Summary: Today I’d like to cover 2 main areas: 1) The setting of Romans so we can better understand what Paul was trying to accomplish when he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and 2) Paul’s opening words in Romans 1:1-7 as he greets the believers at
When in Romans…
-Today marks the beginning of a new series through the book of Romans. Romans gives us one of the most complete, yet concise presentations of the good news about Jesus (aka “the gospel”) that there is.
-There have been many great people who have left their mark on history because of the change that happened in their life because of the book of Romans.
-Augustine, a man who led an immoral life, in 386 A.D. read the book of Romans. When he got to Romans 13:13-14, his life was never the same. Romans 13:13-14 says, “Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
-In 1515, Martin Luther went from a man of torment to a man of great faith because of the book of Romans. John Bunyan in 1653, John Wesley in 1738, and Karl Barth in 1918 were never the same after they studied the book of Romans. These are but a few men who led great spiritual movements that impacted world history (Jeffery Anselmi, SC)
-Today I’d like to cover 2 main areas: 1) The setting of Romans so we can better understand what Paul was trying to accomplish when he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and 2) Paul’s opening words in Romans 1:1-7 as he greets the believers at Rome.
1. The Setting of the Church at Rome
(Most of this information was taken in part from F. F. Bruce, "The Romans Debate Continued,” Revised and Expanded Edition, ed. by Karl P. Donfried, 1977, 1991)
-A significant Jewish population existed in Rome as early as 61 BC, when Jewish captives were taken to Rome by Pompey to celebrate the conquest of Judea. Most of the descendants of these slaves, "Freedmen" became liberated through various ways. It was these freed slaves who formed Synagogues in the Roman Empire (Acts 6:9).
-The first emperor, Julius Caesar, granted rights to Jewish communities because their ancestral laws even predated the Roman Empire. Jews were the only minority given legal privileges in the Roman Empire giving them the right to assemble, have common meals and property, govern and tax themselves, and enforce their own discipline except the death penalty. The Jews were like a state within a state.
-All of this authority was placed under the sponsorship of the Synagogue and its legal body, the Sanhedrin. Jews may also have been exempt from military service and emperor worship. Under Roman law, no new religions were allowed and all other religions (other than Judaism) were forbidden by the Caesar in the city of Rome.
(The Mystery of Romans, Mark Nanos, 1996, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, pp. 43-46.)
-Christianity probably reached Rome shortly after the church was formed in Jerusalem, probably in the mid 30s (perhaps from people who were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost- Acts 2). The gospel spread quickly all across the Mediterranean World, impacting entire cities and regions. Its message created a stark contrast with the social and political culture that characterized the Roman Empire in those days.
-Regardless of how the message of Jesus Christ got there, it was ultimately by the means of the Spirit of God and not man. It was this good news which came to Rome, that introduced Christ into the Jewish community, which led to the same disputes and disruptions that affected other cities with Jewish communities and Christians worshiping in the same Synagogues (e.g., Acts 13:42-14:7; 17:1-9). The Roman historian Suetonius writes about these disputes that were ongoing during the reign of Claudius: "Because the Jews in Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he (Claudius) expelled them from the city." This refers to the Edict of Claudius, dated 49 AD, in which Jews, both non-Christian and Christian, were expelled, leaving the Gentile Christians to fend for themselves. The Romans saw no real difference between Christian and non-Christian Jews. They considered both groups to be part of Judaism and saw their disputes as an "inside quarrel" on the interpretation of Jewish law (Acts 23:29; 25:18-19).
-When Claudius died and Nero took over some 5 years later, the Jews were allowed to return to Rome. However, scholars estimate that Paul was writing to a church that was at least 80% Gentile. Only 4 out of 26 of the greetings in Rom.16 are to Jews, since 3 of them are greeted as "my kinsmen," and Aquila was likely Jewish.
-So, even though Paul had not founded the church at Rome, he was called to reach Gentiles and deeply cared about this group of believers who were trying to work out their differences (the Jewish way vs. the Gentile way) while keeping their faith in Christ intact. So he writes to encourage them, and invites them to partner with him in reaching more people with the good news about Jesus. But he also uses the opportunity to put the gospel down in writing as clearly and succinctly as possible, in case he doesn’t make it to Rome. He doesn’t want them to be led astray or confused about their faith in Jesus, knowing that their faith will be under continual attack by unbelieving Jews. He also wants to equip them to continue to share the good news accurately with others.