Introduction to Romans
"The Righteous will Live By Faith"
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- Paul meet Christ on the road to Antioch and thus became a Christian (35 A.D.), five years after Pentecost.
- Paul and Barnabas first missionary journey (from 46 to 48 A.D., Acts 13-14)
- The Jerusalem counsel held. (either 49 or 50 A.D., Acts 15)
- Some believe that Paul wrote Galatians while at Antioch between the first and second mission trips. (48 A.D.)
- Paul and Silas left Antioch on Paul's second missionary trip. He went through Tarsus on the way to the churches in Galatia where young Timothy joins them. (Early 50 A.D., Acts 15:36-16:10)
- The same year crossing the Aegean Sea arriving at Philippi. (Acts 16:11-40)
- They flee Philippi after considerable time there and went to Thessalonica were they spend considerable time. (Acts 17:1-9)
- Paul and Silas flee from Thessalonica to Berea. Since Timothy is not mentioned, it is possible that he stayed in Thessalonica or Philippi and then rejoined Paul in Silas in Berea.
- Paul fled to Athens from Berean persecution, leaving Silas and Timothy in Berea. (14) Paul asked Silas and Timothy to join him in Athens. (Acts 15, and 1 Thess. 3:1-2)
- Timothy rejoined Paul at Athens and was sent back to Thessalonica. (1 Thess. 3:1-5) Since Silas is not mentioned, it has been conjectured that he went back to Philippi when Timothy went to Thessalonica.
- Paul moved on the Corinth. (Acts 18:1) Silas and Timothy came to Paul in Corinth. (Acts 18:5, and 1 Thess. 3:6)
- Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians and sent it to the church. About six months later in late 51 or early 52 A.D. Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians.
- Most believe that Paul wrote Galatians while in Corinth or perhaps when he arrived back at Antioch at the end of his second mission trip (late 52 A.D.)
- Paul returned to Ephesus during the early part of his third missionary journey. (53 A.D.) He stayed there for two years. (Acts 19:1-20)
- Paul left Ephesus to visit the congregations he had went to on his second missionary trip. (Acts 19:21-20:1)
- Paul stopped at Corinth on the looped journey where he penned the letter to the believers in Rome. He made a short stop in Ephesus and then went to Jerusalem. (56 A.D., Acts 20:2-38)
- Paul ended the third missionary trip in Jerusalem. He presented a gift that was collected for the poor and needy in Jerusalem. (57 A.D., Acts 20:39-21:16)
- Paul was arrested in Jerusalem when the Jews tried to kill him. (57 A.D., Acts 21:17-40)
Paul is identified as the author and is not disputed.
- PURPOSE IN STUDYING ROMANS
- Through the study of Romans we want to learn the essence of the unchanging gospel so thoroughly that it becomes a part of our lives. We want to find real inner happiness as we learn to live the Christian life a-right.
- We want to learn the gospel-centered thinking and missionary vision of the Apostle Paul, so that we can lay the foundation for a Bible-based society as we reach out to all the world with missionary concern.
- SPECIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF ROMANS
- Difference between Romans and other letters (epistles) in the New Testament.
There are some differences between Romans and the other epistles which Paul wrote. For instances, when we compare Romans and Corinthians, we find that the atmosphere of these two epistles is very different. Paul founded the church in Corinth, and he knew the spiritual problems of most of the individual members of the church there. Paul did not found the church in Rome. In fact, he had never been to Rome at the time he wrote this letter he was deeply concerned about the church in Rome, however, because of her strategic position in the Gentile world. In Romans, Paul, the Apostle, and Paul, the missionary, sets forth in an orderly and logical fashion, his own faith. He plainly states and clearly explains the gospel. He shows that Jesus Christ is God's only way of salvation for all people and nations. He lays the foundation of world mission.
- Testamentary and prophylactic
Sanday said that this is a testamentary epistle. In other words, this is Paul's last testament to his own faith. Pastor Paul had never been to Rome. He did not know for sure whether or not he would ever go to Rome. But he wanted to share with the church in Rome what he knew to be the core and heart of the faith. Rome was the great capital of the Roman Empire, the center of the Gentile world. Paul hoped that the gospel planter in Rome would go out to all the earth.
Burton says that Romans is a "prophylactic" epistle (preventive medicine). That is, it was a letter written to prevent an infectious disease from getting started. Paul saw many things that could twist the simple gospel, the essence of the Christian faith: the custom and fashion of the times, the influence of culture, and the fact that being a Christian in such an atmosphere is costly and difficult. All of these things could make a Christian lose his direction.
So Paul wrote this letter prayerfully, for the church in Rome was on the from line in the battle to spread the gospel throughout the world. It was important that this church not become infected with false doctrines or corrupted by cultural disease, but that it be equipped with the power of the gospel and reach out to save a sick world.
