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Letter to the Romans
ROMANS, LETTER TO THE. The genuineness of the letter has never been seriously questioned by competent critics familiar with first-century history. Although other NT letters have been wrongly attacked as forgeries not written by the alleged authors, this letter stands with Galatians and 1 and 2 Corinthians as one of the unassailable documents of early church history.
I. Literary Unity. The literary unity of the last two chapters with the body of the letter has been questioned. There are manuscripts that have the doxology of
This is a letter, not a treatise. It was not intended to be a formal literary product. In the midst of greetings from friends who were with the author as he wrote (
Perhaps Paul composed this segment,
The opening verses of
The prayer at the end of
The main body of the letter ends at
The peculiarities, which have caused some to question the literary unity of the last two chapters with the main body of the letter, give no ground whatever for questioning the letter’s genuineness. No forger or redactor would have left such matters open to question. The only reasonable explanation of the data is that the letter is exactly what it purports to be, a personal letter from the apostle Paul to the church at Rome, which he was planning to visit.
II. The Time of writing This cannot here be discussed in detail. Suffice it to say that the letter clearly places itself in the three-month period (
III. The Reason for Writing. It is not difficult to know why this epistle was written. In the first place Paul was emphatic in his claim to be “the apostle of the Gentiles” (
There was this difference, however. There was a church already existing at Rome, probably founded by local people who had heard the gospel in their travels. It was Paul’s peculiar policy to preach in hitherto unevangelized areas (
There was a great theological reason for the writing of this letter, a problem that had demanded the
It has been said that if Galatians is the “Magna Charta” of the gospel, Romans is the “Constitution.” The theological substance of this letter had to be presented to the NT church, whether addressed to Rome or not, but there were circumstances in Rome that made it appropriate for Paul, in a relatively calm frame of mind, with time for fuller elaboration, and without having become personally involved in local affairs, as he had in Galatia, to expand the central doctrine of the Letter to the Galatians. Thus he explained his purpose in coming to Rome and the main purpose of his life ministry and message. There was friction and misunderstanding between Jewish and Gentile Christians in the Roman church. We know from the personal greetings at the end that it was a mixed church. The problem is reflected in almost every section of the letter, but especially in chapters
IV. The Content and Outline. These must be understood from the point of view of Paul’s total ministry and his particular travel plans. True, the greatest theme in the work is justification by faith. But this is not an essay on that subject. Much of the material simply does not fall under any subheading of that theme. This is a letter from the apostle to the Gentiles of the church in Rome, and the subject is “Why I am Coming to Visit You.” Outlines that fail to see this viewpoint and seek to force the material into formal divisions as though this were an essay, are very likely to assign subtopics and secondary subheadings that do not fit. Some outlines are almost like “zoning” laws, forbidding the reader to find in certain sections material that certainly is there.
The following very simple outline is suggested. (The great doctrinal themes are discussed in articles on doctrinal topics.)
I. The Apostle Paul to the Christians in Rome.
I am entrusted with a message that I must deliver to you; i.e., the gospel in all its implications (1:1-17).
II. The World Is Lost
A. The Gentile world is wretchedly lost (1:18-32) in spite of God’s justice for attempted morality (2:1-16).
B. The Jewish world is equally lost, in spite of all their privileges (2:17-3:20).
III. Justification by Faith Is My Great Message (3:21-5:21).
There is no space for the wealth of subtopics.
IV. Holy Living in Principle (6:1-8:39).
V. God Has Not Forgotten the Jews (9:1-11:36).
VI. Details of Christian Conduct (12:1-15:13).
VII. Miscellaneous Notes
A. Travel plans (15:14-33).
B. Personal to people in Rome (16:1-20).
C. Personal from people in Corinth (16:21-23).
D. Doxology (16:24-27).
Bibliography: C. K. Barrett, The(HNTC), 1957; F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Romans (TNTC), 1963; M. Black, Romans (NCB), 1973; C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans (ICC), 2 vols., 1975-79; E. Käsemann, Commentary on Romans, 1980.——JOB