One of the tools that is often used to guide people to salvation, especially in Baptist circles, is a set of scriptures known as Romans Road. This is represented by four passages: Rom 3:23, Rom 6: 23, Rom 5: 8, and Rom 10: 9. Respectively, these are “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”, and “that 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.”
Romans Road is very useful as a mechanism for explaining the essence of what salvation is about to someone who knows very little about Christianity. Unfortunately, there are many circumstances where this simple mechanism for spreading the faith fails, and many new, eager Christians aren’t aware of them.
First, and this was one that I experienced for many years, is that this all assumes a belief in God and sin. Paul wrote Romans to the Jews in Rome. As a result, there was a LOT of assumed knowledge. Paul’s goal wasn’t so much to convert the Roman Jews, as to explain to them why salvation was for the Gentile as well, and why the Law was of limited value to the Gentile who had accepted Christ.
In the modern world, where many prominent scientists want all of religion expunged from the marketplace of thought, concepts such as God and sin are not universally accepted, much less understood. “Sin” has a connotation of judgmentalism to many. For many people, being judgmental is the ultimate “sin”, and to accuse others of having sinned is unacceptable. Step one can fail miserably, just because the assumed knowledge often doesn’t exist.
Step two can be just as problematic. Many churches preach a warm-fuzzy version of God, where anyone can get into heaven by simply being a “nice person”. I don’t know how many people I’ve met, who profess to be Christians, who say they expect to meet Buddha, among others, in heaven. To present them with Romans Road is to force them to choose between comfortable beliefs and truth. They may not be able to make the switch. If they don’t know the truth, they might not be saved, themselves.
If you get to step three, you may be in the clear. Then again, you may run against the barrier of people who believe it is unjust for anyone to pay for their sins, and refuse to accept Christ’s payment. Many people, especially in America, want to earn everything. Their pride gets in the way of accepting something of value.
Then we come to the great step four. This step, I’ve learned the hard way, is the one that can get the evangelist in trouble. You see, a declaration does NOT make you a Christian. It is how you live out the Lordship of Jesus that makes you a Christian, not whether you say he’s Lord. By the same token, you can live out that Lordship through your daily walk, without saying any words out loud.
As an example, my wife was raised in a Pentacostal church, and knew everything she needed to know about Christianity to get saved, yet refused to. When we were dating, one morning in church, she simply prayed to God “I’m tired of fighting.” With those words, she surrendered her life to Christ. She knew who he was, what he had done, what she was called to do, everything. She had just refused his Lordship for thirty years.
When I joyfully related this tale to one of my friends, she was horrified that I hadn’t “inspected” her with Romans Road. My (at that time) girlfriend was then subjected to an intense and confusing grilling, to ensure she was truly a Christian. This was done to the woman who has taught me much about the Bible, and Christianity in general.
The danger of Romans Road is this: you can get locked into a mindset where you miss the heart of salvation: love, and relationship with Jesus. Without those two things, there is no salvation. You can get there in many ways, and with many levels of understanding.