At a Glance
Author: The apostle Paul
Audience: The church of Rome
Date: AD 55–57
Type of Literature: Ancient historical letter and theological essay
Major Themes: The gospel, salvation, the love of God, justification, God’s righteousness, the law, life in the flesh versus the Spirit, the destiny of Israel
Letter Opening — 1:1–17
The Human Condition — 1:18–3:20
The Gospel Solution — 3:21–5:21
The Gospel Freedom — 6:1–8:39
The Gospel and Israel — 9:1–11:36
The Gospel and Our New Life — 12:1–15:13
Letter Closing — 15:14–16:27
What you are about to read is a two thousand-year-old letter, penned by the apostle Paul and inspired by the Holy Spirit. You will be stirred, challenged, perhaps even corrected, as you read this enlightening letter. Paul’s gospel was the gospel of grace and glory. When you receive the grace of God by faith, righteousness is birthed within your life.
The love of God is so rich; it leaves our hearts full of heaven. When we believe in Jesus Christ he pours his Holy Spirit into our hearts until every sense of abandonment leaves us. We become children of God, sons and daughters of glory, who follow the Lamb.
Do you want to be enriched and discover the heavenly treasures of faith, grace, true righteousness, and power? Plug into the book of Romans and you’ll never feel the same again. Truth always sets the heart free, and nothing can free you more than the truth found in Romans. Grace and glory are waiting for you to unwrap and make your own. Live in the truths of Romans and watch how God’s love sets you free!
The Protestant Reformation and the Wesleyan Revival both were born out of the revelation of righteousness found in Romans. Catch the fire of truth and grace as you read through Paul’s masterpiece. While preaching in Corinth, Paul dictated the letter to Tertius (16:22) and entrusted it to Phoebe (16:1) to deliver it to the Roman believers. Phoebe was one of the outstanding women in the church of Cenchrea, a port city very near Corinth. We can date this letter to about AD 56. You can imagine the joy that came over the church at Rome when they read Paul’s letter!
I encourage you to read Romans a portion at a time, first overlooking the footnotes. Then go back and make a personal study with the hundreds of study notes we have included. You will be blessed as you read the anointed words found herein. The romance of Romans will fill you with freedom. Freedom from sin! Freedom from self! Freedom from dead works! A new freedom is coming into your spirit as you embrace the truth of Romans!
And you did not receive the “spirit of religious duty,” leading you back into the fear of never being good enough. But you have received the “Spirit of full acceptance,” enfolding you into the family of God. And you will never feel orphaned, for as he rises up within us, our spirits join him in saying the words of tender affection, “Beloved Father [Abba]!” For the Holy Spirit makes God’s fatherhood real to us as he whispers into our innermost being, “You are God’s beloved child!” —Romans 8:15–16
Paul wrote Romans to communicate the grand themes of God’s grace and glory encapsulated in the gospel! No one comes into glory except by the grace of God that fills believers with his righteousness. Our clumsy attempts to please God and our works of religion are totally unable to make us holy. But God is so kind, compassionate, and gracious that he shares his righteousness with all who receive his Son, Jesus Christ. He causes his faith-filled ones to be made holy by his grace and glory! Paul wrote his letter to clearly articulate this message, to explain why he preached it, and to show how it should impact Christians in their daily life and community.
Author and Audience
Rome was the power center of the known world when Paul penned this letter. It was the most influential city on earth at that time. Although Paul had not yet been to Rome, he would one day be martyred there. So Paul wrote to these Roman Christians an important epistle filled with rich doctrines of our faith that reveal God’s heart for his people, and what must be our proper response to such sacrificial love. Paul’s theology flows from the romance of God toward us. Intimacy longs for understanding and oneness. And to be intimate with the God of glory requires that we understand his heart and join him in every way.
The Gospel. Arguably the central focus of Paul’s teaching ministry is what Christians call “the gospel.” It’s also the major focus of his letter to the church of Rome. In the opening sentence Paul explains that God had set him apart with the mission to unveil “God’s wonderful gospel” (1:1). This is one way of explaining the gospel. Here are some others: the revelation of God’s Son; the wonderful message of Jesus; the joyful message of God’s liberating power unleashed within us through Christ; the message of Christ’s goodness, good news, and joyful news.
