The Real Romans Road

Published Date: September 22, 2014

by Talbot Davis

Many of you are familiar with the Romans Road, a collection of verses from that signature New Testament book designed to lead people on the “road” to salvation.

It starts out with our Problem from Romans 3:23:

      For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

It then moves to our Peril in Romans 6:23:

            For the wages of sin is death . . .

And to God’s Provision in Romans 5:8:

            But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The Romans Road culminates in our Response in Romans 10:9:

That if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

All very neat, tidy, and wrapped in a bow.  Problem diagnosed, problem solved, souls saved.

And all alien to the purpose of the book of Romans.

Now: for the most part I support the theology behind the Romans Road.  We are sinners in need of salvation and not, to paraphrase Andy Stanley, mistakers in need of correction.

Yet to read Romans through the grid of its “road” is akin to appreciating a pearl necklace by removing four individual pearls from it and admiring them and them alone.

No, when you read Romans as a whole, it is clear that there is in fact a road — a primary thrust that repeats again and again throughout the letter.  But that thrust is somewhat different from the “sin-provision-salvation” model so commonly held up.

Instead the Real Romans Road starts in 1:16:

      I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believe:  first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

From there, it goes quickly to 2:9-11:

      There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil:  first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does       good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For God does not show favoritism.

Next, there is 3:9 and 3:29-30:

      What shall we conclude then?  Are we any better?  Not at all!  We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.

Is God the God of Jews only?  Is he not the God of Gentiles too?  Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.  

And it all builds to 10:12:

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.

So the Romans Road, then, is less about the eternal salvation of individuals than it is about the creation of a church community where once warring factions — Jew and Gentile — realize that in Christ there really is “no difference” between them.

Paul was addressing a real church with real issues in real time and so paves his letter with a powerful, consistent road of ethnic reconciliation.  The ground really is level at the foot of the cross.

That’s a road on which we should all take a good, long walk.


21 responses to “The Real Romans Road”

  1. Isaiah Allen says:

    Really appreciate this sympathetic critique and alternative approach to the Roman Road.

  2. Lew Wayburn says:

    Mr. Davis,

    Thank you for allowing God to use you to make a very important point. Your point that there is “no difference” between “Jew and Gentile”, in Messiah, is exactly right! I’m not sure it invalidates the use of the “Romans Road” approach to lead someone, anyone, everyone, “Jew and Gentile”, to that “level” ground at the foot of the Cross. However, I won’t argue that point.

    I will, however, point out something for your consideration. You wrote something that could add confusion to your argument. You clearly make the point, again very accurately, that in Messiah we are equal, “Jew AND Gentile.” However, you use a translation of the Greek that can lead to the opposite conclusion. For verses Romans 1:16 and 2:9-11 you use “then” as the translation for the Greek word τέ. I think if you do a little more investigation you will find a better, and much more often used, translation might be “and” or “and also.” This is not only more accurate, it is more consistent with your point. AND, doesn’t allow for someone to separate “you Jews over there” then “you Gentiles over here.” Or worse yet… “you Jews had your chance, now the Good News is for the Gentiles.”

    Not that it is more or less accurate, I kind of like the way the Complete Jewish Bible translates it… “but equally.”

    Just something for you to consider.

    May God bless you and keep you, and keep blessing others through you!

    Lew

  3. Ken Samuels says:

    There are dare to say millions of “church members” who were run down the easy path of “Romans Road” who never had time for real conviction of sin a godly sorrow unto repentance for the Spirit of God to work within them a born again experience. Man has tried to get the work of God down to a quick “microwavable” formula, when it is only God by His Spirit can really do the work we keep trying to do. If you look down through church history at all the great revivals through the last 2,000 years there was no teaching of a Romans Road. There was only the preaching of sin and the wrath of God to those under it. Conviction and true repentance was strong and the work of salvation by the Spirit was mighty. We have let down and watered down the gospel gradually for the last hundred years. This generation that has no idea what true revival or a born again work of salvation will rise up in judgment against this last day church they “have inherited lies from.”

  4. #AnonymousWesleyan says:

    Wow! Thank you for your incredible insight into Romans. All this time I thought it was about the salvation of sinners and now I have come to realize it is actually about racial reconciliation. I have decided after reading your post to no longer share the Gospel with people but instead to become a Social Justice Warrior and fight for racial harmony and reconciliation in our society!

