Paul, the author, was a Hebrew by descent, a native of Tarsus in Cilicia, and educated by Gamaliel, the great Pharisaic teacher. He was one of the most unmerciful persecutors of the early Christians, but was converted by the sudden appearance to him of the risen Lord. He began preaching at Damascus, but on account of persecution went into Arabia. Returning from Arabia he visited Jerusalem and Damascus, and then went to Cilicia, where he doubtless did evangelistic work until Barnabas sought him at Tarsus and brought him to Antioch, where he worked a year with Barnabas. After this they went up to Jerusalem with contributions for the brethren. Upon return to Antioch he was called by the Holy Ghost to mission work in which he continued till his death, making at least three great missionary journeys, during which and afterward he suffered "one long martyrdom" till his death.


Paul's epistles are commonly put into four groups as follows:

(1) The Eschatological group, or those dealing with the second coming of Christ. These are I. and II. Thessalonians and were written from Corinth about 62 to 63 A. D.

(2) The Anti-Judaic group, or those growing out of controversy with Judaistic teachers. They are I. Corinthians. II. Corinthians, Galatians and Romans, written during the third Missionary journey, probably at Ephesus, Philippi, and Corinth.

(3) The Christological group, which center their teachings around the character and work of Jesus, and were written during the imprisonment at Rome. They are Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, and Hebrews (many think Paul did not write Hebrews).

(4) The Pastoral Group, or those written to young preachers touching matters of church organization and government and practical instructions concerning evangelists, pastors, and other Christian workers. They are 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus.

Romans falls into the Anti-Judaic group and was likely written from Corinth which makes the date circa 58 A. D.

Audience and Background

The Church at Rome was doubtless in a very prosperous condition the time of Paul's writing. It was perhaps organized by some Jews heard and believed while at Jerusalem, probably on the day of Pentecost. While its membership included both Jews and Gentiles (1:6- 13; 7:1), it was regarded by Paul as especially a Gentile church (1:3-7; 13-15).

He had never been there up to this time (1:11, 13, 15) and it is not likely that any other apostles had been there. For then Paul would have not have been planning to go since his rule was not to go where another had worked (15:20; 2 Cor. 10:14-16). This strikes a heavy blow at Catholicism, claiming that Peter was first bishop of Rome. If Paul would not have followed him, then Peter had not been there, and the most important test of papacy is overthrown. Paul had, however, many intimate friends and acquaintances at Rome, many of whom were mentioned in chapter 16. Among them were his old friends, Aquila and Priscilia.


It is impossible to speak with absolute certainly respecting the occasion of Paul’s writing this Epistle, although scholars are quite well agreed that the apostle found it in the fact that he had finished his work in the East and now intended to visit the imperial city, on which he had long since cast his eye. Probably an imminent journey of Phebe to the capital offered him, on the eve of his departure for Jerusalem, the desired opportunity to send his communication to Rome.


The gift of the righteousness of God as our justification which is received through faith in Christ (or put simply, justification by faith).


If the question is asked, why the apostle wrote this letter to the Romans, why he gave it the particular character that it has, we find that there is a great variety of opinions. Some regard the Epistle as historical and occasional; others, as dogmatic and absolute. There are those who hold that the particular form of the letter was determined by the condition of the readers; and those that would make it dependent on the state of Paul’s mind. Some believe that the apostle in writing it had in mind his Gentile readers, while others hold that he had special reference to the Jewish constituents of the church at Rome. The different theories respecting the purpose of the letter may be reduced to three.

Canonical Significance

It is the most systematic of all the writings of Paul, containing a profound and comprehensive statement of the way of salvation, a statement made with special reference to the legalistically inclined Romans. That salvation can be had through faith only, and not by the works of the law, not by one’s works of morality, on which the man of the Roman type was inclined to place his reliance, is at once the great central doctrine of this epistle and its permanent lesson for all ages.


Touching the integrity of the Epistle to the Romans two questions have arisen:1. Is the doxology, Rom_16:25-27, in the right place, or does it belong between Rom_14:23 to Rom_15:1, or is it spurious? And 2. Are Rom_15:1-33 and Rom_16:1-27 genuine or spurious?

