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.)
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.”
Demetrius the Silversmith – JC Scott
Eunice – Mollie Milligan
Lois – Rebekah Turner
Silas – Tony Schneider
Jason – Cory Phillips
Priscilla – La’Netia D. Taylor
Aquila – Joe Rojas Jr.
Sosthenes – Selase Botchway
Titus – Orlando Valentino
Tertius – Curtis Von
Phoebe – Kenneisha Thompson
Tychicus – Ace Anderson
Onesimus – Hevin Hampton
Paul – Brian Shoop
Epaphroditus – Tim Taylor
Euodia – Salome Charron
Apollos – Tim Urban
Cretan Elder – Garry Nation
Timothy – Paul Christian