In about the year A.D. 58, twenty eight years after Jesus was raised from the dead, the Christians in Rome received a letter. Sister Phoebe from Cenchrae brought it (Romans 16:1-2). It was from the great and beloved Paul the apostle who was probably at Corinth on his third preaching journey when he wrote it.
Rome was the famous capital of the civilised world. Nero had been the emperor for four years, and the Roman Empire was doing very well. Nero had not yet become the cruel persecutor of Christians which he later became. (His persecution of Christians began in A.D. 60 and continued until his death in A.D. 68.) People came to Rome from all over the world, and the church in Rome had members who had moved there from other places.
The New Testament does not tell us when the church in Rome began, or how it began. When the Holy Spirit came on the apostles in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2), Jews from Rome were there. It may be that they went back to Rome and preached the gospel. When they received the letter from Paul, the church was probably more than twenty years old and had members from many different places.
Most of the Christians in Rome were Gentiles (non-Jews), but there were a good number of Jews among them. They must have been excited to receive a long and obviously very important letter from Paul. When they read it they discovered that it discussed the most important things of salvation, and that Paul explained how Jews and Gentiles are saved in the one body. They must have studied the letter and discussed it to be sure they understood it properly. Then they made copies for others. And we today are able to read it.
The book of Romans is one of the most difficult books of the New Testament to understand. It deals with the same subject as the book of Galatians, but it goes into greater detail. It is different from the book of Hebrews. Hebrews is written to Jewish Christians, while Romans is written to both Jews and Gentiles.
In Romans Paul writes to convince Jews and Gentiles that they are both sinners and that they are saved alike by the gospel. He deals with the objections of Jews. They did not understand why God gave them circumcision and the Law of Moses, nor did they understand the great promises which God gave to Abraham and others. And he writes to unite brethren who can easily draw apart.
I am sure that the brethren in Rome were happy to read that Paul intended to come to them. He first was going to Jerusalem to deliver money for the poor saints, money which came from Gentile churches in Macedonia, Achaia, Asia and other places. Then he hoped to come to them. He did go to Rome, and although he was a prisoner when he got there, the brethren welcomed him with joy (Acts 28:14-15).
Romans is a wonderful book. Some of its teachings have been misused, and in this commentary those passages are explained properly. There is rich treasure on every page, in nearly every verse. May God bless the student as he or she studies.