New Testament Overview: Romans

The Pauline Epistles

The Pauline Epistles
Pauline Epistles
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As the letter states, Paul is the author (see 1:1). With almost no exception, from the early church this epistle has been credited to Paul. The letter contains a number of historical references that agree with known facts of Paul’s life and the doctrinal content of the book is consistent with the other writings of the apostle, a fact quickly evident by a comparison with his other letters.

A few examples must suffice:
the doctrine of justification by faith (Rom 3:20-22; Gal 2:16); the church as the body of Christ appointed to represent and serve him through a variety of spiritual gifts (Rom 12; 1 Cor 12); the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem (Rom 15:25-28; 2 Cor 8-9). Understandably, Paul makes fewer references to himself and to his readers in Romans than in 1 and 2 Corinthians and Galatians, since he had not founded the Roman church and guided its struggles to maturity as he had the others.fn39

The only question concerning the authorship revolves around chapter 16. Ryrie writes:

The mention by name of 26 people in a church Paul had never visited (and particularly Priscilla and Aquila, who were most recently associated with Ephesus, Acts 18:18-19) has caused some scholars to consider chap. 16 as part of an epistle sent to Ephesus. It would be natural, however, for Paul to mention to a church to which he was a stranger his acquaintance with mutual friends. Paul’s only other long series of greetings is in Colossians—a letter also sent to a church he had not visited.fn40

Romans, which has been called his “greatest work” or his “magnum opus,” gets its title from the fact it was written to the church in Rome (1:7, 15). Paul did not establish the church in Rome, but as the apostle to the Gentiles, he had longed for many years to visit the believers in Rome (15:22-23) that he might further establish them in the faith and preach the gospel there as well (1:13-15).

Being anxious to minister in Rome, he wrote Romans to prepare the way for his visit (15:14-17). It was written from Corinth, while completing the collection for the poor in Palestine. From there he went to Jerusalem to deliver the money, intending to continue on to Rome and Spain (15:24). Paul did eventually get to Rome, but as a prisoner. It appears that Phoebe, who belonged to the church at Cenchreadb01 near Corinth (16:1), carried the letter to Rome.

DATE: A.D. 57-58

Romans was written in about A.D. 57-58 most likely near the end of his third missionary journey (Acts 18:23-21:14; see also Rom. 15:19). In view of Paul’s statement in Rom. 15:26, it appears Paul had already received contributions from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia (where Corinth was located). This means he had already been at Corinth and since he had not yet been at Corinth when he wrote to that church (cf. 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8-9), the writing of Romans must follow that of 1 and 2 Corinthians which is dated about A.D. 55.


Unlike some of his other epistles, Romans was not written to address specific problems. Rather, three clear purposes unfold for the writing of Romans.

1: The first was simply to announce Paul’s plans to visit Rome after his return to Jerusalem and to prepare the church for his coming (15:24, 28-29; cf. Acts 19:21). Paul wanted to inform them of his plans and to have them anticipate and pray for their fulfillment (15:30-32).

2: A second purpose was to present a complete and detailed statement of the gospel message God had called him to proclaim. The apostle was not only ready “to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome(1:15), but he wanted them to have a clear understanding of its meaning and ramifications in all of life:

  • past (justification),
  • present (sanctification), and
  • future (glorification).

3: A third purpose is related to the questions that naturally arose among the Jewish and the Gentile Christians at Rome like:

What does the gospel do to the Law and such Old Testament rites like circumcision?
What about the Jew?
Has God set the Jew aside?
Had He forgotten His promises to the Jews?

So Paul explains God’s program of salvation for Jews and Gentiles.

Paul’s theme or seed plot in Romans is clearly stated in 1:16-17. In this the apostle shows how God saves the sinner.
In these verses, the great themes of the epistle are gathered together—

  • the gospel,
  • the power of God,
  • salvation,
  • everyone, who believes,
  • righteousness from God,
  • Jew and Gentile.

Ryrie has an excellent summary of the theme and contents:

More formal than Paul’s other letters, Romans sets forth the doctrine of justification by faith (and its ramifications) in a systematic way. The theme of the epistle is the righteousness of God (1:16-17).

A number of basic Christian doctrines are discussed:


Various forms of the words

  • righteous and 
  • righteousness

are sprinkled abundantly throughout Romans.

