OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF ROMANS
Author and Date of Writing: Rom. 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of Romans as the apostle Paul and Rom. 16:22 indicates that Paul used a man named Tertius to transcribe his words. The Book of Romans was most likely written between 56-58 A.D.
Purpose of Writing: As with all Paul's epistles to the churches, his purpose in writing was to proclaim the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ by teaching doctrine and edify and encourage the believers who would receive his letter. Of particular concern to Paul were those to whom this letter was written - those in Rome who were "loved by God and called to be saints" (Rom. 1:7). Because he himself was a Roman citizen, he had a unique passion for those in the assembly of believers in Rome. Since he had not, to this point, visited the church in Rome, this letter also served as his introduction to them.
Brief Summary: Paul was excited about being able to minister at last in this church, and everyone was well aware of that fact (Rom 1:8-15). The letter to the Romans was written from Corinth just prior to Paul's trip to Jerusalem to deliver the alms that had been given for the poor there. He had intended to go to Rome and then on to Spain (Rom. 15:24), but his plans were interrupted when he was arrested in Jerusalem. He would eventually go to Rome as a prisoner. Phoebe, who was a member of the church at Cenchrea near Corinth (Rom. 16:1), most likely carried this letter to Rome.
Primarily, the Book is a work of doctrine that can be divided into four sections: (1) Righteousness needed, 1:18-3:20; (2) righteousness provided, 3:21-8:39; (3) righteousness vindicated, 9:1-11:36; and (4) righteousness practiced, 12:1-15:13. Thus, the main theme of the letter is righteousness. Guided by the Holy Spirit, Paul first condemns all men of their sinfulness. He expresses his desire to preach the truth of God's Word to those in Rome. It was his hope to have assurance they were staying on the right path. He strongly points out that he is not ashamed of the gospel (Rom. 1:16), because it is the power by which everyone is saved. The book also tells us about God, who He is and what He has done. It tells us of Jesus Christ, what His death accomplished and tells us about ourselves, what we were like without Christ and who we are after trusting in Christ. Paul points out that God did not demand men have their lives straightened out before coming to Christ, since Christ died on a cross for our sins.
Connections: Paul uses several Old Testament people and events as illustrations of the glorious truths in the Book of Romans. Abraham believed and righteousness was imputed to him by his faith, not by his works (Rom. 4:1-5). In Rom. 4:6-9, Paul refers to David who reiterated the same truth: "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him." Paul uses Adam to explain to the Romans the doctrine of inherited sin, and he uses the story of Sarah and Isaac, the child of promise, to illustrate the principle of Christians being the children of the promise of the divine grace of God through Christ. In chapters 9-11, Paul recounts the history of the nation of Israel and declares that God has not completely and finally rejected Israel (Rom. 11:11-12), but has allowed them to "stumble" only until the full number of the Gentiles will be brought to salvation.
Practical Application: The Book of Romans makes it clear that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. Every "good" deed we have ever done is as a filthy rag before God. So dead in our trespasses and sins are we that only the grace and mercy of God can save us. God expressed that grace and mercy by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross in our place. When we turn our lives over to Christ, we are no longer controlled by our sin nature, but we are controlled by the Spirit. If we make confession that Jesus is Lord, and believe that He is raised from the dead, we are saved, born again. We need to live our lives offered to God as a living sacrifice to Him. Worship of the God who saved us should be our highest desire. Perhaps the best application of Romans would be to apply Rom. 1:16 and not be ashamed of the gospel. Instead, let us all be faithful in proclaiming it!