This first of Paul's letters in the canonical order is also the longest, the weightiest, and the most influential of them. Written at the height of his career (between A.D. 54 and 58), it conveys the full richness of his experience of Christ as well as the full maturity of his thought.
For several years -- years of intense missionary activity and of more than ordinary stress Paul had been engaged in collecting contributions from the Gentile churches of Greece and Asia Minor for the needy Jerusalem church. It was his hope that these gifts would allay certain suspicions of him and his work which some members of that church felt and which had been a source of anxiety to him. The collection was now complete, and Paul, apparently in Corinth (15.25-27; compare 1 Cor.16.3-5), was awaiting an opportunity to go to Jerusalem with it. He intended afterwards to carry the gospel to Spain (15.28) and, on his way, to stop at Rome where the church had already been established by others. He writes to the Roman church to announce this intention and to explain his understanding of the gospel, partly perhaps with a view to securing the support of that church for his work farther to the west.
After the salutation and thanksgiving, Paul describes first the world's need of redemption (l.18:...3.20). He then discusses God's saving act in Christ: its nature (3.21-4.25) and the new life which it has made available (5.1-8.39). After a section dealing with the role of the Jewish nation in God's plan (chs. 9-11), the letter closes with ethical teaching and some personal remarks (chs. 12- 16).
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