The apostle paul claims to be the author of the letter (1:1), and no serious objections have been made to suggest otherwise. According to 16:22, Paul used Tertius as his amanuensis, or secretary, to write it—a common first-century practice.
Paul addressed his letter to Christians living in Rome (1:7), the capital of the vast Roman Empire. The people living there in the first century represented the empire’s various cultures and religions and included many Jews. The Christian churches in Rome were not founded by Paul, though he was anxious to visit them (1:13–15). The first Christians there were probably those “visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts)” who came to Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 2:10), were converted under the gospel preaching of Peter (see Acts 2:14–41), and later returned to the capital city to begin churches.
According to Acts, Aquila and Priscilla were two Jewish Christians from Rome whom Paul met during his ministry in Corinth. This husband and wife had to leave their home because the Roman emperor, Claudius, “had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome” (Acts 18:2)—which happened in AD 49. A first-century Roman historian named Suetonius reports that Claudius did this because of Jewish unrest over “Chrestus”—which is most likely a reference to Christ. Given all of the quarreling in Rome between Jews who had embraced Jesus as the Messiah and Jews who had not, the Roman emperor simply kicked out all of the Jews. This exit of Jewish Christians would have left local church leadership in the hands of Gentile Christians. When Claudius’s decree expired at his death, many Jewish Christians returned to Rome. The cultural diversity between Jewish and Gentile Christians would have caused tensions between the groups—a fact evident in Paul’s letter to the Romans (e.g., Rom 2; 11; 14–15).
Paul wrote the letter most likely in AD 57 during his third missionary journey while in Corinth (in Greece). He was on his way to Jerusalem to deliver a contribution from Gentile churches to the poor Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. After this, he planned to visit Rome (Acts 19:21; 20:3, 16; Rom 15:25–29).
Message and Purpose
Romans is the constitution of the church. Its major theme is the righteousness of God. Paul wanted the Romans to understand this great truth both theologically and practically—what it means and how it is to be lived out. He began by teaching that all human beings have failed to meet God’s standards of righteousness. They have been turned over to the passive wrath of God—yet, instead of destroying them instantly, God made provision for redemption.
The apostle continues by teaching that God, recognizing we had a problem we could not fix, freely provided a way we could be made righteous. Faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and his resurrection results in his righteousness being applied to our accounts in payment for our sins. But this great transaction was only the beginning, because now we can have a relationship with Jesus Christ because we have a new identity. That doesn’t mean we sin no longer. Even though Christians are saved, we still struggle with our flesh, as Paul related very honestly about himself.
Romans also tells us what God is going to do about his people Israel. Though they rejected him, God still has a plan for them. The book ends with a celebration of the faith we have in Christ and the power it gives us for victorious living as his kingdom representatives, individually and in community.
Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2019), Ro.