The Letter to the Church at Rome
Scholars of all kinds have looked deeply into Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. “The greatest work of Paul,” wrote Dean Henry Alford. “The most profound writing extant,” said Samuel Coleridge. Frederic Godet commented, “The greatest masterpiece which the human mind has ever conceived and realized” and “the cathedral of Christian faith.” The reformer Martin Luther wrote, “The chief part of the New Testament, and perfect Gospel,” as he reflected on Paul’s letter. The highly respected H.A.W. Meyer appraised Romans as “the greatest and richest of all the apostolic works.” Perhaps H.C.G. Moule summarized it all when he wrote: “He who attempts to expound the Epistle to the Romans, when his sacred task is over, is little disposed to speak about his commentary; he is occupied rather with an every deeper reverence and wonder over the text which he has been permitted to handle, a text so full of a marvelous man, above so full of God.”
These and many others have extolled this book we are now studying. One who seriously reads the letter, and gives meditative time to consider the great themes it presents will be richly rewarded. To get an adequate (not complete) picture of this study, one cannot stress too much the need to take time enough to read the letter. By a careful reading of the sacred text one is immersed in the inspired words of God’s Holy Spirit, penned by a very dedicated man, whose entire life had been devoted to God’s service on earth. As a young man, Paul’s life was molded and formed by Jewish influences of a godly home. Out of a rich knowledge of Old Testament history, language, and literature, Paul was selected as the right man to guide in writing Romans.
Please read the text, but read it slowly and carefully. As you read, select other translations from which to read. Use whatever resources you have available to help you understand some of the things you read. Here is a list of suggested books recommended as outside reading:
A New Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Saints at Rome, by R.L. Whiteside.
Exegetical and Analytical Commentary on Romans, by I.B. Grubbs.
Commentary on Romans, by Moses Lard.
The Epistle to the Romans, by H.C.G. Moule.
There are many more.
If you do not have access to these books, please contact the elders or the preacher. Check the library to see what books are there. Other helps such as Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, and a good concordance will be helpful. When you consult uninspired resources remember that they are only guides. None of them are infallible. When you read a commentary look at it as suggestion, not as a substitute for what the text says. Read the introductory material and remarks of the author and if there is a publisher’s preface, read it. Realize that each commentator may have been influenced by preconceived notions. Remember that the scholars who translated the reliable translations such as King James, American Standard, New King James, New International, and New American Standard were all selected for their expertise in the original languages. One of the best commentaries is simply a more modern translation. The New King James is particularly recommended and the text from that translation will be used in each lesson.
Romans was apparently written about the year A.D. 58. No specific information is given in the New Testament about the founding of the church in Rome. We do not know whether Jews who were converted at Pentecost returned to Rome and began the church or not, although there were “visitors from Rome” (Acts 2:10) present when the church was started in Jerusalem. It matters not who started the church; it was built according to the New Testament blueprint used in the establishment of every local church of Christ both then and now. The church was made up predominantly of Gentiles (1:13) although a considerable Jewish element existed in the membership (2:17ff).
The city of Rome is very ancient. Historians claim it was founded in 753 B.C. It became the greatest city on earth at the time Christ came into the world. By the time Paul wrote this letter, “the sun rose and set upon the Roman Empire,” so vast was its influence and power. Even though Rome was powerful and filled with magnificent structures, still the humble band of Christians were well known. Paul complimented them in the first chapter by saying, “Your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (1:8). From the last chapter of the letter there is evidence that there were several places where Christians met for work and worship (16:1-16 -- note the expression “the brethren who are with them”).
When Paul neared the completion of his third preaching tour he made his way into Greece. Here he stayed three months (Acts 20:1-3). Gaius, one whom Paul personally baptized (1 Cor. 1:14), gave Paul lodging. During this time in Corinth Paul wrote to the church in Rome and we have the letter before us. There is no question in the minds of those who accept the inspiration of the Bible that Paul is the author and those who have argued against his authorship make little or no sense.
Before our initial study of the letter we ought to look at it as a whole. Three basic divisions are found in the letter. The first is devoted to the Gospel as God’s power to save (chapters 1-8); the second section is devoted to vindicating God’s righteousness in all His deeds (chapters 9-11); the last section deals with the application of His righteousness (chapters 12-16). Taking this a step further, there are seven natural divisions of the letter. The following was compiled by I.B. Grubbs.
