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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

- Romans

by Dr. Robert Utley



A. Romans is the most systematic and logical doctrinal book of the Apostle Paul. It was affected by circumstances in Rome, therefore, it is an "occasional" document. Something occurred that caused Paul to write the letter. However it is the most neutral of Paul's writings, in that Paul's way of dealing with the problem (possibly the jealousy between believing Jewish and Gentile leadership, cf. Romans 14:1-13) was a clear presentation of the gospel and its implications for daily life.

B. Romans is the theological development of the truths of Galatians. Ephesians is the development of Romans into a summary cyclical letter. Paul's gospel did not change but his way of presenting it did!

C. Paul's presentation of the gospel in Romans has impacted the church's life in every age.

1. Augustine was converted in A.D. 386 reading Romans 13:13-14.

2. Martin Luther's understanding of salvation was radically changed in A.D. 1513 as he compared Psalms 31:1 to Romans 1:17 (cf. Habakkuk 2:4).

3. John Wesley, walking by a Mennonite meeting in London in A.D. 1738, was converted after hearing Luther's sermon on the introduction to Romans being read because the assigned preacher did not show up!

D. To know Romans is to know Christianity! The letter shapes the life and teachings of Jesus into bedrock truths for the Church of all ages. Martin Luther said of it, "The chief book in the NT and the purest gospel!"

E. I always encourage new believers to start reading the Bible every day. I recommend to begin with three NT books.

1. the Gospel of John, to understand Jesus

2. the book of Romans, to understand Jesus' teachings applied to the churches

3. 1 John, to know how to live out the gospel in everyday life


Paul was definitely the author. His typical greeting is found in Romans 1:1. It is generally agreed that Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was bad eyesight, therefore, he did not physically write this letter himself, but he used a scribe, Tertius (cf. Romans 16:22).


A. The probable date for the authorship of Romans is A.D. 56-58. This is one of the few New Testament books which can be dated fairly accurately. This is done by comparing Acts 20:2ff with Romans 15:17ff. Romans was probably written at Corinth toward the end of Paul's third missionary journey, just before he left for Jerusalem.

B. Possible chronology of Paul's writings following F. F. Bruce and Murry Harris with minor adaptations.

Book DatePlace of WritingRelation to Acts
1Galatians48Syrian AntiochActs 14:28; Acts 15:2
21 Thessalonians50CorinthActs 18:5
32 Thessalonians50Corinth
41 Corinthians55EphesusActs 19:20
52 Corinthians56MacedoniaActs 20:2
6Romans57CorinthActs 20:3
7-10Prison Letters
Colossiansearly 60'sRome
Philemonearly 60'sRome
Ephesiansearly 60'sRome
Philippianslate 62-63RomeActs 28:30-31
11-13Fourth Missionary Journey Ephesus (?)
1 Timothy63 (or later,Macedonia
Titus63 but before
2 Timothy64 A.D..68)Rome


The letter states its destination as Rome. We do not know who founded the church at Rome.

A. It may have been some of the people who were visiting Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and were converted and returned home to start a church (cf. Acts 2:10).

B. It could have been disciples who fled the persecution in Jerusalem after the death of Stephen (cf. Acts 8:4).

C. It could have been converts from Paul's missionary journeys who traveled to Rome. Paul had never visited this church, but he longed to (cf. Acts 19:21). He had many friends there (cf. Romans 16:0).

Apparently his plan was to visit Rome on his way to Spain (cf. Romans 15:28) after his trip to Jerusalem with the "love gift." Paul felt his ministry in the eastern Mediterranean was finished. He sought new fields (cf. Romans 15:20-23, Romans 15:28). The bearer of the letter from Paul in Corinth to Rome was Phoebe, a deaconess, who was traveling in that direction (cf. Romans 16:1).

Why is this letter, written on the back streets of Corinth in the first century by a Jewish tentmaker, so valuable? Martin Luther called it "the chief book in the New Testament and the purest Gospel." The value of this book is found in the fact that it is an in-depth explanation of the gospel by the converted rabbi, Saul of Tarsus, called to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Most of Paul's letters are strongly colored by a local situation, but not Romans. It is a systematic presentation of an Apostle's faith.

Did you realize, fellow Christian, that most of the technical terms used today to describe "faith" ("justification," "imputation," "adoption," and "sanctification") come from Romans ? It is the theological development of the truths of Galatians. Pray for God to open to you this marvelous letter as we search together for His will for our lives today!


A. An appeal for help from the church in Rome for his missionary trip to Spain. Paul saw his apostolic work in the eastern Mediterranean finished (cf. Romans 15:20-23, Romans 15:28).

B. To address the problem in the Roman church between believing Jews and believing Gentiles. This was probably a result of the expulsion of all Jews from Rome and their later return. By then the Jewish Christian leaders had been replaced by Gentile Christian leaders.

