Living in Grace and Faith
Introduction to Romans Week 1
Author: The Apostle Paul – Scholars and Church historians have universal agreement that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans There are many ancient Greek manuscripts entitled with headers that read, “the epistle to the Romans was written by Tertius and was sent by Phoebus from the Corinthians of the church in Cenchreae”. Tertius was the amanuensis (scribe) who wrote as Paul dictated and Phoebe was the female deacon who delivered this epistle to the Roman church See Romans 16. The date for this letter is approximately winter of AD56AD57.
Occasion: Paul wrote this letter to the Roman church as he spent the winter in Corinth just after the riot in Ephesus. The backdrop of the letter to the Romans is Acts 19 through Acts 20:1-2. Priscilla and Aquila had left Ephesus for Rome and Paul had a desire to travel to Jerusalem and bring a gift from the Gentile churches in Greece and the Roman Province of Asia, to the mother church in Jerusalem. From there Paul planned to visit the church in Rome and encourage them on his way to Spain.
From the Acts narrative we know that Paul did go to Rome not as a free man but was arrested in Jerusalem (Acts 21) and traveled to Rome under Roman custody as he waited his appeal trial before Caesar Nero. It is a Church History mystery if Paul ever made it to Spain.
The church in Rome began in the early First Century by Christians who traveled from the east and established Christian communities in Rome. Christianity’s start in Rome was very organic. The first believers in Rome were Jews who traveled to Jerusalem for Pentecost and witnessed the outpouring of the Spirit, they responded to Peter’s message to receive Jesus as Messiah, and then returned to Rome and started the first Christian communities. See Acts 2. Eventually Paul’s ministry throughout the Roman Province of Asia, Macedonia and Greece brought a harvest of Gentile believers from the merchant class, who traveled to Rome to trade and settle there. The church in Rome was a multi-cultural mix of Jews and Gentiles of all social economic spheres of society. Rome being the capitol of the Roman Empire was the intersection point for the people groups and cultures that lived in the Empire, and the Church in Rome reflected this demographic. This is what made the Roman Church unique in its founding and rapid growth, without the early influence of the apostles Paul and Peter. Their influence came to the Church in Rome approximately 20-25 years after its founding.
Since the church in Rome was made up of a social economic, multi-cultural mix of Christians from all over the Empire; they would have been familiar with Paul’s
apostolic ministry because they may have heard about him or may have been equipped and released by Paul in Ephesus, Corinth or any of the other city churches he founded. As Paul planned to visit them, he wanted to write the letter to the Romans as a clear introduction and explanation of what Christians should believe (doctrine), how they should live and how they should relate to one another. Paul had heard about the Roman Church from others like Priscilla and Aquila, so he knew their challenges as a Church Body in Rome. These challenges would have been divisions between Jews and Gentiles, matters of the Jewish Law versus the New Covenant, matters of morality and purity, and understanding the atonement that Jesus made for sins on the cross.
Romans is the most detailed and precise outline of apostolic theology and doctrine of any of Paul’s letters, or even any of the other apostolic letters from Peter, James, Jude, or John. The letter to the Romans was prized by the Early Church and there were many copies distributed throughout the Early Church age minus the personal addresses of Romans 16. The Early Church Father, Clement of Rome, wrote his Epistle of Clement to the Corinthian Church in AD96 and quoted Romans so much so, that scholars believe that Clement may have memorized Romans. The early Christian symbol of the anchor that adorns many of the early graves in the Roman catacombs comes from Clement being drowned by being tied to anchor and the Hebrews 6:19 verse.
Lastly, the letter to the Romans has inspired more revival and reformation in Church History than any other apostolic letter in the Scriptures. The great African Theologian Augustine (“take up and read”) was brought to faith by this letter as he read Romans 13:13-14, Martin Luther was born again by reading Romans 1:17 and meditating on its truth, Charles Wesley was born again in a small Bible Study while they were reading Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans. Augustine, Luther and Wesley describe their experiences in ways that Charismatics would call supernatural Holy Spirit encounters. We could say the letter to the Romans has brought the most impact that shaped Church History and Christian Theology than any other New Testament Epistle.
Brief Outline of Romans
1) Humanity’s fall from Edenic perfection explained
2) The frustration of the Law’s inability to transform humanity
3) God’s righteous judgment contrasted to God’s mercy, grace and love for humanity in Christ
4) Justification before God comes from faith
5) The life of the flesh versus the glory of a new creation life in Christ
6) Israel’s unbelief explained and the grace of God grafting Gentiles into Israel
7) Personal morality, integrity and Christian conduct in the world
8) Christian tolerance between Jewish brothers and sisters and Gentile brothers and sisters
9) Paul’s personal plans to visit the Roman Church
10) Paul’s commission of Phoebe as she delivered the Roman epistle, and personal
greetings from Paul for the Roman Church to receive and honor various Christian leaders
a) It is important to look at how Paul self-identifies himself to the Church at Rome because it gives us a revelation of his heart. How we self-identify reveals the condition of our hearts.
b) Servant – Greek – doulos – bondservant/slave, one who has been purchased for service to the one who bought them, metaph., one who gives himself up to another’s will, those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men, devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests. Paul first identifies as a person who has been ransomed by Christ, his heart being conquered by Christ, and his life being spent on Christ.
c) Called to be an apostle – Greek – klētos apostolos – divinely invited to be an emissary for God, a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders. Paul lived his life from a clear vision and purpose. One of the things we should expect as Christians is a sense of purpose, vision and realization that our lives impact others.
d) Set apart – Greek – aphorizō – to mark off from others by boundaries, to limit, to separate, in a good sense: to appoint, set apart for some purpose. Interestingly, this Greek word is the root word for Pharisee. Many scholars believe that Paul was alluding to his Pharisee background so that his words would carry weight to the Jewish brothers and sisters who were dividing from Gentiles. Paul, having been a former student of Gamaliel would have had tremendous influence on Jewish believers in Messiah.
e) Paul was set apart for the Gospel – The gospel is the salvation narrative that God used to lead people back to relationship with Him. It is a narrative of Covenants that promise and reveal a Messiah, Jesus, who would crush satan’s head, save, heal and deliver humanity from the effects and judgment of sin, and restore Edenic eternal life back to humanity. It is both the power of God’s Word and the display of spiritual power manifested in the natural realm that proves the message.
a) Paul presents the Gospel of Christ – our Christian message of salvation, healing, forgiveness and restoration as the fulfillment of God’s promises to humanity in the Old Covenant Scriptures. They all pointed to Christ who fulfilled their promises and fulfilled the Law as True Son, a Second Adam who obeyed God perfectly and restored the dominion to humanity that satan usurped.
b) A descendant of David – The genealogy of Jesus qualifies Him to have fulfilled God’s promise to David that he would have a descendant who would sit on his throne and rule eternally.
c) The resurrection of Christ proved His claims of being God’s Son and proved that Jesus was an acceptable sacrifice for the sins of humanity.
d) Jesus Christ our Lord – Greek – kyrios – he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord, the owner; one who has control of the person, the master, in the state: the sovereign, prince, chief, the Roman emperor, is a title of honor expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants greet their master, the title given to God in the Septuagint.
e) It is important to note that Paul called Jesus “our Lord”. Paul uses this title in the context of the overarching authority of Jesus, and in the context of His Divinity. Kyrios was a proper title for a sovereign; considering that, all of us who follow Christ, follow Him in the context of Jesus being our King, the ruler of our soul, the authority of our lives and the one we have willfully surrendered to.