Author: The Apostle Paul is the indisputable author of the book of Romans. Paul’s authorship is often attested by the Church Fathers and accepted widely as an authentic Pauline letter.
Date: As we date letters and Books of the Bible, we look at internal and external evidence. 67 AD is generally accepted as the year of Paul’s martyrdom and thus becomes a terminus date for all Pauline letters. Therefore, we know Romans was written before 67 AD. Historically we also know the Edit of Claudius, which expelled many, but not all, Jews from Rome occurred in 49 AD. From internal evidence, we see Priscilla and Aquila have returned to Rome after being expelled from the city (Compare Acts 18:2 and Romans 16:3). The Edit of Claudius was automatically lifted at Claudius’ death in 54 AD. We have narrowed the possible dates from 54 AD to 67 AD. We can narrow the gap even more as we consider information within the letter itself and as we take into account The Book of Acts. We know, for instance, the end of Paul’s third missionary journey can be dated to around 57/58 AD. In 58 AD, Nero imposed a tax on farmers that Paul may be addressing in chapter 13:6-7. Further, we know that in 59/60 AD, Paul finally made it to Rome, another terminus date for us. Also, we note in 16:1 that the letter was carried to Rome by Phoebe of the church in Cenchreae, near Corinth. With all this information, we can agree with most scholars the Epistle was written during Paul’s stay in Corinth (Acts 20:3) around 56/57 AD.
Occasion: The reason for Paul’s letter to the Romans is multi-faceted. There is not simply one reason Paul penned this beautiful and deep letter. Paul had never been to Rome but hoped to stop in Rome on the way to Spain. He wanted to introduce himself and encourage a church he did not know well. He also hoped to impart spiritual gifts and fruitful ministry among them (Ro 1:11-13). He also wrote Romans hoping to gain missionary support for his trip to Spain (15:22-24).
In God’s sovereignty, He had Paul write a theological treatise, a summary of Paul’s theology. In Romans, we learn about our desperate need for a Savior and begin to understand that through the death of Jesus, the forgiveness of sin is available through faith. In the gospel, we see God’s power to save all who have faith and believe in Jesus. In Jesus, God has provided righteousness based not on what we can do for ourselves but on what God has done for us by sending His Son as an atoning sacrifice. This only scratches at the theological depth we see in Romans.
It is also a letter encouraging unity between the Gentile and Jewish Christians. In AD 49, the Edit of Claudius was established, and many Jews were forced out of Rome (See Acts 18:1-2). Five years later, the Jews returned to a mostly Gentile-led church. Disunity is easy to imagine. In Romans, Paul levels the field at the cross. They were all called saints and sinners. But thankfully, God sent Jesus to save sinners and make them saints.
During Paul’s ministry, he was often misrepresented and disrespected (See Acts 15:1-2; 2 Cor 10:10; Gal 5:17). Since Paul has not visited Rome, this is an introduction to his ministry and a defense of his theology. Some may wonder if Paul is leaning toward antinomianism, a belief that those saved by grace are no longer bound to the moral law in the Ten Commandments. What were his views on Israel? Has God rejected His covenant people? Paul will assure his people that God has indeed been faithful to His covenant people through the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Finally, Romans is a wonderful pastoral letter. In the sixteen chapters, you see the pastor’s heart of Paul. He wanted to see the Roman Church grow in unity and in love. Paul knew there would be division and difficulty between Gentiles and Jews. However, he also knew their unity around the gospel would be sufficient to unify and draw many into the Kingdom. One of the subtle messages from Paul’s pastoral heart is the need for patience. We are different, yet in Christ, we are the same. Our uniqueness is what creates division, but our sameness trumps our uniqueness. Be patient with each other; put others before yourself; don’t worry over your preferences but seek first the Kingdom of God.
Themes: Here are just a few themes we will consider in Romans: God’s self-revelation, Jesus, gospel, sin, God’s righteousness, God’s wrath, justification, sanctification, glorification, Holy Spirit, Prayer, Israel, and the role of the Law,
Conclusion: As we read and study Romans, we will learn more intimately how loved you are by God. You will see how God’s love for us resulted in God sending His Son, Jesus, to rescue us from sin. As we navigate the book, we will see that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Romans is a book of the love of God. Join us as we read and study this wonderful letter.