The letter of Romans has affected Christian history. Its message changed the lives of three important men who lived in the past. They are Augustine, Luther and Wesley. There is one great subject in Romans. The subject is ‘the gospel of God’. God began it. But the gospel has another name too. It is ‘the gospel of his Son’ (1:9). God completed it. Then Paul described the gospel as ‘his gospel’ (2:16). He knew the gospel in his own experience.

[Note: The word ‘gospel’ means ‘Good News’.]

We cannot separate the subjects of salvation and behaviour. The book of Romans tells us as much about salvation as it tells us about behaviour. It is the gospel (good news) about:

  • God's love
  • Christ's power to change a person
  • The Holy Spirit's company in each believer.

This gospel (good news) is for all who will believe it. But they should prove the reality of what they believe too. And they do this by the way that they show it in their lives.

Human Defeat (Chapters 1-4)

Paul started the letter with greetings to his readers. He described himself in four ways:

  • An apostle (1:1, 5)
  • A servant (1:9)
  • Someone who had a duty to people (1:14)
  • A preacher (1:15).

Then Paul announced his main subject. It is God's anger against man's sin. Man's defeat by sin shows itself by:

Moral evil (1:18-32). People are not grateful (1:21). They say that they are wise, but they are foolish (1:22). They worship idols (1:23). And their sexual sins are many (1:24). All these things go together. Notice how Paul repeats some words. He says ‘God left them and let them do...’ (1:24, 26, 28). He also says ‘God gave his Son for us all’ (8:32). This shows us something about Paul's teaching. God is completely fair. But he is also full of mercy. And Paul's teaching shows both things.

Religious pride (2:1-29). The Jews would agree with Paul's description. This was what the Gentiles were like. [Note: A Gentile is anyone who is not a Jew]. Jews thought that they were much better people. But Paul showed them that they were just as bad (2:11, 17-24). God hated their resistance against him. The Jews were causing people to turn away from God. The people who lived in the entire Mediterranean world had an idea about God. They thought that God was like his evil people.

Spiritual lack of interest. There is no difference between Jews and Gentiles (3:9-23). We read ‘no person’ several times in 3:10-20. God has the answer to man's sin. It is the miracle of salvation. Paul described God's mercy. He used word pictures from the Old Testament times and from their own time. There was:

  • The law court − legal. People are declared ‘Not Guilty’ by God (3:24).
  • The market place − commercial. ‘This is a free gift’ (3:24).
  • The Temple − religious. ‘God gave Jesus as a way to forgive people's sins through faith’. God does this by the blood (death) of Jesus (3:25).

We can learn more about Paul's beliefs about salvation in other books.

Chapter 4 is vital. It introduces the main ideas of the next section. There was Abraham (4:1-5). Then there was David (4:6-8). And these men showed an important truth. It is this. We cannot earn salvation by the things that we do. The only thing that man can do is to believe. He must believe what is impossible for humans. It is a miracle of grace from God. (Read 4:16-25.)

Christ's Salvation (Chapters 5-8)

This is a great passage. The main ideas are:

God offers pardon (chapter 5). We need God's pardon. And Jesus Christ made this possible. People do not need to please God first (5:8). The offer of pardon was ‘while we were God's enemies’ (5:10). Adam was the first man. He was also the first man who sinned. And every human being since Adam is a sinner too. Then Jesus Christ came. And, because of Christ, God forgives and removes our sin. Adam did not obey God. But Jesus Christ did obey God. So, now people can have God's pardon. And he will remove their sins (5:12-21).

God gives new life (chapters 6-7). This special pardon is not something that just happens in heaven. It affects our lives every day. We are different people (6:4).

In chapter 5 Christ dies for us (5:6-10).

In chapter 6 we die with him (6:6).

The same power that made Christ alive again is also working in us. And that power makes it possible for us to be free from sin (6:4). But something else will happen too. Each believer will be in a fight. And Paul tells us about his own experience of the struggle (7:14-25).

God promises friendship (chapter 8). One Christian writer described this chapter as ‘Paul's Pentecost’. [Note: Read Acts 2.] The believer does not have to fight alone (8:13-14). Believers who have spiritual attitudes:

  • please God (8:8-9)
  • obey God (8:14)
  • love God (8:28)
  • trust God (8:31).

At the beginning of the chapter God, who is the Judge, says, ‘Not guilty’ (8:1).

At the end of the chapter there are some wonderful words. ‘Nothing can separate us from God's love’ (8:38-39).

Notice 8:35. These were not just theories for Paul. The troubles were his personal experience.

Our Responsibility (Chapters 9-16)

All believers have a responsibility:

To people who do not believe in Jesus (chapters 9-11). Paul cared very much about his own people, the Jews (9:1-5). He spoke about ‘a pain that never leaves me’ (9:2). And we should care like this about non-believers.

Paul then talked about God's choice of people. [Note: The word that people use for this subject is ‘election’]. Paul discussed the importance of the Jew in God's purpose. But he always returns to the subject of being a missionary. (Read 10:1, 12-15, 20-21.)

To the Lord (chapter 12). Paul urged people to offer themselves in 6:13. But he said more about this subject here. When we offer ourselves to God, something will happen.

We will not be like the people of the world. We will be completely different. And this will affect our relationships with the Church (12:3-13). It will also affect our relationship with the people of the world who oppose us (12:14-21).

To the state (chapter 13). This was a serious matter in the first century. (Read Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-14.) Paul believed that God was in control. This includes God's control over judges and officials of Rome. He can use these men as he wants to (13:1-5). This means that the believer must pay his taxes (13:6). He must respect those who are in authority too (13:7).

Two things give purpose to our actions. They are love (13:8-10) and hope (13:11-12). Then there will be a result. We will be holy people. We will be like our Lord Jesus Christ (13:13-14).

To the church (chapters 14-16). This last section is about some problems. The problems were in connection with weak believers. Some Christians had customs that other Christians did not like. And other believers (Christians) had weaknesses. Paul had a message for the members of the local church. He urged them to do things that:

  • bring peace (14:19)
  • please other people (15:2)
  • encourage other Christians (15:3-5)
  • give glory to God (15:76).

Chapter 16 is a series of greetings to Christian friends. And it ends with some great declarations about God. He is ‘the God of peace’ (16:20). He is ‘the eternal God’ (16:26). He is ‘the only wise God’ (16:27).

Cruel times were coming for the believers who lived in Rome. And they would need this kind of confidence. God would give them peace in times of persecution. They did not need to fear the pain. They knew that they could pray to God. They knew that God would be with them. He would use even the terrible anger of Nero for good.

[Note: Nero was the Emperor (chief leader) in Rome, AD 54-68. He did terrible things to Christians.]