I. Introduction: Fundamental Thesis ... 1:1-17.
II. The universal need of salvation offered in the Gospel demonstrated from the sinfulness of the whole human race ... 1:18-3:20.
III. God’s power for salvation as manifested in justification of believers through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus ... 3:21-5:11.
IV. God’s power for salvation as manifested in the complete deliverance through Christ from sin and death culminating in ultimate glorification ... 5:12-8:39.
V. The Principles now established justify God’s dealings both with Jew and Gentile, and account for the rejection of the former and the acceptance of the latter ... 9:1-11:36.
VI. Exhortations and practical instructions founded on the foregoing doctrinal expositions ... 12:1-15:13.
VII. Conclusions of the epistle with personal allusions and Christian salutations ... 15:14-16:27.
Please read the first chapter and then look at the questions and discussion points.
Study Questions -- Chapter 1
- What things do we learn about Paul in this chapter?
- What things do we learn about Christ in this chapter?
- What things do we learn about the church in Rome in this chapter?
- What is Paul’s attitude toward the church in Rome?
- In what manner was Paul in debt? What was the debt?
- What does “gospel” mean?
- Discuss how the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation.”
- Does the above question show that God’s only power to save is the gospel? Please support your answer.
- Read verses 18-23. What has God made plain about Himself? How?
10. Why does Paul say men created their own gods for themselves?
11. (Read verses 24-32). Find three uses of the phrase, “God gave them over...” In what ways is each “God gave them over” a little worse than the previous one?
12. What does this section suggest happens when a person turns from God and does as he (or she) pleases?
Study Questions -- Chapter 2 Read verses 1-16.
- On what basis does Paul show the guilt of the Jewish people?
- From verses 2, 5, 11 what may we learn about the judgment of God. Give the description found in these verses.
- Paul says that God tries to induce men to repent. On what basis does He do this?
- What does mankind do in response to this and what is laid up for him?
- Discuss the condition of those “without the law.”
- How did these people “become a law to themselves?”
- What does the expression “do by nature” mean?
- What is conscience? How did it affect the people of verses 13-15?
- What are the “secrets” God will judge? What standard does He use to judge them by?
10. Read verses 17-28. List some of the things the Jews thought about themselves.
11. How does Paul show them to be either hypocritical or inconsistent, or both?
12. What is “true circumcision?”
13. What does Paul mean by an inward Jew?
14. What does he mean by “spirit” in verse 19?
15. What does he mean by “letter” in the same verse?
Study Questions -- Chapter 3
(Chapter 1 shows the Gentiles were guilty and condemned; chapter 2 shows the same for the Jews.)
- After reading this entire chapter, what do you conclude about the condition of mankind in general at the time Paul wrote? How is it different now?
- If men fail to believe what God says, how does this affect God?
- Can a man’s unrighteous behavior commend God’s righteousness?
- Read verses 5-8. Summarize, in a few words, the main thought Paul is presenting here.
- Paul used the expression “there is none” four times. List them and explain what is meant in each case.
- List and discuss the characteristics of sin from verses 13-18.
- What does “fear of God” mean in verse 18?
- Read verse 19 and 20 and tell why God gave law. What law do you think he meant? Was it law in general, or the Mosaic law?
- In verse 21 he speaks of a righteousness of God that is apart from law. What law did he mean and how is it that God’s righteousness is apart from law?
10. What did he mean by the phrase “witnessed by the law and the prophets” when he spoke of this righteousness of God that is apart from law?
11. What does “justified by the law” mean and is it possible to be justified by law? If so, how?
12. In what sense can it be said, “By the law is the knowledge of sin?”
13. How is God just, and at the same time, the justifier of the sinner?
14. Give a brief definition of:
1) Justify ____________________________________________
2) Grace ____________________________________________
3) Redeemer _________________________________________
4) Ransom __________________________________________
5) Redemption _______________________________________
6) Propitiation ________________________________________
15. Read verse 28. Does this teach that justification is by faith only?
16. How is the law established by faith?
17. Go back and read verses 9 and 23. What do you think this says about the possibility of living a sinless life?
Study Questions -- Chapter 4.
