The Origin of the Roman Church

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The origin of the Roman Church is historically obscure. There is no indication when or by whom the church in Rome was founded. Scholars theorize the founders were part of the Diaspora (Acts 8). This church already had a worldwide reputation by the time of Paul's writing (1:8). Because Paul had been unable to visit the church, he writes a letter stating his intentions (1:13-15). There is no doubt; the author of Romans is Paul. He clearly states this in the opening verse, and the style and content is identical to Paul's other letters. His primary theme is the gospel; God's plan of salvation; and righteousness for all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike (1:16-17). Scholars also agree upon the date and place of authorship, believing Paul wrote this letter while in Corrinth (Acts 20), between A.D. 55 and 58. In Romans 2, Paul explains that both Jews and Gentiles need the gospel—everyone needs to be rescued from the condemnation that they rightly deserve. Although some Jews claimed to have an advantage in salvation, Paul explains that Jews are not immune to sin, and they are not immune to judgment. Everyone is saved in the same way. How do people become right with God? Paul explains it in chapter 3—but first he has to answer some objections. Paul had preached in many cities, and he knew how people responded to his message. Jewish people often responded with this objection: "We are God's chosen people. We must have some sort of advantage, but you are saying that we are condemned on the same basis as everyone else." So Paul asks, What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? (3:1). What is the point of being a Jew? Paul answers in verse 2: Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. The Jews have the Scriptures. That is an advantage, but there is a downside to it—those who sin under the law will be judged by the law (2:12). The law that reveals God to the Jews, also sentences them to God's punishment. In chapter 3, Paul's goal is not to explain how special the Jews are, but to explain that they, just like everybody else, need to be saved through Jesus Christ. He is not going to elaborate on their privileges until he has explained their need for salvation—they have not kept the law that they boast about. In his book, Evangelical Repentance, John Colqhoun writes: Justification, considered as an immanent act of God, or as the eternal and unchangeable will of God to justify His elect upon the ground of a righteousness fulfilled by Christ and imputed to them, has been by judicious divines called active justification (Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants, Book 2, Chap. 7). But justification, viewed as terminating on the persons and in the consciences of believers, has been styled passive justification. The former precedes both the principle and the first acting of true repentance. The latter takes place after regeneration, when the principle of repentance takes root in the soul but before that repentance is actually exercised. This last is the justification, which is often mentioned in Scripture as the privilege of believers, and which is brought to pass by the instrumentality of faith (Rom 3:28; Gal 2:16). It is justification in this sense only that I am to consider, in its connection with the exercise of true repentance. So Paul asks: What if some Jewish people were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God's faithfulness? (3:3).

Will the fact that some Jews sinned by being unfaithful cause God to back out of his promises? Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar he says in verse 4. God is always true to his word, and although we are unfaithful, he is not. He will not let our actions turn him into a liar. He created humans for a reason, and even if we all fall short of what he wants, his plan will succeed. God chose the Jews as his people, and they fell short, but God has a way to solve the problem—and the good news is that...
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