Paul did not establish the church in Rome, nor had he visited it by the time of his letter, though he was well aware of its growth and impact (Romans 10:8-13). Perhaps the church at Rome began shortly after Pentecost (Acts 2), as Roman Jews returned from Jerusalem to their city with the fire of the gospel still burning in their hearts. The good news then spread to Rome's vast Gentile population.
Concurrent with the Roman church's growth was the success of Paul's missionary efforts to the east. By the time Paul wrote to the Romans, he had been evangelizing, planting churches, and training leaders from Judea to Macedonia for about 10 years. The time had come for him to take the gospel to new territories.
So he set his sights on Spain. From the city of Corinth, he planned to deliver a monetary gift to the church in Jerusalem, given by the Gentile churches in Achaia and Macedonia. Then he would sail from Jerusalem to Spain, stopping at Rome, the capital of the empire, to encourage the Christians there in their walk with Christ.
In Corinth, probably in the winter of AD 57, Paul dictated a letter to his personal scribe, Tertius, telling the Roman Christians about his plans. But this letter is no mere itinerary. Paul saw his correspondence as an opportunity to ground the Romans in the essentials of the faith, for the church there had no definitive statement of Christian truth. They needed a "constitution" to go by, not just so they could learn, but so they could be a light to the rest of the empire.
The letter unfolds in a logical fashion as Paul argued his case that God provides for us what God requires of us - perfect righteousness. Through faith in Christ alone, a "righteousness from God" is granted to sinners, which removes God's holy wrath toward us and brings us into loving relationship with Him forever.
Excerpted from "Romans: Cornerstone of Christian Living" by Insight for Living (used by permission).