Romans was written by Paul about AD 57 while he was at Corinth during his third missionary journey. Paul begins and ends Romans by baring his heart about his dedication to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. God has set him apart to preach the Gospel (1:1). He views that sacred call as placing him under an obligation that he owes to men of every background (1:13-15). Writing Romans is part of his duty to minister the gospel to the Gentiles (15:16).
Why is Paul so fixated on the gospel? Romans gives the answer: through the gospel, God makes available a righteousness of God by faith through Jesus Christ.
Righteousness of God
Each of the three key phrases in that last sentence receives emphasis in Romans. First, the righteousness of God. Not God’s attribute of righteousness but a righteousness God makes available because people need it. That’s the point of Romans 1-3: everybody is unrighteous and therefore cannot come up on their own with a righteousness acceptable to God. So God has a provided a righteousness by faith in His Son, whom He made a propitiation (3:25).
Romans 4 then proves that this righteousness is by faith. Both Abraham and David bear testimony to this fact.
Through Christ Jesus
And since we have been declared righteous by faith apart from any works and that faith is in Christ Jesus, then the peace with God, hope in affliction, eternal life, power over sin, and presence of the Spirit we now enjoy is through Jesus Christ, as Romans 5-8 make clear (5:1, 11, 17, 21; 6:23; 7:4, 25; 8:1).
Chapters 9-11 is a theological aside in which Paul explains why the Jews missed out on this righteousness of God (they did not seek it by faith), and how God will someday have mercy on them, just as He had on Gentiles (11:31-32).
The only logical response to God’s gift of righteousness
This emphasis on mercy prepares us for Romans 12-16. All that God has done for very unrighteous people by providing them with a righteousness from Him by faith in Jesus Christ is a mercy. In view of such mercy, the only logical response is in an act of worship, to offer your body to God as a living sacrifice (12:1). A sacrificed body and a renewed mind enable you to then prove God’s will (12:2) and live the the kind of conduct outlined in Romans’ closing chapters.
1 Corinthians—Church problems
1 Corinthians is Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church and was written from Ephesus in 54 or 55 AD. In the letter, Paul is dealing with various problems that have come up in the life of the church at Corinth. 1 Corinthians can be outlined based on the various issues that Paul brings up for discussion:
- a party spirit (chs. 1-4)
- immorality within the church (ch. 5)
- taking believers to court (6:1-11)
- using the body for sexual immorality (6:12-20)
- singleness versus marriage (ch. 7)
- eating food offered to idols (chs. 8-10)
- behavior and attire of men and women in worship (11:1-16)
- properly observing the Lord’s table (11:17-34)
- right thinking about spiritual gifts (chs. 12-14)
- and the resurrection from the dead (ch. 15)
Just because the Corinthian church had so many problems does not mean that it was not a true church of Christ or that they were not genuine believers. Paul’s terminology suggests nothing of that sort. They are God’s church (1:2). They have been called to be saints, just as believers elsewhere have been (1:2), and have been called into fellowship with Jesus Christ (1:9). They in fact have been enriched by God in everything (1:5) and do not lack any spiritual gift (1:7).
The point? Even true churches with genuine and gifted believers will have problems. A church should not pretend its problems do not exist or bury its head in the sand and ignore them, but rather admit the areas where it has behaved carnally, wrongly, misguidedly, proudly, or unspiritually and repent. Paul’s letter is God’s grace to the church at Corinth calling them to act as the “unleavened” members of Christ's body that they already are (5:7).
But don’t just focus on the problems in the Corinthian church. Look for the solutions Paul gives—Christ-exalting, cross-centered, purity-loving, others-first principles for resolving such issues. Most importantly, live these principles as you worship, serve, and support your own local assembly of believers. And, as Paul urges in one of his final commands, Let all your actions be done in love (16:14). Loving actions—dictated by love for God and for fellow believers—would solve most of our church’s problems!