A Literary Context of the Book of Romans

Major Themes

The major theme contained in Romans 1: 16-17 is salvation through the gospel. Paul claims that the gospel is the power of God for saving people that believe. He asserts that this should happen to Jews first before it proceeds to the gentiles. He further claims that the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel, and that God’s people should live by faith. These three assertions set the stage for the book of Romans. They highlight what God can do to save his people through the gospel. The assertions further highlight what the people of God should do to attain salvation.[1] In so doing, the passage forms the basis of encouragement in the entire book of Romans. The other parts of the book focus their attention on the works of Christ in saving God’s people. They talk about the peace with God that comes through gospel’s message. They also highlight on the complete renewal that comes with the gospel as well as the victory in Christ.

Addressed to the Jews that lived in Rome at the time of its writing, the passage encouraged the Jews not to be ashamed of the gospel. Paul identified himself as one of the Jews, and as one of the Jews, he claimed that he was not ashamed of the gospel because he understood it to be the power of God for saving God’s people. He insisted that the message of the gospel and its powers should save Jews first before saving gentiles. Paul did this because he wanted the Jews to acknowledge the power of the gospel. He points out that Jews were ignorant of the power of the gospelwhen Jesus was in their midst and did not want them to continue languishing there.

The other books in the Bible that Paul wrote equally focused their attention on God’s salvation through the gospel. The two books of Corinthians identified Jesus as the key pillar of salvation. They condemned the cultural practices of the Corinthians on account that they were not in line with the message of the gospel. On the other hand, the book of Galatians teaches the Galatians,and Christians in general,the actual message of the gospel. It dismissesworks that the Law requires, and promotes faith that comes by hearing the message of the gospel.[2] The book of Ephesians on its part acknowledges the work that the message of the gospel plays in saving God’s people. It acknowledges that we were once lost, but we have been found through the gospel’s message. The book of Philippians acknowledges the message of the gospel in transforming the lives of Philippians.Whereas the book of Colossians appreciates the supremacy of Christ in the gospel, the two books of Thessalonians focus much of their attention on the second coming of Christ. The two books of Timothy talk about the way leaders should handle themselves before God and people. Lastly, the book of Titus talks about the sound doctrines of Christ and the way to live in Christ, whereas the book of Philemon talks about the way to live with other people in Christ.

Significance of the Context

In the original passage in Romans, Paul talks about the way he desired to visit those living in Rome so that he could preach the gospel to them. Thereafter, he talks about the state of the world and its corruption. The first part identifies Paul’s intention forthose that lived in Rome. It categorically claims that Paul intended to preach the gospel to believers and others in Rome. On the other hand, the other part demonstrates the world in its true state, and what God does to the people that suppress the truth.[3] It demonstrates what God would do to the ungodly to save his people.

Potential Allusions

In spite of playing a critical role in encouraging the Jews that they had an important portion in God, the passage did not mention Jesus directly. It only talked about the gospel that acted as the power of saving God’s people. By mentioning the gospel, Paul expected the Jews to acknowledge the role that Jesus played in their salvation. He particularly wanted them to acknowledge that the righteousness of God was revealed through the gospel and its power. He went further and talked about faith. Once again, although Paul did not mention Jesus as he wrote about faith, he wanted those in Rome to acknowledge the critical role that Jesus played in their salvation. He wanted them to have faith in God through the gospel.[4]By so doing, he wanted the Jews through the gospel toattain their salvation.As Paul was doing this, he probably wanted the Jews to realize that their freedom could only come through the gospel. In spite of this fact, the passage does not mention Jesus who brings freedom. However, it points to him when it talks about the gospel and when it mentions faith and the righteousness of God.


Swindoll, Charles. Insights on Romans. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.

[1]Swindoll, Charles. Insights on Romans. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.


[2]Swindoll, Charles. Insights on Romans. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.

[3]Swindoll, Charles. Insights on Romans. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.