Human Author: Apostle Paul
Time: 57 A.D. to 58 A.D.
Place of Writing: The City of Corinth
Theme: The Righteousness and Justice of God
1. Clarification of the principle of justification
2. To explain the unbelief of Israel
3. To commend Phebe to the church at Rome
4. To clarify what constitutes the Christian Way of Life: the Mosaic Law or the New Law of Christ
5. To teach the believers in Rome how to have victory over the sin nature
6. To warn and protect the Roman believers from legalism
Occasion for Writing:
Paul desired to go to Rome and minister there. However, Paul was unable to go to Rome, so he wrote this letter and sent it by Phebe, a deaconess in the church at Cenchreae.Much like the books of Galatians and Hebrews, Romans explains the statement made many years before by the prophet Habakkuk - “the just shall live by faith.” The book of Romans deals mainly with the words “the just.” The book of Galatians deals mainly with the words “shall live.” And the book of Hebrews deals mainly with the two words “by faith.”
What better person to write about the righteousness of God appropriated by faith in Christ alone, than the apostle Paul. Paul, a well-educated Jew and a Roman citizen was the perfect believer selected by the Holy Spirit to be the author of all of the above books dealing with the subject, “the just shall live by faith.” Paul’s education combined knowledge of both Greek and Roman subjects, such as, history, religion, philosophy, poetry, science and music. On top of this, Paul was educated in Judaism in Jerusalem by the brilliant Jewish scholar Gamaliel. Not only was he schooled in the Old Testament, which included the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, he knew the body of rabbinical teachings and traditions of the Jews. Paul was the right person at the right time to bring the message of righteousness by faith to the Gentiles and to Israel.
Remember, Paul is writing to believers to clarify the doctrine of justification by faith, to explain the unbelief of Israel, to teach them what constitutes the Christian Way of Life, to teach them how to have victory over the sin nature and to warn and protect them from legalism. Paul was perfectly within his right to minister to these believers in Rome because of his apostolic gift.
Paul was elected by God the Holy Spirit to replace Judas as the twelveth apostle and his apostleship established his authority over several churches. The church at Rome was one of these churches and Paul had a strong desire to visit them. Eventually, Paul did visit Rome, but on the occasion of writing his epistle to them he was unable to and instead sent the letter by Phebe. (I Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11)
Temporary spiritual gifts were foundational as the early Church was being formed. The purpose of gifts at that time was to confirm the spoken word of the apostles and disciples of the Lord. Some of these gifts were for the detection of heresy in the Church, which was rampant in the first century Church. Some gifts were given to evangelize the lost in their own language. When these known languages were spoken in the local church an interpreter was always required in order that the entire congregation could be taught. There were also temporary gifts that established the apostles’ authority over all churches and when the last apostle died, the temporary gift died with him. And finally, there were certain gifts given to men for the teaching of doctrine not yet a part of the canon of Scripture. (I Corinthians 13:8-10; Hebrews 2:1-4)
The book of Romans is a fairly long letter from Paul and is packed with a tremendous amount of Bible doctrine. In this book Paul answers the Jewish religious leaders who insisted that salvation was obtained by a system of human good works, observation of Jewish traditions and keeping the Mosaic Law (all are legalism).
The Law was good and served a specific purpose: to point people to Christ. Every aspect of the Law, including ritual worship, the furniture in the Tabernacle and sacrifices pointed to the Person and work of Christ. Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law by never offending in any point of it. Jesus is the personification of the righteousness and the justice of God.
Adjustment to the justice of God is a theme that is carried throughout this book. A person either adjusts to God’s justice by faith alone in Christ alone or God’s justice will adjust to him. Justification in theology means to be declared righteous. Being declared righteous is the proper adjustment to God’s justice and removes all condemnation. (Galatians 2:16)
After the expulsion from the Garden, Adam and Eve began to have children. The first two were Cain and Abel, and they provide for us another illustration of salvation in the Old Testament. As the story goes, both sons had been taught the proper approach to God, which was a blood sacrifice. It was the blood sacrifice that symbolized the actual sacrifice that Jesus Christ would someday make on their behalf. However, there was no salvation in the ritual itself, as it was to be only a representation of an inward faith in the coming Savior. Well, you know the story… Cain brought a sacrifice to God from the labor of his hands, illustrating the fact that he had rejected the teaching of grace and attempted to reconcile himself to God by works, which God rejected. On the other hand, Abel followed the instructions of his father and brought a blood sacrifice to God (which He accepted), illustrating that he understood and accepted salvation through the coming Savior.
The other well-known illustration is Abraham, the Father of the Jewish nation. It is Abraham who accepted the coming Savior as illustrated in Genesis 15:6. He also understood that his faith must be demonstrated before the world. The story of Abraham taking his son Isaac to offer him as a sacrifice to God is the classic example in Scripture of a believer’s complete and unwavering faith in God. Abraham was already justified before God, so this test of his faith could only be an illustration of that faith to the world. (Genesis 22:1-14; Romans 4:1-5, 22-25)
At the moment of salvation, believers are justified by God because His righteousness is credited to their account. Justification means vindication. Because of the substitutionary spiritual death of Christ, the believer is vindicated or set free from all charges against him. The penalty for personal sins and Adam’s original sin was paid by Jesus Christ. Therefore, the believer’s debt is now paid in full. The obligation that God’s righteousness (the standard of God’s integrity) demanded with regard to sin was satisfied by the justice of God (the action of God’s integrity) at the Cross. (Romans 3:28, 5:1; Galatians 3:24)
It was the work of Christ on the Cross that completely satisfied (propitiated) the justice and the righteousness of God. Once God’s justice and righteousness were satisfied, He was justified in declaring anyone that would believe in Christ to be righteous. At faith in Christ, the believer is freely justified by His grace. Justification, like righteousness, is a grace function of God, which means we cannot earn it nor do we deserve it. (Romans 5:8-9; 9:30-32; I John 2:2)
Justification is the provision by God to solve the problem of man’s sinful condition. God’s justice had to find a way to deal with sin without compromising His perfect character. God’s love provided the answer in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Since Christ had no sin of His own to pay for, He was qualified to pay the penalty of sin (spiritual death) for the entire human race. (II Corinthians 5:21)
It is the imputation (crediting) of God’s righteousness to the believer that guarantees him an eternal relationship with God and qualifies him to spend eternity in Heaven. Imputation means that God credits to your account something that properly belongs to another. In this case, God credits the righteousness of Christ to your account because at salvation you were justified and placed in union with Him (baptism of the Holy Spirit). (Romans 3:22; II Corinthians 5:21)