible because all sin is covered by the grace of God. Later on in Romans 6:1, ‘Let us continue to sin so that grace may abound.’

2. It may also be that they were accusing him of preaching and teaching something which was either contrary to, or opposed to, the Old Testament scriptures. See Romans 16:25ff.

He, therefore, points out to them in this letter that the Gospel which he preached was indeed.

a. The fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy.

‘The gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures’. Romans 1:2

b. A Gospel that affirmed that salvation is only possible through Christ.

‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile’. Romans 1:16

c. That Jesus was the Son of David, in fulfilment of the Scripture.

‘Regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David.’ Romans 1:3

and ‘Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.’ 2 Timothy 2:8

d. That He is also the Son of God, as proved by His resurrection.

‘And who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord’. Romans 1:4

3. And then, Paul has an even more personal motive for going to Rome.

You will see it expressed in Romans 1:14-15

‘I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.’

He says, ‘I am under obligation’. The A.V. expresses it rather more dramatically, it seems to me.

I am a debtor

I am under obligation. I owe! I have a debt to discharge! (And we shall be looking more closely at this also, later.)

So, here are three reasons, and you might think of more, why Paul was anxious to go to Rome.

1. His long-standing desire to see Rome become the centre of great missionary expansion.

2. His wish to let the Church in Rome know exactly what it was that he preached.

3. His sense of personal obligation to Christ for his own salvation.

And, I think that I should perhaps add a 4th.

4. That he might have fellowship with brethren whom he had never met but whom he loved because they were brethren in Christ.

‘That you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.’ Romans 1:12

That fellowship is something that Paul saw as mutually encouraging. He would personally be strengthened and encouraged by meeting them. And they would be strengthened because he would impart spiritual gifts to them.

‘I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong’. Romans 1:11

Paul marching on Rome!

Think about that! How successful does he expect to be? What does he hope to gain?

Well. I don’t suppose that he had any illusions about the size of the task. He knew about Rome. He knew about Roman might and Roman hardness, and Roman brutality, but he also knew that secret of success did not lie in any ability he might personally possess, but in the power of the Gospel of Christ.

And he also knew that if Rome were to yield to the Gospel, the impact would be felt throughout the world of that time. Of course, today, you and I understand all this, and we can share Paul’s feelings, his enthusiasm, and his confidence in the power of the Gospel.

But, put yourself in the place of a Roman and listen to these words as though you were a Roman.

‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power of God to salvation.’ Romans 1:16

And then look at this insignificant little Jewish Tentmaker, who has a head full of fantastic notions about a young Jewish preacher named Jesus, who has been crucified under the governorship of Pontius Pilate, in Judea, only about 33 years old at the time, and this little man, Paul, entertains the idea of marching on Rome!

Why!

If the Romans even noticed this travel-stained man, trudging wearily up the Appian Way into Rome and had been told that he believed that the most powerful thing in the world had been committed to his trust, they would either have smiled tolerantly or laughed outright in contempt!

How did it all work out? Let Gibbon tell us: ‘….and finally erected the standard of the cross on the ruins of the Roman Empire.’

9. Problems in the Church

1. The Church needed to be instructed on how to live as Christians in the pagan culture of Rome,

2. They had also to be taught the meaning of Christian liberty, and what it meant to be ‘free in Christ’.

3. Because of the differing cultures of the Jews and Gentiles in the Church, several doctrinal issues needed to be addressed:

a. The first issue that needed to be addressed concerned the Jewish attitude towards Gentiles. Paul pointed out that in God’s eyes there is no difference because both were under sin and in need of God’s righteousness.

b. This righteousness comes only through faith; not by ‘law-keeping’ i.e., observing the Mosaic Law.

c. That God accepts the Gentiles and has extended the Gospel to both Jews and Gentiles.

The Obstacle to Gentile Salvation was that Jewish believers insisted that Gentile converts needed to become Jewish proselytes first, before accepting the Gospel of Jesus.

Common Jewish belief was that the Mosaic Law was the expression of God’s Will, and binding on all those who desired to become righteous in His eyes, the first step involved circumcision.

In this one became a Jewish proselyte (convert), after which acceptance of the Gospel followed. Because Christianity was seen by all as a Jewish religion, certain Jewish leaders were determined it should remain so.

10. Paul’s Main Argument Man’s justification before God rests solely on the merits of Christ, not on the Law of Moses, since no ever succeeded in keeping the Law which revealed the holiness which God’s Own Nature demands.

Christ, who shares the nature of God, and is merciful and obedient to the Father, provided justification and redemption from sin, through His atoning sacrifice.

The Chapters of the Roman letter

What sin is and who is a sinner. Convicts everyone of sin. Romans 1-4.

What grace is, and how it is received. Romans 5-6.

How to maintain the state of grace. Romans 7.

How to demonstrate and share grace with others. Romans 8-15.

Conclusion. Romans 16.

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