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.
The Epistle of Paul to the Romans is undoubtedly the most powerful human document that has ever been written. It is pure gold from beginning to end. This is the book that lit the fire in Martin Luther’s heart and brought about the Protestant Reformation, changing the history of Europe, as well as the world. This is the book that struck home as John Wesley sat in a little chapel in London listening to Luther’s Prelude to the Epistle to the Romans. Wesley said his heart was strangely warmed as he heard the truths of Romans set forth. There followed, through him, the great evangelical awakening that saved England from the fate of France and arrested the decay of English life, completely altering the history of the world again.
This is the epistle that burned in the heart of Karl Barth, who in our day set forth some of the mighty truths of this letter and thus captured the theological world, calling it back from the crass, empty liberalism of the nineteenth century, restoring much truth to the churches of Europe. The lives of millions of people who have read the letter to the Romans have been drastically altered (Ray C. Stedman, The Message of Romans).
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 is the most remarkable production of the most remarkable man. It is his heart. It contains his theology, theoretical and practical, for which he lived and died. It gives the clearest and fullest exposition of the doctrines of sin and grace and the best possible solution of the universal dominion of sin and death in the universal redemption by the second Adam (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, I:766).
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 lay 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 an 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.
Romans is the greatest of Paul’s epistles and considered by many as the greatest book in the NT. Galatians has been called the “Magna Charta” of Christian liberty and the Roman epistle has been called the “constitution” of Christianity. Its subject material, its logical reasoning, its vigor of style, and its relevance to human need give it a foremost place in biblical revelation. It is a book, in one sense, simple and clear, but in another sense so magnificent that it baffles complete comprehension (“Romans,” Unger’s Bible Dictionary).
Tyndale captured the importance of Paul’s letter to Romans, when he wrote in his Prologue upon the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Romans:
Forasmuch as this epistle is the principal and most excellent part of the New Testament and most pure evangelion, that is to say glad tidings, and that we call gospel, and also is a light and a way unto the whole Scripture; I think it meet that every Christian man not only know it, by rote and without the book, but also exercise himself therein evermore continually, as with the daily bread of the soul. No man verily can read it too oft, or study it too well; for the more it is studied, the easier it is; the more it is chewed, the pleasanter it is; and the more groundly it is searched, the preciouser things are found in it, so great treasure of spiritual things lieth hid therein.