by Bill Nugent
The ancient Roman Empire was famous for its roads. The ancient Romans built over 250,000 miles of roads, including over 50,000 miles of paved roads. The first paved road was the Via Appia or Appian Way which went from Rome to Apulia in southern Italy.
This article concerns a message often compared to the Roman transportation system that is extremely important yet so neglected as to be almost forgotten. I urge you to study this message and take it to heart.
Paul, the apostle, wrote his greatest epistle to the Romans. The book of Romans is the longest of the epistles and has been called Paul’s magnum opus (great work). Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote his clearest explanation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and he sent it to Rome, the very heart of the civilized world in the west.
The epistle to the Romans sets out the message of the Gospel in clear step by step terms. It’s a very easy book to outline, diagram and study. In it he gives the clearest explanation anywhere in the Bible of how a sinner can become saved. The step by step setting forth of the message of salvation is so straightforward that it has been called the “Roman Road.”
All of us have heard the term “Roman Road” but I suppose that only about one in ten of us could accurately expound on it if someone were to ask. In First Peter 3:15 we are commanded to“be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” How many people in our evangelical and charismatic churches can accurately articulate the simple soul saving message of the Roman Road?
The reason many of our people can’t articulate the Roman Road is very simple: it hasn’t been preached with clarity and repetition from our pulpits! The many charismatic churches I’ve been in seem to assume that everyone who walks in the door must be born again. After all, if they’re in our radical, praising, dancing church they must really be zealous and must have experienced the new birth long before they wound up on our doorstep. However, I suspect that many of our people are not even saved.
Even conservative evangelical churches give sermons from the pulpit that seldom lay out the salvation message in clear, uncompromising terms. The evangelical watered down, soft sell of the Gospel has been a sad trend. Some have called the evangelical erosion on the inerrancy of scripture and the watering down of the Gospel “the evangelical crackup.” Some have compared the contemporary evangelical church of 2010 with the Episcopal church of the 1920s. The Episcopal church of that era was at the edge of an abyss.
The conservative Baptist churches still boldly proclaim the Roman Road from their pulpits and I think that’s where most true, genuine conversions occur. Billy Graham, that beloved Baptist evangelist, is said to have quoted or paraphrased Romans 3:23 no less than 56 times in just one of his sermons!
Romans 3:23 is perhaps the most familiar milestone on the Roman road. It says “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Imagine Billy Graham repeating that one verse in his mild southern accent 56 times in one sermon!
Why the repetition? The simple fact is that most people don’t believe they are sinners fully worthy of the condemnation of hell. They think they can just walk through heaven’s gate and go and sit on God’s lap. Sure they might say “I’ve committed a few sins now and then because, after all, nobody’s perfect.” They go on and say “I’ve lived a decent moral life and I guess that makes up for it.” Such an empty acknowledgement of personal sin and the haughtiness of a trust in one’s own righteousness cannot save!!!
The Roman Road spends an overwhelming number of verses explaining and emphasizing that all people are sinners The Roman Road lists specific sins and condemns them. How often have you heard a sermon preached against sin in our “conservative” churches? We should specifically condemn fornication, adultery, homosexuality, abortion, drunkenness, racism, bitterness, unforgiveness, stealing and all other sins.
The Roman Road spends many verses telling us that our good works don’t balance out our sins. It spends many verses telling us that Jesus died for our sins; that He took upon Himself the due penalty for our sins. It spends many verses telling us that we receive the forgiveness of sins by faith in Christ.
Moreover the faith that saves us is not a simple intellectual agreement with the facts of the Gospel but is a desperate personal reliance upon Christ alone for our salvation. The Roman Road repeatedly says that we can’t earn the forgiveness of our sins by doing good works.
Romans 1:18 to 2:16 explains the sinfulness of the Gentiles. Romans 2:17 to 3:3 shows the sinfulness of the Jews and the futility of their trying to work their way to salvation by keeping the Old Testament law. Romans 3:4 to 3:23 hammers away mercilessly at all humanity with quotes from the Old Testament showing that all humanity is utterly sinful and unworthy of entering into God’s presence in heaven.
Romans 3:24 to 4:25 sets forth the glorious Gospel of the gift of salvation for those who turn to Christ in heartfelt repentance and desperate faith to rely on Christ alone for forgiveness of sins. It includes several verses which teach that Abraham, who lived centuries earlier under the Old Testament, was justified by faith and not by works. Romans 4:3 quotes Genesis 15:6 and says“Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”
We need to remember that the Greek words for “faith” and“believe” used in Romans and throughout the New Testament are“pisteuo” and “pistis.” Pisteuo and pistis are generally considered to be stronger terms than our words for faith and believe.
Faith is a relationship word. This is a one on one relationship with God. To have faith in God is to trust in the ability and actions of God on our behalf. God sent His Messiah (Christ) to die for us and we must trust in the fact that He took upon Himself the punishment that we deserved for our sins. We see this personal faith relationship clearly expressed in Romans 4:18-22.
Romans chapter five continues to expound on the facts of the Gospel of how Jesus died in our place and also gives some important teaching on original sin and how we are set free from its effects through faith in Christ. Romans chapter six explains how born again Christians are free from the sin nature. Romans six teaches that the “old man” (old unsaved human spirit) is dead and we are alive to God in Christ. Our human spirit was regenerated (born again) and is now righteous. Romans chapter seven shows how we still struggle against the sin nature (law of sin) in our souls and that our souls are being sanctified. Our souls are not yet experientially righteous.
Romans chapter eight discusses the future resurrection of our physical bodies which are now weak and corrupt. Romanschapters nine, ten and eleven talk about the Jews and their place in God’s plan, showing the importance of the end time role of Israel. Romans 10:13 gives the basis for the sinner’s prayer. It says: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Romans chapters twelve through fifteen give instructions about how to live under the lordship of Christ and how to love our fellow humans. The sixteenth and last chapter gives greetings to the Christians at Rome and closing comments.
One evangelist said that if he had only one hour with a person before he or she would die he would spend 55 minutes of that hour convincing the person that he or she is sinful and desperately needs redemption. Only the last 5 minutes would be needed to explain that Jesus came in fulfillment of over 300 prophecies, that He died for our sins, that we receive forgiveness by faith and to lead the person in prayer to ask God for forgiveness through Christ.
It is absolutely vital that we repeatedly explain the salvation message from our pulpits. The eternal destinies of people depend on it! Let’s restore the Roman Road!!!