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Events Leading up to Paul's Writing of Romans
Understanding Paul's own situation as he writes Romans helps us appreciate the purpose and theme of the letter. In 15:14-22, he looks back at a period of ministry just concluded. "From Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum," Paul tells us, "I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ" (15:19). This verse indicates that Paul's ministry has reached a significant geographical turning point. As Luke tells us in Acts, Paul first preached Christ in Damascus (and perhaps Arabia) after his conversion (Acts 9:19-22; cf. Gal. 1:17). Only after three years did he go to Jerusalem to preach, and then only briefly (Gal. 1:18; cf. Acts 9:28-29). Why, then, mention Jerusalem as the starting point for his ministry? For two reasons. First, the city represents the center of Judaism, and Paul is concerned to show how the gospel spread from the Jews to the Gentiles. Second, the city stands at one geographic extremity in hismissionary travels. At the other extremity is Illyricum, the Roman province occupying what is today Albania and parts of Yugoslavia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Only here does Paul refer to missionary work in this province, although such a ministry can be fit easily into the movements of Paul on his third missionary journey (see comments on Rom. 15:19). An "arc" drawn from Jersualem to Illyricum, therefore, passes over, or nearby, the important churches that Paul has planted in south Galatia (Pisidian Antioch, Lystra, Iconium, Derbe), Asia (Ephesus), Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea), and Achaia (Corinth).
But what does Paul mean when he claims that he has "fully proclaimed" the gospel in these areas? The Greek has simply the equivalent of our verb "fulfill" (peplerokenai). To "fulfill" the gospel, therefore, probably means to preach it sufficiently such that viable churches are established. These churches can then carry on the task of evangelism in their own territories while Paul moves on to plant new churches in virgin gospel territory (cf. 15:20-21).
* Romans IMPORTANT FACTS:
AUTHOR: Paul the apostle.
DATE: A.D. 57.
OCCASION: Paul writes toward the end of the third missionary journey to a church that is divided between Jewish and Gentile Christians.
PURPOSE: To help the Roman Christians understand the gospel, especially in its implications for the relationship of Jew and Gentile in the church.
Excerpted from Romans, Galatians Copyright © 2002 by Douglas J. Moo. Excerpted by permission.
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