STUDY 14 - THE EPISTLE TO THE
For this study see: M.C.Tenney, pp 304-311; R.H.Gundry, pp.375-389.
Further reading: D.A.Carson, et al., An Introduction to the New
1. AUTHORSHIP AND DESTINATION
Date and place of writing
"Romans was the last epistle written by Paul before his prolonged
period of detention, first at Caesarea and then in Rome. It is
thus later than his letters to the Thessalonians, Corinthians and
Galatians (and probably to the Philippians); earlier than those to the
Colossians and Ephesians (not to speak of the Pastoral Epistles)". 
Paul probably wrote at the end of his third missionary journey (Acts
20:2-3), while he was contemplating a visit to Jerusalem
(Rom.15:25). He despatched the letter from Corinth by way of
Phoebe, a deaconess of the church of Cenchrea, who was travelling that
way (Rom.16:1). M.C.Tenney indicates an alternative view - that
Paul may have written from Philippi, just before sailing for
Troas. He dates the epistle as early A.D. 57.
The church at Rome
No-one knows how the church at Rome came into existence. Roman
Jews were present in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10), and
converts may have returned to the capital and founded a church.
Another possibility is that some of Paul's converts from places like
Corinth and Ephesus had something to do with the work. Aquila and
Priscilla came from Rome (Rom.16:3) and had returned there. Paul
certainly establishes a contact with the church through the many people
he lists in chapter 16. The NT does not connect the founding of
the church with Peter.
Paul's purpose in writing
Why did Paul write to a church he did not found? Several reasons may be
He desired to preach the gospel in Rome
He sought to bring teaching and instruction to the church
He was concerned to forestall any activity of Judaisers
He sought the church's support for a planned missionary
Spain - and, for this reason, he needs to make his gospel known.
Consider Rom.15:24-32. According to W.G.Kümmel, Romans is the
theological self- confession of Paul, which arose out of a concrete
necessity of his missionary work. 
2. CONTENTS OF THE EPISTLE
Most of Paul's epistles are controversial or corrective in
nature; Romans is chiefly didactic. It is sometimes referred to as the
first systematic doctrinal work to be written. The righteousness of God
is central to the epistle (1:17). M.C.Tenney says:
"The central theme of Romans is the revelation of the righteousness of
God to man, and its application to his spiritual need. its theme is
thus basic to all Christian experience, for man cannot do business with
God until a proper approach has been established. The epistle is
directed particularly to Gentiles. Paul stated that he was an
apostle to the Gentiles(1:5); he sketched the religious history of the
Gentile world as the prelude to revelation (1:18-32); he asserted that
God's salvation is for 'Gentiles also' (3:29) and that there is 'no
distinction' between Jew and Greek in the way of faith. Romans
avers that salvation is universal in its scope." 
Romans easily divides into two with a doctrinal section (1-11)
and a practical section (12-16); or into four.  Note:
The epistolary introduction: the prologue (1:1-17)
The doctrinal exposition: the gospel according to Paul
The practical application: the Christian Way of life
The epistolary conclusion: epilogue (15:14-16:27).
M.C.Tenney's outline of the epistle has Rom.1:17 very much in
mind: "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a
righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is
written: 'The righteous will live by faith'".
Romans: The Gospel of God's Righteousness
The need of divine righteousness (1:8-3:20)
The manifestation of divine righteousness (3:21-8:39)
The relation of righteousness to the Jew (9:1-11:36)
The application of righteousness to the church
The religious importance and theological significance of this
Pauline epistle is universally recognised. It has been referred
to as the first major Christian theological work - the Magna Charta of
the Christian faith. Its presence has been felt in church history
in the lives of people like Augustine, Martin Luther and John
Wesley. S.T.Coleridge called it 'the most profound work ever
written'.  M.C.Tenney's evaluation reads:
"Romans has long been the mainstay of Christian theology. Most of
its technical terms such as justification, imputation, adoption, and
sanctification, are drawn from the vocabulary of this epistle, and the
structure of its argument provides the backbone of Christian thought.
Its logical method is obvious. First, the theme is announced:
'...the gospel.is the power of God unto salvation to every one that
believeth' (1:16). If, then, all are helpless and condemned,
relief must come from without by providing for them both a legal and a
personal righteousness. This is found in Christ, 'whom God set
forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his
righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime'
(3:25). Since the sinner cannot earn his salvation, this
righteousness must be accepted by faith. Individually and
racially man is restored to his right position before God through the
grace manifested in Christ. 
Main ideas in the epistle
Here is a list for reference and research:
The righteousness of God (1:17-18; 3:21-26. Rom.1:17 is
the epistle's key verse: cf., Isa.51:5)
The universality of sin (1:19-3:23)
The justification of man (3:19-31)
The death of Christ (3:24-25; 4:25; 5:15; 6:6; 8:3,34)
Faith and works (3:27-5:21)
Grace and law (7:7-16)
Gentile and Jew (10:4-13)
Grace and freedom (3:5-8)
The new life (8:1-17, 26-39; 9:14-10:21; 11:7-23)
Ethical psychology (7:5-8:17: flesh and spirit)
The Redeemer (8:3; 9:5)
The church (11:16-24)
Love of the brethren (12:3-8)
The remnant (10:14-21)
God's ultimate purposes (8:18-25; 13:11-14).
The gospel's practical application In Romans God's
righteousness cannot be obtained by human merit, either by Jew or
Gentile. Righteousness is not of the law. The law reveals
sin. The only hope for sinful man is found in believing in what
Christ has done through his death and resurrection. Through Christ man
has peace with God. The Christian life is life in the
Spirit. God has dealt with the Jews and Gentiles in
election. But this stress on God's grace requires Paul to
mitigate against antinomianism. Justification by faith does not
rule out works of righteousness, indeed Christian freedom enables the
believer to be a slave of righteousness. Christian doctrine is to
be believed - and lived out.
1. F.F.Bruce, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, TNTC, London,
Tyndale, 1963, p.31.
2. W.G.Kümmel, Introduction to the New Testament, ET, London,
SCM, 1975. p.312f.
3. M.C.Tenney, p.305.
4. The Century Bible and The Tyndale New Testament Commentary
on Romans divide the epistle into four sections.
5. The phrase 'justification by faith alone' comes from the
pen of Martin Luther.
6. M.C.Tenney, pp.306-307.