Wednesday, May 01, 2019

The Roman Road

The Roman Road to Salvation, also known as, the Romans Road to Salvation. A little over two years ago, I wrote concerning the history of The Roman Road to Salvation. Today I want to focus on its “faith and practice.”

First, what is the “Roman Road?” The Roman Road to salvation is a method of evangelizing that focuses on verses from the book of Romans about sin, death, and salvation. This “Printable” version of a Roman Road by Kathy Howard uses five locations in Romans.[i] She writes, “But how do we share that in a way that people will recognize their need and respond to Jesus? One very simple way is what Christians call the ‘Roman Road.’ It’s a short list of verses from the book of Romans that show our need for salvation and how Jesus fills that need. I have seen variations of this list that includes 4 to 8 verses. My list below includes 5, very easy to memorize verses.” Got Questions has an article titled “What is the Romans Road to salvation?” It also about uses about five stops along the road, while incorporating a few more Romans’ texts than Howard does.

  • Romans 3:23 – Every person has sinned, has done things contrary to God’s holy perfection.
  • Romans 6:23 – Our sin has a cost. That cost is spiritual death or eternal separation from God.
  • Romans 5:8 – Because God loves us, He paid our sin debt Himself. Sinless, perfect Jesus died in our place.
  • Romans 10:13 – Anyone and everyone who accepts Jesus’ gift, or “calls on His name,” will receive God’s salvation.
  • Romans 10:9-10 – Anyone who believes and confesses that Jesus died for us and rose from the dead will be saved!
No Bible believer that I know of objects to the verses in Romans or rejects their usefulness in teaching truths about sin, death, and salvation. Every scripture in the “Roman Road” is inspired, sound, and biblical. Not every preacher or soul-winner who uses “the Road” is!

Evangelism With The Romans Road” by Paul Fritz at Sermon Central uses six locations in the book of Romans and concludes with an exhortation to prayer. Fritz writes, “If you have never really accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, would you do it right now? Do not delay or put it off. If you would like to receive Christ by faith, pray this simple prayer in your heart:”
“Dear Lord, I acknowledge that I am a sinner. I believe Jesus died for my sins on the cross, and rose again the third day. I repent of my sins. By faith I receive the Lord Jesus as my Savior. You promised to save me, and I believe You, because You are God and cannot lie. I believe right now that the Lord Jesus is my personal Savior, and that all my sins are forgiven through His precious blood. I thank You, dear Lord, for saving me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Paul Fritz concludes by pronouncing salvation on and giving assurance to any person who prays this prayer, “If you prayed that prayer, God heard you and saved you. I personally want to welcome you to the family of God.”

When someone objects to the “Roman Road” style of evangelism, there are always those “Roadies” who come along to raise the spectre of Calvinism. Calvinism is an easy foil charged with giving the Roman Road a bad rap. First, we need to realize that objections to the Roman Road are not just from the realm of Calvinism. The very first objections I heard were from Missionary Baptists who rejected the 5-points of Calvinism.[ii] Second, Roman Roadies need to realize – their own practices give the Roman Road a bad rap. Don’t look for someone else to blame!

One primary objection is the way these verses are used. This use reduces salvation to a method – if repeated, the proven steps will yield the right results every time. In principle the “repeat after me” prayer method subtly (or not so subtly) changes the biblical exhortations of repent and believe the gospel to “pray this prayer.”[iii] Some proponents of “the Road” are careful to say something like “if you sincerely prayed this pray.” However, note the quote from Paul Fritz above does not bother with this distinction. When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved,” they responded with “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” rather than “pray this prayer.”[iv]

The “Roman Road” method can be very superficial, manipulative, and results-driven. A number of believers have related online such things as “soul winning contests” in which they participated. Those who “got someone saved” received points for the feat, and the one who got the most points won the contest! Often these people are told that someone should be saved every time they go soul-winning, and if not they must be doing something wrong. Taking “no” for an answer is a sign of weakness and unconcern.[v]  The process usually ends with, “Bow your head and repeat this prayer.” There is good reason to question the sincerity of a profession of faith under “duress.”[vi]

Again, no Bible believer objects to any of the verses in Romans. These superficial, manipulative, results-driven practices give the verses a bad name. The Roman Road, as often practiced, reduces evangelism to a repetitive scheme more akin to the door-to-door salesmanship than sharing the gospel. Take your free fire insurance! The New Testament commands the presentation of the gospel and leaving the response to the conviction of the gospel and the Holy Spirit. May we be careful to neither add nor subtract.

[i] I write “locations” rather than “verses” because sometimes one “step” on the Road will include more than one verse.
[iii] Some believers have dubbed this a “1-2-3-repeat-after-me” style of evangelism. Exhortations such as “make a decision for Christ,” “”accept Christ,” “ask Jesus into your heart,” and so on also substitute for “repent and believe.” I’m not sure what compels people to prefer these over biblical exhortations.
[iv] Perhaps I have missed it, but I have not noticed any New Testament reference that advises an unbeliever to do that.
[v] Curiously, some of the loudest advocates for extreme free will are the same ones guiltiest of badgering and bullying unbelievers into making a profession of faith. They say God can’t violate a person’s free will, yet they don’t mind doing it!
[vi] I have been present with “soul-winners” who bulldozed through the verses, forced the “right” answers out of the individual, and concluded the session by pronouncing the lost now saved and secure. Not being the presenter gives one the luxury of watching the body language, facial expressions, glances (when more than one is being witnessed to) and such like of the person or persons on the receiving end. Sometimes there was hilarity and mockery; maybe frustration and despair as the “soul-winnee” just wanted it all to be over with so he or she could get on with life; even the totally unresponsive. This would be coupled with lack of discernment on the part of the soul-winner. So busy putting another notch in his belt, the soul-winner can be oblivious to the real reception he and the gospel are receiving.

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