    Paul the Apostle was in reality “Paul the Social Justice Warrior” and all Christians should be the same. I suppose that your version of the Romans Road is mutually exclusive? And Romans is ONLY about racial reconciliation and not about the salvation of souls?

    And thank you for quoting the esteemed doctor of divinity Andy Stanley in your post. No more “Sin-Salvation-Provision” model for me! Now it will be Social Justice model!

    If only those ignorant Evangelicals would listen to you, N.T. Wright, Liberation Theologies, and the message of Theological Liberalism. Then we would learn that we really can save the world through our own efforts if we just put our prejudices aside! We just need to UNITE in the name of JUSTICE! Our hearts are not depraved! We are not sinners by nature! We just need to be inspired by social justice warriors like Paul and Jesus and then WE can change the world…

    Or go to hell after failed attempts to reform our own hearts and our own society. But even if that is the eventual result, the important point is that at least we understand Romans the “correct way.” Not in the ignorant way that the Reformers or Wesley understood it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for writing what I was thinking…

    • ParticularBaptist says:

      From a Reformed Baptist brother, thank you for getting to this before I stumbled upon it! Oddly enough, once someone is in the body of Christ all the other things start to fall away until all that remains is brothers and sisters in the same body, parts of a whole, Jew and Gentile, Black and White… Almost like the power of God for salvation brings with it sanctification and ultimately… glorification… Hmmm, that is somewhere in Romans too, must be part of the Romans pit stop after I attack racial prejudice…

      Keep preaching the gospel brothers and sisters, God will sort the rest and the using His words (Romans Road) to do it is just about the best way I can imagine it being done.

    • JB says:

      Yes. Thank you.

  5. Kivsa says:

    Your comments were a real blessing! I was lost on the Roman Road for years because I trusted a formula instread of trusting Jesus’ work on the cross. Anyone who has responded to the coaxing and pressure to “go forward”, “raise your hand to get saved”, etc. needs to examine what Scripture says. and be sure they are on the right road.

    First of all, no human being leads someone else to the Lord. That is solely the work of Holy Spirit through the Word of God. He is the one who opens a person’s understanding of Scripture. (Luke 24:45) He is the one who convinces the person of sin and brings repentance. He is the only one who draws the person to faith. (John 6:44) He is the one who ultimately opens a person’s heart. (Luke 16:14) If He has not drawn a person, the person is not yet saved, and any human effort to convince him/her that saying a prayer will perform some kind of spiritual magic is false hope.

    Masses of “crusade” converts who head out of the meetings where they went forward and then returned, unchanged, to their old life styles will hear the chilling words “I never knew you.” Yes, some probably truly trusted Christ because Scripture pierced their hearts with truth, but many trust something they did in a certain meeting and have no concept at the cost to Jesus when He suffered for the sin of the world to make it possible for them to stand before a holy God without sin. Read Isaiah 53 to understand that marvelous transaction that provides eternal life to sinners. Asking Jesus into your heart doesn’t do it; giving your heart or life to God doesn’t do it; getting baptised doesn’t do it; praying a prayer doesn’t do it. He did EVERYTHING for sinners; we just have to believe what the Word says about what He did for us, since we could never do it for ourselves. We were all contaminated, so why do we ever get the idea that God can accept anything from our hands UNTIL He cleanses us and changes us?

  6. JonWaller says:

    Haha! I read this article and agreed with many things the author of this post said about the way the book of Romans is commonly used for salvation. Then I read what anonymousweslayan said which is clearly coated in sarcasm. To the latter’s point, Romans should absolutely be used to minister to the lost in order that they might be reconciled with God. “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him if they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” Romans 10:14 (NASB). To the original author of this post’s point, Paul was referring to unbelieving Jews in these verses. The point, however, is that any unbeliever can come to repentance is God is enabling them to respond. The obvious truth is that God has used the book of Romans to minister to the hearts of Jews and Gentiles alike. So the level playing ground between race is established by God, not social justice (which is a rediculous concept when you think about it; we don’t need “social” justice; we simply need justice. Anything added to justice dilutes it).

