The Book of Romans was written by the apostle Paul from the city of Corinth in approximately AD 56. At the time of his writing, he had yet to visit Rome, though he greatly desired to do so. It was not until approximately AD 61 that he was able to “visit” Rome, and then, only as a prisoner under house arrest for two years. He was released in AD 63 and finally was rearrested and executed there in AD 68.
This grandest of Paul’s epistles, teaches us many great lessons, but perhaps the greatest principle it teaches us is the fact that man is justified by faith in Jesus Christ. Paul’s main focus in writing this epistle to the church at Rome is to emphasize this point. The doctrine of justification is developed throughout the first eleven chapters of the book. The remainder of the book deals with our life as a Christian, once we have been justified. Romans chapter 1 begins with Paul’s introduction and with an inspiring statement about the Gospel’s power for salvation. Paul then goes into great detail throughout the entire book to expound upon the Gospel’s good news of salvation and justification by faith in Jesus Christ.
Justification Is Necessary: Chapters 1-4
After Paul gives his opening address, he gets right down to business with the remainder of chapter 1 to show how the Gentiles are in sin and are in need of justification and salvation. Having established that the Gentiles are in sin, Paul in chapter 2 goes on to explain that the Jews also are in condemnation and in sin because of their unbelief in the Gospel. In chapter 3, Paul concludes that no one is righteous, if they are seeking justification on their own terms. He states that all have sinned, both Jews and Gentiles, and that all mankind is in need of justification on because of their sins.
The Jew’s religion (at this point it was no longer the religion of God) had devolved into a system of salvation by works. They believed that in the outward display of keeping to the tenets of the Law of Moses they could merit salvation. The Jews had much pride in the fact that they kept the letter of this law (according to their traditions). They did not understand that the Law did not absolve them from sin and that justification only came by faith in God, demonstrated by obedience, not by mere law-keeping.
In chapter 4, Paul uses the example of Abraham to show proof that one does not have to be circumcised or be under the Law of Moses to be justified. Abraham’s obedience and faith – before he was under the covenant of circumcision – was accounted unto him for righteousness. God kept His promise to Abraham because of his faith.
Justification Is Effective: Chapters 5-8
In chapter 5, we see the multitude of blessings that we have in Christ. The justification through faith in Christ brings us into a right relationship with God. Only through Christ can we have atonement and know the depths of God’s grace, love and mercy. Chapter 6 shows us the method by which God has chosen for us to demonstrate our faith in order to receive justification and that is in baptism. In submission to water baptism our faith is imputed to us for righteousness. We die to sin and death itself.
Chapter 7 deals with the Law of Moses and its termination. We see the purpose of the law, its emphasis and its effect on the conscience of man. Paul demonstrates that the Law of Moses died at the cross and we are now under the law of Christ. Christ fulfilled and replaced the Law of Moses bringing into effect His law of faith. Chapter 8 teaches that there is no power on earth to forcibly, against our will, remove us from the love of Christ once we have been justified by faith in Him.
The Nation of Israel: Chapter 9-11
This section deals mainly with the rejection of Christ by the Jewish nation as a whole. As well, Paul deals with the definition of who a true “Jew” is. Israel believed that they were saved because of their ethnicity and that only they were meant to have salvation. Paul demonstrates how that all who are justified by faith are the spiritual seed of Abraham. We also learn that the Gospel’s rejection by the Jews made possible its acceptance by the Gentiles.
Practical Application: Chapter 12-16
Chapter 12 deals with the quality of our spiritual life and how we are to deal with others, both friend and foe. Chapter 13 teaches us how we are to deal with those in governmental authority over us and of the urgency of salvation. Chapters 14 and 15 deal with matters of mutual respect and judgment and the example we have in righteousness in Jesus Christ. In chapter 16, we see Paul’s example of love for the brethren in his greetings to certain members of the church at Rome. And finally in chapter 16:17-20 we have Paul’s admonition to remain faithful and holy and to mark those who cause division.