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Epistle to the Romans
The Epistle to the Romans is one of the epistles, or letters, included in the New Testament canon of the Christian Bible. When it is clear that the Bible is being discussed, it is often referred to as simply "Romans". Romans is one of the seven currently (as of 2004) "undisputed" letters of Paul and even among the four letters accepted as authentically his (in German scholarship, the Hauptbriefen) by F. C. Baur and the Tübingen School of historical criticism of texts in the 19th century.
It was probably written at Corinth or possibly in nearby Cenchrea. Phoebe (16:1) of Cenchrea, the Aegean port of Corinth, conveyed it to Rome, and Gaius of Corinth entertained the apostle Paul at the time of his writing it (16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14), and Erastus was chamberlain of the city, i.e., of Corinth (2 Timothy 4:20).
The precise time at which it was written is not mentioned in the epistle, but it was obviously written when the collection for Jerusalem had been assembled and Paul was about to "go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints", i.e., at the close of his second visit to Greece, during the winter preceding his last visit to that city (Rom. 15:25; compare Acts 19:21; 20:2, 3, 16; 1 Cor. 16:1-4), early in A.D. 58.
It is highly probable that Christianity was planted in Rome by some of those who had been at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10). At this time the Jews were very numerous in Rome, and their synagogues were probably resorted to by Romans also, who in this way became acquainted with the great facts regarding Jesus as these were reported among the Jews. Thus a church composed of both Jews and Gentiles was formed at Rome. Many of the brethren went out to meet Paul on his approach to Rome. There are evidences that Christians were then in Rome in considerable numbers, and had probably more than one place of meeting (Rom. 16:14, 15).
The purposes of the apostle in writing to this church were threefold and are articulated in last half of chapter 15. First, Paul asks for prayers in his coming journey to Jerusalem and that the offering collected from the Gentile churches would be accepted there. Second, Paul is planning to come to Rome from Jerusalem and spend some time there before moving on to Spain. Paul is in need of a church to support his mission to Spain and is in hopes the Roman church will meet that need. In that Paul has never been to Rome he writes the letter to outline his gospel so that there is no confusion about his teachings from "false teachers". Third, Paul is aware that there is some conflict between Gentile and Jewish Christians in the Roman church and he writes to address those concerns (Chapters thirteen and the first half of fourteen). While the Roman church was founded by Jewish Christians the exile of Jews from Rome in 49 A.D by Claudius resulted in Gentile Christians taking leadership positions. Upon the return of Jewish Christians after Claudius's death in 54 A.D. tensions resulted over the keeping of Jewish food laws and observance of Jewish holy days.
The theme of the letter is the gospel of Jesus Christ(1:16-17). In general terms, Paul develops an argument that demonstrates that all humanity is guilty and accountable to God for Sin and that it is only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that humanity can attain salvation. God is therefore both just and the one who justifies. In response to God's free, sovereign and graceful action of salvation we can be justified by faith. Paul uses the example of Abraham to demonstrate that it is by faith not works that mankind can be seen as righteous before God.
In chapters five through eight Paul argues that believers can be assured of their hope in salvation, that believers have been freed from the bondage of Sin and the dominion and bondage of the Law. Believers can celebrate in that assurance of salvation. In chapters nine through eleven Paul addresses the faithfulness of God to Israel, wherein he says that God has been faithful to His promise but "not all who are descended from Israel are Israel". Paul argues of God's freedom to choose who He will or will not save, but also concludes the section by saying that after a full measure of Gentiles have been saved, all Israel will be saved.
In chapter twelve through the first part of chapter fifteen Paul outlines how the gospel transforms believers and the behavior that results from such a transformation. In this section of the letter Paul addresses the tension between those who wish to observe Jewish traditions and those who do not. The concluding verses contain a description of his travel plans and personal greetings salutations. One third of the twenty-one Christians identified in the greetings are women; an indication that women played an important role in the early church at Rome.
Paul's letter to Rome is a rich, textured articulation of the gospel from which many of the doctrines of the church have made their foundation. Paul, at times, uses a common style of writing of his time called a "diatribe" in which he appears to be responding to a "heckler" and the text is therefore structured as an argument. The letter is addressed to the church at Rome which consisted of both Gentile and Jewish Christians. In the flow of the letter Paul shifts his arguments, at times apparently speaking to the Jewish members of the church, then the Gentile membership and at times to the church as a whole.
Many arguments found in Romans have been articulated in earlier letters, particularly Galatians and the letters to the church at Corinth.
Protestant treatment of the text
Martin Luther described Romans as "the chief book of the New Testament ... it deserves to be known by heart, word for word, by every Christian."
The "Romans Road" refers to a set of scriptures from the book of Romans that Christian evangelists use to present a clear and simple case for personal salvation for each person. They are:
Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Romans 6:23a "...The wages of sin is death..."
Romans 6:23b "...But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Romans 5:8 "God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us!"
Romans 10:9,10 "...If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."
Romans 10:13 "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved!"
Online translations of Epistle to the Romans:
- Early Christian Writings: Epistle to the Romans
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