April 19, 2020 – Letter to the Romans
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE LETTER TO THE ROMANS
Romans has often been seen as a daunting, deeply theological book when
examined through more than just quotations here and there. But it also is a
book that contains some deep simplicity, the basics of the gospel as it is applied
to the life of the church and the individual follower of Jesus.
Of great importance for our post-modern context, Romans is a book that can
give us a solid grounding in a Christian worldview, something that many
believers lack today. It helps us think “Christianly” about everything in culture,
and that can only help us.Romans is, however, not a doctrinal textbook. It is a letter, written to a particular people in a particular context; but, like Ephesians, it is also perhaps the most generally applicable of Paul’s letters.
It was written at Cenchrea (16.1), the sea port next to the city of Corinth,
Greece. Up to this point, Paul had planted many churches, and he was looking
for a final challenge. Chapter 15 suggests that his next challenge would be
Spain, but he would go to Jerusalem first, and stop in Rome on his way to Spain.
So, in all likelihood, it was written during a lull in his third missionary journey, when he had time to reflect theologically – likely in AD 57 or thereabouts.
The book of Acts says nothing about the founding of the church in Rome, but in
Acts 2.10 it does say that there were Romans among those present at Pentecost,
so one can assume that some Roman Jews were converted at that time, and
carried the gospel back to Rome. So the early Roman church had decidedly
However, in AD 49, Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome, due to some
sort of doctrinal or philosophical squabble, so overnight, the Roman church was
left with only its Gentile converts. Jews were allowed back in Rome by the time
this letter was written, but the Gentiles still dominated the church.
We will look at Romans in small pieces, given its richness and depth, and we will
not be the first to do so. Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great Welsh preacher of
Westminster Chapel in London, England, is said to have spent some 12 of his 30
years of preaching there in the 20th century strictly in the book of Romans! His
commentary on the book, published by Banner of Truth Trust, comprises 14
Compiled by Jeff Loach with notes from Douglas Moo, NIV Application
Commentary: Romans (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000).