Romans Bible Study
Author. The writer is the apostle Paul.
Date. Paul wrote his letter during a three-month period spent in Corinth at the home of his friend and convert Gaius (16:23). The time was likely AD 56–57, towards the end of his third missionary journey.
Theme. Being right with God through faith in Christ.
Historical Background. For nearly ten years, Paul had been evangelizing the Gentile territories around the Aegean Sea. Now he turns his eyes to fresh fields. He would go to Spain, the oldest Roman colony in the west. With some misgivings, Paul is about to return to Jerusalem with a collection from the newer churches for the believers in Jerusalem.
After Jerusalem, he planned to travel to Spain, stopping en route to fulfill a long-held dream. He would visit Rome—the capital of the world. In anticipation of that visit, he wrote the letter to the Romans by way of introduction (the Roman Christians did not know him, though—as chapter 16 reveals—he had friends there). He was also eager to assure the Roman Christians, contrary to false rumors they might have heard, that the gospel he was preaching was, indeed, the gospel of Jesus Christ (1:15).
Paul’s plan did not work as he intended. He would visit Rome, but not for three more years, and he would come not as a tourist but as a prisoner. His misgivings about his Jerusalem trip proved accurate. Once there, he was quickly arrested and eventually sent to Rome for trial. Paul remained in Rome under house arrest for at least two years. Ultimately, according to reliable tradition, he was executed at a place just outside Rome. He never went to Spain.
It is not known how the Roman church began. Possibly some Roman Jews who were converted on the day of Pentecost (Ac 2:10) began the church. As for the Gentile Christians in Rome, it is known that other missionaries besides Paul were active in founding churches.
Characteristics. Romans is Paul’s most complete theological statement—carefully written. It is alive and vibrant, colorful, compassionate, and sweeping in scope. The main issue Paul is addressing is the question of how God will judge each of us on the final day.
Here the great theme of Romans emerges: We can have assurance of a right standing before God and hence know we will be given a positive verdict on judgment day. Such confidence does not come because of what we have done. It comes because of what God does through Christ’s death in our place, he freely offers us his grace.
Paul sets this theme against the teaching of certain Jewish Christians, legalists who would add circumcision to grace (thus nullifying grace). If we have to do anything to deserve it, salvation is not an unearned gift freely given by God. In the course of his argument, Paul sets up a series of opposites: faith versus works, Spirit versus flesh, and liberty versus bondage.
Lyman Coleman, ed., Life Connections Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bibles, 2019), 1806.