Through all of my different readings not one commentator has denied the importance of the Book of Romans to our Christian life. As a matter of fact they all indicate that without the Book of Romans we would not have all the doctrinal influence that we have today. While there has always been speculation that Peter founded the church in Rome there has never been any concrete evidence provided to support that theory. Moo suggests, “But Luke does tell us that Jews from Rome were among those who saw the pouring out of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (2:10). We may surmise that some of them were among the three thousand converted on that day (2:41) and that they brought their new belief in Jesus as Messiah back with them to Rome.” (Moo 2000, 17)
At the time Paul was writing Romans, it was shortly after Jewish Christians were being allowed back into Rome after Emperor Claudius expelled them from the city around 49 AD. While we do not have an exact date of completion of the letter, Harrison points this out, “When he wrote Romans the fund for the Jerusalem church seems to have been finally completed (Rom 15:26ff.). This may indicate a date in early 57 rather than late 56 for the writing of the letter.” (Harrison 1981, 4) Even though the Jewish Christians were migrating back into the city it is believed that, “… we conclude that Paul’s audience in Romans includes both Gentile and Jewish Christians, with Gentile Christians in the majority.” (Moo 2000, 21)
Technically Paul is the author of the Book of Romans, the ideas that are expressed are his, but did he use his own hand to write the letter? The answer is no. He used a scribe by the name of Tertius (16:22). Why write a letter like Romans? Was there some grim sin or major doctrinal error occurring in the church and they needed to be rebuked, John MacArthur doesn’t think so. He says, “Unlike some of Paul’s other epistles (e.g., 1 and 2 Cor., Gal.) his purpose is not to correct aberrant theology or rebuke ungodly living. The Roman church was doctrinally sound, but, like all churches it was in need of the rich doctrinal and practical instruction this letter provides.” (MacArthur 2005, 1500) Isn’t it amazing that Paul can write such a theologically rich book (Romans) from an area he had to write to twice (Corinth)? There are several key factors that help us know his is in Corinth but the largest is his mention of Phoebe in 16:1.
I hope that as we understand the background behind the Book of Romans we can begin to appreciate all the richness that dwells within its pages and make it more applicable to our lives.
Harrison, Everett F. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary-Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981.
MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2005.
Moo, Douglas J. The NIV Application Commentary- Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.