The book of Romans is a book found in the Bible. It is located in that section called epistles. This Bible book of Romans is the sixth book among a set of books in the Bible that we might describe as instructive. These books were letters written to churches or individual Christians to instruct them how to live the way God wanted them to live.
As I study the book of Romans, there are always three questions that need to be answered that will help me understand the overall context. When I answer those questions, studying the chapters and verses will become a little easier.
The questions that need to be answered:
These three questions can be answered in the first seventeen verses of Romans. Romans 1.1-17 introduce the rest of the book. Let's study verses 1-17 to answer these three questions.
When I read the first verse of Romans, the first word of the book is "Paul."
Romans was written by the apostle Paul. That is an important observation to make because Paul was able to relate well to the people he was addressing.
As a Jew, Paul lived in the city of Tarsus. Tarsus was recognized as part of the Roman empire, but it was free, and those who lived in Tarsus did not have to pay taxes.
In the book of Acts, Paul stood before the Jewish Supreme Court known as the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin wanted Paul beaten. Paul said to them, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned” (Acts 22.25). Paul was a Jew raised to be a Pharisee, but he lived in a Roman city that was predominantly Gentile.
When I study the Bible book of Romans, I will find that it was written to both Jews and Gentiles. The message of the book is that the Jews and the Gentiles are both guilty of sin, and the gospel is something that saves everyone regardless of whether you are a Jew or a Gentile. Paul was a Jew who could also relate to Greeks.
In Romans 1.1, Paul described himself as "a bondservant of Jesus Christ.” The apostle Paul was a prominent up-and-comer. He came from a privileged family. He was trained by Gamaliel, a well-respected scholar. Yet he chose to be a table server.
In the book of Philippians, he listed his credentials and then wrote, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ" (Phil. 3.7). Paul willingly gave up his future as an up and coming Pharisee to be a servant of Christ.
In Romans 1.1, Paul also described himself as one who was "called to be an apostle.” The word “called” is a Greek word that means “invited.” That is important to keep in mind when I study this word again in verses 6 and 7. Paul was invited to be an apostle.
In Romans 1.1, Paul described himself as being "separated to the gospel of God.” The word "gospel" is a word that means "good news" (Rom. 10.15). So another way to say "gospel" is "good message," or "good news."
This gospel is then described...
Romans 1.2,3 tells me what the gospel is all about. It is about His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The center of the gospel is Jesus Christ.
When we talk about the gospel, we are talking about a good message involving what God has made possible because of Jesus. This is what Paul was invited. He was invited to involved in preaching this good news message about Jesus.
Romans 1.4 says that the Holy Spirit declared Jesus to be the Son of God by Jesus being raised from the dead. When Jesus was resurrected, that was one of the ways that proved Jesus to be God’s Son.
Romans 1.5 says that Paul was called to be an apostle to preach this good news message about Jesus for one purpose: To encourage people to have an obedient faith. Mark that in your Bibles. If you wonder whether or not one is supposed to obey the commands of God, refer back to this verse. Paul says that he came to preach the gospel so people can be obedient.
The book of Romans was written by the apostle Paul who was a Jew who lived in Rome. He became a Christian and was invited to preach this good news message about Jesus so that others can become Christians.
The book of Romans was written to those who were called. Some cringe at the idea of a calling. But this passage says that Christians have a calling. The word "called" is a word that means "invited." Christians were invited by Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11.28). Paul is writing to people who have been invited by Jesus to become His followers just as Paul was invited back in verse 1.
How are we called? How do we receive this invitation? Paul answers that question in another book. In 2 Thessalonians 2.14, Paul wrote, “to which He called you by our gospel.” Here is this good message that Paul was called to preach, and this message is inviting us to come to Jesus. This is who this letter was written to, those who came to Jesus because they were called by the gospel.
What are these Christians called to be? Romans 1.7 says that they were "called to be saints." The word for “saint” is "hagios." It is a word that carries the idea of being pure, holy, and separated from sin. The book of Romans was written to people who were invited by Jesus through the gospel to be a separated, holy, and pure people.
Where were these Christians located? Romans 1.7 says "to all who are in Rome.” Rome was the capital city of the great Roman empire. It is very possible that the book of Romans was written while Paul was in the city of Corinth. This is seen in the last chapter of Romans where Paul sends greetings from a lot of individuals who are connected to Corinth.
Now watch how these people are described as the chapter continues.
According to Romans 1.8, what were these Roman Christians known for? They were not known for their doctrinal stance. Doctrine is important, but that isn’t how these people were described. They were not known for their being a friendly congregation. Friendliness is important, but that wasn’t how these people were known. They were known throughout the whole world because of their faith.
Are you a Christian? What are you known for? Are you known as someone who believes and follows the Bible? Hopefully so, because that is important. Are you going to be known as someone who is friendly? Hopefully so, because that is important. Shouldn’t you also be known for your faith? These were people known for their faith.
When I skip down and study verse 13, and I find something else about the recipients of this letter. I learn that they were a mixed group.
In this verse, Paul is addressing Gentiles (anyone who was not a Jew.) When I skip over and study chapter 2, I find Paul addressing Jews. This tells me that the book of Romans was written to both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.
I find the answer to this question in Romans 1.14-17. In these verses, I learn that the book of Romans was written to encourage these Christians to get excited about the gospel. If I read these verses, I will find that Paul said, "I am" something three times.
Paul was in debt to "Greeks and barbarians." A Gentile was anyone who was not a Jew. These Gentiles were then divided up into groups. Some Gentiles were Greeks. Those who were not Greeks were called barbarians.
Paul was also in debt to the “to wise and unwise.” Paul was given the responsibility to preach the gospel to everyone. Paul was called to primarily preach to the Gentiles, but here Paul says that is responsibility was extended to all people.
The word that is translated into our English word "ready" is a word that literally means, "to have a passion before." Even before Paul set foot on Roman soil, he was passionate beforehand.
Paul felt an obligation to preach the gospel to the world, and he is excited and looking forward to preach the gospel to those who were in Rome.
Here is the third time Paul said that "I am" something. He said, "I am a debtor." He said, "I am ready to preach." Then he said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel."
This tells me that the book of Romans was written about the gospel. Paul wrote the book of Romans to tell these Jewish and Gentile Christians who were living in Rome about the gospel.
When I look at the last verse in this introductory verses of Romans, I find the theme of the entire book.
This is the verse that tells me what the book of Romans is all about. It is the theme or thesis statement of the book.
Romans 1.17 tells me that in the gospel, "the righteousness of God is revealed." This is not referring to God being right, but refers to what God did to make us right. In other words, the gospel tells me how to be right with God.
Romans 1.17 then says, "The just shall live by faith." When I am made right with God I am to live my life by faith.
Romans 1.17 serves as the outline for the entire book.
To further Study the Book of Romans: