The Ecclesia in Rome

No record is given regarding the founding of the ecclesia in Rome. It probably came into being by Jews converted at Pentecost and returning to the metropolis. At the time Paul wrote, it was made up of both Jews (Rom.2:17-19; 4:1; 7:1) and Gentiles (ch. 1:13; 15:15-16), though it seems that Gentiles predominated. 

Some two-thirds of the names mentioned in Chapter 16 are Greek in origin. Though Paul had never visited the ecclesia in Rome to the time of writing the epistle, he knew of its members personally as is shown by the terms of his greetings.

Some of them had been his close associates in the work of the Truth elsewhere, such as his familiar friends, Aquila and Priscilla (ch. 16:3).

The ecclesia in Rome, like that in Corinth, existed in an environment of great immorality, corruption and evil. According to the Roman historian, Tacitus, into that city flowed "all things that are vile and abominable, and there they are encouraged."

The first chapter of Paul's epistle lists some of these evils; and it speaks well of the brethren that they maintained a consistent standard of behavior in spite of their surroundings. Indeed, the faith of its members was spoken of throughout the world (ch. 1:8), but Paul recognized a need to strengthen that faith. His epistle was designed to that end.

The epistle witnesses to three significant paradoxes:

(1) It is significant that this epistle, which outlines the restoration of Israel more than any other (see Romans 9, 10, 11), was written to the ecclesia in the very city that was to bring about the destruction of the Jewish State.

(2) It is significant that in all the personal greetings that Paul sent (and there are many - see Romans 16), not a mention is made of Peter, falsely claimed by Roman Catholics to have been bishop at the time.

(3) It is significant, that not one distinguishing doctrine or practice of Rome is referred to therein - no pope, exclusive churchship, dispensations, pardons, indulgences, canonisations, pilgrimages, confessions, purgatories, masses, holy water, christening, rosaries and so forth.

Instead, we find doctrines and instructions that are diametrically opposed to those of the modern Church of Rome. Thus, whilst the epistle was sent to the ecclesia and accepted by it, the church has rejected it.

The Christadelphian Expositor