1. The place of the doxology at the end of Rom_16:1-27 was doubted as early as the days of Origen. External testimony favors it, since it is found there in most of the MSS, while some have it at the end of Rom_14:1-23, and a few, in both places. Zahn is of the opinion, however, that internal evidence decidedly favors placing it at the end of Rom_14:1-23, because: (1) Paul’s letters are often interspersed with doxologies, but never end with them. (2) It seems unlikely that Paul should add a doxology, closely connected with the body of the letter, after a list of personal greetings not so connected with it. (3) The doxology is closely related to the subject-matter of Rom_14:23 and Rom_15:1. (4) It is far harder to explain its transfer from Rom_16:1-27 chapter to Rom_14:1-23 than the reverse. Einl. I p. 268 ff.

Some, as Davidson and Baljon, doubt the genuineness of the doxology, but: (1) It is found in all the MSS. (2) The thought expressed in it is too rich and varied to be an interpolation. (3) No possible motive can be found for forging such a doxology.

2. Rom_15:1-33 is regarded by some as spurious, (1) because it is not found in the canon of Marcion; and (2) since the appellative applied to Christ in Rom_15:8 is considered very strange as coming from Paul; the expression in Rom_15:19 is not characterized by the usual Pauline modesty; and the Rom_15:24, Rom_15:28-29 are held to be in conflict with Rom_1:10-15, because they imply that Paul merely desired to pay a short visit to Rome, when he was on his way to Spain. But the first argument has little weight, since Marcion omits many other parts of the New Testament, and several that are generally admitted to be genuine; and the difficulties mentioned under (2) easily yield to exegesis.

A far greater number of scholars reject Rom_16:1-27, (1) because Marcions canon does not contain it; (2) since it is contrary to the apostles custom to end his letters with so many greetings; and (3) because Paul was not in a position to know so many persons at Rome. To the first argument we need not reply again (cf. above); and as far as the greetings are concerned, it may be that Paul intentionally greeted so many persons at Rome to bring out clearly that, though he had not founded the church there, he was not a stranger to it, and to cultivate a certain familiarity. It deserves our attention that the only other Epistle in which we find a list of greetings is that to the Colossian church, which was like the church of Rome, in that it was not founded by the apostle. And taking in consideration the extensive travels of Paul in the East, and the constant movement of people in all parts of the empire to and from Rome, it causes no surprise that so many of the apostles acquaintances were in the capital.

Some who doubt the destination rather than the genuineness of this chapter surmise that it or a part of it originally constituted an epistle, or a fragment of one, that was addressed to the Ephesians. They point out that Phebe would be more likely to journey to Ephesus than to Rome; that, in view of what is said in Act_18:19; 1Co_16:19; 2Ti_4:19, there is a greater probability that Aquila and Priscilla were at Ephesus than in the imperial city; and that Epenetus is called “the first-fruits of Achaia unto Christ, Rom_16:5. But none of these proofs are conclusive. Moreover Dr. Gifford points out in the Speakers Commentary that of the twenty-two persons named in Rom_16:6-15, not one can be shown to have been at Ephesus; while (1) Urbanus, Rufus, Ampliatus, Julia and Junia are specifically Roman names; and (2) besides the first four of these names, “ten others, Stachys, Apelles, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Hermes, Hernias, Patrobas (or Patrobius), Philologus, Julia, Nereus are found in the sepulchral inscriptions on the Appian way as the names of persons connected with ‘Ceasars household (Php_4:22), and contemporary with St. Paul.”


I. Letter Opening (1:1-17)
II. Justification by Faith (1:18-4:25)
III. Assurance of Salvation (5:1-8:39)
IV. Gospel: Rejection by the Jews (9:1-11:36)
V. Application of the Gospel (12:1-15:13)
VI. Letter Closing (15:14-16:27)

I. Letter Opening (1:1-17)
A. Greeting (1:1-7)
B. Thanksgiving and Occasion (1:8-15)
C. Theme: The Good News of Christ (1:16-17)
II. Justification by Faith (1:18-4:25)
A. Problem: The Reign of Sin (1:18-3:20)
B. Solution: Justification by Faith (3:21-4:25)
III. Assurance of Salvation (5:1-8:39)
IV. Gospel: Rejection by the Jews (9:1-11:36)
V. Application of the Gospel (12:1-15:13)
VI. Letter Closing (15:14-16:27)