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 agree with four or five verses in Romans, have them repeat the prayer you recited to them, and, presto, they were saved and their names were written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Then you gave them “assurance of 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 efforts. It didn’t matter if they were ever baptized or joined a church or gave any evidence that God was at work in their lives; they were “saved.”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being “fundamental.” Even though the word “fundamentalist” is terribly misused by those who have no understanding of its true meaning, or interest in its origin, there are some things which are “fundamental” to Christianity and being a Christian. And there’s 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 “fundamendalist-turned-atheist” websites.
And there’s certainly 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 do the verses which make it up 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 so 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 say that we miss the mark of the righteousness which the Law requires – and we do miss that mark badly. Or we can go down a rabbit trail against a particular sin or social shortcoming. But it occurred to me recently that the “mark” we miss is “the glory of God.” After all, Romans 3:23 tells us that!
We see that thought earlier in Romans, as well, 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 God exists. From the books of Genesis and Job, I believe that there was a wide-spread knowledge of God among the early inhabitants of this planet, long before Sinai and the giving of the Law. These people “knew,” that is, were acquainted with the God of Heaven. But they couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge Him as God, so He gave them up to their own desires. Romans 1:18-32 is a description of the terrible things we do when God takes His hand off us.
We see this also in Revelation 16:9 of some who will go through the terrible events of the end times, but will not repent and give Him glory.
The “mark” we miss is giving God the honor, the adoration, the worship, the service that He and He alone deserves. Not just some lame, “Well, yes, I’m not perfect.”
for the wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23.
This verse would lead into some conversation to the effect that the person knew that he would eventually die. Revelation 20:11-15 might be brought in, with its references to hell and the second death. This, in turn, would lead to the question, “You don’t want to go to hell, do you?”
Of course not! No one in their right mind wants to go there, even if they don’t believe it exists.
We can’t even begin to understand all that Romans 6:23 involves. We live in “death.” It’s all around us. I’m not just talking about “physical” death, even though this planet is really 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.
And this doesn’t even bring in the spiritual death – the separation and alienation from God, to say nothing of condemnation – that we all live in, apart from His grace.
We all live in and around “death.” Dead hopes. Dead dreams. Dead love…, relationships…, health…, finances…, and on and on. 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 the final consequences of our sin. It’s deliverance from the sin itself, not completely nor entirely in this life – would that it were! – but the work is begun in our conversion and continues in our sanctification, that is, as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
but God demonstrated His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, Romans 5:8.
Here the talk would center around how much God loves everybody. John 3:16 would probably be quoted, as well. Yet I find it fascinating that the early church never once mentioned the love of God in its preaching. Indeed, there’s only one occurrence of any of the words translated, “love,” in the Book of Acts, and that’s found in 28:2, where Paul, writing of surviving a shipwreck, wrote the natives showed us no little kindness…. The word translated, “kindness,” is where we get our word “philanthropy.”
In 1 John 1:5, “the love of God” isn’t the message, 1 John 4:8 notwithstanding.
The cross of Christ was all about satisfying God’s justice, about taking care of our sin problem, not just about His love. Truly, God does have a redemptive love for humanity, otherwise, He’d have never gone to the trouble He has in order to save it. Individually, however, apart from the Lord Jesus, we are all under God’s wrath, John 3:36. We are subject to His judgment.
Romans 8:39 and 1 Timothy 1:14 both tell us that the love of God is in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is why the early church never mentioned the love of God. Apart from the Lord Jesus, not a single one of us has any right to nor claim on 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. There might be some talk that we can’t earn a gift, or something like that, but the idea was to move the person toward that moment of decision.
That’s not at all what Paul was writing about!
He’s contrasting two ideas: “death” is the result of something we do, namely, sin. Now, not all “deaths” are the results of sin; babies die who aren’t yet capable of it. “Death” itself, however, is the result of sin. If Adam and Eve hadn’t 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 that. It’s something God freely gives us because of and only by His grace. We could never earn it, deserve it, or make it. We may only receive it by faith, as something foreign to ourselves, to which we contribute nothing.
This leads 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 to salvation. … For “whosoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” Romans 10:9, 10, 13.
Here, the “soul-winner” would try 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 “soul-winners” who would begin to pray before the person did, as a means of pressuring them to pray themselves. And “pressuring” is the right word. This is how they understood “calling on the name of the LORD.”
Oh my, my brothers and sisters! This “calling” isn’t just some canned repetition of a prayer someone recites for you, with no real understanding of what is involved or is supposed to be going on! It isn’t just a prescribed number of “Hail, Marys” or “Our Fathers.” It’s not just words on a page, or sound waves in the air.
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 into 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 had told him as a child. His situation told him what to say.
“Lord, save me!”
I’m not suggesting that one needs to be a scholar or theologian to be saved. I’m simply saying that Romans 10:9, 10 and 13 themselves tell us what is involved. And I’m not trying to put them into “steps,” the doing of which will get you saved. But there are some things to consider.
1. Confess the Lord Jesus. Not just “accept” Jesus, or some such thing. It basically means to agree with what God says about Him. God says He is Lord. God says the name of Jesus is above every name in heaven or on earth. God says you can’t only have 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 the fact that He is the Word, that He came into this world to die for sinners, and in the future, every knee will bow before Him as Lord. Having said that, the verse does focus on His death and resurrection, for it is that alone which is the basis for salvation. Without those, there is no salvation.
3. Believes unto righteousness. Here we’re brought face-to-face with our condition before God. That we have indeed sinned, and pay no attention to honoring and obeying God. That we have nothing approaching the righteousness God requires of us and we can never approach that righteousness in and of ourselves.
This shuts us up to the righteousness of Christ, which is imputed to believing sinners, which we must have if we are ever to stand before God uncondemned, Romans 4:5-8.
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.
I’m not saying 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 “one of the great things of life.” Have you ever heard preachers say that? “If you miss salvation, you miss one of the great things of life”?
Oh, if you miss salvation, you miss life!
(originally posted June 20, 2013) edited.