The Greek

  • *noun dikaiosune, “righteousness,” occurs 34 times, the
  • *noun didaioma, “a righteous deed, acquittal, ordinance,” five times, the
  • *noun dikaiokrisia (righteous judgment) once, the
  • *adjective dikaios, “righteous,” occurs seven times, the
  • *noun dikaiosis, “justification, acquittal,” twice, and the
  • *verb dikaioo, “declare or show to be righteous,” occurs 15 times

for a total of 64 occurrences.


1:16-17. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written,the righteous by faith will live.” (KJV)

3:21-26. 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God, which is attested by the law and the prophets, has been disclosed 22 namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 God publicly displayed him as a satisfaction for sin by his blood through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. 26 This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness. (KJV)

6:1-4. 1 What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? 2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in new life. (KJV)


Picking out key chapters in Romans is indeed difficult for in this great treatise on doctrine and its application to life, one wants to say every chapter is key. But certainly two sections of the book do stand out.

  • Chapters 3–5 stand out for their teaching on justification by grace through faith in Christ apart from the works of the law. No place is the gospel of grace set forth more clearly than in these awesome chapters. Here we learn how to be delivered from the penalty of sin through faith in God’s gift, the Lord Jesus.

  • Chapters 6–8 are perhaps the most foundational passages in scripture for the spiritual life. These great chapters answer the question of how to experience God’s deliverance from the power of sin through the believer’s union with Christ and the ministry of the Spirit.


Paul presents Jesus Christ as the Second Adam whose righteousness and substitutionary death have provided justification for all who place their faith in Him. He offers His righteousness as a gracious gift to sinful men, having borne God’s condemnation and wrath for their sinfulness. His death and resurrection are the basis for the believer’s redemption, justification, reconciliation, salvation, and glorification.fn42


Apart from the introduction (1:1-17), where Paul also states his theme, and conclusion, where he has personal messages and a benediction (15:14-16:27),

Romans easily divides into three sections:

The first eight chapters are:
Doctrinal and outline the basic doctrines of the gospel of a righteousness (justification and sanctification) of God through faith.

The next three chapters (9-11) are: 
National and describe God’s dealings with Jews and Gentiles and the relationship of each to the gospel.

The remaining chapters (12-16) are: 
Practical or applicational in that they demonstrate the ramifications of the gospel on a believer’s daily life.

I. Introduction (1:1-17)

II. Condemnation: The Need of Righteousness Because of Sin in All (1:18-3:20)

A. The Condemnation of the Immoral Man (the Gentile) (1:18-32)

B. The Condemnation of the Moral Man (2:1-16)

C. The Condemnation of the Religious Man (the Jew) (2:17-3:8)

D. The Condemnation of All Men (3:9-20)

III. Justification: The Imputation of God’s Righteousness Through Christ (3:21-5:21)

A. The Description of Righteousness (3:21-31)

B. The Illustration of Righteousness (4:1-25)

C. The Blessings of Righteousness (5:1-11)

D. The Contrast of Righteousness and Condemnation (5:12-21)

IV. Sanctification: Righteousness Imparted and Demonstrated (6:1-8:39)

A. Sanctification and Sin (6:1-23)

B. Sanctification and the Law (7:1-25)

C. Sanctification and the Holy Spirit (8:1-39)

V. Vindication: Jew and Gentile, the Scope of God’s Righteousness (9:1-11:36)

A. Israel’s Past: Election of God (9:1-29)

B. Israel’s Present: Rejection of God (9:30-10:21)

C. Israel’s Future: Restoration by God (11:1-36)

VI. Application: the Practice of Righteousness in Service (12:1-15:13)

A. In Relation to God (12:1-2)

B. In Relation to Self (12:3)

C. In Relation to the Church (12:4-8)

D. In Relation to Society (12:9-21)

E. In Relation to Government (13:1-14)

F. In Relation to Other Christians (14:1-15:13)

VII. Personal Messages and Benediction (15:14-16:27)

A. Paul’s Plans (15:14-33)

B. Paul’s Personal Greetings (16:1-16)

C. Paul’s Conclusion and Benediction (16:17-27)

Pauline Epsitles Menu
39 Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, New Testament, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1976-1992, electronic media.
40 Ryrie, p. 1786.
41 Ryrie, p. 1786.
42 Wilkinson/Boa, p. 374.
db* = Content added by to assist the reader
db01 Cenchrea A port of Corinth, now called Kikries, whence Paul sailed for Ephesus{more}
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