Lesson 3 of5
In Progress

Background of Romans

Romans differs from the other letters written by Paul. He wrote them to congregations he had founded, but Romans was written to a community of Christians that he had not founded. According to the letter itself, the Apostle Paul considered his evangelizing work completed in the eastern Mediterranean world and now had his sights set on going west, even as far as Spain (15:23-24). Located at the house of Gaius (16:23), a resident of Corinth (see 1 Corinthians 1:14), Paul writes to the Christians at Rome (he never speaks of a single “church” there) to let them know of his plans. He intends to travel to Spain by way of Rome, and he hopes that the Roman Christians will lend support to his mission to Spain (Romans 15:24). He knows many of the Christians at Rome by name (as chapter 16 shows). The Christian community–made up of a core of Jewish Christians, but predominantly Gentile Christians–had been in existence for some time. The Jewish Christians had been expelled with other Jews by the Roman emperor Claudius in 49 C.E. (see Acts 18:1-3) but were allowed by Nero to return in 54 C.E. There clearly were differences between the (more traditional) Jewish and (newer) Gentile Christians in Rome on several issues. That accounts for Paul’s treatment of issues that could divide, but should not. Paul indicates that prior to heading for Rome he has to take a collection to Jerusalem, but he has some foreboding of what will happen in Jerusalem and asks the Roman Christians to pray that he will be safe (Romans 15:30-32). According to Acts, however, that was not to be. Paul was arrested, imprisoned, and taken to Rome not as a free man but as a prisoner.