Romans is the longest of all Paul’s writings and is widely regarded as one of the most important letters that he wrote. It is written to the Christians in Rome and is unusual in that the church there was one of the few that Paul had not founded, making this letter his first communication with the community there. It announces his intention to come to Rome and to be sent onwards by the church to Spain (15.23–24). To introduce himself, Paul lays out his theology in great detail, explaining the good news that he proclaimed (chapters 1–11) and the consequences that he believed this should have in the lives of the Christian community (12–16). We do not, as a rule, know what Paul said when he first arrived in a new place proclaiming the gospel. Most letters, written as they are to communities that Paul had founded, are his second or third communication to them, not the first. Romans is one of the closest accounts we have of what Paul might have said to a community when he first arrived.
… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3.23)
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8.26–27)
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8.38–39)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12.1–2)
Paul is probably the best-known of all the early Christians. Before encountering Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, he was a zealous Pharisee who sought to maintain the purity of Judaism. After his experience on the Damascus road, he turned his zeal to proclaiming Jesus Christ among the Gentiles. This brought him into conflict with some other early Christians, not least Peter, who thought that followers of Jesus Christ should convert to Judaism. He traveled around the Roman Empire (though primarily in Asia Minor – modern-day Turkey – and Greece) proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ and founding communities of Christians as he went. He also wrote a large number of letters, 13 of which are preserved in the New Testament. Romans is regarded by many as being the most important of these.
As Paul didn’t know the Roman Christians, it is hard to read anything about how they were feeling from the letter he wrote.
There will be lots of names you will not know, don’t worry if you can’t place them all. The key ones are given below.
Cenchreae, Achaia, Asia, Asia Minor, Gomorrah, Jerusalem, Judea, Macedonia, Sodom, Zion
Phoebe, Prisca, Aquila, Junia, Tertius, Benjamin, Elijah, Gaius, Isaac, Israel, Moses, Timothy
Atonement, Gentiles, Gospel, idols