The Real Romans Road

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.


6 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.

  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.

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