Paul’s Letters

There is treasure hidden in Paul’s thirteen letters, but the path to find it is not obvious. Here is a tip: in the Bible, Paul’s letters are not sequenced in chronological order.

The Bible rarely gives us specific dates about events it addresses, which can be frustrating for modern readers. As an example, this is a very brief timeline of the first four decades of Christianity that is probably correct to within a few years:

27 AD to 30 AD           Ministry of Jesus

30 AD to 39 AD           Death, resurrection of Jesus; Christianity spreads among the Jews

40 AD to 48 AD           Christianity spreads increasingly to non-Jews

48 AD to 57 AD           Paul’s three missionary journeys

58 AD to 70 AD           Paul’s imprisonment; Paul’s death; Temple destroyed

Paul wrote his letters within the two decades of 48 AD to 68 AD. His thirteen generally accepted letters are arranged in the New Testament in two blocks: the nine written to churches, then the four written to individuals. The nine written to churches are generally placed in order by length. (This also assumes Hebrews was not written by Paul.)

Romans 1-8

There are no exact population figures for the city of Rome in 57 AD, but there were certainly several hundred thousand people living there, and maybe as many as one million. Based on Romans 1:7 and Romans 16, we can surmise there were several house churches in Rome at the time Paul wrote Romans.

One of the striking things about Romansis that, unlike many of Paul’s other letters, it does not address false teaching nor specific problems of a church. This could be due to the fact that Rome’s churches had strong leaders such as Priscilla and Aquila.

Though we don’t have exact dates, you can think of Romansas being Paul’s celebration of 25 years of being a Christian. He knows exactly what he believes and has had plenty of practice presenting his beliefs…and defending them.

Many in Paul’s audience were non-Jews with little background in the Old Testament. These Gentiles had a background of idolatry and licentious living and needed to understand the heritage of the Jews, which included following the law and the promises of God. The Jews had tried to attain righteousness through following the law, but that didn’t work.

Paul wanted to explain how both the Jews and Gentiles had become part of the true Israel, people of God, who attained righteousness through faith. Paul begins the letter by explaining that God is righteous but all humans are unrighteous. God provides a way for people to become righteous through Jesus, if it is received by faith. People are either slaves to sin or to righteousness.

Romans 8 is a powerful testimony to the power of a Spirit-empowered life, and the future glory that believers will obtain. Perhaps the most comforting verse in the New Testament is found in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Primary Scriptures:
Romans 1-8
Story Summary:
Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome
Roman Empire; Italy; Rome
AD 30 Jesus crucified and resurrected; Pentecost; Holy Spirit arrives AD 48 Paul’s “famine visit” to Jerusalem; First Missionary Journey starts AD 50 Council at Jerusalem; Start of Second Missionary Journey. AD 53 Start of Third Missionary Journey AD 57 Paul writes Romans while in Corinth