Outside of the Church of Christ, Romans is one of the most popular books in the New Testament. I have never been absolutely sure, but it seemed like we were not sure what to do with it.
Romans is complicated on many levels. Probably because it deals with subjects like the universality of sin, our accountability to God, His plan to save by faith, and how that was His plan from the beginning (even Abraham was saved by faith). He deals with subjects like redemption, justification, imputation, and even God’s plan for Israel.
Some have said that Romans could be considered the greatest Christian manifesto of “Freedom in Christ” ever written. Yet, at its heart Romans is highly pragmatic. On various levels, Paul brings the many sides of Christian theology to bear on our lives in ways that are simply masterful. He elevates the position of all people in Jewish, Greek, and Roman societies by building a powerful case that we are all equal in God’s eyes. No single person or group holds a privileged place in God’s eyes. That position belongs to Jesus and Jesus alone.
Paul sets forth his authorship at the very beginning and modern scholarship still has not tried to dispute it. It was written somewhere around 55-58 AD. Just remember that dating these letters is highly speculative and even scholars have different opinions about when it was written.
The purpose of the book of Romans is to present the gospel as God’s power for salvation (Rom. 1:16-17). That salvation is offered by the power and grace of God to believers (all peoples, Jews, and Gentiles alike), and that by faith in Jesus’ act of redemption we are saved. In God’s eyes, no one is too bad, too good, or too far removed from Him to need saving or to be reached. If they accept by faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by faith in Him they can be saved, that is enough.
Martin Luther, while studying Romans, came to the realization that righteousness can only be achieved through God’s grace; not by works and not by penance. Before this, he did everything he could to find righteousness in his works and eventually reached the point of absolute frustration till all that remained was a hatred for God. He described in heartbreaking detail how he never felt good enough, never able to reach a place where he felt at ease with his salvation, until he studied the book of Romans.
Let me encourage you to read this great and complicated book as often as you can. The more time you spend with it, the more freedom you will enjoy. Romans, along with Galatians, has drastically changed my life and faith. It is my prayer that you will find the freedom Jesus died to secure for you and fully embrace, like Abraham, a righteousness that God offers freely (Rom. 10:1-4). God bless.