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Bible Commentaries

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament


- Romans

by John & Jacob Abbott


A distinct expression of his design to visit Rome is recorded in Acts 19:21. He was at that time going into Greece, but in such circumstances as prevented his then extending his journey into Rome, as he was at that time under the necessity of returning to Judea to execute a certain commission which he had undertaken from the Christians in Macedonia and Achaia to those in Jerusalem. After accomplishing this object, he intended to carry into effect his design of visiting Rome; and, in the mean time, he wrote this Epistle to the Roman church, informing them of his long-cherished intention of visiting them, (Romans 1:10-13,Romans 15:23-28,) and communicating such instructions as were adapted to their condition. The Epistle is supposed to have been written during Paul's residence at Corinth, on the occasion referred to in Acts 20:2,Acts 20:3.

We learn from secular history, that, as might have been expected, there was a considerable Jewish population at Rome in the times of the apostles. Some of these Roman Jews seem to be mentioned as present at Jerusalem at the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:10.) It was probably through these individuals, or by some other channel which the frequent intercourse maintained between the metropolis and the provinces provided, that Christianity had found its way to Rome, and a church had been planted there. This church consisted of both Jewish and Gentile converts. Between these two classes of Christian converts there was always a tendency to jealousy and dissension. The Jew had been accustomed to regard his nation as the favored people of God, and to attach great importance to the various rites and ceremonies which had descended to him from his fathers. He was, consequently, much inclined to insist, that the Gentile convert should not only become a Christian, but a Jew also; that is, that he should come under the various obligations of the Mosaic law, as well as seek salvation through Jesus Christ. The Gentile, on the other hand, looked with contempt upon what he considered the narrowness of mind, bigotry, and slavery to ceremony and form, which often characterized his Israelitish brother; and he seems often to have been inclined to adopt practices for the purpose of showing his superiority to such ideas, which could not fail of wounding the feelings of the Jew.

The Epistle to the Romans will be found to be exactly adapted to this state of things. In fact, it may be said to consist, essentially, of a treatise upon the nature of salvation by Christ, in its relation to the Gentile and the Jew; showing that it is equally indispensable to the one and to the other, and presenting the subject in such aspects as should lead the Jew to entertain more just and liberal feelings towards his Gentile brother, and the Gentile to be more considerate and kind in respect to the prepossessions and long-established habits of the Jew.