About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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My Commentary on The Book Of Romans  

This commentary is based on the New International version of the Bible, 1984 edition, although my revision of this commentary in 2015 is based on the 1994 edition of the NIV.  Chapter titles in this commentary correspond with chapter titles in the 1984 edition of the NIV Bible that make for easier study. 


If I had only one book of the Bible to teach from, Paul's letter to the Romans would be the book.  It sets forth the basic truths that Christians must not compromise.  It not only sets forth basic Christian doctrine but it tells us how to live and it gives us a glimpse into the future.  So, here we go.  Let's see what the Apostle Paul has to say to us.


Most scholars believe Paul wrote his letter to the Romans in the spring of 57 or 58 AD from Corinth.  Paul had never been to Rome and he had a great desire to see these people (Romans 1:13).  His plan was to visit Jerusalem with money that he had collected from various church communities to give to the poor Christians in that city.  Little did Paul know that he would return to Jerusalem , be arrested and end up going to Rome as a prisoner.  History tells us that Paul was executed for his faith in Jesus by Caesar Nero in 64 AD.  Within six years of his death Rome would attack Jerusalem and level it to the ground.  The battle was so bad that starvation was rampant and people killed there own babies for food.


The earliest reliable manuscript that we have of the book of Romans is dated around 180 AD, roughly 132 years after Paul wrote the original.  There are some earlier copies although they have discrepancies in them that most feel are additions or retractions.  It is highly recognize that we have in our Bibles today is what Paul actually wrote.


By 100 A D all of Paul’s writings were recorded into one book for distribution throughout the churches.  Also, in many of the early Christian literature we see quotes from Paul's writing.  This is easily seen in the writings of Clement in the last decade of the first century.       


Most of Paul’s letters were addressed to a particular church in a particular city.  For example, in 1 Corinthians 1:2 you read that Paul wrote his letter to the church at Corinth.  In the book of Romans he did not say that he wrote to the church at Rome but rather to the saints at Rome.  See Romans 1:7.  It is speculation, but there is evidence that the Roman church was not as fully developed as some other churches and that is why Paul addressed his letter in this fashion.  With this said, Paul does recognize home churches in Rome in Romans 16:5. 


It is clear that Paul did not begin the work in Rome because he had never been there before.  It is not really known how people first became Christians in Rome.  Catholics believe that Peter evangelized these people and became their first bishop, but that might well be based on doctrinal bias'.  It is entirely possible that the Word of Salvation naturally spread westward.  It is also highly probable that some of the people who were saved in Acts 2, who were from those parts of the world, brought the gospel of salvation back to Rome.    


It is interesting to note that among the people Paul greeted in his closing chapter was Rufus (Romans 16:13).   Do you remember when Jesus was led out to be executed?  A man named Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry his cross.  It is said that he had a son named Rufus.  Some historians believe that Simon’s son Rufus is the Rufus that Paul greets in chapter 16.  He might have seen the crucifixion and became a believer, but again, we don't know this for sure. 


It is also interesting to note the content of Paul’s letter to the Romans.  The people to whom Paul was writing were people he had never met before; therefore, what he wanted to tell them was of utmost importance.  Paul thus relates the important truths of the gospel to these people.  He did not talk about secondary issues, but the essence of the good news that is found in Jesus.  As Christians we often promote ourselves, or our church, or our doctrinal distinctives, to those we have never met, but not so with Paul.  Paul wanted these Romans to be sure what salvation was all about.  In a systematic, logical, and even legal fashion, Paul does just that.


Paul begins by proving that all men are totally lost and without any hope of ever finding peace with God.  No matter if you are religious or the worst of sinners, he tells us that we are all miserably lost.  He even calls himself a wretched man in Romans 7:24.  Paul then shows us how the Jewish Law, the Law of Moses, and really, any other law, is unable to bring one to peace with God.  We can do absolutely nothing to bring salvation our way.  He shows how righteousness and salvation is by faith in God’s act of grace and by faith alone.  Then once we have come to faith in Jesus, or, trust Jesus with our lives, salvation is ours.  He then tells the importance of living life in the Holy Spirit. 


