KNOWLEDGEABLE and experienced, the lawyer makes his case. Calling key witnesses to the stand, he presents the evidence. After the discrediting by the testimonies of witnesses for the defence by skilfully cross-examining them, he concludes with an airtight summary and stirring challenge for the jury. The announced verdict is no surprise. “Guilty” states the jury; and justice is served.
The apostle Paul was intelligent, articulate, and committed to his calling. Like a skilled lawyer, he presented the case for the gospel clearly and forthrightly in his letter to the believers in Rome.
Paul had heard of the church at Rome, but he had never been there, nor had any of the other apostles. Evidently the church had been begun by Jews who had come to faith during Pentecost (Acts 2). They spread the faith on their return to Rome, and the church grew.
Although many barriers separated them, Paul felt a bond with these Romans. They were his brothers and sisters in Christ, and he longed to see them face to face. He had never met most of the believers there, yet he loved them. He sent this letter to introduce himself and to make a clear declaration of the faith.
After a brief introduction, Paul presents the facts of the gospel (1:3) and declares his allegiance to it (1:16, 17). He continues by building an airtight case for the lostness of mankind and the necessity for God’s intervention (1:18-3:20).
Then Paul presents the good news – salvation is available to all, regardless of a person’s identity, sin, or heritage. We are saved by grace (unearthed, undeserved favour from God) through faith (complete trust) in Christ and his finished work. Through him we can stand before God justified, “not guilty” (3:21-5:21). With this foundation Paul moves directly into a discussion of the freedom that comes from being saved – freedom from the power of sin (6:1-23), freedom from the domination of the law (7:1-25), freedom to become like Christ and discover God’s limitless love (8:1-39).
Speaking directly to his Jewish brothers and sisters, Paul shares his concern for them and explains how they fit into God’s plan (9:1-11:12). God has made the way for Jews and Gentiles to be united in the body of Christ – both groups can praise God for his wisdom and love (11:12-36).
Paul explains what it means to live in complete submission to Christ – using spiritual gifts to serve others (12:3-8), genuinely loving others (12:9-21), and being good citizens (13:1-14). Freedom must be guided by love as we build each other up in the faith, being sensitive and helpful to those who are weak (14:1-15:4). Paul stresses unity, especially between Gentiles and Jews (15:5-13). He concludes by reviewing his reasons for writing, outlining his personal plans (15:22-33), greeting his friends, and giving a few final thoughts and greetings from his travelling companions (16:1-27).
As you read Romans, re-examine your commitment to Christ, and reconfirm your relationships with other believers in Christ’s body.
PURPOSE: To introduce Paul to the Romans and to give a sample of his messages before he arrives in Rome
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Christians in Rome and believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 57, from Corinth, as Paul was preparing for his visit to Jerusalem.
SETTING: Apparently Paul had finished his work in the east, and he planned to visit Rome on his way to Spain after first bringing a collection to Jerusalem for the poor Christians there (15:23-28). The Roman church was mostly Jewish but also contained a great number of Gentiles.
KEY VERSE: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1).
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Phoebe
SPECIAL FEATURES: Paul wrote Romans as an organised and carefully presented statement of his faith – it does not have the form of a typical letter. He does, however, spend considerable time greeting people in Rome at the end of the letter.
What To Believe (1:1-11:36) Paul clearly sets forth the foundations of the Christian faith. All people are sinful; Christ died to forgive sin; we are made right with God through faith; this begins a new life with a new relationship with God. Like a sports team that constantly reviews the basics, we will be greatly helped in our faith by keeping close to those foundations. If we study Romans carefully, we will never be at a loss to know what to believe.
- Sinfulness of mankind
- Forgiveness of sin through Christ
- Freedom from sin’s grasp
- Israel’s past, present, and future
How To Behave (12:1-16:27) Paul gives clear, practical guidelines for the believers in Rome. The Christian life is not abstract theology unconnected with life, but it has practical implications that will affect how we choose to behave each day. It is not enough merely to know the gospel; we must let it transform our lives and let God impact every aspect of our lives.
EXPLANATION: Sin means refusing to do God’s will and failing to do all that God wants. Since Adam’s rebellion against God, our nature is to disobey him. Our sin cuts us off from God. Sin causes us to want to live our own way rather than God’s way. Because God is morally perfect, just, and fair, he is right to condemn sin.
IMPORTANCE: Each person has sinned, either by rebelling against God or by ignoring his will. No matter what our background or how hard we try to live good and moral lives, we cannot earn salvation or remove our sin. Only Christ can save us.
EXPLANATION: Our sin points out our need to be forgiven and cleansed. Although we don’t deserve it, God, in his kindness, reached out to love and forgive us. He provides the way for us to be saved. Christ’s death paid the penalty for our sin.
IMPORTANCE: It is good news that God saves us from our sin. But we must believe in Jesus Christ and believe that he forgave our sin in order to enter into a wonderful new relationship with God.
EXPLANATION: By God’s power, believers are sanctified – made holy. This means we are set apart from sin, enabled to obey and to become more like Christ. When we are growing in our relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit frees us from the demands of the law and from fear of judgment.
IMPORTANCE: Because we are free from sin’s control, the law’s demands, and fear of God’s punishment, we can grow in our relationship with Christ. By trusting in the Holy Spirit and allowing him to help us, we can overcome sin and temptation.
EXPLANATION: God oversees and cares about his people – past, present, and future. God’s ways of dealing with people are always fair. Because God is in charge of all creation, he can save whomever he wills.
IMPORTANCE: Because of God’s mercy, both Jews and Gentiles can be saved. We must all respond to his mercy and accept his gracious offer of forgiveness. Because he is sovereign, let him reign in your heart.
EXPLANATION: When our purpose is to give credit to God for his love, power, and perfection in all we do, we can serve him properly. Serving him unifies all believers and enables them to show love and sensitivity to others.
IMPORTANCE: None of us can be fully Christlike by ourselves – it takes the entire body of Christ to express Christ fully. By actively and vigorously building up other believers, Christians can be a symphony of service to God.
©Dodgsons KingsWay Sanctuary Church, 1973.