The Epistle to the Romans is the only systematic presentation of Christian theology in the New Testament. Written by Paul as a letter of introduction to the Church in Rome around AD 57, Romans provides the most balanced statement of Paul’s theology in the New Testament. He wrote the letter in the hope that the church in Rome would support Paul’s mission to Spain. Paul had been taking a collection for the poor in Judea and intended to visit Rome and go on to Spain after he delivered the gift to the elders in Jerusalem. The book of Acts reveals that Paul was arrested in Jerusalem shortly after delivering the gift and when he arrived in Rome several years later, he arrived in chains and under house arrest awaiting trial before the Emperor.
Rome was the capital of an empire which stretched from Britain to Arabia. The Mediterranean Sea was essentially a Roman lake. The central theme of Romans is that faith in Christ is the only ground for humans being accepted by God. We are all alike, Jew or Gentile, we all stand condemned. But God offers free pardon and a new life through Jesus, who served our punishment for us.
Romans’ place in Christian history is incalculable. Augustine of Hippo (ca. 400), one of the great doctors of the early Church, was converted to faith in Jesus Christ while reading Paul’s letter to the Romans. Martin Luther (ca. 1500), an Augustinian monk, had his tower experience of conversation to faith in Christ while studying Paul’s letter to the Romans. John Wesley (ca. 1735), the founder of Methodism, felt his heart strangely warmed while listening to someone read from Luther’s preface to Paul’s letter to the Romans at a prayer meeting in London.
Key Learning: Salvation is not earned by keeping the minute details of the Hebrew law; Salvation comes by faith (trust) in Jesus Christ.