When I was a young student in a Fundamentalist Bible college, I was taught how to “soul-win.” This mostly revolved around a “method.” Get people to say, “yes,” to, or agree with, four or five verses in Romans, have them repeat, or parrot, yes, that’s the word, for that’s all it really was, parrot the prayer you recited for them, and, presto, they were saved, and their names were written in the Lamb’s book of life. Then you gave them “assurance” of their salvation with a couple of verses of Scripture – and your work was done. You could add them to the weekly report you were required to turn in as to your visitation and outreach endeavors. It didn’t matter if these people were never baptized or joined a church, or ever gave any evidence of a work of God in their lives. They were “saved.”
Now, there is nothing wrong with being “fundamental.” Even though the word “fundamentalist” is terribly misused by those who have no understanding of or interest in its origin, there are some things which are “fundamental” to being a Christian. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with evangelism; it’s required of us by the Lord. What I object to is the blatant misuse, in my opinion, of the Word of God for something so important as determining one’s eternal destiny. This superficial way of using Scripture is the main reason, again, in my opinion, for the rise of “fundamentalist-turned-atheist” organizations and websites.
And there is certainly nothing wrong with the verses in Romans. However, as someone has said, “A text of Scripture taken out of context often becomes a pretext.” So, what does the “Romans Road” say? What does the verses which comprise it really mean?
for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 (NKJV).
This was often weakened to the idea that, “well, yes, I’m not perfect,” in order to get the prospective “convert” to agree with it. That’s not really the point here. There’s much more to it than that. While it’s true that the word translated “come short” means “to miss the mark,” what “mark” is it, exactly that we “miss”? It’s easy to use the idea that we miss the mark of the righteousness that the Law requires, which is true – we do, or to chase a rabbit trail against a particular sin or social shortcoming. But it occurred to me not all that long ago in reading Romans that the “mark” we miss is “the glory of God.” We see this earlier in Romans, referring to early mankind: although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, neither were thankful,” Romans 1:21. This “knowledge” wasn’t just some superficial awareness that He existed. I believe, from Genesis and Job, that there was a widespread knowledge of God among the early inhabitants of this planet, long before the giving of the Law to Israel. These people knew, that is, were acquainted with, the God of Heaven. But they couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge Him as God, so God gave them up to their own desires. Romans 1:18-32 is a terrible description of what happens when God takes His hand off of us.
We see this also in Revelation 16:9 of some who will go through the terrible events of the end times and who will not repent and give Him glory.
The “mark” we miss is giving God the honor, the adoration, the worship, the service He and He alone deserves. Not just some, “well, yes, I’m not perfect.”
for the wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23a.
This verse would lead into some conversation to the effect that the person knew he wouldn’t live forever, but would eventually die. Revelation 20:11-15 might be brought in with its references to hell and the second death, which, in turn, would lead to the question, “You don’t want to go to hell, do you?”
Of course not. Nobody in their right mind wants to go there, even if they don’t believe it exists.
We can’t even really begin to understand all this verse entails. We live in “death.” It’s all around us. I’m not just talking about physical death, even though this planet is just one gigantic graveyard. And as far as Revelation 20 is concerned, we have nothing with which to compare the terror and horror of that time and place.
Before all that, though, we live in “death.” Dead hope. Dead dreams. Dead love, …relationships, …health, …finances, …and on and on. So many of the blogs I read bear eloquent testimony to this. Death stalks throughout our land and our lives.
The wages [consequences] of sin is death.
Salvation is much more than just some relief from the consequences of our sin, like the filter on a cigarette, or “safe sex.” It’s also more than just a fire escape from its final, eternal consequence.
But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, Romans 5:8.
Here the talk would center around how much God loves everybody, John 3:16 often being quoted as well. Yet I find it fascinating that the early church never mentioned the love of God in its preaching. Indeed, there’s only one occurrence of any of the words translated “love” anywhere in Acts, and that’s in Acts 28:2, where Paul, writing of a shipwreck experience and his deliverance from it, wrote ‘the natives showed us unusual ‘kindness’.” It’s not “the message” in 1 John, either, 1 John 4:8 notwithstanding. See 1 John 1:5.