1. Discuss why Paul now introduces Abraham as an example.
2. Discuss the works Abraham did. Why didn’t these works justify him?
3. How could the reward he received be considered a debt God owed him?
4. Is justification of the ungodly on the “principle of faith” or by the acts of faith the ungodly perform? Think through this question carefully and be prepared to discuss it in class.
5. Was Abraham justified “in circumcision” or in “uncircumcision?” What is the difference in the two?
6. What was Abraham before he was “in circumcision?”
7. What is “reckoned” or “imputed” to Abraham? Is this same thing reckoned to all who believe in Christ?
8. What does the term “impute” mean?
9. What righteousness does one receive who believes in Christ? Is it personal righteousness God imputes to a believer or the personal righteousness of Christ that is imputed to the believer?.
10. Of what was circumcision a sign?
11. Of whom is Abraham father and in what sense is he father?
12. What “law” is meant in verse 13?
13. What does the expression “the righteousness of faith” mean to you?
14. List five characteristics of Abraham’s faith in verses 17 - 21.
15. On what was Abraham’s hope based and what did God promise?
16. How then does this apply to those who live in the Gospel age?
Study Questions -- Chapter 5
1. Discuss why Paul begins the next thought with “therefore.”
2. How is peace with God made possible through Christ?
3. What is the difference in meaning in “justified by faith,” and “his faith reckoned for righteousness?”
4. What does the term “access” mean in verse 2? How does it apply to the grace in which we stand?
5. What motives in us does God appeal to in bringing us to salvation?
6. How is the love of God “shed abroad” in our hearts?
7. Is there a difference in a good man and a righteous man? What, if any, is the difference?
8. What does the term sinner mean?
9. Read verses 1 through 11 carefully. Notice the words which describe our relationship to God before one becomes a Christian, while one is a Christian and God’s attitude toward them both, before and after.
10. How can the life of Christ save a sinner?
11. What does “reconciliation” mean?
12. Is the word “atonement” (King James Version) the same as pardoned or forgiven?
13. What death passes to all men? Is it physical or spiritual death, or both. Please give reasons for your answer.
14. Compile a list of contrasts between Adam and Christ. Discuss what each did.
15. Think: Is what Christ did equal to what Adam did as far as its effect is concerned?
Study Questions -- Chapter 6.
1. In view of what is said at the end of chapter 5, why should Christians not continue in sin so grace may abound?
2. Think of the word death. The word is used at least four ways in the New Testament. Give as many of them as you can think of. Are there other ways it is used? Give scripture to support your answer.
3. Give the comparison Paul makes to the death of Christ and the one who is baptized into His death. Use your own words.
4. What is meant by “For he who has died has been freed from sin”?
5. Examine the phrases, “Christ died for us,” “by His blood,” and “the death of His Son,” and compare them to Paul’s use of “by His life” relative to salvation.
6. In verse 11, Paul says we are both dead and alive. Explain this.
7. What is meant by “instruments of unrighteousness.” Does this apply to Christians before or after salvation from past sins?
8. Can sin dominate a Christian? If you answer yes, explain how and if you answer no, tell why sin cannot dominate a Christian.
9. What is the “form of doctrine” mentioned in verse 17?
10. Explain and illustrate what obedience from the heart is.
11. When Paul asked if they had any “fruit” at the time of which they were now ashamed, did he mean that there is nothing good or productive at all in alien sinners?
12. What do you think freedom means to one who is in Christ?
13. What is “fruit unto sanctification?”
14. What are the “wages of sin?”
15. What kind of gift is given by God to the saved?
Study Questions -- Chapter 7.
1. Read the chapter completely. What sort of “theme” do you think could appropriately describe what this chapter deals with?
