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.