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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Romans Epistle

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The Epistle to the Romans. This epistle claims our interest more than the other didactic epistles of the Apostle Paul, because it is more systematic, and because it explains especially that truth which became subsequently the principle of the reformation, viz., righteousness through faith.

At the period when the apostle wrote the Epistle to the Romans, he was between fifty and sixty years old. After having spent two years and a half at Ephesus, he planned a journey to Macedonia, Achaia, Jerusalem, and Rome (). Having spent about three months in traveling, he arrived at Corinth, where he remained three months (); and during this second abode at Corinth he wrote the Epistle to the Romans (comp. , and 2 Corinthians 9 with ). Paul dispatched this letter by a Corinthian woman, who was just then traveling to Rome (), and sent greetings from an inhabitant of Corinth (; comp. ).

It is probable that the epistle was written about the year 58 or 59. The congregation of Christians at Rome was formed at a very early-period, but its founder is unknown. Paul himself mentions two distinguished teachers at Rome, who were converted earlier than himself. According to , the Roman congregation had then attained considerable celebrity, as their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world. It is probable that the Jews at Rome were first converted to Christianity. But at the time when this epistle was written it appears that the Gentile Christians in the Roman church were then more numerous than the converted Jews.

In the introduction the apostle states that he had long entertained the wish of visiting the metropolis, in order to confirm the faith of the church, and to be himself comforted by that faith. But having hitherto been hindered from carrying his intention into effect, he avails himself of the opportunity afforded by the journey of Phoebe to Rome, to send in writing the sum and substance of the Christian doctrine which he had been prevented from preaching in that city.

The apostle commences his epistle by describing the two great divisions of the human race, viz., those who underwent the preparatory spiritual education of the Jews, and those who did not undergo such a preparatory education. The chief aim of all nations, according to him, should be the righteousness before the face of God, or absolute realization of the moral law. According to the apostle, the heathen also have their law, as well religious as moral internal revelation (; ; ). The heathen have, however, not fulfilled that law which they knew, and are in this respect like the Jews, who also disregarded their own law (Romans 2). Both Jews and Gentiles are transgressors, or by the law separated from the grace and sonship of God (; ); consequently if blessedness could only be obtained by fulfilling the demands of God, no man could be blessed. God, however, has gratuitously given righteousness and blessedness to all who believe in Christ (); the Old Testament also recognizes the value of religious faith (Romans 4); thus we freely attain to peace and sonship of God presently, and have before us still greater things, viz., the future development of the kingdom of God (). The human race has gained in Christ much more than it lost in Adam (; ). This doctrine by no means encourages sin (Romans 6); on the contrary, men who are conscious of divine grace fulfill the law much more energetically than they were able to do before having attained to this knowledge, because the law alone is even apt to sharpen the appetite for sin, and leads finally to despair (Romans 7); but now we fulfill the law by means of that new spirit which is given unto us, and the full development of our salvation is still before us (). The sufferings of the present-time cannot prevent this development, and must rather work for good to them whom God from eternity has viewed as faithful believers; and nothing can separate such believers from the eternal love of God (). It causes pain to behold the Israelites themselves shut out from salvation; but they themselves are the cause of this seclusion, because they wanted to attain salvation by their own resources and exertions, by their descent from Abraham, and by their fulfillment of the law: thus, however, the Jews have not obtained that salvation which God has freely offered under the sole condition of faith in Christ (Romans 9); the Jews have not entered upon the way of faith, therefore the Gentiles were preferred, which was predicted by the prophets. However, the Jewish race, as such, has not been rejected; some of them obtain salvation by a selection made not according to their works, but according to the grace of God. If some of the Jews are left to their own obduracy, even their temporary fall serves the plans of God, viz., the vocation of the Gentiles. After the mass of the Gentiles shall have entered in, the people of Israel also, in their collective capacity, shall be received into the church (Romans 11).

The authenticity of this epistle has never been questioned.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Romans Epistle'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/kbe/r/romans-epistle.html.

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