1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16


What is Romans?

Romans is a letter from Paul to the Christians in Rome.


How did the church in Rome get started?

It was not started by Paul since he had never been there when he wrote this letter. (Romans 1:10, 13)  We must conclude, then, that Jews who had become Christians on the day of Pentecost travelled to Rome with the gospel.  We read in Acts 2, that there were people from “Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes… (Acts 2:10)  These “visitors from Rome” would have returned to Rome carrying the gospel with them.  This was likely the beginning of the church in Rome.


What was the gospel which they would have brought back with them to Rome?

The gospel would have been the good news about Jesus.  In his sermon on that occasion, Peter gave the facts about Jesus concluding with, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ–this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)  Then he gave out the call, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)


How much longer after Pentecost did Paul write this letter to the Roman church?

Jesus death, resurrection, ascension, and the day Pentecost all happened in the same year which was either 30 or 33ad.  Wieseler covers this in exhaustive detail.  Paul’s letter to Rome is typically dated to 56 or 57ad.


Why did Paul write this letter?

To answer this question, first take note of these facts regarding Paul’s ministry.  First, we know that Paul’s calling was to preach to unreached people groups.  He writes:

And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; (Romans 15:20)

Second, we know that Paul had his eyes set on preaching the gospel in Spain:

But now I have finished my work in these regions, and after all these long years of waiting, I am eager to visit you. (24) I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey. (Romans 15:22-24)

From this, we conclude that Paul was hoping that the church in Rome would serve as a sort of sending church for him as he pressed farther west into Spain.  This is likely why he was at such pains to explain the gospel that he preached.  He wanted the Roman Christians to understand who he was, what he stood for, the content of his preaching, and what his objectives were.


What other reasons may have driven Paul to write this letter?

One reason can be seen in Paul’s teaching in chapters 9-11.  Why did Paul spend so much time explaining the role of Israel in God’s plan?  It seems likely that Paul was trying to counter some kind of anti-semitism in the church.  Perhaps this anti-Jewish feeling was partly motivated by the edict of Claudius (Acts 18:2) which was likely issued in 49ad.


Do we have any idea from where Paul would have written this letter?

There are two hints in this book that Paul was at Corinth.  First, is the fact that Phoebe appears to have been the person who carried the letter to Rome and delivered it to the Christians there.  Paul writes:

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea.  Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me. (Romans 16:1-2)

The city of Cenchrea was very close to Corinth and evidently a church had been established there as well, and Pheobe was a deaconess there. (Acts 18:18)  Second, is the person of Gaius whom Paul identifies as his host. (Romans 16:23)  A man by the same name is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:14 as someone who Paul baptized in Corinth.  Assuming these are the same people, we would conclude that Paul wrote his letter to Rome while staying at Gaius’ house in Corinth.


What can be said about the Roman church?

Our only information here are the hints we find in the letter itself.  First, it would seem that many of the members of this church had come from a Gentile background since Paul emphasizes his own call to evangelize the Gentiles:  Through Him [Jesus] and on behalf of His name, we received grace and apostleship to call all those among the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. (Romans 1:5)

We also note that Paul directs his teaching regarding the strong and weak to the strong Christians.   You can see this in the opening verses of these chapters:

  • Now you, [who are strong] accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. (Romans 14:1)
  • Now we who are strong [Gentile Christians] ought to bear the weaknesses of those [Jewish Christians] without strength and not just please ourselves. (Romans 15:1)

Now the strong Christians were those who had come from a Gentile background.  The weak were those who had come to Christ from a Jewish background.  Thus, the majority of Christians in the Roman church must have been Gentile since Paul addresses them directly.


Do not chapters 9-11 suggest that there were many Jewish-Christians in the Roman church as well?

It does indeed.  Clearly, Paul is addressing the issue of Israel’s place in God’s plan and this would have been especially relevant for the Jews.  There are other reasons to believe that there were Jewish-Christians in the Roman church.

First, Paul was not the founder of the church in Rome; and thus, the church may have begun with Jewish-Christians.  Recall that Paul saw his calling as specifically to the Gentiles. (Rom 15:20)

Second, we notice Paul’s frequent references to the Old Testament (Abraham and David in Rom 4, Adam in Rom 5, Pharaoh in Rom 9, Elijah in Rom 11) which would have been especially effective with Jewish-Christians.


