Addressing the Issues
Even though the epistle to the Romans contains the fullest expression of the theology of redemption, it is rather doubtful that the Apostle Paul intended to write such a complete treatise on this subject. In keeping with the Apostle’s pattern, we can surmise that Paul intended, along with introducing himself, sharing his purpose and plans with the Roman Christians, Paul intended to deal with issues within the Roman Church.
Paul addresses both Jewish and Gentile Christians in this letter. In the first three chapters we see Paul proving the point that all men are guilty as sinners, including both the Jews and the Gentiles. This would have been such a shock to the Jews since they considered themselves as God’s people and under no pronouncement of condemnation of guilt or judgment. Paul addresses issues that grow out of the doctrine of salvation. He even addresses issues that deal with the present and future condition of the nation of Israel.
One can actually see Paul’s thoughts on these subjects by seeing how he addresses these issues that face this great church:
- How does the law relate to obtaining a right relationship with God? (Ro 1:3:20)
- If Abraham is the father of faith, how does he relate to both the Jews and the Gentiles? (Ro 4:1-5:19)
- What is the relationship between the law of God and sin? (Ro 5:20-7:25)
- What does the salvation of the Gentiles have to do with the future of the Jewish nation? (Ro 9:1-11:36)
- How does a Christian relate to some of the Jewish laws and how does a believer live? (Ro 14:1-15:13)
It seems that there may have been some tension in the relationship between the Jewish and Gentile Christians within the church. Remember this church began shortly after the day of Pentecost as a Jewish Church. Although we don’t have any information from Scripture or extra-biblical information, it seems that Jews returned from Rome after the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:10) and gathered together in a fellowship. Let me set the record straight right here – there is absolutely and positively no evidence that the Apostle Peter was at Rome or founded the church at Rome. Peter is not listed in the extant records of the pastors of this church.
After leaving Jerusalem, Peter seems to have concentrated his work and ministry in Asia, Bithynia, Northern Galatia, Pontus, and Cappadocia. Peter it seems never entered Rome until his crucifixion approximately AD 68.
In time certainly Gentiles became believers and joined the church at Rome. Keep in mind that the Roman historian Suetonius recorded that Claudius; the Roman Emperor expelled the Jews from Rome in AD 49. The Jews left the city and moved elsewhere. We have an example of that in Aquila and Priscilla. They left Rome and moved to Corinth and established their tent making and repairing business. Paul met this couple in Corinth and founded the Corinthian church in their home. They later moved to Ephesus where they opened that home to the Ephesian church.
The point is that with the Jews expelled from Rome the gentiles basically took over the church and progressed until the Jews began filtering back into the city of Rome. It would not stretch the imagination much to see the tensions between customs and practices of the Jewish and Gentile Christians coming into conflict.
So, Paul wrote in addition to introducing himself and sharing his plans for travel to Spain with the hopes of enlisting the Roman Christians help, he also wrote to clarify the gospel. Paul wanted a united church in Christ. He wrote to explain clearly what the grounds for forgiveness, justification, and sanctification were. Paul addressed issues that divided the Jewish and Gentile believers in order to fully unite them into one body in Christ.