Recipients: Look at the long list of people mentioned in Chapter 16. This shows how personal was his concern. He must have prayed for them by name; all his letters begin with assurance of prayer. Notice that he is joined in writing Romans by Timothy, etc. This too is true of most of his letters. Mention of numerous “mere names” in Scripture is evidence of God’s concern for each of us individually.
Paul had never visited Rome when he wrote this. How did he know these people? (Acts 18:2) How had they become Christians? (Acts 2:10) Like many of the “churches” in Paul’s day, the “church in Rome” did not meet in one place, but in many small groups, particularly in homes. And not just on “the Lord’s Day”. Like most of the early Church groups, the Church in Rome was made up of both Jews and Gentiles. (Even before Christianity the Jewish synagogues were taking in Gentile members. (Esther 8:17, Acts 10:1) It is likely that the Church in Rome had more Gentiles than the usual church. At any rate, one of the problems in the Early Church was uniting Jews and Gentiles, as part of the bigger problem of converting Jewish Christians to a New Testament faith. (see Acts 15 and Galatians) That is why you find the phrase “Jew and Gentile” repeated so often in Romans, and why Paul makes frequent reference to the Old Testament – in order to inform the Gentiles, and transform the Jews.
Outline: Most of Paul’s letters consist of two parts – doctrine, and practical application. (The reason he taught doctrine was not for its own sake, but because of what we should do or be because of it.) So, in Romans, chapters 1-11 are what we might call teaching; chapters 12-16 are exhortation – Christian living.
There is another way we can outline Romans.
- Chapters 1-3:20 talk about sin, and tell us that everybody – Jew and Gentile, need a Savior. There are two big ideas in this section; a. Everybody know about God and knows the difference between right and wrong, even if he doesn’t have a Bible or go to church. b. Wrong ideas about God (wrong religion) lead to bad morals, and bad living leads to inhuman, un-natural, beast-like behavior.
- 3:21 – end of Ch. 11 explains the ONE WAY of salvation.
- Chapters 12-16 (see above), say something about how saved people ought to live because they are changed people. (The Heidelberg Catechism follows this same pattern of Sin/Salvation/Service, or Guilt/Grace/Gratitude.)
Contents: The “heart” of Romans – the big middle section of 3:21 to the end of Chapter 5 consists of two parts.
- FORGIVENESS OF SINS (justification) through Christ’s death. (3:21-end of Ch. 5) Key verses are 3:21 and 5:1. (The word “sins” occurs frequently here.) This section talks about the Christian’s new status, he is acquitted (see 4:7,8) because Christ took his place and died in his stead. He is in the same legal state as a person who has paid his fine or served his time in jail (more than just had his punishment revoked.) (In 3:25 Paul says that the believers who lived prior to Christ were not yet truly forgiven; their deserved sentence of death was simply suspended until Christ came and died in their place.)
- Chapter 4: Paul says that this kind of salvation goes for everybody, Jews and Gentiles, whether “good” or bad. Abraham, whom the Jews were so proud of as their “father”, was not truly a “Jew” (circumcised) when he became a believer. (In fact, Abraham never was a Jew.)
- Chapter 5: Explains how (the way) Christ’s death is credited to us. Paul says it is just like we became sinful through Adam. Christ is the “second Adam”, the new “father” of the race. (I Cor. 15 makes this same comparison in vs. 45) Just as we are connected to Adam through physical reproduction, we are connected to Christ by means of faith. A good illustration of this latter connection is the oneness of a husband and wife, who are united legally, etc., through love and marriage.
Notice, as we move along, how often Paul summarizes his ideas in what are the first and last verses of a chapter. Let us do the same at this point by saying that in 3:31 through Chapter 5, Paul is saying that we are justified, which means legally innocent, blameless. It is “just-as-if-I’d” never committed a single sin! Forgiveness is so complete that God says he even forgets what we were and what we did wrong. (Hebs 9:14) But there is more!!!