An Introduction To Romans
The Roots Of A Church

            Up until now God has used a variety of means to communicate His Word.  We have: law, history, poetry, prophecy, and Gospel; but it is when we reach Romans that we are given a new means of communication, the epistle.  An epistle is the Word of God in the form of a personal letter. In like manner in order for us to best understand Romans we need to know about it on a personal level.

            It starts with the man God inspired to write Romans, Paul. He was born on the coast of what is present day Turkey.  At the time that was part of the Roman Empire which meant he had Roman citizenship, a benefit he would later use to his advantage.  Although separated by hundreds of miles from Israel he was of Jewish heritage.  Traditionally at around the age of thirteen Jewish children are deemed ready to be prepared for adulthood and given the proper education, for Paul that meant relocating to Jerusalem and learning Scripture.  He remained there until his adult years and upon completion of his studies moved back home.  But it was while he was there in Jerusalem that he became a Pharisee, in today’s terms that would be like becoming a member of a particular denomination.  It was probably while he was back home that he first heard of Jesus, determines His message was blasphemy, and sets out to eradicate Christians.  And then one day on the road to Damascus he encounters this Jesus, gets saved, and begins a new life.

            Now, in essence you might say Paul founded the church in Rome.  Contrary to what the Catholics say, Peter was not the Pope and did not found the church at Rome.  In fact if you read your Bible you find out it was some time before he believed that God even cared about the Gentiles.  So, Paul was in large part responsible for the church that developed in Rome, even though he was yet to ever see the city.  And here is how.  The last chapter of Romans tells us Paul knew an awful lot of people in Rome despite his never being there.  Now, according to Romans 16:1 who took this letter to Rome?  Phebe, and whose house was she sent to?  Aquila and Priscilla’s, and their names should ring a bell if you read your Bibles.  Paul had met them in another place as I suspect is the case form the rest of the names he mentions.  He never went to Rome but some of the people that he had met elsewhere and won eventually wound up in Rome.  Rome was the big city and for much the same reasons people do it today they too went to the city.  So, let’s trace the chain, Acts 18:1-3. It tells us that Emperor Claudius had been persecuting the Jews and because of that this couple fled for Corinth.  Later the persecution died down and they went back as evidenced in Romans.  In the time they spent with Paul they were saved and began helping in the ministry preparing them for when God would open the doors to Rome.  For them it was simply a matter of them going back home and spreading the message.  Thus Paul had a certain responsibility for the church at Rome.

            Another fact you can trace out is that a number of the people he mentions in the last chapter of Romans are Gentile.  The church at Rome was composed of a largely Gentile congregation.  That is because Paul was called specifically as an apostle to the Gentiles, Galatians 2:8-9.  And that clues us in on why Rome was so important to Paul.  You ever heard the expression “all roads lead to Rome”?  That was very much true, they engineered the highway system so that all roads would eventually lead to Rome and those roads were the key to getting to the known world.  Rome was of strategic importance.  Paul knew if he could get a strong church up and going he could get people coming and going.  And in general Gentiles wouldn’t be as combative as Jews would be when it came to preaching and accepting the Word.

            The book of Romans has much more history behind it.  The messages it contains are what sparked The Reformation.  It could even be said that all of the big theological names of the past 2000 years of Christian history can be linked to this book.  It makes plain some very important questions.  Was Jesus God?  How can God send people to hell?  Why we reject a Savior?  What does Israel have to do with all this?  Can Jews go to hell?  What is grace?  And many more are clearly laid out in Romans.  Romans is the book that answers a lot of questions.