I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established.
–Romans 1:11

Whenever I go to a city I am unfamiliar with, I ask for a map. I want to see how the city is laid out before I navigate the streets and sections. That is helpful when we come to unfamiliar territory in the Bible as well. This week, we will get an overview of the book of Romans.

First, we will look at the background of Romans. The author is identified as “Paul” (1:1). What do we know about Paul? Paul was from a wealthy family, and he likely attended the University of Tarsus. Paul also studied under the Jewish teacher Gamaliel. So Paul had training as a Greek and as a Jew. Paul (also called Saul) was determined to stamp out the “heresy” of Christianity. Acts 8:3 says he “began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.” While he was on the road to Damascus to round up Christ-followers, Jesus appeared to him and said, “Why are you persecuting Me?” (26:14). Paul trusted in Christ as his Savior, and Jesus called him to be a missionary to the Gentiles. In Acts 26:16-17, Paul recounted Jesus’ charge to him: “For this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness . . . to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you.”

Second, we will look at the date and setting of the book. In Acts 13-21, Paul made three missionary journeys. On his third missionary journey, he went to Corinth. He stayed there in the winter of AD 57 in the home of a man named Gaius. Paul and his assistant named Tertius, who recorded the letter, stayed in Gaius’ home for three months. That is the setting for the book of Romans. I imagine, as Paul sat in that second-story apartment and looked out over the streets of the bustling city of Corinth, God impressed upon him humanity’s need for faith in Jesus Christ.

Third, we will look at the purpose and the theme of Romans. Why did Paul write this letter to the Romans? Up to this point, Paul had never visited Rome. In Romans 1:13, he said he would love to go to Rome but had been providentially hindered from coming. Why did Paul want to go to Rome? One reason is that it was a growing church. It is likely that some of the converts at Pentecost went back to Rome and started the church. Second, Paul wanted to visit the church at Rome because no apostle had been there, and Paul wanted to ground them in the faith. Paul’s purpose in writing was to teach these new Christians the basics of the faith.

The theme of Romans is this: the righteousness of God is available to everyone who comes to Christ through faith. The key verses are Romans 1:16-17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’”

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Romans: Grace-Powered Living” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.