“May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in Him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (GNT))
What’s Going On?
For the next six weeks we are going to be reading letters that were written by the early Christians. As the Gospel message began to spread throughout the world, early leaders emerged and churches began to form. Paul would travel around to these areas and then stay in touch with these believers though letters, many of which are now part of our New Testament. While Paul wrote the first group of letters, there were others that contributed their writings, as well. We’ll meet them in a few weeks.
The next thirteen books were all written by Paul. However, we aren’t going to be reading them in the order in which they were written. They are grouped together into categories and need a bit of rearranging for them to line up with Paul’s travels that we read about in the book of Acts. For now, just know that the book of Acts will supply our chronology of events, but the letters of Paul, which were all written within the time frame of Acts, are not going to be organized sequentially.
We begin this new section with Paul’s letter to the Christian church in Rome. In most of the other letters written by Paul, he is addressing people he has already met in a place he had already visited in order to address questions or concerns that had come up after he left. Not so with Romans. This letter was written to a church that Paul very much hoped to visit, but had not been to. Therefore, the book of Romans is the Gospel message Paul was likely sharing orally in the places he visited, but written out here for a group he had not yet had the opportunity to speak to. I think of this book as “The Gospel in a Nutshell.”
Paul shares the plan of salvation, not just salvation for the Jews, but for all mankind. Remember in Acts when they held the Council at Jerusalem to determine whether Christians had to convert to Judaism before becoming followers of Jesus? This book practically serves as a handbook on “How to Become a Christian” for a new community of believers, both Jew and Gentile. Paul will explain God to those who don’t have an Old Testament foundation and he’ll explain the need for salvation to those who may not think they need it. He’ll address the Jews who want to hold on to their old beliefs. He’ll explain how important Faith is, Faith in the Righteousness of the One, True God.
The believers who were gathering in Rome had no concrete teaching to base their faith on. Surely the gospel story had spread far and wide out into the world, but the Truth of Jesus Christ needed verification and it was Paul’s hope to go to Rome and provide it as no other Apostle had yet been there and the Gospels written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke were probably just being written about this same time. Although Paul had hoped to visit Rome as part of a missionary journey to Spain, he would be sidetracked when he was arrested, tried, and imprisoned before finally appealing to Caesar, meaning he requested he be sent to Rome to meet with the Emperor. His journey to Rome might not have occurred in the way he planned, but he will finally arrive in Rome about five years after writing this letter.
When and Where Are We?
This letter was likely written about 56 AD while Paul was on his third missionary journey, probably while he was visiting Corinth. This would line up with Acts chapter 20.
Paul – (Saul) A Hebrew, a Pharisee who had studied under Gamaliel, a great Hebrew scholar. He also claimed to be a Roman citizen having been born in Tarsus which was apparently granted Roman citizenship, giving him the opportunity to speak to both Jews and Romans with credibility.
Weekly Reading Assignment:
- Monday: Romans 1-3
- Tuesday: Romans 4-6
- Wednesday: Romans 7-8
- Thursday: Romans 9-11
- Friday: Romans 12-14
- Saturday: Romans 15-16