Did not Mark write his gospel for the Christians in Rome as well?

Yes, there is good evidence to believe that about this same time, Mark was preparing his gospel account for the Christians at Rome; cf Wallace.


What is the basic outline of this letter?

The letter proceeds according to the basic principles of Paul’s understanding and experience of salvation.

Chapter 1-3:20  Jews & Gentile alike are guilty in God’s courtroom.

Chapter 3:21-5  Jew & Gentile can be not-guilty in God’s courtroom by faith in Jesus or “justification”.

Chapter 6-8  God gives believers victory over sin or “sanctification”.

Chapter 9-11  The place of Israel in God’s plan

Chapter 12-15:13  Life in community with other believers

Chapter 15:14-16  Closing


Why does Tertius claim to have written this letter in Romans 16:22?

Tertius was Paul’s amanuensis or secretary who would have done the actual writing of the letter while Paul dictated to him its contents.  This was a common practice in those days; see Richards.



What is the basic outline of the book of Romans?

Paul proceeds in the following order.  First, he summons the Gentiles into God’s courtroom and pronounces them guilty. (Rom 1:18-32)  Then, he summons the Jews and finds them guilty as well. (Rom 2 – 3:8)  Finally, Paul finds the entire world is guilty before God. (Rom 3:9-20)  When the entire world has been brought to this place, Paul introduces the gospel which is the announcement of a way to be justified before God without keeping the law. (Rom 3:21-31)

The next five chapters expand on this grand opening.

  • Chapter 4 focuses on the person of Abraham and his justification.

  • Chapter 5 focuses on the work of Christ and compares and contrasts the effects of Christ’s work with Adam’s fall.

  • Chapter 6 speaks of dying to sin;

  • Chapter 7  speaks of dying to the law;

  • Chapter 8 focuses on the Holy Spirit and His role in our salvation.

When Paul reaches chapter 9, there is a marked shift in his focus.  In chapters, 9-11, he focuses on Israel and their place in God’s redemptive purpose


What is the reason that Paul now shifts his focus to Israel?

Paul does not explicitly say why.  There were undoubtedly Jews in the church at Rome, and the question of the Jewish religion, its practices and rituals, the relationship between Jewish-Christians and Gentile-Christians, and many other issues related to the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant was always a source of controversy amongst the early Christians.  Perhaps Paul is also trying to ward off any kind of anti-Semitism which might be rising in the early church.


Why does Paul quote so much from the Old Testament in these chapters?

Because Paul is especially directing his teaching here to the Jewish-Christians.  Paul labors hard to show them that his gospel is in continuity with what the Old Testament taught.  This, of course, would be especially important to those Christians which came from a Jewish background.  In addition, it would be important for the Gentile-Christians to know and understand this as well since they would have come to an understanding that this too was the very word of God.


What is the precise issue which Paul is addressing in these chapters?

The issue is this.  Why is the nation of Israel in such a miserable state when God had given them such wonderful promises?  The Old Testament Scriptures were full of God’s promises of all what he would do for His people Israel in the last days.  What had become of these?  Was God not true to His word?  This was the question which burned in the minds of every devout Jew.  They had begun to doubt the very faithfulness of God to His word.  You can see this in several of Paul’s comments.

First, Paul begins this section by insisting that the word of God has not failed. (Romans 9:6)

Then, in Romans 11, he asks:  “…has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel? and the answer given is:  “…for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29)

Pettingill writes:

Having, therefore, brought the entire race into one common condemnation as sinners, and opened the one and only salvation in the gospel, the question inevitably emerges, What, then, becomes of the Davidic covenant, confirmed by the oath of God and renewed to the mother of Jesus by the angel Gabriel? What becomes of the repeated, specific, and absolutely unconditional promises of the restoration of all Israel to the land of their fathers, and the establishment again of the monarchy in the person of a Messiah, Who should be Son and Heir of David? This section is the apostle’s answer.   Pettingill, Simple Studies in Romans, 120–121.

