One of the greatest gifts from Christ the Lord, who has risen from the dead, to his church in all times, is the important epistle he inspired Paul, his ambassador, to write to the Romans who lived in the Roman capital.
The cause and the purpose of the Epistle At that time, the apostle of the Gentiles completed his preaching in Asia Minor and the Greek regions during his three missionary journeys. During these missionary journeys he founded living churches in the chief cities, established the believers in the services of love, and appointed elders, priests, and bishops for the church members. He then found that his service in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean had been completed. So, he went westward to set up the Kingdom of Christ in France and Spain (Romans 15:22-24).In agreement with these plans, he wrote his famous epistle to the church members in Rome, in order to encourage their confidence in him, making clear to them that he was an apostle of Christ to all the Gentiles through careful, regular study of the Gospel committed into his hands. He tried to touch their hearts that they might participate in his missionary journey to the west, as the church of Antioch in Syria had supported his journeys, preaching, and sufferings with their faithful prayers. Therefore, the epistle to the Romans contains a preliminary study, intended to convince the church to establish itself in true faith, and prepare it for preaching to the world through joint participation in the work.
Who founded the church in Rome? Neither Paul, nor Peter, nor any other apostle, or well-known elder founded the Roman church. However, it was through some Roman pilgrims who appeared in the holy land at Pentecost, where Christ poured out the Holy Spirit on the repentant prayers. Their tongues were filled with the great things of the Mighty One, and following that they went back to the metropolis, and bore witness in their meetings to the Almighty who was crucified. They talked with their Jewish and Gentile friends about his salvation, and formed circles in their homes for studying the Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ. During his travels in Asia and Greece, the Apostle Paul repeatedly met believers from Rome, particularly when the Jews had been banished from Rome during the reign of Claudius Caesar, before 54 A.D. (Acts 18:2). Paul sought to be personally acquainted with the church of Rome, and to give the gifts of the Holy Spirit who worked in him. He did not think that a long stay in the capital of the world was needed, for he found a living, independent church there. He wanted, rather, to go on his way in the fellowship of those brothers in the Lord, to spread the gospel of salvation in the closed regions.
Who wrote the epistle? When? And where? The Apostle Paul wrote this epistle in 58 A.D. during his stay at Gaius’ house in Corinth, in which he summed up his spiritual experiences and apostolic teachings. Nobody else can write as Paul did in this epistle, for the living, glorious Christ personally stood in his way, when he, in his zeal for the Law, sought to carry out the rigorous persecution of the Christians in Damascus. And when the shining divine light penetrated him, he recognized the great truth that the despised Jesus of Nazareth is living, and that he is the Lord of glory, who was not corrupted in the tomb after his crucifixion. Rather Jesus overcame death, and has truly risen, proving himself the Almighty, who has control over all. Then Paul understood that the Son of God did not condemn or destroy his persecutor, but had mercy on him and called him to his missionary work, not because of his own worthiness, but according to grace only. Therefore, the zealous, pious Paul was broken down and distressed. He believed in the grace of God and the essence of the new righteousness. He did not rely any longer on his human deeds, according to the Law. Instead he set out throughout the world, as a servant to the divine love of Christ, calling all the deceived and the corrupt to accept the reconciliation with God.
What are the distinguished styles in this epistle? Paul meant to clarify this religious change to every member of the church of Rome. Yet, for this purpose, he did not write a book in beautiful, pure language, or a long, comparative discussion. He wrote, rather, an epistle with all fluency and clarity, and answered the questions he expected to be asked by the Jews and the Romans. Paul dictated his epistle to Tertius, his brother in the Lord, imagining in his spirit the addressees to whom he wrote. At one point he addressed the fresh believers, treating their superficiality in the purifying holiness of God. Then he drew those who were broken to the living faith, which is found in complete justification in Christ, who is the only hope for men. At another point he shook the haughty lawyers, and broke their self-righteousness, showing their corruption and complete failure, and how they were consecrated in humble faith to the services of God’s love, in obedience to the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, in his epistle, the apostle connected effectual preaching to ordinary, calm teaching. He did not address a certain society, but all kinds of hearers; the Gentiles and the Jews, the young and the old, the learned and the unlearned, the bond and the free, both men and women. The Epistle to the Romans is, until today, one of the principal teachings within Christianity, as Dr. Martin Luther testified in his statement: “This book is the main part of the New Testament and the purest gospel, which deserves to be memorized by every Christian, and adopted everyday as a spiritual treasure for the soul, because we abundantly find in this epistle what a believer must know: The Law and the Gospel, sin and judgment, grace and faith, righteousness and truth, Christ and God, good deeds and love, hope and the cross. We also know how to behave towards every man, no matter how pious or sinful, strong or weak, friendly or unfriendly he may be; and also how to treat ourselves. Thus, I suggest to all Christians that they must train themselves in it.”Dear brother, if you seek a close study and training of your faith, then reflect on the Epistle to the Romans and study it carefully. It is like a university of God, which is filled with knowledge, power, and spirit. Then Christ will deliver you from your haughtiness and self-reliance, and establish you in perfect righteousness that you may become a mighty servant in the practice of the divine love, growing in faith day by day.
Analysis of the Epistle to the Romans
This is not an easy epistle to study. It requires of you careful examination, prayers, and thoughtful reflection, that you may enjoy its blessings, repent sincerely, renew your mind, and see a new horizon of life in Christ. As this epistle did not bring spiritual sluggishness to the Romans, but rather prepared them for the work of preaching in their surroundings and in other countries, so Christ invites you to be filled with his grace that he may send you with your righteous brothers to the people who are void of love and hope. Listen, pray, and go.