Our Sunday school class is studying Romans, and for two weeks had an outstanding, articulate retired Lutheran pastor, Douglas McBride formerly of San Antonio, as our teacher. Class members are taking us through Romans after his excellent overview and first three chapters. I hope he can come back.
Paul wrote a letter to the Roman church, a mixed group of Jews and Gentiles, from Corinth, while he was on his third missionary journey between 56 and 58 A.D. He was on his way to Spain.** At the time he was gathering an offering from the Gentile Christians for the church in Jerusalem (15:25; Acts 24:17). Over half of the people he specifically mentions in the letter have Greek or Roman names, and he calls the Jews, “my brothers.” The church may have been started by his converts, but no one knows for certain. Since he first mentions Phoebe it appears that she brought the letter to Rome, so she must have been a trusted convert and helper. He greets a number of households indicating the church was made up of numerous groups, and he addresses in the letter a number of situations, many of which sound similar to our churches today. Struggles among themselves; how to deal with the government, etc.
He encourages unity and accepting one another, just as Christ accepted them. Yet it seems the church has never been more divided and scattered than today.
In the free box at church I found the New International Version of the Bible (Zondervan) on cassette. I may be one of the few people who still have a hand held cassette player, so I’ve been listening to Romans while using my exercycle. Usually, I don’t enjoy audio of the Bible--speakers/voice actors go too fast or it’s too monotonous, but this one is really excellent. There are music and sound effects, and when the writers reflect on OT passages of Jesus’ messages, there is a slight echo or reverberation.
* * “We know little about the early years of Christianity in the Iberian Peninsula. According to legend the apostle James --at Christ’s urging--carried the gospel to the country in 40 AD, but the early church writers have nothing to say about it. We know that St Paul intended to visit in Spain (Epistle to the Romans, XV, 24 and 28), which would suggest that there were organised groups for him to preach to. But there is no evidence that he made the trip, nor does any church in Spain popularly claim to have been founded by Paul.
By the second century, however, some Christian communities were probably established in the peninsula. We know that St Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons (France), writing around 180 AD, alludes to Christian churches amongst the Celts and Iberians. We also know from a letter by St Cyprian of Carthage (?-258?) that by 254 AD there were Christian communities in Astorga, Mérida, León and Zaragoza.” Source.