2. What “law” do you think Paul meant? Was it the Law of Moses or just law in general? Support your answer.
3. How is the law of marriage used in the first few verses? What was Paul illustrating?
4. What is the relationship this illustration suggests that Christians sustain to Christ?
5. What is the “fruit” that is mentioned in verse 5?
6. What is “newness of spirit” verses “oldness of the letter?”
7. What is the stated purpose of law in verse 7?
8. What did Paul mean in verse 9 that he once was alive apart from law? Is Paul speaking of himself?
9. Notice the progression in verses 8 - 11. First there was sinful desire, application of law, works in our members, and fruit to death. What does this picture?
10. How would you respond to the question, “If we must be delivered from the law before we can be made free from sin, does that mean the law is sin?”
11. How is the law “holy?” What law does Paul have in mind, the Mosaic Law or just law in general? 12. How is the law “spiritual?”
12. What does the term “carnal” mean in verse 14?
13. Read verses 15-25 carefully. Do you think Paul is talking about personal experiences in himself or is he representing the alien sinner?
14. Notice that the tense of verbs changes beginning in verse 14 to the present. Does this mean that Paul was at that time experiencing the things he wrote about?
15. In verse 17 he says “it is no more I that do it (sin), but sin which dwells in me.” What does he mean by sin dwelling in him?
16. What is “the body of death” Paul wish to be free of?
17. Give a detailed explanation of verse 15.
Study Questions -- Chapter 8
1. Discuss and explain the difference in the laws mentioned in the first four verses.
2. Explain the difference in application here in minding things of “the flesh” and minding the things of “the Spirit.” Is this the human or the Holy Spirit?
3. How does the Spirit (verse 11) dwell in Christians.
4. How does the Spirit “bear witness with our spirit” that we are God’s children?
5. What does it mean to be a “joint heir” of God. With whom are Christians joint heirs?
6. Some say that in verse 18 Paul reached the climax of a thought he began in chapter 1, verse 16. Compare what the gospel does
7. from beginning to end for humanity.
8. Read verses 19-23. This is possibly the most difficult passage in Romans. A satisfactory explanation is very difficult to give, so much so that R.L. Whiteside said, “It is not well for anyone to be overly dogmatic.” Give your understanding of what “creation” Paul is talking about.
9. Give possible meanings of the expression “the first fruits of the Spirit.”
10. What did Paul mean “we ourselves?”
11. What role does the Holy Spirit play according to verses 26- 28.
12. How does God foreknow and foreordain? Does He foreordain what He foreknows or visa versa?
13. When Paul said all things work together for good to those who love the Lord, does this include everything in our lives? If not, what would be excluded?
Study Questions -- Chapter 9.
The thought changes somewhat beginning in this chapter and continues through chapter 11. In many ways, it is one of the most difficult parts of Romans. The main theme of the first eight chapters is the power of God to save sinful men through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. God demonstrates the power of His salvation and the entire human race’s need of it. He demonstrates His justice in justifying men on the basis of faith in Christ.
The provisions of the gospel for a good life here, overcoming sin and the world, and the promise of future happiness with God complete the great blessings of the Gospel. Now, certain questions about the Jewish nation are dealt with. Read the excerpt from R. Parry of the Cambridge Greek New Testament for Schools and Colleges.
“The theme of 1:16,17 has been worked out; it has been shown that the Gospel is a power of God unto salvation for them that believe, a power needed by Gentile and Jew alike, guaranteed on condition of faith and in response to faith by the love of God, and adequate to man’s needs as shown in history and in individual experience; and a brief description has been given of the actual state of the Christian in Christ and of the certainty and splendor of his hope, resting upon the love of God. Naturally at this point the question of the Jews arises: they were the typical instance of a people brought into close and peculiar relation to God, and they therefore afford a crucial case of God’s dealing with such. How then did it come to pass that they rejected the Gospel? What is their present state? their future destiny? and how does this affect Christians? The answer if found in the conditions under which God selects men for the execution of His purpose. It is important to bear in mind that the selection throughout is regarded as having reference, not to the final salvation of persons but to the execution of the purpose of God. Underlying the whole section is the special object of S. Paul to justify himself in preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles.” (CGNT).
