Book Summaries

A letter written by the apostle Paul to the church at Rome. In the earliest Greek manuscripts the title is simply (Pros Rhomaious, "To the Romans." That Paul the apostle is the author of this epistle has never been seriously questioned, though some scholars have suggested that ch 16 may have been a separate letter sent to Ephesus instead of a part of the original epistle. However, all the earliest extant manuscripts include ch 16 as an integral part of the epistle. The letter was written apparently from Corinth during Paul's brief stay there on his 3rd Missionary Journey (probably during the winter of a.d. 57/58) as appears from the salutations (Rom 16:23; cf. 1 Cor 1:14; 2 Ti 4:20), and from Rom 16:1 where Paul commends Phoebe for her special service to the church at Cenchreae, the eastern seaport of Corinth. Having largely completed his ministry in Greece (ch 15:19, 23) with the establishment of Christian churches in the major cities, Paul was about to return to Palestine, bearing gifts from the Gentile churches to the poor believers in Jerusalem (Rom 15:25, 26, cf. Acts 19:21; 20:3; 24:17; 1 Cor 16:1 ­5; 2 Cor 8:1 ­4; 2 Cor 9:1, 2). Upon the completion of his mission, he purposed to extend his labours to the city of Rome and thence westward to Spain (Acts 19:21; Rom 15:24, 28). The Christian faith had already been established in the capital city of the Roman Empire by others, and Paul had an ardent desire to visit the believers there (Rom 1:13; 15:22).

The epistle to the Romans and that addressed to the Galatians deal with the same general subject--righteousness by faith in Christ. But whereas the latter was composed at a time of crisis, when the churches in Galatia were confronted by the teachings of the Judaizing party in the early church (see Galatians, Epistle to the), and was thus designed to meet a particular threat, the former deals with the subject in a more systematic, reasoned, and complete way. There is no evidence of any crisis in the city of Rome comparable to that in Galatia. It has been suggested that Paul wrote to the Romans shortly after he had written to the churches in Galatia. The epistle to the Galatians has been called the Magna Charta of Christianity, and the epistle to the Romans, its constitution. Under any circumstances it is obvious that the apostle's mind was full of the issues that had arisen in his many controversies with the Judaizers, since he takes up the basic questions and deals with them against the background of the whole problem of sin and of God's plan to meet the emergency sin created. Accordingly, the theme of the epistle is the universal sinfulness of man of God's universal grace. Paul first proves that all men, Jew and Gentile alike, have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), and that it is altogether impossible for them in their carnal state to obey God's will (ch 8:7, 8). He then shows that justification can be obtained only by faith in Jesus Christ (chs 3:22, 24; 8:1 ­4). Legalistic attempts to attain to righteousness are doomed to failure, since in man "dwelleth no good thing" (ch 7:18).

Following the salutation (Rom 1:1 ­7), Paul expresses his interest in the believers at Rome and tells of his earnest desire to pay them a visit (vs. 8 ­15). As "debtor" to all Gentiles--since he is in a special sense the apostle to the Gentiles (cf. Gal 2:7, 9)-he feels an obligation to proclaim the gospel "at Rome also" (Rom 1:14, 15). In chs 1:16 to 5:21, he sets forth the doctrine of justification by faith, the topic he announces in ch 1:16, 17. First he sets forth the utter failure of the Gentiles to attain to righteousness, and proves them to be guilty before God (vs. 18 ­32). Then he shows that the Jews, who had enjoyed the great advantage of being custodians of "the oracles of God" (ch 3:1, 2), were equally guilty, and that Jews and Gentiles alike "are all under sin" (v 9). Despite their more favourable opportunity, the Jews have not kept the law themselves (vs. 10 ­24), and "all the world" thus stands "guilty before God" (v 19). "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (v 23). Neither the possession of the written record of God's revealed will, nor the punctilious, mechanical observance of its requirements, gives the Jew a reason for boasting, because men are "justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (v 28). There is no righteousness apart from that given by Jesus Christ (vs. 21 ­31).

