Epistle to the Romans
Indeed, the Book of Romans is one of the most profound books in existence; it is certainly one of the most valued parts of the Holy Scriptures. It has been appropriately termed the Cathedral of the Christian faith. Its profound theology and impressive style were reason enough for it to be assigned the first place among the Pauline epistles.
When Paul wrote this epistle to the church in Rome, that congregation must have already been in existence for a number of years, for Paul writes that he had desired to visit them “these many years” (15:23).
To him this church was strong enough to help him carry out further missionary activities. They are not called recent converts; they are not treated as having been improperly instructed, but seem to have been an organized and well-grounded congregation (15:14, “filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another”). The epistle deals with no major error in the church; nor does it have to deal with organizational principles. It was a church that was universally famous (1:8), and not merely because it was in Rome.
Church in Rome
The Roman church was a group that had a large Jewish element, but was also filled with Gentile converts from paganism, both free as well as slaves. How the church in Rome was started is unclear. The Roman Catholic view is that Peter founded it; another view is that Roman Christians from Pentecost in Jerusalem made their way there. But it may simply be that several Christian families or groups from Pauline churches in the East settled in Rome and grew together. According to the end of the book, there were several congregations meeting in the city. At the outbreak of Neronian persecutions, Tacitus says that the Christians in Rome were “an immense multitude.”
The Place and Date of Romans
Based on the material from Acts and the Corinthian epistles, the Book of Romans clearly indicates that it was written from Corinth on Paul’s third missionary journey. Paul had never visited Rome; but after fulfilling his mission of mercy to Jerusalem, he hoped to go to Rome en route to Spain (Rom. 15:23-25). At any rate, the date of the book is probably 60 A.D.
The chronological order of the Pauline epistles is about as follows. First and Second Thessalonians, Galatians, First and Second Corinthians, Romans, Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, Philemon, First Timothy, Titus, and Second Timothy. Romans is placed first among Paul’s letters in the New Testament. Not only because it is his longest work, but because it also furnishes a massive and basic theological frame-work for the whole collection of the apostle’s writings.