An introduction to Romans

Jacobus Erasmus, 03 August 2018

There is little doubt that the book of Romans is one of the most influential books of the New Testament (NT). The book focuses on the heart of Christianity: salvation through the sacrifice of Christ (3:23-24), salvation through faith and not works (3:28), and that worship is a sacrificial act on our part (12:1).

Romans was written by Paul. Not only is this made evident by the fact that the author names himself 'Paul' in the first verse (indeed, fist word) of the book, but the writing and theology of the book is clearly Pauline. Paul wrote Romans sometime around the spring of A.D. 57. It is highly likely that Paul wrote Romans while travelling through Corinth and heading for Spain. Luke reports:

Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, 'After I have been there, I must also see Rome.' And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while. (Acts 19:21-22 ESV)

And Paul writes in Romans 15:24-26:

I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. (ESV)

Moreover, in 1929, archaeologists unearthed limestone paving blocks in Corinth with the inscription: "ERASTVS PRO AEDILIT[AT]E S[UA] P[ECUNIA] STRAVIT" ("Erastus in return for his aedileship laid [the pavement] at his own expense"). An aedile was a comissioner of public works. Since "Erastus" is an uncommon name, it is likely that this was the same person as the person who Paul sends his greetings from (Romans 16:23).

Paul's epistles are ordered according to descending length in the NT. Thus, since Romans is Paul's longest epistle, it appears first. The central theme of Romans is salvation: salvation is a free gift of God received through faith alone. Romans may be divided into three sections. The first section (chapter 1-8) is chiefly the theological or doctrinal section. The second section (chapters 9-11) is an aside in which Paul discusses the rejection of the gospel by the Jews. Finally, the last section (chapters 12-16) focuses more on practical application.

Romans is a wonderful book, well worth the time to study it.