Study Questions -- Chapter 9
1. Paul said he could wish he were accursed. Explain how he could have meant this.
2. What advantages had the Jewish people enjoyed?
3. What are the promises mentioned in verse 5?
4. How did Paul mean it when he said all are not Israel who are of Israel?
5. Discuss the part Sarah and Rebecca play in what Paul says about the promises.
6. What is the point of mentioning the older serving the younger (verse 12)? 7. What does “election” mean as used in this chapter? Does it refer to individuals or to a people as a whole?
8. How does Paul show that we cannot find fault with God in the selection He makes?
9. What illustration in verse 21 magnifies the correct reply?
10. Verse 23 uses the expression “vessels of mercy.” What does that mean?
11. Who is the “us” in verse 24? Is it the apostles, the Jewish people, the church, or everyone?
12. What did Isaiah foresee for Israel? Find two passages quoted from Isaiah. Show how the quoting of them makes the point Paul stresses.
13. What is the hope for Jews? Gentiles? (Read verses 32-33).
Study Questions -- Chapter 10.
1. Discuss the content and implication of Paul’s prayer for his brethren in the flesh. Who were these brethren?
2. How is Christ the “end of the Law?” What law does Paul mean?
3. What is the “abyss” of verse 7?
4. The word of faith that is near you, that is in your heart is what?
5. Paul mentions confessing Jesus as Lord with the mouth and then says one must believe from the heart that He has been raised from the dead and then reverses them (verses 9-10). Which would be the order of occurrence?
6. Read verse 12. Keep this in mind as you continue to study Romans. Does God have something special in store for Jews that He does not want others to share in? If so what is it?
7. List the progression that shows how faith comes (verses 14- 17).
8. The expression “the word of God” is translated “the word of Christ.” Is this the word that God reveals, or the word that reveals God?
9. What application does Paul make of the scripture he quotes in verse 18?
10. Explain his use of Moses’ statement in verses 19-20.
11. What does verse 21 show about God and His attitude toward His people?
Study Questions -- Chapter 11
1. Explain the transition from chapter 10, where it is said that God extends His mercy to Israel, and in chapter 11 where it is affirmed that God has not “cast off” His people.
2. What is meant by, “at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” Look up “remnant” in the Old Testament and see what it meant.
3. How did God (or does God still?) give His people a “spirit of stupor” or “slumber” (KJV)? Why was such a thing done?
4. What purpose does Paul say the fall of Israel served?
5. Explain and discuss the illustration of the root, branch, fruit, wild olive tree, grafting and “breaking off of branches.”
6. What conclusion does Paul’s argument have and how would it convince the Jews of his time?
7. Explain the goodness of God and His severity.
8. What does Paul mean by “the fullness of the Gentiles?”
9. Explain what Paul meant by “all Israel will be saved.”
10. What does Paul tell us about God’s gifts?
11. Find other verses that tell us of the unfathomable riches of God’s mercy.
Study Questions -- Chapter 12
1. Discuss sacrifices. What kind did God require in previous dispensations? Were those sacrifices dead or alive at the time they were offered? What is the significance of a “living sacrifice?”
2. How do we present our bodies to God? What does Paul say this proves? How is prove used here?
3. Is the fashion of the world always wrong? How can we know for sure what is wrong?
4. What is meant by “transformed?”
5. How does “renewing our minds” serve as part of our sacrifice, or does it? What is “renewing our minds?” How often is this done?
6. In thinking soberly, how should we regard our own talents and capabilities? Look at some Bible examples of some who thought too much of themselves.
7. How do we prove what is acceptable to God?
8. What is meant by “measure of faith?”
9. Define and discuss:
showing mercy _______________________________________
Tell how each of these must be done.
10. In what sense does Paul use the word “body” in this passage?
11. What is involved in “preferring” one another?
12. Discuss and describe the love Paul speaks of in this passage.
13. How does Paul urge unity in the last part of this chapter?
Study Questions -- Chapter 13
1. Identify the “higher powers” and show how they derive their power from God.
2. Is God behind all types of government? Explain.
3. How are rulers a means of “terror to evil?” Explain.
4. Why should we respect the “powers that be?” What are those powers?
5. If the government we live under charged an exorbitant amount of tax, do we have to pay it? Would it be right to protest by publicly demonstrating against it?
