A Brief Introduction to Romans

The letter to the Romans was written by the Apostle Paul while he was in Corinth shortly before his departure to Jerusalem in early 56, 57 or 58 AD. Unfortunately, it is just about impossible to tie down an exact year, but it would have been one of these. His recipients were the believers in Rome, both of Gentile and Jewish background as you will see as we go through the book.

Paul gives us some insight into what occasioned his letter in chapters 1 and 15. It seems that he was about to leave Corinth and go to Jerusalem with the offering they had collected for the needs within the church there, and he asks the Roman Christians to pray for his journey since he was very much aware that his enemies in Jerusalem were interested in killing him. He also wasn’t entirely sure how the offering from gentile Corinth would be received by the Jewish Christians, as there was still a great deal of mistrust and confusion between the two groups, especially related to the role that the Law should play within the church. As you will discover, there is a great deal of discussion on this subject in the letter itself.

It is also clear, as we shall see, that Paul believed at that time that his work was about finished in the Eastern Mediterranean area, and he was already planning to venture to the western Mediterranean after his mission in Jerusalem was accomplished. In all likelihood, Paul would travel from Spain to Rome on this next journey.

Paul’s purpose for writing the letter to Rome isn’t as easy to discern as with most of his letters. Certainly he wanted to give clear instruction about the Gospel, and he also wanted to provide instruction about the role of the Law, and teach about the two covenants (Law of Moses and New Covenant) and how they relate to each other. It is also clear that he desired to teach unity within the church between Jew and Gentile: For these reasons, the letter to the Romans is a doctrinal essay. (Now dear reader, don’t be turned off by “doctrinal” here, for that simply means “teaching.” )

As we consider these things, another interesting point concerning Paul’s purpose begins to emerge: Paul is sending this letter to Rome, but his audience is far greater than that, for this letter is really written to all believers in all times; it is just as relevant today as it was when it was read for the first time. Today it is beloved by millions, a comfort and an encouragement, yet our loudest doctrinal arguments swirl through its pages. Even though there may be a controversy or two, and even though there are a few passages that are rather deep, and yes, even though Paul’s writing style can be a little hard to follow, I am confident that we can study this book together and come away with a clear understanding of it without raising our voices about this or that teaching by simply keeping the context straight.

In any event, it will surely be a fun adventure, so grab a chair and a cup of coffee, and we’ll set out when we get together next time!

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About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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8 Responses to A Brief Introduction to Romans

  1. Pingback: A Brief Introduction to Romans | By the Mighty Mumford

  2. dwmartens says:

    Having recently restudied Don DeWelt’s “Romans Realized” from the College Press Bible Study Textbook Series, this will be a welcome reinforcement of teachings of Romans for me. The older I get, it seems, the harder it is to remember details like what, when and where.

    • Don Merritt says:

      DeWelt did a great job… I hardly find myself in his league!

      • dwmartens says:

        A neat thing is that the whole Bible Study Text Book Series is available free as “pdf” files. And better yet, I’ve discovered that someone has reworked the whole series in digital format that works with the free e-Sword bible software. The rework includes corrections of punctuation and spelling, while the scanned pdf’s, of course, are like the originals.

  3. I’m excited to read your presentation on Romans. As you pointed out it is a beloved book, and It is one of my most favored. Your perspective is always stimulating. Keep up the good work!

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