Why did Paul write Romans?
In this essay I will look at why the Apostle Paul wrote the book of Romans. I will look at a number of different sources to get a fair view off why he wrote the book, and I will be looking at what Paul is doing throughout the book of Romans to understand what he was doing, and what message he wanted to get across in his writings.
The letter to the Roman church was probably written A.D 56-57, while the Paul was staying in Corinth. The Apostle Paul longed to go to Rome, as it was known to him that Christians were living there because Paul starts his letter to the Romans by saying he longs to see them so he can impart spiritual gifts to strengthen them (Romans1:11). The Christian faith in Rome had grown due to Jews that returned to Rome after being converted at Pentecost (Acts 2). Paul decided to send a letter to Rome before his visit, introducing himself and “to make a clear declaration of the faith.” Marshall, Travis and Paul write “he wished to visit them only ‘in passing’ (Rom. 15:24), and the letter is meant to pave the way for the visit.” There are believed to be three main reasons why Paul wrote Romans a missionary purpose, an apologetic purpose and a pastoral purpose.
In Romans 1:13-13 Paul writes that he had always intended to go on a missionary journey to Rome although he had been prevented. Although he was now able to visit Rome due to three reasons the first is Paul had completed his missionary service in the East Mediterranean. The second is that Paul had a longing desire in his heart to travel to Rome (Romans 1:11), his desire was so strong Stott writes, “It must surely come from God.” The third is that his visit to Rome would be a “stepping-stone” to Spain. Stott writes that Paul intends to get two things out of his visit he wanted to pass threw Rome on his way to Spain, while doing this he wants to evangelize to the non-Jews (Romans 1:14-15). The second thing is that Paul hopes that the Roman church would support him on his journey to Spain. Paul also wanted to make Rome is missionary base for his “Spanish campaign. For this new venture he will need to backing of the household churches at Rome for prayer, personnel, finance and initial contacts” (Romans 15:22-32). According to Ambrosiaster, “we can safely assume that the church was not planted by an apostle,” therefore some also believe Paul was traveling to Rome to give an apostolic foundation to the existing Church. However Dunn believes this to be unlikely, “since Paul regarded church founding as an apostolic work (1 Corinthians 9:1-2)”. This letter was written to serve as Paul’s introduction of himself to the people of Rome as they “had only heard about him, and heard perhaps conflicting reports.” Paul wanted the people to be confident in who he is and what he wanted to establish.
The church in Rome did not have a theological foundation in place because an apostle before had never visited it so Paul in his letter writes a defense of his understanding of the Gospel (Romans 1:3). According to Veerman Jews who had been present at Pentecost (Acts 2) who became Christians began to spread the good news when they got back to Rome, this led to the Roman church. Paul felt is if the Gospel was under attack and needed to be justified, as Dunn puts it “The letter functions as Paul’s apology for his gospel, and therefore also as a self-apologia, since his whole life’s-work was bound up with the gospel he preached.” The letter is written to the Romans, which you can see in (Romans 1:2-6). Rome had already been evangelized and the church their had grown quite big, Paul felt that the people of Rome may have been influenced against him. Some of the Christians from Judea may have been telling the gentile Christians that they had to first observe the law in the Old Testament, you can see in Romans 15:31 that there where unbelievers in Judea. Also Paul had been teaching in Corinth and The Roman Christians may have understood his teaching in the wrong way. In the letter Paul “was also refining some aspects of his own thinking” as he felt the need to re-state his gospel in a new way; one that would not be misinterpreted. Paul’s explanation of the gospel is given “in terms of Hab.2:4, unfolding its relevance for the new Christian era.” Paul is emphasizing that faith in Jesus is what guarantees our righteousness (Romans 1:18b-8:39). We are saved by the grace we have received from God, which can only be obtained by having faith in the Lord Jesus and the work he completed on the cross. Drane writes “So Paul decided to prepare for his visit to the capital by writing a letter to the church there, containing a reasoned statement of his own beliefs.” After his presentation of the gospel facts, Paul “declares his allegiance to it (1:16, 17)” which has led some to believe that Paul’s letter was a “manifesto of Pauline theology.”
Similar to Paul’s previous letters, which were used to deal with the “problems and needs of local churches,” Romans 14:1-15:6 are used to address the differences and misunderstanding that had arisen within the church in Rome. Paul apologetically laid down the gospel in the start of his letter identifying theological mistakes that needed to be addressed. But there was still need to pastor the new Christians in Rome who, because false teaching have been taught some believers became legalistic and started to judge each other (Romans 14:10). Paul quotes a scripture from Isaiah in verse 11 that the Jewish Christians would have known really well, and put it into the context of not judging each other. Paul is writing this because judging each other can put a stumbling block in the ways of a brother or cause him to fall. You can see from this scripture that Paul is no longer addressing theological problem among the church but personal disputes. In Romans 8 Paul writes about being free from indwelling sin. “Paul begins a description of life in the Spirit. He first declares that the Spirit assures death to sin and makes holiness possible.” Paul can write a statement like this because of his previous work at the start of Romans were he explained the gospel and laid down theological foundations as I have stated in the Apologetic Purpose. Backing this up you can see in scripture that Paul previously explained salvation by faith alone in Romans 3:21-7:25 “but especially picking up the major outline of Christ’s redemptive work in 3:21-26 and 5:6-21, Christians are free from God’s banishing judgment.” Therefore Paul was able to help the Roman church pastorally due to his apology in the start of Romans.
After looking at a plethora of books and commentaries on the different reasons and purposes Paul would have written to book of Romans I conclude that Paul wrote this letter to serve three purposes a missionary, Paul wanted his letter to build relationship with the Romans church so they could support him when he would later travel to Spain, he also wanted to travel to Rome to evangelize because of his love for the non-saved. Paul’s apologetic purpose was to correct false doctrine within the Church of Rome. Some believe it was also a type of manifesto of Pauline theology, because he was older when writing to the Romans, the start of his letter is an apology of his beliefs. Paul pastoral purpose for writing this letter was to address misunderstandings that had snuck into the church. He wrote to correct people that were not being good Christian and felt he needed to teach on grace because the church had got the wrong idea of what this meant. Paul wrote this letter to restore a positive relationship with the Roman church in order that they would receive him so he could be supported, while doing this he corrected, encouraged and evangelized the church in Rome.
Allen, Leslie C. ‘Romans’, in F. F. Bruce (gen. ed.), Zondervan bible commentary, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008
Drane, John Introducing the New Testament, Tring: Lion Publishing, 1986
Dunn, J. D. G. ‘Romans, Letter to the,’ in Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin and Daniel G. Reid, Dictionary of Paul and his Letters, Leicester: IVP, 1993
London: Society of Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2002, Page 105
Marshall, Howard Stephen Travis and Ian Paul, Exploring the New Testament Volume
NKJV, New Spirit Filled Life Bible, USA: Thomas Nelson Inc
Schreiner, Thomas R. Ambrosiaster, cited in, Romans, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998
Stott, John The Message of Romans, Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2007
Veerman, David R. ‘Introduction to Romans’ in Bruce B. Barton et al. (eds.), Life Application Bible, NIV, Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1991