“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,” (Romans 1:1 (ESV)
This epistle’s name comes from its original recipients: the members of the church in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire. “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:7).
No one questions that the apostle Paul wrote Romans. Like his namesake, Israel’s first king (Saul was Paul’s Hebrew name; Paul his Greek name), Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin (Phil. 3:5). As we have previously noted, he was also a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37; 22:25). Paul was born about the time of Christ’s birth, in Tarsus (Acts 9:11), an important city (Acts 21:39) in the Roman province of Cilicia, located in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). He spent much of his early life in Jerusalem as a student of the celebrated rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Like his father before him, Paul was a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), a member of the strictest Jewish sect (cf. Phil. 3:5).
When converted while on his way to Damascus (c. A.D. 33–34) to arrest Christians in that city, Saul/Paul immediately began proclaiming the gospel message (Acts 9:20). After narrowly escaping from Damascus with his life (Acts 9:23–25; 2 Cor. 11:32–33), Paul spent three years in Nabatean Arabia, south and east of the Dead Sea (Gal. 1:17–18). During that time, he received much of his doctrine as direct revelation from the Lord (Gal. 1:11–12).
Arguably, Paul was responsible for the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. He made three missionary journeys through much of the Mediterranean world, tirelessly preaching the gospel he had once sought to destroy (Acts 26:9). After he returned to Jerusalem bearing an offering for the needy in the church there, he was falsely accused by some Jews (Acts 21:27–29), savagely beaten by an angry mob (Acts 21:30–31), and arrested by the Romans.
Though two Roman governors, Felix and Festus, as well as Herod Agrippa, did not find him guilty of any crime, pressure from the Jewish leaders kept Paul in Roman custody. After two years, the apostle exercised his right as a Roman citizen and appealed his case to Caesar. After a harrowing trip (Acts 27–28), including a violent, two-week storm at sea that culminated in a shipwreck, Paul reached Rome. Eventually released for a brief period of ministry, Paul was arrested again and suffered martyrdom at Rome in A.D. 65–67 (cf. 2 Tim. 4:6).
Though physically unimpressive (cf. 2 Cor. 10:10; Gal. 4:14), Paul possessed an inner strength through the Holy Spirit’s power (Phil. 4:13). The grace of God proved sufficient to provide for his every need (2 Cor. 12:9–10), enabling this noble servant of Christ to successfully finish his spiritual race (2 Tim. 4:7).
Paul wrote Romans from Corinth, as the references to Phoebe (Rom. 16:1, Cenchreae was Corinth’s port), Gaius (Rom. 16:23), and Erastus (Rom. 16:23)—all of whom were associated with Corinth—indicate. The apostle wrote the letter toward the close of his third missionary journey (most likely in A.D. 56), as he prepared to leave for Israel with an offering for the poor believers in the Jerusalem church (Rom. 15:25). Phoebe was given the great responsibility of delivering this letter to the Roman believers (16:1–2).
More to come.
Soli deo Gloria!