By an analysis of Abraham's experiences Paul next proves that even the patriarch attained to righteousness through faith--he "believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (Rom 4:3; cf. v 22). If, then, Abraham was justified by faith, Paul asks, how much more we for whose offences Christ was delivered up and for whose justification He was raised again (vs. 24, 25)? Paul stresses faith as the basis of Christian experience, since it is through faith that we receive justification and find peace with God (ch 5:1). Whereas formerly we were "enemies" of God, now through faith we have become "reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (vs. 10, 11). In vs. 12 ­14 the apostle attributes the presence of sin in the world to Adam, but shows by a parity of reasoning that as the sin of one man brought condemnation upon the world, so the obedience of one--Christ--brings justification (Rom 5:15 ­19). He develops the theme that the person who has experienced justification by faith is to serve God "in newness of spirit" (chs 6:1 to 7:6); sin is not to reign in his life, that is, to have dominion over him (ch 6:1, 12, 14), as shown by the rite of baptism, which represents not only death to sin but also a rising to "walk in newness of life" (vs. 3 ­6).

Paul next points out the apparent conflict between the intention to do right and the simple fact that man lacks the power to do so (Rom 7:7 ­25), a situation that confronts man with a dilemma from which there appears to be no escape (v 24), but "thank God," there is a way of escape (v 25). In ch 8 Paul explains this way of escape, saying that "the law of the Spirit of life" frees a man "from the law of sin and death" (v 2). By virtue of the fact that the Son of God came into the world as man's Saviour and died for his sins, "the righteousness of the law" may now "be fulfilled in us" if we "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (v 4). Those who are "led by the Spirit of God" are "the sons of God" (v 14), and thus eligible as "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (v 17). God is "for us" (v 31), thus "in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (v 37), and nothing can separate us from God's infinite love (vs. 35, 38, 39).

In view of the fact that justification comes through faith, and not through the punctilious observance of legal requirements, as the Jews thought, the question naturally arises as to Israel's role as God's chosen people (Rom 9 ­11). God had adopted them as His chosen people and entered into covenant relations with them (ch 9:4), but later rejected them. His election of the chosen people in ancient times may have seemed to be arbitrary (vs. 6 ­23), but "they are not all Israel, which are of Israel" (v 6), and in fact, only "a remnant shall be saved" (v 27). Israel as a nation did not attain to righteousness through the law, simply because they did not seek righteousness by faith, but attempted to find it through "the works of the law" (vs. 30 ­32). Consequently, as a nation they rejected the salvation Paul has already shown to be obtainable only through Christ (vs. 32, 33). Turning their backs on Christ, they went "about to establish their own righteousness" and forfeited the gracious provision made available through Him (ch 10:3, 4). They had a "zeal" for God, "but not according to knowledge" (Rom 10:2). Accordingly, since Israel proved to be "a disobedient and gainsaying people" (v 21), God had no alternative but to reject them. The question is then raised, Did this mean He had utterly and irrevocably deprived the Jews of salvation? In ch 11 the apostle answers by explaining that, like the unproductive branches of an olive tree, they have been "broken off" and Gentile branches grafted in their place (vs. 17 ­22), and that in order to find salvation the people of Israel must be grafted back into the root of the olive tree" (v 23). Only "so" can "all Israel be saved" (v 26). God has "concluded" all, Jew and Gentile alike, "in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all" (v 32).

In Rom 12:1 to 15:13 Paul makes a practical application of the doctrine of righteousness by faith which he has developed in chs 1:16 to 11:36. It means a transformation for the individual Christian (ch 12:1, 2), unity and fellowship among the believers (vs. 3 ­8), and considerate dealings with all men (vs. 9 ­21). It means submission to "the higher powers" (ch 13:1 ­7), sober living in view of the fact that "now is our salvation nearer than when we believed" (vs. 11 ­14), and forbearance and consideration among Christians (chs 14:1 to 15:13). In his conclusions (chs 15:14 to 16:27) Paul repeats his intention to pay the believers at Rome a visit (ch 15:31, 32), and sends greetings (ch 16:1 ­16). He warns them against listening to certain false teachers (vs. 17 ­20) and adds greetings from his companions (vs. 21 ­23). Verses 24 ­27 constitute an apostolic benediction and doxology.

Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.