What was Paul’s purpose for writing Romans? What principles stressed? What
are the potential for today?
Most commentators believe that with Romans, although the letter is
addressed to the church in Rome, it is a general epistle. In other words,
the letter was intended all along to be a letter to all the churches. To
make a distinction, consider the book of First Corinthians. This book was
definitely addressed to the church in Corinth. It addressed specific needs
and problems in Corinth. The same could be said for Galatians and other of
Paul’s letters. By contrast, there does not seem to be any content in
Romans (other than the final salutations), in the book of Romans which is
specific to the needs in Rome.
Therefore, in deciding the purpose of the book, one should recognize that
the letter is essentially intended for the church in general. The specific
purpose of the letter was to describe the doctrine of salvation through
the death of Jesus and through faith in the blood of Jesus. To quote Paul,
“The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17). “…for all have
sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified greely by his
grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him
as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.” (Romans
3:23,24). “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were
still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Paul goes on at length
about the role of faith in salvation and about the necessity of the blood
of Jesus, apart from our own righteous acts for salvation. Human effort is
not the key, but God’s sovereign choice, as is stressed in chapters 8-9.
On the second question, “What principles are stressed?” I would repeat the
answer to my first question. The principles stressed are righteousness
through faith in the blood of Jesus. The last several chapters in Romans
are practical applications of this teaching on righteousness. This is a
pattern for Paul. In several of his letters he presents a deep theological
truth, followed by practical applications. In Romans, the practical
applications are living a sacrificial life (12:1-8), loving one another in
practical ways (12:9-21) and submitting to one another in love (13-15:13).
What are the potential for today? I am afraid I also do not understand
this question. Perhaps you mean , “What are the practical applications for
today?” I would say that the practical applications are found principally
in chapters 12-15. Because of the love and sacrifice of Jesus, we ought to
live sacrificial lives as well (Ch 12), devoting our talents and energy to
serve one another (also Ch 12) and finding ways to use love to make a
difference in this world (also Ch 12). Chapters 13-15 are all about
submitting our will and desire to the authorities of our society and to
the needs, both practical and spiritual of our brothers and sisters and of
others as well.
John Oakes, Ph.D.