Context: Paul's letter to the church in Rome was a letter to strangers; he had never visited it and had had no part in its founding. For this reason the epistle is more a treatise on the nature and principles of Christianity than it is a letter. In it his principal purpose is to declare to all men the greatness of God's mercy through Christ, and to persuade them that salvation depends on faith in the grace of God, as it is expressed through Christ. His primary consideration in the first eight chapters of the epistle is the problem which lies in convincing members of the Jewish faith. In his own missionary work he has found them extremely resistant to his teachings, and now he lists every objection he can think of which they might have, answering each in turn. This portion of the epistle was probably intended to be a handbook containing material for use in obtaining conversions, and Paul doubtless hoped that converted Romans would gain a deeper insight into Jewish ideology from it. He begins the epistle by stating his qualifications and his gospel, reminding his readers that God offers salvation to all who believe in this gospel regardless of their origin. God, he adds, is angered by sin; here Paul enumerates a number of examples. His next major point is that all men are sinners and that mere observance of outward requirements will not help them unless their purity is internal and genuine. In Chapter 3 he goes on to say that observance of the law is good, but that faith in God is more important: by observance of laws alone man cannot hope for salvation. Faith in the gospel of redemption through Christ will save men without the law, and the law will be given meaning by it. Laws differ with men, but Christ's doctrine applies to all. In the fourth, sixth, and thirty-first verses, Paul emphasizes his point with the expression, "God forbid." The last is perhaps most effective.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.