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by Peter Pett
There is no letter or book in the world to equal the one that we are about to consider, for it is a detailed explanation of the Good News of God which is the power of God which results in salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16), coming from the pen of an inspired writer.
Its scope is immense. Its first eight chapters, which contain the essence of that salvation, commence with a view of the parlous state of the world, and of man in his rebellion against God (Romans 1:18-32). All is in darkness. But it ends with a description of the triumph of God’s purposes with regard to His elect (Romans 8:28-39). All has become light. And this because of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. His words thus reveal how out of man’s darkness God brings light to those whom He has chosen. And in between is the glowing account of the effectiveness of Christ and His cross, and of the Holy Spirit, in bringing about man’s salvation.
This letter was written by Paul to the Roman church in 57 AD just prior to his journey to Jerusalem where he hoped to deliver the money that he had collected from the Gentile churches on behalf of their Jewish brothers and sisters in Palestine who were facing severe drought. He was, however, aware of the dangers that faced him in Jerusalem and asked the Romans to pray for him, that he would be delivered from the enmity of the Jews, as it was his intention to visit them (the Roman Christians). In the event he went to Rome in chains.
Rome was the only church to which Paul wrote for which he had had no part in its foundation. It had probably originally been started by Christian Jews and proselytes who returned to Rome after Pentecost (Acts 2:10-11), and many Christians would later have moved to it as the hub of the Roman empire, some of whom were known to Paul, as is evident from chapter 16. He was therefore not aware of any major problems there, and was able to concentrate in his letter on giving a full presentation of the Gospel of God (chapters 1-8), and an explanation of God’s dealings with the Jews (chapters 9-11), while at the same time indicating that Jewish Christians (of which there were many in Rome) and Gentile Christians should have forbearance for one another and for each other’s religious foibles (chapters 12-15). The letter contains a special emphasis on the name of God, the noun God being used more often per 100 words than in any other of the larger New Testament books. God was very much at the centre of Paul’s thinking.
It should be noted in passing that there is no hint in the letter of Peter being in Rome at the time, something which, given the greetings at the end of the letter, refutes conclusively the suggestion that Peter was in Rome at this time as its bishop. Indeed Rome would have no single overall bishop for another hundred years, as is evident, for example, from the opening to the letter of Clement from the Roman church to Corinth and from the words of Justin Martyr.
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18