On the church in Rome, see § 36 (pp.360 sqq.); on the theology of the Ep. to the Rom., § 71 (pp.525 sqq.).
A few weeks before his fifth and last journey to Jerusalem, Paul sent, as a forerunner of his intended personal visit, a letter to the Christians in the capital of the world, which was intended by Providence to become the Jerusalem of Christendom. Foreseeing its future importance, the apostle chose for his theme: The gospel the power of God unto salvation to every believer, the Jew first, and also the Gentile (Rom.1:16, 17). Writing to the philosophical Greeks, he contrasts the wisdom of God with the wisdom of man. To the world-ruling Romans he represents Christianity as the power of God which by spiritual weapons will conquer even conquering Rome. Such a bold idea must have struck a Roman statesman as the wild dream of a visionary or madman, but it was fulfilled in the ultimate conversion of the empire after three centuries of persecution, and is still in the process of ever-growing fulfilment.
In the exposition of his theme the apostle shows: (1) that all men are in need of salvation, being under the power of sin and exposed to the judgment of the righteous God, the Gentiles not only (1:18-32), but also the Jews, who are still more guilty, having sinned against the written law and extraordinary privileges (2:1-3:20); (2) that salvation is accomplished by Jesus Christ, his atoning death and triumphant resurrection, freely offered to all on the sole condition of faith, and applied in the successive acts of justification, sanctification, and glorification (3:21-8:17); (3) that salvation was offered first to the Jews, and, being rejected by them in unbelief, passed on to the Gentiles, but will return again to the Jews after the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come in (Rom.9-11); (4) that we should show our gratitude for so great a salvation by surrendering ourselves to the service of God, which is true freedom (Rom.12-16).
The salutations in Rom.16, the remarkable variations of the manuscripts in 15:33; 16:20, 24, 27, and the omission of the words |in Rome,| 1:7, 15, in Codex G, are best explained by the conjecture that copies of the letter were also sent to Ephesus (where Aquila and Priscilla were at that time, 1 Cor.16:19, and again, some years afterwards, 2 Tim.4:19), and perhaps to other churches with appropriate conclusions, all of which are preserved in the present form.
This letter stands justly at the head of the Pauline Epistles. It is more comprehensive and systematic than the others, and admirably adapted to the mistress of the world, which was to become also the mistress of Western Christendom. It is the most remarkable production of the most remarkable man. It is his heart. It contains his theology, theoretical and practical, for which he lived and died. It gives the clearest and fullest exposition of the doctrines of sin and grace and the best possible solution of the universal dominion of sin and death in the universal redemption by the second Adam. Without this redemption the fall is indeed the darkest enigma and irreconcilable with the idea of divine justice and goodness. Paul reverently lifts the veil from the mysteries of eternal foreknowledge and foreordination and God's gracious designs in the winding course of history which will end at last in the triumph of his wisdom and mercy and the greatest good to mankind. Luther calls Romans |the chief book of the New Testament and the purest Gospel,| Coleridge: |the profoundest book in existence.| Meyer: |the greatest and richest of all the apostolic works,| Godet (best of all): |the cathedral of the Christian faith.|
Theme: Christianity the power of free and universal salvation, on condition of faith.
Leading Thoughts: They are all under sin (Rom.3:9). Through the law cometh the knowledge of sin (3:20). Man is justified by faith apart from works of the law (3:28). Being justified by faith we have (echomenor, let us have, echomen) peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (5:1). As through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned (5:12): [so through one man righteousness entered into the world, and life through righteousness, and so life passed unto all men on condition that they believe in Christ and by faith become partakers of his righteousness]. Where sin abounded, grace did abound much more exceedingly: that as sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (5:20, 21). Reckon yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus (6:11). There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus (8:1). To them that love God all things work together for good (8:28). Whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son ... and whom he foreordained them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified (8:29, 30). If God is for us, who is against us (8:31)? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ (8:35)? Hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved (11:25). God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all (11:32). Of Him, and through Him, and unto Him are all things (11:36). Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service (12:1).