The cross of Christ is all about satisfying God’s justice, about taking care of our sin problem, not just about showing His love. Now, God does have a redemptive love for humanity, considered as a whole, as a race. Otherwise, He’d never have gone to the lengths to save it that He did. Individually, however, apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, we are under His wrath, John 3:36. We are subject to His judgment. Romans 8:39 and 1 Timothy 1:14 tell us that the love of God is in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is why the early church never mentioned it. Apart from the Lord Jesus, not a single one of us has any claim on or right to the love of God.
but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord, Romans 6:23.
Here, the “method” would be to begin to move toward getting the “convert” to “make his decision,” to get him to “pray the prayer.” So the talk would revolve around the idea that one must “receive” a gift. Oh, there might be some talk that we can’t earn a gift or something like that, but the intent was to move the person toward that moment of decision.
That’s not what Paul was writing about, at all.
He’s contrasting two ideas: “death” is the result of something we do, namely, sin. Now, not all “deaths” are the result of sin; babies die who are yet incapable of it. “Death” itself, though, is a result of sin. If Adam and Eve had not sinned against God, there would be no death. In contrast to that, “eternal life” IS NOT the result of something we do, as much as some would like to make it. It’s something God gives us, freely, because of and by His grace. We could never earn it, deserve it or make it. We can only receive it, as something foreign to ourselves and to which we contribute nothing.
This lead us to the last verses.
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. … For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved,” Romans 10:9, 10 13.
Here, the “soul-winner” would be trying to “close the sale,” as if “the customer” were doing nothing more important than buying a car or a vacuum cleaner. The idea was to get the person to “pray to be saved.” I even knew some “soul-winners” who would actually begin to “pray” before the person did, as a means of pressuring him or her to do so. And “pressuring” is the right word. This was how they understood “calling on the name of the LORD.”
Oh my, my brothers and sisters! This “calling” isn’t just the repetition of a canned prayer that someone else recites to you, with no real understanding of what is supposed to be going on. It’s not just a prescribed number of “Hail, Marys” or “Our Fathers.” It’s not just words on a page.
It’s a cry for help, a call for rescue. It’s a 911 call to heaven.
“Lord, save me!” was Peter’s cry as he began to sink in the water, Matthew 14:28-33. He didn’t need someone in the boat to tell him what to say. He didn’t try to remember what some rabbi or his parents may have told him as a child. His situation told him what to say! “Lord, save me!”
Now, I’m not suggesting that one needs to be a theologian or scholar to be saved. I’m simply saying that Romans 10:9-10,13 themselves tell us what is involved. And I’m not trying to put them into “steps,” the following of which will lead you to salvation. But there are some things to consider.
1. Confess the Lord Jesus. Not just “accept Jesus,” or some such thing. It means, in effect, to agree with what God says about Him. God says He is Lord. God says the name of Jesus is above every other name, in heaven or on earth. You can’t have only part of Jesus. You can’t have Him as Savior without at the same time having Him as Lord. You can’t separate what He does from who He is. In fact, if He weren’t who He is, He couldn’t do what He does.
2. Believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. This really involves everything about Jesus from eternity past, that He was the Word, into eternity future, that He took on Himself humanity in order to live and die for sinners. That He rose from the dead and is even now seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for those for whom He died. That He one day will return to this earth. Having said all that, the verse does focus on His death, and the whys and wherefores of that, as well as the fact that He rose again.
3. believes unto righteousness. Here we’re brought face-to-face with our condition before God. That we have indeed “sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We have nothing approaching the righteousness God requires of us, nor can we on our own ever approach it. This brings in “the righteousness of Christ” which is imputed to believing sinners and which we must have if we are ever to come before God uncondemned.
Conclusion: These are just a few suggestions as to what is involved in “the Romans Road.” There is so much more that could be said.
Again, I’m not saying that there has to be complete understanding of these things. Who does that? Who can do that? And I’m not trying to discourage people from using these verses in their witnessing. It’s just that I wish that salvation were treated as something more than just “one of the great things of life.” Have you ever heard preachers or someone say that? “If you miss salvation, you miss one of the great things of life.” I have.
Oh, if you miss salvation, you miss life itself!