Brief Overview of Romans

Background: The Greek and Roman world of Paul’s day was indeed a hopeless world. It was a realm filled with despair, believing that at death there is no hope for the body, or even for the soul. The time was ripe for the Gospel. There were also external factors that favored Paul and his message:

1. A world government World peace
2. A world language (Greek)
3. Roman roads linking the world
4. World skepticism with respect to pagan deities
5. Dispersion of the Jews and their monotheistic religion into the world
6. Translation of the OT into Greek (Septuagint)

Rome, the capital of the world, was experiencing the better and earlier days of Nero’s reign (A.D. 54-68). The city’s population was in excess of four million of which slightly over one half were free.

Because of continued disturbances among the Jews in the city, they were expelled from Rome by the edict of Claudius in A.D. 49. Under Nero great numbers of Jews returned.

The polytheistic heathen religion of Rome had fallen into contempt among both the cultured and uncultured classes of the city opening the way for monotheism, resulting in a great number embracing Judaism. These “God-fearers” furnished fertile ground for the spread of Christianity in the capital.

An overreaction to Judaizers exposed Christians to heresy. The Law was being set aside since salvation is not dependent upon works, but rests entirely on grace. The saints believed the performance of good deeds unnecessary and one could do whatever they pleased. Paul’s denunciation of this error is scorching. He mentions “Law” seventy-five times and “Spirit” thirty-four times as he explains the relationship between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

Since the Church of Rome consisted of Jews and Gentiles, Paul found it necessary to explain the universality of the Gospel of God and His sovereignty in setting aside the nation of Israel in this present age.

The church in Rome was of considerable size and universally famous. In A.D. 64, the historian Tacitus speaks of the Christians in Rome as “an immense multitude.”

Jewish synagogues abounded in the city and the Christians followed synagogue pattern as they met for worship in several homes.

Since all roads led to Rome, the church probably owed its origin to the western migration of Christians. Paul, like so many others, desired to visit Rome. Hence, he wrote this letter in anticipation of his visit.

Writer: Paul (Saul of Tarsus) was a Hebrew, Benjaminite, Pharisee, Roman Citizen, Persecutor of the Church, Apostle of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He was a thinker of the first order, a man with a penetrating mind, well versed in the OT. A brilliant intellect, an iron will, and a compassionate heart made him the most effective apostle—”God’s chosen vessel.”

He was converted without the intervention of human instrumentality, and was taught the Gospel by divine revelation. His natural character was ardent, energetic, uncompromising, and severe. Once saved, Paul was ready to submit to anything, and to yield everything for the spread of the Gospel.

Date and Place Written: February-March A.D. 57/58 from the City of Corinth (cf. Romans 15:25-26; Act_20:2-3). Viewed in the light of Acts and the Corinthian Letters, the content of Romans clearly indicates that the apostle Paul wrote Romans from Corinth on the third missionary journey in the early months of A.D. 58.

Purpose of Romans:

1. Open the Way for Paul’s Visit (1:10-11)
2. Reveal His Missionary Plans and Seek Assistance (15:24)
3. Prayer Support 15:30-33)
4. Establish Believers in the Gospel (16:25)
5. Encourage Righteous Living 13:11-14)
6. Theological Presentation of the Gospel (1:1-6)

Addressee: “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints”

Key Verses: Romans 1:16-17

Quotes: 61 from 14 OT books plus numerous allusions to OT history, type and doctrine

Key Words: God (171); Sin/ners/ed/ful (80); Law (75); Christ (66); All (63); Right/eous/ness (52); Faith/ful/ness (43); Spirit (34); Just/ified (33); Gentile/s (28); Grace (21); Love/d (21); Hope (18); Live (18); Jew/s (14); Gospel (12); Save/d (10); Believe (9)

Doctrinal Themes:

Gospel, Resurrection, Salvation, Belief, Faith, Hope, Love, Righteousness, Creation, Depravity, Wrath, Judgment, Repentance, Sin, Law, Guilt, Justification, Redemption, Propitiation, Grace Imputation, Peace, Reconciliation, Propitiation, Death, Sanctification, Adoption, Glorification, Election, Foreknowledge, Predestination, Purpose, Destiny, Flesh, Spirit, Service, Sacrifice, Gentiles, Jews, Church.

