The Danger of the Roman Road
On planet earth, good things can be dangerous things.
Water for instance is a good and necessary gift from God. No one can live without it. But it can also kill you. In 2005 a fraternity was hazing a pledge by forcing him to drink cups of water and he drank so many that it washed all the salt out of his heart and he died of a heart attack. Some water is necessary, but five gallons is deadly.
The “Roman Road” is another example of something good that can be dangerous – and by the way, this could be true of any gospel sharing outline or program. But before I suggest a danger, I want to identify some good.
- The Roman Road is the word of God that can save (Romans 10:17).
- The Roman Road is a good outline of some crucial gospel components. The Problem – 3:23 – “All have sinned.” The Substitutionary Solution – 5:8 “While were still sinners Christ died for us.” Death or Life? – 6:23 – “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Our Necessary Response – 10:9-10 – “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…”
- The Roman Road is manageable and memorable.
- Therefore, it is a good starting point to expand on God’s redemptive plan.
- I have no doubt that God can, and has, used the Roman Road to save people.
As for the danger I have in mind, which is in many ways is also a strength, the Roman Road is a short-hand gospel, or a condensed gospel. We might call it a reductionist gospel.
Imagine that reading the book of Romans is like being on a sightseeing tour and every chapter is a city or point of interest that is worthy of our observation and consideration. Traveling the Roman Road is like taking a sightseeing tour but missing the first stop, the second, the fourth, the seventh, the eighth and so on, with a lot of stuff missed on the stops that were made because of the effort to simplify or stay on schedule (keep attention). Another way to illustrate the potential hazard of the Roman Road is to imagine someone flying into a city and never leaving the airport but saying they have seen the city. Using these illustrations, we can guess that a lot would be missed and what is known is very superficial.
Let’s suppose we decide to take an unbelieving friend down the Roman Road, and so we show them that we all are sinners (Rom. 3:23), that Christ has paid our price (Rom. 5:8) and that there is hope for our insurmountable debt in Jesus (Rom. 6:23). Furthermore we show our friend how to respond to possess eternal life (Rom. 10:9-10). Our friend decides to accept the terms of the deal and goes on with their life, having no idea that Romans chapter eight, which we skipped, talks about the evidence the Spirit produces that is the proof the there was a legitimate transaction of sin for forgiving grace. Our little tour may have just cost someone their eternal life.
Someone might object, asserting that we would be trying to force a camel through the eye of a needle by trying to do too much. Or we would be asking people to drink out of a fire hydrant. Or they might say that we can’t say everything, every time.
And in response, all I want to say is that let’s make sure that we don’t say too little. Let’s make sure that we know the whole gospel so we can share the whole gospel (Acts 20:27). Let’s make sure we don’t gut the message of what God has done and wants to do.
After all, if all we needed was four passages, I suppose Paul wouldn’t have taken the time to write the rest of Romans.
One other thought. There are probably people who have said too little and run people into a ditch with no life-changing salvation, but I am afraid we have too many people that never attempt the Roman Road or any gospel proclamation. So let’s make sure we say something, but also make sure we say enough.