    The concern I do have for the Roman Road to Salvation is that I’m bothered by the fact that we take verses out of context and order and presenting them in such a way that it’s up to the unbeliever to perform something in order to receive salvation. At least that is the way it has been communicated to me. Where Paul makes His case that it is God who begins this good work in us, and when this takes hold in us, we will respond by crying out Lordship in Christ. Does this bother you too? Or do you think I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill? For the sake of unity in the body, I’m willing to accept the latter.

    • Kivsa says:

      I’m glad you are bothered by this! Treating isolated verses from Romans into a speedy, do-it-yourself formula is exactly why people return back to their same old lifestyles–no change because there is no life. Keep being bothered by it! You are on the right road, friend.
      The verses are wonderful tools; but they can’t be treated as a magic formula; if they are, the focus is off base. People must look to Christ’s work, not their own prayer or verbal agreement to a set of verses.

  7. Ray says:

    “…simply need justice…”

    Depends upon what you mean by “justice”. Jesus received and satisfied the penalty of our sin to redeem us (that’s a powerful word and O.T. history lesson) thus satisfying the righteous justice of God. Those who are saved are freed from our death sentence we deserve because of our sin. the LAST thing I would desire is the justice I personally deserve.

    “For the wages of sin is death…”

    Because we deserve eternal death for sin, the LAST thing that I desire would be justice for my sin and I’m certain that you’re likely the same way as well.

    “…but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    The Gospel is ‘good news’. To appreciate the good news at all, the person being drawn must understand the bad news (death and hell).

    The Romans Road is short – true enough – However, it can be a useful, short and handy way to get the bare basics across in a minute or two. Its is also quite handy to generate further Bible study as question arise; which generally do. Sometimes, they person called only needs a slight nudge, the Holy Spirit having already brought them to the brink: “One sows, another waters and a third harvests” .

    After that : DISCIPLESHIP, DISCIPLESHIP, DISCIPLESHIP ! –

    Ray

    • DJ says:

      Amen! It doesn’t stop with a decision, it starts. Then we are to work out our salvation in fear and trembling and in the power of Christ.

      • kivsa says:

        Believers work out their salvation; in other words, true belief results in good works and a changed life. We cannot work OUT a salvation if there is no salvation on the inside. Upon salvation, every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who remains a resident “until death us do part.” The absence of works belies the claim of being one with Christ. For anyone who disagrees, read 1 John who made it clear that a person whose life remains the same as it was before his professed conversion is a liar and has deluded himself/herself into believing he is saved. (1 John 2:4-6) It’s an impossibility! All of the out-of-context verses to attempt to prove otherwise are pretext, not context.

  8. Rehjr says:

    The “Roman Road” is an important way to bring the sinner to salvation. We cannot limit God’s word to just one or two ways for a person to be saved. I work with recovering addicts and some have only an education up to a certain grade in school. They may have learning disabilities or diagnosed as ADHD or be a slow learner. I find this to be a good simple way to reach them. People can be “Scared” into salvation also, though it is the most effective way.
    We should not allow ourselves to have a debate on the issue of leading one to Yeshua, but allow God to speak to us. A NEW LIFE in Yeshua changes how the sinner lives based upon his/hers old lifestyle. And the trust they have in God. For some it is very easy while others struggle for they realize the depth of disobedience to God’s word and that is the opportunity for Satan or demons to influence them and place them on a guilt trip.

  9. Barbie says:

    The ONLY reasons that the truly connected are still here are to preach the Gospel and lead souls to job.salvation through Jesus. These ARE the End Times. and time is quickly running out. Roman’s Road is a powerful tool for our job.

  10. Clarence Talley says:

    Indeed how will they hear without a preacher. I remember hearing the invitation for salvation and traveling the Roman Road long before I ever knew that it existed. Paul, along with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, explained a most simple method to reach out to Jesus (whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved). Let’s not dissect God’s word so much that it loses its’ intended purpose, thereby identifying ourselves with those judaizers who required more for salvation.

