Paul is writing to the church in Rome.
I don’t aspire to writing full-scale commentaries on these letters, but one question ought to be considered here;
Where did the church of Rome come from?
We don’t really know the name of the founder, because history has not given us any reliable information.
Luke is not going to tell us. In the symbolic design of Acts (“How the gospel travelled from Jerusalem to Rome”), the arrival of the Christian
faith in Rome is represented by the arrival of Paul himself, so any mention of the existing church in Rome would spoil the effect.
Indirect clues can be found in this very letter.
In this first chapter, Paul tells the Romans that he intends to visit them and work for the gospel amongst them.
But we learn later that he has scruples about “building on another man’s foundation” (ch15 v20), so he does not want to work where other leaders
have been working.
Combining those two points together, we must draw the conclusion that he did not regard their church as “another man’s foundation”.
Another clue is the long list of greetings in ch16. How does Paul know all these people?
There is no need for the desperate theory that Paul wrote this chapter in Rome, addressing his old friends back in Greece. “All the churches in
Christ greet you” (v16) confirms that he’s writing from the eastern region where most of the churches are located.
A better explanation, to my mind, is that they are mostly traders and regular travellers between Rome and the eastern end of the Mediterranean. Then
Paul could have met them whenever they came to the Aegean.
We know that some of them, at least, discovered the gospel outside Rome. Epaenetus was the first convert for Christ in [the Roman province of] Asia.
Andronicus and Junius were “in Christ” before Paul himself; they were his kinsmen and had been his fellow-prisoners.
Many of the others are called his “fellow-workers”, beginning with the well-known Prisca and Aquila.
My guess would be that once they discovered the gospel, Paul would have encouraged them to share the knowledge of Christ with their existing friends
On that theory, the Christian faith would have got there informally.
Certainly the signs are that the church was organised informally. It seems to be a collection of groups meeting in different households. This would
make them vulnerable, perhaps, to “those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrines which you have been taught”
When Paul writes to his own churches, he tends to identify himself as their apostle, as in “called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ
Jesus” (1 Corinthians ch1 v1).
But the church in Rome don’t know him except by reputation, though they are meeting in the homes of his friends.
So he is obliged to spell out his authority in more detail (ch1 vv1-6).
First place goes to the fact that he is a servant
of Christ Jesus. Everything else stems from that.
He was called
to be an apostle. This means someone who has been set apart for [the preaching of] the gospel which comes from God.
This gospel is not a completely new thing. It was promised beforehand all the way through the old scriptures.
The gospel concerns the Son. Two things need to be said about him.
“According to the flesh”, on the one hand, he is descended from David.
“According to the Spirit”, on the other hand, he was publicly revealed as the Son of God by an act of power, namely his resurrection from the
Through him, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Paul and the other apostles have received grace for the purpose of promoting the obedience to God which
comes through faith. As distinct from the refusal to hear which comes from unbelief.
Their work lies among “all the nations”, which necessarily includes the Romans.
On that basis, Paul writes to the church in Rome, who are themselves loved and called by God..
He makes a point of addressing them with encouraging words.
As in most of his epistles (Galatians being one of the exceptions), he begins by thanking God for them, “because your faith is proclaimed in all the
He mentions them in his prayers without ceasing.
In particular, he prays that God will enable him to fulfil his “longing” to visit them.
He has been giving priority to his work in the Aegean area, but he tells his readers later that “I no longer have any room for work in these
regions” and he will be free to travel westwards instead (ch15 vv23-24).
The purpose of the visit would be “that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you” (v11), though he amends this with a tactful
afterthought; “that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (v12).
Beyond that, he had been intending to visit their city in order to “reap some harvest” for the gospel among the unbelievers there.
He has been commissioned to preach to the Gentiles, putting him under an obligation, and this covers both kinds of Gentiles, the Greeks and the
The difference is defined primarily by language, though the distinction between “wise” and “foolish” is another way (from the Greek viewpoint)
of saying the same thing.
The Lycaonians (Acts ch14) were still barbarians.
In this period, though, Rome is part of the Greek-speaking world, for practical purposes.
So his obligation makes Paul eager to include Rome in his preaching of the gospel.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel” (v16).
This transition is not as abrupt as it looks, at first glance.
He’s going to use this letter to begin explaining the gospel, sending the explanation ahead of himself while he waits for the chance to travel.
Most of the argument is addressed to the Jews, which convinces me that he was expecting the letter to be seen by some of the Jews of Rome.
He says “not ashamed”, because the hard-line Jewish case is that he ought
to be ashamed. He follows someone who died upon a cross, which is
a sign of weakness, and also marks the victim as “cursed”.
Not so, says Paul. The gospel is not weakness, but the power
of God, acting for the salvation of all those who have faith. It is not limited to
the Jews, but comes to them first, and then comes to the Greeks (meaning, in this case, the Gentiles in general).
The gospel is the revelation of the “righteousness” of God; that is, his power to vindicate and save his people.
This righteousness does not depend on the law.
It works through faith, and continues in faith.
That is the fundamental message which will be explained in more detail in the rest of the letter.
edit on 6-9-2019 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)