C. To introduce himself to the Roman church. There was much opposition to Paul from sincere converted Jews in Jerusalem (cf. Jerusalem Council of Acts 15:0), from insincere Jews (Judaizers in Galatians and 2 Corinthians 3:10-13), and from Gentiles (Colossians, Ephesians) who tried to merge the gospel with their pet theories or philosophies (i.e., Gnosticism).

D. Paul was accused of being a dangerous innovator, adding recklessly to Jesus' teaching. The book of Romans was his way of systematically defending himself by showing how his gospel was true, using the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus (the Gospels).


A. Introduction (Romans 1:1-17)

1. Salutation (Romans 1:1-7)

a. Author (Romans 1:1-5)

b. Destination (Romans 1:6-7a)

c. Greeting (Romans 1:7b)

2. Occasion (Romans 1:8-15)

3. Theme (Romans 1:16-17)

B. Need for Divine Righteousness (Romans 1:18-20)

1. Decline of the Gentile World (Romans 1:18-32)

2. Hypocrisy of the Jews or Pagan Moralists (Romans 2:1-16)

3. Judgment of the Jews (Romans 2:17-8)

4. Universal Condemnation (Romans 3:9-20)

C. What is Divine Righteousness (Romans 3:21-39)

1. Righteousness by Faith Alone (Romans 3:21-31)

2. The Basis of Righteousness: God's Promise (Romans 4:1-25)

a. Abraham's right standing (Romans 4:1-5)

b. David (Romans 4:6-8)

c. Abraham's Relation to Circumcision (Romans 4:9-12)

d. God's Promise to Abraham (Romans 4:13-25)

3. The Attainment of Righteousness (Romans 5:1-21)

a. The subjective aspect: unmerited love, unequaled joy (Romans 5:1-5)

b. the objective basis: God's amazing love (Romans 5:6-11)

c. Adam/Christ typology: Adam's offense, God's provision (Romans 5:12-21)

4. Divine righteousness must issue in personal righteousness (Romans 6:1-25)

a. Freed from sin (Romans 6:1-14)

(1) A supposed objection (Romans 6:1-2)

(2) The meaning of baptism (Romans 6:3-14)

b. Satan's slave or God's slave: your choice (Romans 6:15-23)

c. Man's marriage to the Law (Romans 7:1-6)

d. The Law is good, but sin prevents the good (Romans 7:7-14)

e. The eternal struggle of good and evil in the believer (Romans 7:15-25)

5. The observable results of divine righteousness (Romans 8:1-39)

a. Life in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-17)

b. The redemption of creation (Romans 8:18-25)

c. The Spirit's constant help (Romans 8:26-30)

d. The judicial triumph of justification by faith (Romans 8:31-39)

D. The Divine Purpose for All Humanity (Romans 9:1-32)

1. The election of Israel (Romans 9:1-33)

a. Real heirs of faith (Romans 9:1-13)

b. Sovereignty of God (Romans 9:14-26)

c. God's universal plan includes the heathen (Romans 9:27-33)

2. The salvation of Israel (Romans 10:1-21)

a. God's righteousness vs. mankind's righteousness (Romans 10:1-13)

b. God's mercy necessitates messengers, a call for world missions (Romans 10:14-18)

c. Israel's continued disbelief in Christ (Romans 10:19-21)

3. The failure of Israel (Romans 11:1-36)

a. The Jewish remnant (Romans 11:1-10)

b. Jewish jealousy (Romans 11:11-24)

c. Israel's temporary blindness (Romans 11:25-32)

d. Paul's outburst of praise (Romans 11:33-36)

E. The Result of the Gift of Divine Righteousness (Romans 12:1-13)

1. Call to consecration (Romans 12:1-2)

2. The use of gifts (Romans 12:3-8)

3. Believers' relations with other believers (Romans 12:9-21)

4. Relations with the State (Romans 13:1-7)

5. Relations with neighbors (Romans 13:8-10)

6. Relations with our Lord (Romans 13:11-14)

7. Relations with fellow church members (Romans 14:1-12)

8. Our effect on others (Romans 14:13-23)

9. Relations in Christlikeness (Romans 15:1-13)

F. Conclusion (Romans 15:14-33)

1. Paul's personal plans (Romans 15:14-29)

2. Requests for prayer (Romans 15:30-33)

G. Postscript (Romans 16:1-27)

1. Greetings (Romans 16:1-24)

2. Benediction (Romans 16:25-27)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the entire biblical book at one sitting. State the central theme of the entire book in your own words.

1. Theme of entire book

2. Type of literature (genre)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the entire biblical book at one sitting. State the central theme of the entire book in your own words.

1. Subject of first literary unit

2. Subject of second literary unit

3. Subject of third literary unit

4. Subject of fourth literary unit

5. Etc.

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