Addressing the believers in Rome, Paul writes what is most likely the meatiest missionary fundraising letter ever written. To Jesus-followers living directly under the shadow of Caesar, he is appealing for help to bring the gospel to the western part of the empire. As an apostle, Paul has been set apart to make the royal announcement about the Lordship of Jesus. God’s plan for the world has been revealed through a descendant of king David—Jesus the Messiah. This message demonstrates that God has been faithful to his covenant with Israel.
The flow of the letter follows the pattern of the ancient Jewish story of slavery and rescue. Humanity is in exile due to the entrance of sin and death into the world. Even the Jewish law could not defeat death and bring life. But God has come to rescue both Jews and Gentiles through the death and resurrection of Jesus. A new worldwide family is being created. Baptism into Jesus breaks the power of evil and brings freedom. The Holy Spirit leads the way into this new life that will be complete in a new inheritance—a redeemed creation.
Although many in Israel had failed to believe in the Messiah, this ended up bringing life to the rest of the world. The offer of life through Jesus remains for all, however, and in the end God’s mercy will triumph over judgment. The closing emphasis is on the practical shape of a redeemed humanity’s new way of life.