Romans: Introduction to the Epistle

“Every Christian should learn it by heart”

—Martin Luther

“If we understand this Epistle, we have a passage opened to us to the understanding of the whole of Scripture”

—John Calvin

“it appears as if in this Epistle St Paul desires to... provide an access to the whole of the Old Testament. For there is no doubt that he who carries this Epistle in his heart carries the light and power of the Old Testament with him. Every Christian ought therefore to know this Epistle and study it persistently.”

—Martin Luther

“When, on the third day of my first term in May 1925, full of curiosity, I attended Mr. Peterson’s lecture on Romans, the course of my study, and in some sense my life, was decided.
Now, as my life’s work comes to an end, I seek to show in my own commentary what the apostle says to me.”

—Ernst Käsemann

Date and Place of Writing

The Epistle was written when Paul was about to set out for Jerusalem (15.25), bringing money for the poor saints. This fits in well with Acts 24.17 and puts the time to near the end of Paul’s third missionary journey. It is highly probable that he wrote it during his three month stay at Corinth because: Paul commends Phoebe who is a diaconos of the church in Cenchrea, the port of Corinth. (She was going to Rome and so probably carried the letter). Paul is staying with Gaius (16.23)—he baptized a Gaius in Corinth (I Cor 1.14). Also Timothy and Erastus are with him when writes the letter, and Acts 19,20 tells us they were at Corinth with him.

The church at Rome seems to have been started by individual Christians who had moved there, rather than by a special missionary enterprise. It was a huge city of sheer magnificence, the capital of the empire. Some called it the glorious crowning achievement of mankind, others said it was the sewer of the universe. There were impressive and beautiful buildings, and shameful urban social problems—similar to our big cities today.

Brief Outline

  1. [1:18-4:25] Justification by Faith
    • We cannot gain righteousness from the law
    • Righteousness by faith
  2. [5-8] New life and New hope
    • Reconciled by Christ’s death
    • Freedom from sin through grace
    • Inability of the law to bring freedom
    • Victory in Christ through the Spirit—Nothing can separate us from the love of God
  3. [9:1-11:36] God’s Future for Israel
    • Introduction—Paul is grieved by Israel’s’ rejection of the Gospel
    • Israel has no automatic right-
    • Israel has “missed the Gospel” and is totally without excuse
    • but God has purpose for Israel that will demonstrate his kindness & mercy
  4. [12:1-15:13] The life that pleases God—how the New Covenant people should live
    • Life in the Kingdom (the body of Christ)
    • The laws of the Kingdom
    • Unity (problems concerning
    • Conclusion: unity, hope, joy and peace by the power of the Spirit


Some Problems in Romans

Form of Romans