What is Romans’ Impact on the History of Christian Theology?

What is Romans’ Impact on the History of Christian Theology?

In more recent years, the praise of Romans has continued, “Philip Schaff has said, ‘The Epistle to the Romans is the Epistle of the Epistles, as the Gospel of John is the Gospel of the Gospels’”…“This is in every sense the greatest of the Epistles of Paul, if not the greatest book in the New Testament,” declares Thiessen…Newell….says Romans is “probably the greatest book in the Bible.” “If the apostle Paul had written nothing else, he would still be recognized as one  of the outstanding Christian thinkers of all time on the basis of this letter alone,” say Newman and Nida…This familiar praise comes from Godet…“The pious Sailer used to say, ‘O Christianity, had thy one work been to produce a St. Paul, that alone would have rendered thee dear to the coldest reason.’ May we not be permitted to add: And thou, O St. Paul, had thy one work been to compose an Epistle to the Romans, that alone would have rendered thee dear to every sound reason. Godet adds, ‘The Epistle to the Romans is the cathedral of the Christian faith’”…Batey…says, “Paul’s epistle to the Romans stands among the most important pieces of literature in the intellectual history of Western man.” “It is safe to say that Romans is probably the most powerful human document ever written,” declares Stedman. Some might think this honor should go to the U.S. Constitution or  to the Declaration of Independence. “But even they cannot hold a candle to the impact the Epistle to the Romans has had upon human history”…Boice avows: “Christianity has been the most powerful, transforming force in human history—and the book of Romans is the most basic, most comprehensive statement of true Christianity”. 30

The impact of Romans on every generation of Christian thought cannot be overstated: “Paul’s letter to the Romans is regarded not only as his most significant writing, but as one of the most important writings in the history of the Christian faith.”31 The influence of Romans includes John Bunyan who studied Romans while sitting in the Bedford jail. He was so inspired by what he learned from Paul, that he was inspired to write the now legendary Puritan book Pilgrim’s Progress.

A Bible dictionary summarizes Romans’ place in Church history saying, “The Epistle to the Romans has also contributed significantly to the history of Christian doctrine. Almost every influential Christian thinker has dealt with Romans. Origen, Thomas Aquinas, and Philip Melanchthon, to mention only a few, wrote noteworthy commentaries on Romans. And numerous theological notions have been derived solely or in part from Romans. Augustine acquired his idea of original sin from Romans 5, Luther gained his understanding of justification by faith alone from Romans 3–4, John Calvin obtained his doctrine of double predestination from Romans 9–11, John Wesley got his distinctive teaching on sanctification from Romans 6 and 8, and Karl Barth learned of the importance of the righteousness of God from Romans 1 and 2. In short, this epistle has exerted a powerful influence on all branches of the Christian Church, and its impact on the lives and thought of prominent Christian thinkers through the years has been second, perhaps, only to the canonical gospels.”32

To find the free Romans study guide for individuals and small groups, hear Pastor Mark’s entire sermon series on Romans, or find a free mountain of Bible teaching visit realfaith.com or download the Real Faith app.

  1. Jack Cottrell, Romans, vol. 1, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996).
  2. Derek R. Brown and E. Tod Twist, Romans, ed. Douglas Mangum, Lexham Research Commentaries (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).
    32. Charles D. Myers Jr., “Romans, Epistle to the,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 816–817.
Mark Driscoll
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