This Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans was written around a.d. 58 by Paul to the church at Rome, a congregation composed of both Jewish and Gentile Christians. Paul writes this letter because he is planning to visit them, but this church in Rome is not one that he had started. It had been organized well before Paul ever reached the city. He acknowledges in his opening that he has heard about them, and so have others: “your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (1.8). Romans is a long letter but Paul wants to introduce himself to the Christians in Rome and also to spell out for them in a thorough way the good news of Jesus the Christ for those who believe (chapters 1–11) and the ethical implications of that faith (chapters 12–15). Clearly, for Paul “right belief” must result in “right actions” in the believer's life (faith active in love).
Paul also cherished the idea of going on from Rome to Spain, and had hopes of Roman support for that new mission possibility. Romans is Paul's most complete and most profoundly theological statement of the message he has proclaimed, and of its life-implications for all who would be followers of Jesus the Christ. After introducing himself and giving thanks to God for this hearty Roman congregation (1.1-15), Paul then sets forth in two verses the theme of the whole letter: “the gospel of Christ … is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (1.16-17). Being put right with God, he says, is what all persons need, both Jews and Gentiles. In the letter he goes on to explain that those who, by the grace of God through faith, have come into union with Christ are set free by God from the power of sin and death, and become heirs with Christ to all God's promises—forgiveness, new life, and salvation. Lest any believer seek to keep this in the realm of abstract theology and not make the necessary changes to their life-style, in the closing chapters (12–15) Paul carefully reviews the ethical dimensions called for in this new and forgiven life in Christ: “therefore … present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (12.1).
Paul Introduces Himself and the Good News (1.1-17)
All Have Sinned and Stand Guilty before God (1.18—3.20)
How God Accepts People (3.21—4.25)
Living the New Life—Justified by Faith (5.1—8.39)
God's Love and Care for Both Jews and Gentiles (9.1—11.36)
The Life and Ethics of Being New Persons in Christ (12.1—15.13)
Paul's Plans and Personal Greetings (15.14—16.27)