- TIME OF WRITING
- When we look at Paul's life, we see that he was possessed by a strong desire to see Rome conquered by the gospel. For a long time it had been Paul's dream to go to Rome to preach the gospel there. While he was in Ephesus he planned to visit Achaia, Macedonia, and Jerusalem, and then go to Rome. He said, "After I have been there, I must visit Rome also." (Acts 19:21) But Paul knew that something would happen to him in Jerusalem when he went there to help his fellow countrymen. "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." (Acts 20:22-24)
In that difficult time Paul still had an earnest desire to proclaim the gospel, and he had great world mission vision. When he was in the midst of difficulty in Jerusalem, Jesus came and spoke to him. "Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome." (Acts 23:11) In Romans 1:11 Paul said, "I long to see you." In 1:15 Paul said, "I am eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome."
No matter how hard and hopeless the times, Paul had embedded in his bones a desire to proclaim the gospel in Rome, the center of world culture.
It is almost certain that Paul wrote this letter in A.D. 58, while he was in Corinth, during his third missionary journey. He planned to go to Rome to preach the gospel after taking an offering from the young Gentile churches to Jerusalem. By doing this he hoped to create unity between the Gentile churches and the home of the Christian church in Jerusalem.
- PURPOSE OF LETTER
- Why was Romans written in times like those?
As we just indicated, Paul did not know what would befall him in Jerusalem. Before he died he wanted at least to write a letter so that he might accomplish his mission to preach the gospel in Rome. In Romans 15:30,31 we find that Paul spoke of the dangers he was facing in Jerusalem and asked prayer. Romans 15:28 says, "So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way."
- We can see two things here.
- We can realize how much the whole world needed the gospel. Paul exerted every effort to accomplish his mission. He felt this need.
- We can see Paul' great missionary vision. He wanted to conquer Rome with the gospel so that the excellent roads and transportation of Rome might be used to spread the gospel to all the world, including Spain, the "end of the earth." So for the sake of the Christians in Rome, Paul wrote this great epistle.
- At first glance Romans seems very complicated and difficult, because its contents are so logically planned. But if we think about Romans simply, we can summarize the whole epistle in the words, "God's children shall live by faith." So as we seek to analyse the contents of Romans, let us approach our study with a clear and confident attitude of mind and study the contents with this clear direction.
- We can divide Romans into 4 large parts.
- 1-8 The problem of righteousness (doctrinal)
- 9-11 The problem of the Jews, God's chosen people
- 12-15 Practical problems of the Christian life
- 16 Final greetings
- History and doctrine
When Paul speaks of "righteousness" he means a right relationship with God. A righteous man is a man who has a right relationship with God and who acts in accord with that relationship. So Paul first looks at the pagan world--the Gentiles who live without God in the world. When one looks at the Gentile world from an objective point of view, it is totally decadent and corrupt. Men cannot solve the problem of righteousness in a human way.
Then Paul looks at the Jewish world. They seek to solve the problem of righteousness by strictly keeping the law. Paul himself tried to be righteous in this way--before he met Jesus.
But Paul and those like him who try to solve the problem of righteousness by doing something for God, fail. Those who try to solve the problem of righteousness by their own merit or their own faithfulness or their own righteousness always live under the yoke of God's wrathful judgment. But Paul found the solution. He found the solution when he believed God's word and committed himself totally to God's love. This is the way of faith. The important thing that we must remember here is not what I can do for God, but what God has done for me. Paul teaches as a central fact in the Christian faith that one cannot win God's favor by all kinds of purposeless human effort. All the problems of faith have to do with grace. The only thing we can do is to thank God for his great love and accept without reservation the work of grace he has done for us in Christ. This does not mean, however, that we are free from all duty and responsibility and can live any way we please.
- Problem of the Jews
If Paul is so concerned about missionary vision in writing this letter, why then does he spend four chapters-- 2,9,10,11 --discussing the problem of the Jews? We can't fully answer this question. But we can see in many places that this problem of the Jews was a very real and painful one to Paul.
In fact the Jews were God's chosen people. But when God's Son Jesus Christ came to the world, they rejected him. Furthermore, they sought to close the door opening to the gospel throughout the Gentile world. The Jews insisted that only those born Jews according the flesh and circumcised were the chosen people of God. They insisted on Abraham's blood line and genealogy. They insisted on circumcision. But Paul taught that the only way to become God's people is to believe in Jesus Christ. Anyone who would be a descendant of Abraham must follow the example of Abraham's walk of faith.
It is necessary to consider the problem of the Jews if we are to see the universality of the problem of human sin and the universality of the salvation offered in Christ Jesus. Paul, by dealing clearly with the problem of the Jews, puts an official stamp of authority on the fact that all men, both Jews and Gentiles, are sinners.
It is impossible to understand Romans if we approach the epistle as many commentators do, as doctrine or theory. Nor can we understand if we approach Romans from the point of view of an existential philosopher. But if we approach Romans from the point of view of Biblical history and keep in mind Christian history based on the Bible, especially considering the God of creation and history revealed in Genesis, we will find that Romans offers to modern intellectuals the word of life.
- Practical doctrine
Chapters 12-15 gives us practical instructions in the Christian life. Paul always completes his theoretical teaching by giving practical application for the Christian life. Romans 12 resembles the Sermon on the Mount. In chapters 14 and 15 Paul considers problems that could arise in any Christian life. He emphasizes the importance of a Christian's being careful not to become a stumbling block to others trying to live the Christian life. A Christian's own small sins and problems can become a stumbling block to others.
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