The Greek word for gospel is euangelion, which simply means “good news.” Paul uses this word as shorthand for the amazing, joyful message of God’s saving work in Jesus Christ. The entire Christian message is wrapped up in this one word. The gospel is the message about how God has acted in the world to rescue humanity from sin and death through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. So when Paul says gospel, he means all that!
Salvation. God’s wonderful salvation is presented to us in this letter—a salvation not of works or religious efforts, but the joyous salvation that comes to everyone who believes the good news of Jesus Christ. He has come to save us and set us free. This salvation is seen in Romans as comprehensive and complete, restoring our souls to wholeness and glory, through God’s endless grace.
The Love of God. Paul sings of God’s love throughout the book of Romans! He writes that right now we “experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!” (5:5). And this love is all because of Jesus: “Christ proved God’s passionate love for us by dying in our place while we were still lost and ungodly!” (5:8). If you ever doubt God’s love for you, plug into Romans to be overpowered by it, realizing we will never be deprived of this gift we have in Christ Jesus!
Justification. One of the most powerful words Paul uses to describe our new reality in Christ is the word justified. This is a legal term that basically means “to acquit.” This is God’s grace at its sweetest and most potent power! While we were all at some point under God’s wrath because of our sin, because Jesus paid the price of our sin in our place, we have been acquitted of all the charges against us and declared “not guilty” in heaven’s courtroom!
The Righteousness of God. One of the most important themes of Paul in his letter to Roman Christians is righteousness, as it relates to both God and believers. He uses the word righteousness numerous times to refer to what we receive from God. Not only are we declared to be in the right, we are actually made right by God when we believe in Jesus. In fact, his righteousness is transferred to us through faith so that when we stand before God, that is who we really are: righteous!
The Law. Many have noted that Paul’s relationship with the law is complicated (the Jewish law given by God to Moses for his people). In Romans, Paul says the law is “holy and its commandments are correct and for our good” (7:12). It was given to us for our benefit and intended to bring life, but instead it brought death (7:10). Paul concluded, “God achieved what the law was unable to accomplish, because the law was limited by the weakness of human nature” (8:3). Through Christ, God achieved what we could not: Christ perfectly fulfilled every requirement of the law so that now “we are free to live, not according to our flesh, but by the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit!” (8:4).
The Flesh versus the Spirit. One of the most interesting comparisons Paul makes is between our old life in “the flesh” versus our new life in the “life-giving Spirit.” He offers this comparison as an exhortation to live the kind of life God desires from his children—not in the morally fallen way we once lived, but in the new way as true children of God “who are moved by the impulses of the Holy Spirit” (8:14).
The Destiny of Israel. From the very beginning Paul makes it clear that his joyful message of what Christ has done is for every single person on the planet: “the Jew first, and then people everywhere!” (1:16). Jews and non-Jews alike are under the same curse because of sin. Paul says the same solution to that problem is available for everyone by the same faith. While the Jewish people were given this promise first, people from every nation were later “grafted in” to share in their wonderful riches. And though Jews have fallen into unbelief, Paul makes it clear God will bring all of Israel to salvation once the full number of non-Jews have come into God’s family!
Romans is the first of Paul’s letters written to churches to encourage, inspire, and instruct. No one demonstrated more care for the churches than Paul. Many of them existed because of Paul’s ministry.
Each of the Pauline letters focuses on two major themes: the importance of right doctrine and the importance of right living. For example, Rom. 1–11 contain many instructions and teaching on having a proper belief system regarding sin, salvation, the work of the cross in our lives, God’s endless love for us, and the place of Israel in the plan of God. It is only after Paul instructs the church that he encourages them to live holy lives. In other words, right understanding of truth is paramount in having a right understanding of how we are to live our lives for the glory of God.
Below is a list of the thirteen letters of Paul and the book of Hebrews (the author is anonymous, but traditionally the book is attributed to Paul). These letters, viewed as Scripture from the time they were written, account for over half the New Testament that we have today.
• 1 Corinthians
• 2 Corinthians
• 1 Thessalonians
• 2 Thessalonians
• 1 Timothy
• 2 Timothy
Although each letter was written to a specific church or person or group, they were meant to be circular letters read by all the churches. Scholars believe they were all written within a span of less than fourteen years and are meant to bring all believers into the beautiful discovery of God’s plan for their lives. They empower us today to live our lives with deep conviction of truth, faith, and love—overcoming every enemy and being victorious in Christ in all things. Amen!