The Letter of Paul to the Romans -
Romans stands first among Paul's letters because it is the longest of them and probably has had the most influence. It was written relatively late in his ministry, probably in the late 50s CE toward the end of the 6 to 7 year period he spent traveling around the Aegean. During this time Paul started churches composed of both Jews and gentiles. * In these newly founded churches, questions arose about how Jews and gentiles were related to each other: How do Jews and gentiles relate to God, now that Christ has come? Do both groups become members of God's people the same way? What does it mean if gentiles are more receptive to the gospel than Jews? How should Jews and gentiles relate to each other “in Christ”? On what should they base their conduct? the law of Moses? the teachings of Christ? In Romans Paul deals with such practical questions that have arisen out of his ministry among the churches.
Paul had never visited Rome but, as ch. 16 makes clear, a number of his close acquaintances and co-workers were there. We are not certain when Christianity arrived at Rome, but by the time Paul writes, the church seems relatively well established. He is eager to visit ( 1.11 ) in order to extend his ministry farther westward and ultimately reach Spain ( 15.24, 28 ). Romans serves as his formal introduction to the church at Rome. It provides a strong, comprehensive statement of his understanding of the gospel of Christ. By sending the letter, probably through his co-worker Phoebe ( 16.1 ), Paul presents himself and his gospel to the church at Rome, which already had important symbolic significance for other Christians throughout the Mediterranean world.