Romans may be one of your favorite Bible books. It certainly holds a significant place in my own faith journey. (See “I’d Love to Tell You My Story with Jesus.”) Although the book of Romans is widely loved among Christians, there may be some things about Paul’s longest letter that you did not know. The following five facts about Romans will help build a solid foundation for your next reading or study of this beautiful book. (See also “First Steps to Study a Bible Book.”)
You’re invited to study Romans now!
By the way, if you’d like to study Romans now, I am beginning a study on Monday, January 2, 2023 in the private Facebook group “Reading the Bible Together.” All women are invited to join! Although not required for the study, some in the group will be using my new meaty devotional, “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Romans,” as an extra resource.
5 Little-known Facts about Romans
1. Paul had not met the believers in Rome
Although Paul knew a handful of the Roman Christians from other places, he had not yet traveled to Rome. Paul had planned to visit the city for some time, however, one hindrance after another had prevented it (Romans 1:13). But, when Paul wrote this letter, a visit to Rome finally felt within his grasp.
Paul likely wrote Romans around 57 AD, near the end of his third missionary journey during a three-month stay in Corinth (Acts 20:1-3). After he left Corinth, Paul planned a quick trip to Jerusalem to deliver an offering he’d collected for the believers there, then he would head to Rome (Romans 15:25-28). But Paul was arrested in Jerusalem. So, when he finally made it to the city two years later, he was in chains.
2. The Bible doesn’t tell us how the church in Rome began
In the first few decades after Jesus’ return to heaven, Scripture records the establishment of many churches across the Roman empire. But, the church in Rome is not one of them. However, when Paul wrote his letter in 57 AD, the Roman church was firmly established. Although we can’t know for sure, it’s possible Roman Jews in Jerusalem for Pentecost carried the gospel home with them. We do know that Jews “from Rome” were there (Acts 2:10). Perhaps they even heard Peter’s mighty sermon the day the Holy Spirit arrived with power.
3. The letter was delivered by a woman
We may not be certain how the gospel got to Rome, but we do know how Paul’s letter arrived. In his greetings, Paul’s high commendation of a female believer named Phoebe seems to indicate her as the letter carrier (Romans 16:1-2).
Phoebe was a deaconess in the church in Cenchreae, a Greek seaport just two miles east of Corinth. If Paul wrote the letter during a stay in Corinth, perhaps Phoebe stopped by on her way to Rome to pick it up. Phoebe had also significantly participated in Paul’s ministry.
In fact, women occupy a prominent place in Paul’s list of greetings in Romans and represent various walks of life – single, married, mothers. The descriptions also confirm women held significant roles in the early church: Priscilla the teacher and discipler (Romans 16:3-4); Junia a prisoner for Christ (Romans 16:7); and the unnamed mother of Rufus who also mothered Paul (Romans 16:13).
4. Paul worked to foster unity between the Jews and Gentiles in the Roman church
Although likely founded by Jewish believers, by the time Paul wrote, the church included a significant Gentile population (Romans 1:13). Sadly, the Jews and Gentiles had trouble getting along. Many of the Jewish believers felt as though they should continue to follow certain aspects of the Law and struggled to step away from the long-held traditions (Romans 14:5-6). But the Gentile Christians understood that their standing in Christ freed them from these legalistic regulations. Paul encouraged believers on both sides to stop quarreling over “opinions” or “disputable” matters (Romans 14:1) and put their fellow believers ahead of their own desires.
5. Paul expected the Roman Christians to partner with him in ministry
The apostle Paul was both a minister of the gospel and a pioneer. For more than two decades he had carried the Good News of Jesus from Jerusalem to Greece, traveling almost 7,000 miles. Now he longed to take the gospel to new territory, to places where the name of Jesus had not yet been proclaimed. For Paul, this meant Spain (Romans 15:24). And Rome was on the way.
But Rome would not simply be a quick stop. He needed time to rest and fellowship with believers (Romans 15:24). He desired to encourage them and be encouraged by them (Romans 1:12). Paul also longed to preach the gospel in Rome (Romans 1:15). But then, Paul planned to take the gospel westward and he needed the help of the Roman Christians (Romans 15:24-28). Their help might include funds, Latin translators, and even a base of operations for ministry to the west.
Did Paul make it to Spain?
Although the last biblical historical account ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30-31), Paul’s letters and early church tradition offer clues. Likely, Paul was released from this first Roman imprisonment (Philemon 22, Philippians 1:19-26, 2:24) and continued his evangelistic work for a few more years (1 Timothy 1:3, Titus 3:12). Then, based on Scripture (2 Timothy 4:6-7) and tradition, Paul was arrested a second time in the mid-60’s AD and beheaded by order of Emperor Nero. He declared Christ to the end. (To learn more about Paul’s life and ministry, see “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Acts.”)
Did you learn anything new facts about Romans? What is your favorite part of this amazing letter?