In chapters 9 through 11 Paul tells the Romans the important facts concerning the history of the Jews, their present situation, and their final salvation at the end of this age.  He states that the Jews have prophetic significance and that God is not finished with them as some think.  Paul speaks to this issue because the Jewish Gentile controversy was the burning issue of the day.  By this I mean the question was always being raise, are Gentile Christians mandated to become Jews and follow the Law of Moses to be a real Christian?   


Then, in the final chapters of Romans Paul tells his readers how to live their lives as a result of their trust in Jesus.  He speaks of submission to civil authority, love for one another, legalism, among other things.


Paul ends his letter in chapter 16 by greeting many people that he knew or heard about in Rome.  It is clear that even though Paul had never been to Rome some of his friends had migrated to the city. 


The book of Romans is the cornerstone book of the New Testament because it clearly sets forth the important truths of the gospel in a systematic way.  For this reason the book of Romans has been used in many universities today in law classes.  It is a classic defense of the gospel and law students learn from Paul’s letter to the Romans how to make a clear defense.


Many important men of history have become Christians merely by reading this book, including Martin Luther and John Calvin.  Understanding Paul's defense of the gospel of Christ in Romans will make a real difference in your life as a Christian.  This is a must book to study and understand for every Christian.  It's a thinking person's book, something that modern Christians don't seem to want to do these days.        


We should also remember that Paul was a Jew writing to various people with various cultural backgrounds in this letter.  The things that Paul writes in this letter show what kind of transformation he had on the road to Damascus .  What he says here could never be spoken from the lips of a Pharisee, of which Paul once was.   These are words spoken from a very miraculous life.    


Paul defines the gospel more than any other New Testament personality, and that includes Jesus Himself.  So I say that if Paul got it wrong, Christians have a big problem on their hands.  Of course, I don’t believe he got anything wrong.      


The following is an outline of the book of Romans.  


The Prologue - chapter 1:1-7

     a – Paul's address - chapter 1:1-7

     b –Thanksgiving and prayer -  chapter 1:8-12

     c–  Personal explanations - chapter 1:13-17


The Principles Of The Gospel -  chapter 1:18 to 5:21

     a – Gentile righteousness -  chapter 1:18-32

     b – Jews righteousness - chapter 2:1 to –3:20

     c – Divine righteousness -  chapter 3:21 to 31

     d – Abraham’s righteousness - chapter 4:1 to 25

     e – Believer’s righteousness -  chapter 5:1 to 21


Ethical Problems Raised By The Gospel - chapter 6:1 to 23

     a – The charge of license -  chapter 6:1 to 14

     b – The charge of lawlessness - chapter 6:15 to 23


The Christian And The Law - chapter 7:1 to 8:39

     a – Law is valid only in lifetime - chapter 7:1 to 6

     b – Law - sin aren't synonymous - chapter 7:7 to 25

     c – Law is vanquished by grace - chapter 8:1 to 39    


The Problem Of Jewish Rights And Privileges -   chapter 9:1 to 11:36 

     a – Absolute sovereignty of God - chapter 9:1 to 29               

     b – Jewish responsibility in the historic situation -
            chapter 9:30 to 10:21                                         

     c – The merciful purpose of God - chapter 11:1-36


Christianity In Practice - chapter 12:1 to 15:13

     a – Introduction - chapter 12:1 and 2

     b – Personal ethics -  chapter 12:3 to 21

     c – Political ethics -  chapter 13:1 to 7

     d – Personal ethics - chapter 13:8 to 14

     e – The strong and the weak - chapter 14:1 to 15:13   


Epilogue - chapter 15:14 to 16:27

     a – Justification for writing - chapter 15:14 to 21

     b – Plans for future journey - chapter 15:22 to 33

     c – Greetings to friends in Rome - chapter 16:1 to 16

     d – A final admonition - chapter 16:17 to 20

     e – Greetings from Corinth - chapter 16:21 to 23

     f – Concluding doxology, chapter 16:25 to 27

Next Section - Chapter 1:1 - 7

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