Why is Romans Unique?
There are plenty of differences between the letters that Paul writes to the various churches that he has planted throughout his ministry. From church discipline to training up leaders Paul’s letters often address certain needs and spiritual guidance for the church in which he writes.
Out of all of the books that Paul composed, Romans hold a very unique place in his writing for two major reasons.
1. Paul did not plant the Roman Church.
As he is writing the letter that we call today, “Romans,” Paul was writing to a group of people he had mostly never met. This is unusual for Paul as most of his letters in the New Testament can be mapped out by the churches that he planted on his missionary journeys throughout the book of Acts.
Peter is given the credit for the establishment of the church network in Rome by tradition. Yet Acts gives no clear evidence of this and Paul would have to go against his conviction of church ministry to, “not build upon another person’s foundation.”(Rom. 15:20)
If Paul, Peter, or any other apostle did not plant the church in Rome, how did it originate?
2. Jewish Christians from Pentacost (Acts 2:10) brought their faith back to Rome and by the late 50s AD the Roman church would have become overwhelmingly Gentile.
Roman historian Suetonius wrote in his Life of Claudius that Claudius, “expelled the Jews from Rome because they were constantly rioting at the instigation of Chrestus.” This term that bears a striking similarity to “Christ” has sent theologians into a curious frenzy. Much of the book of Acts deals with the Jewish and Christians disputes over Jesus being the Son of God. Acts 18 also mentions that Aquila and Priscilla were in Corinth due to Claudius’ declaration. From the time of this decree in AD 49, to Claudius’ death that would have ended the decree in AD 54, the Roman church would have become a heavily vibrant Gentile church.
How do both of these points make the book of Romans unique?
Because Paul or any of the other apostles did not know all of the churches in Rome yet still have a high concentration of Christians that were Gentiles we see another example of how God’s Spirit was moving outside of the ministries of the apostles. God’s power is evident in the life of Paul and Peter but it is most definitely not limited to their ministries.
You and I must also remember that no matter how important the work that God has for us God is not just working where you and I are. God is working all over this planet to bring those who would seek him into a relationship with Him.
For Paul this was good news. He was excited to see and experience the love and community that God had created in Rome. (Rom. 1) He did not see the ministry of other Christians as a force to be reckoned with but an opportunity to encourage and sustain what God had already done. Because of this uniqe situation that took place in Rome, Paul writes a letter ahead of his trip to Rome elaborating on the faith that is found in Jesus. Paul’s words have been used by God to build up the church and encourage Christians to understand the depth of their faith even in the twenty first century. Paul's extensive elaboration on faith to the Roman church is what makes this book so unique.
Moo, Douglas. The Letter to the Romans 2ndEdition. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids Michigan. 2018. Pg 3-5