An Extraordinary Legacy:

In his introduction to Romans, Eugene Peterson, with an inimitable eloquence, captures the impact of the letter to the Romans.

Peterson writes, “The event that split history into “before” and “after” and changed the world took place about thirty years before Paul wrote this letter. The event- the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus took place in a remote corner of the extensive Roman Empire: the province of Judea in Palestine. Hardly anyone noticed, certainly no one in busy and power Rome.

When this letter arrived in Rome, hardly anyone read it, certainly no one of influence. There was much to read in Rome-imperial decrees, exquisite poetry, finely crafted moral philosophy and much of it world-class. And yet in no time, as such things go, this letter left all those other writings in the dust. Paul’s letter to the Romans has had a far larger impact on its readers than volumes of all those Roman writers together.

The quick rise of this letter to a peak of influence is extraordinary, written as it was by an obscure Roman citizen without connections. But when we read it for ourselves, we begin to realize that it is truly extraordinary.

The letter to the Romans is a piece of exuberant and passionate thinking. This is the glorious mind enlisted in the service of God. Paul takes the well-witnessed and devoutly believed fact of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and thinks through its implications.”

Author, Date, Place and Occasion:  

The apostle Paul was the writer of this letter. No voice from the early church was ever raised against his authorship. The letter contains several historical references that agree with known facts of Paul’s life. The doctrinal content of the book is typical of the Apostle Paul, which is evident from a comparison with other letters he wrote.

The book was probably written in 57 AD. Very likely Paul was on his third missionary journey, ready to return to Jerusalem with the offering for poverty-stricken believers in Jerusalem (15:25-27) Paul had already received contributions from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia, so he either was at Corinth or had already been there. The most likely place of writing is either Corinth or Cenchrea (about six miles away) because of references to Phoebe of Cenchrea (16:1) and to Gaius, Paul’s host (16:23), who was probably a Corinthian (I Cor.1:14).

Paul sent a letter to prepare the Christians there for his intended visit in connection with a mission to Spain (see 15:23-24). For many years Paul had wanted to visit Rome to minister there, and this remarkable letter served as an introduction to the ministry to which God had called him. The occasion of many of his letters was to address particular problems within the church. Since he was not acquainted directly with the Roman church, he says little about its problems.

Theological Theme:

God’s judging and saving righteousness revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the cross, God judges sin yet at the same time manifests his saving grace.

Additional Themes:

  • Power of the Gospel- (1:16-17)
  • Sinfulness of humanity- (1:18-3:20)
  • Moses and Jesus- (2:12-29, 3:9-20, 7:1-25)
  • Righteousness of God- (3:21-26, 6:1-10, 7:1-6, 8:1-4)
  • Coming of Christ ushered in a new age of God’s redemptive history- (1:1-7, 3:21-26, 5:1-8:39)
  • God’s salvation through the atoning death of Christ- (3:21-26, 4:23-25, 5: 6-19, 6:1-10, 8:1-4)
  • Justification by faith alone: (1:16-4:25, 9:30-10:21)
  • Holy Spirit’s work in our Christian life- (2:25-29, 6:1-7:6, 8:1-39)
  • God’s sovereignty in salvation- (9:1-11:36)
  • Promises to both Jews and Gentiles- (1:18-4:25, 9:1-11:36)
  • Living out the gospel- 12:1-15:7