“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.” (Romans 1:7).
The City of Rome was the capital and the most important city of the Roman Empire. It was founded in 753 B.C., but is not mentioned in Scripture until NT times. Rome is located along the banks of the Tiber River, about 15 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. Until an artificial harbor was built at nearby Ostia, Rome’s main harbor was Puteoli, some 150 miles away (Acts 28:13).
In Paul’s lifetime, the city had a population of over one million people, many of whom were slaves. Rome boasted magnificent buildings, such as the emperor’s palace, the Circus Maximus, and the Forum, but its beauty was marred by the slums in which so many lived. According to tradition, Paul was martyred outside Rome on the Ostian Way during Nero’s reign (A.D. 54–68).
Some of those converted on the day of Pentecost probably founded the church at Rome (cf. Acts 2:10). Paul had long sought to visit the Roman church, but had been prevented from doing so (Rom. 1:13). In God’s providence, Paul’s inability to visit Rome gave the world this inspired masterpiece of gospel doctrine.
Paul’s primary purpose in writing Romans was to teach the great truths of the gospel of grace to believers who had never received apostolic instruction. The letter also introduced him to a church where he was personally unknown, but hoped to visit soon for several important reasons: to edify the believers (1:11); to preach the gospel (1:15); and to get to know the Roman Christians, so they could encourage him (1:12; 15:32), better pray for him (15:30), and help him with his planned ministry in Spain (15:28).
Unlike some of Paul’s other epistles (e.g., 1, 2 Corinthians, Galatians), his purpose for writing was not to correct incorrect theology or rebuke ungodly living. The Roman church was doctrinally sound, but, like all churches, it was in need of the rich doctrinal and practical instruction this letter provides.
More to come.
Soli deo Gloria!