Thematic Theme: Righteousness from God (Romans 1:17)

1. Displayed in the Creative Order and the Law, 1:1-3:20
2. Imputed through Christ, 3:21-5:21
3. Imparted by the Holy Spirit, 6:1-8:39
4. Enacted in Israel and the Church, 9:1-8:39
5. Reproduced in the Believer, 12:1-16:27

Primary Theme: The Gospel of God (1:1; 15:16)

Subordinate Themes:

1. Salvation for everyone who believes—Jew and Gentile (1:16-17—> Chapters 9-11)
2. Justification/Righteousness by Faith (1:17; 3:21-30; 4:5, 9, 11; 5:1; 9:30; 10:6)

Importance of the Book of Romans:

Paul’s letter gives to the Church of Christ in all generations a clear and comprehensive presentation of the doctrine of salvation by faith. Here the heart and breath of Christianity is defined.

One cannot improve upon Martin Luther’s evaluation of this letter. He wrote in the preface of his commentary on Romans:

This Epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest Gospel, and is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes.

No writing in the NT is less innovative; none is more universal and eternal. It is characterized by systematic and logical arrangement of its contents, which are profoundly doctrinal. The letter contains sixty-one direct quotations from the OT plus numerous allusions to OT history, types and doctrine. It demonstrates how the NT is a commentary on the OT.

Here Paul coined the vocabulary of Christianity. He expounded the true meaning of Christ’s coming, death, resurrection and ascension and revealed the deeper meaning of the OT in light of these events.

It has been said that this letter has been associated with every great spiritual revival in the history of the Church. Together with Galatians, it lays at the foundation of the Reformation. Augustine, Luther, Wesley, and Barth were moved by this message. The greatness of this letter has captured the great and launched far-reaching movements as a result.

There is no telling what may happen when people begin to study the Letter to the Romans. Wonderful things happen when people live by faith and serve by faith. Reformation and spiritual movements await those who study Romans and take it seriously.

Here Paul presents dispensational truth, showing the relationship between Israel and the Church in the eternal plan of God. His letter abounds with practical truth as well—teaching the secret of Christian victory over the flesh, the duties Christians have toward each other, and their relationship to government.

Romans, therefore, is a extraordinary exposition of faith that unlocks the entire Word of God. It has been called “the most profound work in existence” and ‘the cathedral of the Christian faith.” This letter is official, personal, spiritual, and theological -“the principal and most excellent part of the NT.”

The Christian life begins and ends with faith. Faith is counted for righteousness by God. The born again believer experiences the power of resurrection, becoming a new man. Yet, the old man continues and wages war with the new. Paul addresses this crisis and shows the way out of bondage.

Many Christians have settled for only a half salvation! The death of Christ on Calvary is only half the truth; the other half is the saving life of Christ, by His Holy Spirit, reproducing His character and delivering us from the power of the flesh, the devil, and the world. At the Cross, we have forgiveness of sin, in order that we may stop doing it! Romans tells us how to be right—right with God, right with self, right in the world, and right with others.

A Concise Outline of the Romans:

1. Salutation, 1:1-17
2. Sin, 1:18-3:20 The Need—Past
3. Salvation, 3:21-5:21 The Way—Present
4. Sanctification, 6:1-8:17 The Life
5. Sonship, 8:18-39 The Hope—Future
6. Sovereignty, 9:1-11:36 The Scope
7. Sacrifice, 12:1-15:13 The Cost
8. Service, 15:14-16:27 The Observance

A Theological Outline of Romans:

A. DOCTRINAL
1. FAITH (1-8)
Righteousness Indicated in the Law, 1:1-3:20
Righteousness Imputed through Christ, 3:21-5:21
Righteousness Imparted by the Holy Spirit, 6:1-8:39

2. HOPE (9-11)
Righteousness Ingrafted by God, 9:1-11:36

B. PRACTICAL
3. LOVE (12-16)
Righteousness Impregnated in the Believer, 12:1-16:27

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