  11. Gary says:

    Thanks for the banter. Good discussion. As iron sharpens iron, so one brother sharpens another. Shalom

  12. Kivsa says:

    Paul didn’t use a quick formula in his ministry; sometimes he stayed in an area for two or three years, fully saturating people with the Truth about Jesus, His death and resurrection–showing how Jesus’ death on our behalf was able to satisfy the holiness of God and give believers the power to live transformed lives. It is easy to take good verses out of context and produce some bad results, as they did in my life. See http://romanroadheresy.com/ Thanks to all of you for sharing your thoughts!

  13. Angel Roman says:

    Hello Everyone,
    I think we are all missing the point of Roman’s Road. We do not believe in using it because we don’t understand it nor it purpose. Roman’s Road is not a magic formula to be saved. It is guidance to the sinner (who besides not knowing Christ, are people who generally do not know or have ever read the Bible. Not all sinners are raised in church, especially from countries outside the US). It is a simple and cleverly put collection of bible verses from the N.T. book of Romans that explains God’s salvation plan for mankind ( it is cleverly simple for the sinner to understand without needing a degree of Theology – 1) the NEED for salvation. 2) the PROVISION for salvation. 3) the need to RESPOND to the call of salvation and that there is a price for NOT RESPONDING. For example, if I am a missionary somewhere where I do not have access to a Bible, I can use these scriptures which are easy to memorize to present to effectively present the gospel. While Roman’s Road is NOT the way to salvation, it points through scripture to The Lord and Savior JESUS CHRIST, who is THE ONLY WAY of salvation. This collection of scriptures has blessed and lead millions to Jesus Christ and it will be a blessing to you. I have many people all over the world to Christ our Lord through the simple, yet genius ‘Roman’s Road”. Yes it is our job as Christians to lead people to Christ through the presentation of the gospel. If you don’t believe in that, I cannot say that you REALLY, REALLY, REALLY know The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is why Christ Himself commissioned us to PREACH (present, publicize) the Gospel to every creature. And if you are really saved, you are excited about doing that. Hope this helps. God bless

  14. Angel Roman says:

    Hello Everyone,
    I think we are all missing the point of Roman’s Road. We do not believe in using it because we don’t understand it nor it purpose. Roman’s Road is not a magic formula to be saved. It is guidance to the sinner (who besides not knowing Christ, are people who generally do not know or have ever read the Bible. Not all sinners are raised in church, especially from countries outside the US). It is a simple and cleverly put collection of bible verses from the N.T. book of Romans that explains God’s salvation plan for mankind ( it is cleverly simple for the sinner to understand without needing a degree of Theology – 1) the NEED for salvation. 2) the PROVISION for salvation. 3) the need to RESPOND to the call of salvation and that there is a price for NOT RESPONDING to the call of salvation. For example, if I am a missionary somewhere where I do not have access to a Bible, or moreover let’s says if I am imprisoned for the preaching the gospel and I am in a situation where I probably will not have access to a bible because it got taken away, then I can use these scriptures which are easy to memorize, to effectively present the gospel to anybody Jew or Gentile. Because it does not matter whether you are Jew or Gentile, if you have not received and believed in Jesus, you are not saved regardless of where you are from. While Roman’s Road is NOT the way to salvation, it points through scripture to The Lord and Savior JESUS CHRIST, who is THE ONLY WAY of salvation. This collection of scriptures has blessed and lead millions to Jesus Christ and it will be a blessing to you. I have led many people all over the world to Christ our Lord through the simple, yet genius ‘Roman’s Road”. We do not lead people to salvation nor can we save them. But we lead them to Jesus Christ who died on the cross and will save them if they are willing to repent and believe Him. Yes it is our job as Christians to lead people to Christ through the presentation of the gospel. If you don’t believe in that, I cannot say that you REALLY, REALLY, REALLY know The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is why Christ Himself commissioned us to PREACH (present, publicize) the Gospel to every creature. And if you are really saved, you are excited about doing that. Hope this helps. God bless. Be Christwise – Evangelize

  15. Delbert Blackketter says:

    As I read this today I am thinking that I so appreciate that you are all on the road to helping bring people into salvation by confirming a method to acknowledge our sin, our wages, our Savior. Great stuff.
    And then . . . Make disciples. Be disciples.

    As DJ wrote in a reply: It doesn’t stop with a decisions. It starts.

    Thanks

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