For centuries, the faithful descendants of Abraham according to the flesh—the Jews— looked forward to God’s decisive intervention to restore the nation of Israel to a right relationship with Him. This was the hope of the prophets, who eagerly anticipated the Lord’s work to fulfill His covenant promises of salvation and make His people into a holy nation (Isaiah 52:1–9). Yet this redemption was not intended merely for the Jews. In the day of Israel’s salvation, “all the ends of the earth see the salvation of God” (Isaiah 52:10), and the nations would serve the Lord (Micah 4:1–5).
During the first century AD, our Creator acted to keep His covenant promises and save His people from their sins in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Mattthew 1:21; John 3:16–17). Thus was born the Christian church, which grew steadily and rapidly among the Jews in the earliest days of its history (Acts 2:42–47). The conversion of one of these Jews—Saul of Tarsus—marked a decisive point in redemptive history, for this former Pharisee brought the gospel to the Gentiles with a zeal that few could match. Saul—better known as Paul the Apostle—was not the first person to preach the gospel to the nations; nevertheless, his work preaching the good news of salvation, discipling converts, and planting churches was the means by which the Holy Spirit realized the promise that all people would benefit from the gospel. Once Paul understood that Israel’s restoration and salvation were accomplished in Christ Jesus, he knew that it was time for the Gentiles to come en masse to worship the Lord of Israel. So, he went out on several missionary journeys to establish Christian congregations, and he instructed them by means of epistles.
Paul’s epistle to the Romans is the most influential of these letters. Its teaching has sparked reformation and revival throughout church history whenever people have grasped the Spirit’s message through the pen of the Apostle. Often called Paul’s magnum opus, Romans was written sometime in AD 57–58, probably from Corinth. This was the end of his third missionary journey, and the Apostle was on his way to deliver monies collected from the Gentile churches to the Jewish church in Jerusalem. After Jerusalem, Paul wanted to stop in Rome to meet the church there before going on to preach the gospel in Spain (Romans 15:22–29). He wrote his letter to the Romans to introduce himself to the church there and to explain the message he preached throughout the world.