The editors of the New Geneva Study Bible describe the book of Romans as Paul's fullest, grandest, most comprehensive statement of the gospel. Its compressed declarations of vast truths are like coiled springs - once loosed, they leap through mind and heart to fill one's horizon and shape one's life. John Chrysostom, the fifth century's greatest preacher, had Romans read aloud to him once a week. Augustine, Luther, and Wesley, three supremely significant contributors to the Christian heritage, all came to assured faith through the impact of Romans. All the Reformers saw Romans as the God-given key to understanding all Scripture, since here Paul brings together all the Bible's greatest themes. . . . From the vantage point given by Romans, the whole landscape of the Bible is open to view, and the relation of the parts to the whole becomes plain. The study of Romans is vitally necessary for the spiritual health and insight of the Christian.

Romans has been called a constitution and manifesto for believers, containing the essence and essentials of the Christian life. Though personal in tone, it is a well-developed presentation of grace-filled, God-exalting theology that beckons the mind to stretch, the heart to soar, and the soul to sing.

Background of Romans

Paul did not establish the church in Rome, nor had he visited it by the time of his letter, though he was well aware of its growth and impact (Romans 1:8-13). Perhaps the church at Rome began shortly after Pentecost (Acts 2), as Roman Jews returned from Jerusalem to their city with the fire of the gospel still burning in their hearts. The good news then spread to Rome's vast Gentile population.

Concurrent with the Roman church's growth was the success of Paul's missionary efforts to the east. By the time Paul wrote to the Romans, he had been evangelizing, planting churches, and training leaders from Judea to Macedonia for about 10 years. The time had come for him to take the gospel to new territories.

So he set his sights on Spain. From the city of Corinth, he planned to deliver a monetary gift to the church in Jerusalem, given by the Gentile churches in Achaia and Macedonia. Then he would sail from Jerusalem to Spain, stopping at Rome, the capital of the empire, to encourage the Christians there in their walk with Christ.

In Corinth, probably in the winter of AD 57, Paul dictated a letter to his personal scribe, Tertius, telling the Roman Christians about his plans. But this letter is no mere itinerary. Paul saw his correspondence as an opportunity to ground the Romans in the essentials of the faith, for the church there had no definitive statement of Christian truth. They needed a "constitution" to go by, not just so they could learn, but so they could be a light to the rest of the empire.

Survey of Romans

The letter unfolds in a logical fashion as Paul argued his case that God provides for us what God requires of us - perfect righteousness. Through faith in Christ alone, a "righteousness from God" is granted to sinners, which removes God's holy wrath toward us and brings us into loving relationship with Him forever.

Introduction (Romans 1:1-17)

Paul opened his letter by identifying himself as "a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God" (Romans 1:1). Now there's a man who knew himself, his God, and his mission, which was to preach the gospel - for the gospel is the "power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (1:16).

Next Paul introduced his main theme, the "righteousness of God" (1:17), which he developed throughout the letter. The term righteousness, which appears 35 times in this book, was defined by Paul as inward and outward conformity to God's law. And no one, he contended, can attain righteousness apart from divine intervention. The righteousness we need in order to please God must come from God Himself.