Women Paul wrote to in Rome

Who was Paul?

The name Saul comes from the Hebrew name שָׁאוּל (Sha'ul) which meant "asked for, prayed for." Saul was a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, and sent to Jerusalem early in his life by his family to complete his education under the famous rabbi Gamaliel. He became an ardent and bigoted Pharisee, violently opposed to Christianity, and a persecutor of every Christian he could find.

But one day, when Paul was on his way to Damascus to persecute some Christians, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light, and fell flat on flat on his face, hearing a voice say: "Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?"

Paul asked, "Who are you, Master?"

"I am Jesus, the One you're hunting down.” 

In that moment Saul knew he had been zealous for his religion, but zealous for the wrong things. He was strong on doctrine, but it was the wrong doctrine. From that time on he was called Paul, from the Roman family name Paulus, which meant "small" or "humble" in Latin,  because his whole life had been changed. There's a saying in the Bible,

"Pride goes before destruction,
    a haughty spirit before a fall.

"Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed
    than to share plunder with the proud.

"Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,
    and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord."

Prideful Saul became humble Paul.

Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome was written around 55 to 57 A.D., while he was in the Greek city of Corinth, on his third missionary journey. Corinth was located at the crossroads of trade in the Roman Empire, a lot like New York or San Francisco in our own time, bustling sea ports, all kinds of culture groups, commerce, and so on. And, Corinth was notorious for its godlessness and its atmosphere of bold, blatant immorality. Paul didn’t have to look far for his material in the first few chapters of his letter to the Rome.

With very few exceptions, Paul’s letters were written to address an immediate situation. It’s not as though Paul lived a quiet and peaceful scholar’s life. Instead, if there was some threatening situation in Galatia or Thessalonica, or Rome, Paul would write a letter.

On this occasion Paul was spending the winter months in Corinth on his way to delivering the gifts he had been collecting from the Gentile churches throughout the Mediterranean region to the poverty stricken church in Jerusalem. Instead of going straight to Rome, as he badly wanted to do, Paul sent this letter as preparation for his upcoming visit, to give them sound apostolic teaching, and raise support for his mission trip to Spain.

Paul did what most people did in his day, he dictated his letter, then signed it at the bottom in his own handwriting to authenticate the document as truly his words. We even know who his secretary was for this letter – look to the end of Romans and you find out it was Tertius, who tucked in his own greeting right before Paul signed it. Knowing this helps explain why Romans reads as though it were written in a stream-of-conscience style. Paul was teaching in the same way he had been doing for thousands of hours at the university in Ephesus, and Tertius was writing everything down exactly as Paul spoke it.

Because of a number of edicts that had forced Jews to leave Rome, the church in Rome was made up primarily of Gentiles, although there was certainly also a substantial minority of Jews. Many of the people Paul greeted at the end of his letter were Jewish converts he had met in his travels, who had recently moved back to Rome after the edicts were lifted.

Paul wrote less than thirty years after the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The impact of the life of Jesus was sharply etched in the minds of Christians throughout the Roman Empire. Paul wrote Romans to instruct them and remind them of these profound events that had shaken their world.

Paul meant for his letter to act as a structure for their faith, to have this powerful and effective true word as protection against false teaching. For those of you who have studied Luke's record of the Acts of the Apostles, you’ll remember that right on the apostles’ heels were false teachers, and people they referred to as Judaizers, who were trying to undo the work of the gospel everywhere they went.

Paul probably had no idea that his letters were going to be added to what he knew and cherished as God’s word, the holy scriptures. But Paul’s letter, as it was originally given, is in its entirety the Word of God, since Paul was swept up in the Spirit when he wrote it. Romans is now one among a collection of 66 writings by more than 40 human authors in what we today call the bible, God’s special and unique revelation of Himself to human beings.

  • Romans is completely without error in all it declares, because God cannot lie, God cannot err and His word does not contradict itself
  • Romans is a summary of the consistent story of redemption told throughout the Bible
  • Romans tells about how God has provided salvation, a way to be right with Him

What happened to Paul is what happens to each one of us when Jesus speaks to us in the scripture. Something powerful happens, His light pours all around, illuminating what’s going on in our hearts. We stop thinking and doing what we have been thinking and doing. We repent. We rethink.

Our whole being changes: we think new thoughts and we do something entirely different. From that moment when Paul was miraculously converted, his life was devoted to the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever God sent him. What is your life devoted to? Have you heard Jesus speaking to you from the Bible? 

All passages taken from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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