6. Read verses 1-7 again. What other areas of your life do you believe the principles in this passage apply to?
7. Discuss and explain “owe no man anything ...”
8. What does this chapter teach us about such things as “capital punishment” and participation in military services during war?
9. If everyone truly loved their neighbor, what purpose would law serve?
10. What salvation is meant in the expression, “our salvation is nearer...?”
11. Discuss and define:
sexual promiscuity ____________________________________
*Note: The New American Standard Bible was used above. Please consult your translation for how it translates these sins.
12. What does putting on Christ mean? How does this affect one’s effort to avoid such sins?
Study Questions -- Chapter 14
1. Identify those who are “weak in the faith.”
2. What is meant by “receive” in verse 1?
3. What do “doubtful disputations” include? How do you identify them?
4. In verse two, can you find some background from the Bible, for the differences two groups would have over whether to eat only vegetables or to include “all things” in the diet?
5. Discuss judging as it is used in this passage.
6. What does the expression “God has accepted” mean?
7. What could have caused a difference among members of the church in Rome relative to observance of certain days as special?
8. Do you believe God allows us to live in a way that indicates we really don’t care what others think about us or how we live?
9. Explain how the quote in verse 11 applies to the judging of brethren.
10. What is meant by “stumbling block” or an “occasion of stumbling?”
11. What kind of meat could have been meant in verse 15?
12. What did Paul mean by his remarks about the kingdom in verse 17?
13. Are eating meat and drinking wine in the same category in verse 21?
14. Explain verses 22-23 carefully. What does “not of faith” mean?
15. Discussion point: Which of the two groups was right and which was wrong? Locate and count the number ot times the words sin or evil are found in the chapter.
Study Questions -- Chapter 15
1. Discuss the “strong” and the “weak” in verse 1. Show the duty of each toward the other.
2. How is the example of Christ applied to this situation?
3. What are the “things written afore” or “in earlier times” and how does Paul say they ought to be used by Christians?
4. How are people to be of the “same mind,” “of one accord” and “glorify God with one mouth?”
5. What is Paul’s point (verses 7-13) and how does the quote from the Old Testament scriptures apply? How did Paul use it?
6. How could Paul have been persuaded that they were full of good works?
7. Discuss the work of the Holy Spirit given in verses 16-19.
8. Follow the path of Paul in his preaching. What was his goal in preaching? (verse 20).
9. Discuss his application of the quotation in verse 21.
10. Discuss Paul’s plans (verses 22-24). Did he ever make it to Spain?
11. Discuss “ministering to the saints (verses 22-24).” How did Paul do this?
12. Paul said in verse 25 he was going to Jerusalem to serve the saints. Study this carefully and give a brief description of what was involved in this work.
13. Whom did Paul say should benefit from this relief work?
14. What is “the fullness of the blessing of Christ?”
15. What was Paul’s prayer about? 16. Why did he evidently fear that his work might not be accepted by the Jews?
Study Questions -- Chapter 16
1. Who was Phoebe? Was she a deaconess? What does a deaconess do? Should we have them in the church today?
2. Who were Prisca and Acquilla? Where else in the New Testament do we read about them?
3. What kind of names are Andronicus and Junias? Were they males or females. Who were they to Paul?
4. Discuss and try to learn from the names as much as you can about the others mentioned in the greetings.
5. Count the number of times “in Christ (or its equivalent) is found in this chapter. What does the phrase imply?
6. Look at the expression “with them” or “in their house” and see if you think that might imply there were several different meeting places for the members of the Lord’s church in Rome.
7. What does “salute (greet) one another with a holy kiss” mean?
8. Is “churches of Christ” the official name for the church?
9. In verse 17, some are to be “marked.” What were they doing that required this marking?
10. What does “marking” mean and how is it to be done?
11. How would God “bruise Satan under” their feet shortly (verse 20)?
12. Who wrote the letter for Paul? Why would he need a writer?
13. How are Christians “established?” What is the strengthening element in their “establishment?”
14. How is the “mystery” made known, and what is the mystery? How is it now made known?
15. Discuss the following phrases:
“The scriptures of the prophets” _______________________________________
“The Commandment of the Eternal God” ________________________________
“The Nations” ____________________________________________________
“The Obedience of Faith” ___________________________________________