Godet writes:

A Jew might reason thus: Either the gospel is true and Jesus really is the Messiah,—but in this case the divine promises formerly made to this Jewish people who reject the Messiah and His salvation are nullified;—or Israel is and remains for ever, as should be the case in virtue of its election, the people of God, and in this case the gospel must be false and Jesus an impostor. Thus the dilemma seemed to be: Either to affirm God’s faithfulness to His own election and deny the gospel, or to affirm the gospel, but give the lie to the divine election and faithfulness.   source


What are these promises to which the Jewish people clung so earnestly?

There are many.

  1. God promised Abraham that all the families of the earth would be blessed in him and that anyone who cursed him would be cursed and all who blessed him would be blessed. (Gen 12:3)

  2. God promised to give the throne of Israel to one of David’s sons, and David’s dynasty would continue on forever and ever (2Sam 7:13-16).

  3. God promised Ezekiel that he would reunite the two divided sections of Israel (Ezekiel 37:20), bring them back to the land of Palestine (Ezekiel 37:21), and set David as their king forever (Ezekiel 37:24).

  4. In Zechariah 2, God promises to rebuild the city of Jerusalem to a much larger city than it ever was before; and in Zechariah 8, to make the city a pleasant place where the elderly reminisce and children play happily in the streets.

There are so many more.


What is Paul’s attitude towards the Jews in these chapters?

It is clear from Paul’s letters that he was very irritated with the Judaizers. (Phil 3:2)  With the general mass of the Jewish people, however, Paul had great sorrow and even a broken heart.  He longed for their conversion.  This is clear in these chapters where Paul turns from exultation to lament.  Note as well Paul’s statement in Romans 9:  “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh…” (Romans 9:3)  Moule writes:

Paul, just at this point of the Epistle, turns with a peculiar intensity of grief and yearning towards the Israel which he had once led, and now had left, because they would not come with him to Christ. His natural and his spiritual sympathies all alike go out to this self-afflicting people, so privileged, so divinely loved, and now so blind. Oh that he could offer any sacrifice that would bring them reconciled, humbled, happy, to the feet of the true Christ! Oh that they might see the fallacy of their own way of salvation, and submit to the way of Christ, taking His yoke, and finding rest to their souls! Why do they not do it? Why does not the light which convinced him shine on them? Why should not the whole Sanhedrin say, “Lord, what wouldst Thou have us to do?” Why does not the fair beauty of the Son of God make them too “count all things but loss” for Him? Why do not the voices of the Prophets prove to them, as they do now to Paul, absolutely convincing of the historical as well as spiritual claims of the Man of Calvary? Has the promise failed? Has God done with the race to which He guaranteed such a perpetuity of blessing? No, that cannot be.   source


What does Paul mean here by “accursed from Christ”?

Here Paul is giving vent to the terrible anguish that he felt for his own people, the Jews, and how earnestly he desired their salvation. (Romans 10:1)  He declares himself willing to be cut off from Christ and thus from salvation if it would mean the salvation of his people.  Morison writes:

Why such sorrow? His compatriots were in danger of being anathemata from the Christ. A lurid spiritual doom was gloomily looming over their future. There was, in the apostle’s estimation, appalling peril. Hence the agony of his heart. The ploughshare of grief had been tearing up and drawing out into furrows all that was most sensitive in his spirit, till he self-sacrificingly felt that if it were possible for him to secure their eternal gain by means of his own eternal loss, he would willingly leap into the abysmal depth of perdition, taking his people’s place and suffering in their room. It is the acme of a mood of mind incomparably Christ-like.   source

We see similar anguish expressed by Moses (Exodus 32:32) and David (2Samuel 18:33).


You listed all the promises that God had made to His people.  How does Paul resolve the question about the  fulfillment of these promises?

Paul resolves this by showing the Jews that they had misunderstood the true identity of the people of God.  They identified the people of God as ethnic Israel.  God, however, identified His people differently.  In Romans 9, Paul shows that the real Israel or the real people of God are those whom God has sovereignly chosen to save.  In Romans 10, Paul identifies the people of God as those who have believed in their heart and confessed with their mouth that Jesus is Lord.  This is the people of God who will receive all the promised blessings, not ethnic Israel.


What about Romans 11?  What does Paul teach in this chapter?

In this chapter, Paul shows that God still has blessings in store even for ethnic Israel.  He has not forgotten His people or thrown them aside; there is a future for them as well.


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