The Roman(s) Road
As an analogy of a treasure map, “X” marks the spot as they say. And the sequence of marks drawn out on the road we would see would include the following:
- X- “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23)
- X- “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a)
- X- “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ” (Romans 6:23b)
- X- “if you confess Jesus as Lord . . . you shall be saved” (Romans 10:9)
Of course, the ultimate treasure of our salvation will culminate with our full adoption as sons and daughters of the living God and dwelling with him in new incorruptible bodies in the restored new heavens and new earth. This restored world will be very similar to the way God created it in the beginning because Revelation 21:4 reveals, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain . . . .”
But why does it seem increasingly harder to share this good news with our unsaved family and friends? Why is it that so many in our western culture today seem resistant to even examine this road of salvation?
Christians have been commissioned to share the good news about this great treasure with non-believers by showing them the right path to take. And for those who have experienced regeneration, a new birth, and a renewing of our minds as children of God, we of course want this for everyone! But why does it seem increasingly harder to share this good news with our unsaved family and friends? Why is it that so many in our western culture today seem resistant to even examine this road of salvation?
The Message of the Cross
The death and resurrection of Christ stands at the epicenter of the Christian faith. And the faded remnant of the symbol of the cross can still be found, interwoven into the landscape of western culture in our laws, literature, cinema, social holidays, fine art, etc., although its true meaning (the salvation for sinners because of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection) is mostly lost on the large portion of our populations. Why is it that most today don’t understand the Roman Road? Let’s look back at the markers on our map and see what questions the culture often poses in response to them.
To “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23), we might hear,
“But what is sin? Where did it come from?”
To “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a), here are common queries,
“How can the punishment for sin be death? Isn’t death a natural thing (doesn’t everything live and die?)?”
To “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ” (Romans 6:23b), it might be asked,
“How did Jesus’ death pay the penalty for sin?”
And to “if you confess Jesus as Lord . . . you shall be saved” (Romans 10:9), many would say,
“Why do I need to be saved? Saved from what?”
The Lost Path
Unfortunately today, many Christians cannot answer these questions adequately, because they either are very unfamiliar with what the Old Testament teaches or do not hold to what it says as plainly written. The Old Testament teachings, which are fundamental and foundational to understanding the New Testament, have been largely ignored by much of the Western church. Like a forgotten route or roadway, it has become like an overgrown trail, a lost path that needs to be rediscovered, cleaned up and re-traveled by many believers so that they may get a fuller understanding of what the complete gospel is and how to convey it to others.
Thankfully, this “lost path” was one that was well traveled by our Lord Jesus. Every time he said, “It is written” or “Have you not read?” he was traveling this way by reaching back to his authored source of authority, the Old Testament.
Jesus and Moses
Ultimately, all of the questions above directly relate to the events surrounding the resurrection, so how could we best answer them? Well, following Christ’s example would be a good standard for Christians to model, and interestingly, when Jesus was teaching about a resurrection, he said, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).
Jesus explained why people would have a difficult time believing in his words in John 5:46–47 when He says, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?" So as we can see from Jesus’ own words, belief in what Moses wrote ties directly into a belief in his (Christ’s) teachings—which begs the question, “What did Moses write?”
The Books of Moses
The first five books of the Bible, called the Torah (consisting of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), are attributed to Moses by Jesus Himself, and they explain the origins and history of mankind.
Jesus has made a link between his teaching and that of the most famous Patriarch in the Old Testament, so let’s look at some of the following markers in the books of Moses, which highlight certain major historical events in them, and see how they can enable us to answer the questions people have regarding the Roman Road.
X- Creation: Genesis begins the books of Moses by explaining that God initially created a perfect world with no sin. Before sin entered, there was no death occurring. Even animals ate plants as there was no carnivorous activity in the world (Genesis 1:29–30). God called his creation “very good.”
X- Fall: Death came into the world as a result of the first man’s (Adam) sin, which was a rebellion against God’s clear command to “not eat of the fruit” of a certain tree. God had told Adam that if he disobeyed, he would “surely die.” This means he would experience immediate spiritual death (separation from God) and physical death and would start to die by “returning to the dust” if he did so. Adam rebelled against God, and from that moment everything in the universe was cursed. As a result, God punished Adam and Eve, withdrew some of his sustaining power, and things began to perish, wear out, and die. Because all of us were “in” Adam, that sin nature was passed on to all his descendants. The New Testament confirms, “By one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12)
X- Judgment: God judged Adam for his sin, and the Bible reveals that God will someday judge the entire world by fire (2 Peter 3:7). It also reveals there was a former judgment by water in the form of a global flood (commonly referred to as Noah’s flood) that destroyed all living things that had the breath of life except for those onboard a specially prepared ark. Two noticeable cause-and-effect results of the flood are the billions of rapidly buried fossils encased in waterborne sedimentary layers and the almost-universal account of a great flood all over the earth.
X- Law: God gave laws to live by, which revealed that man cannot earn salvation through good works because mankind is fallen and all people sin. The Apostle Paul expounds on this purpose in Romans 7:7 where he says, “I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law.” The fact is, there are moral absolutes that emanate from who God is, and Paul reveals that the knowledge of sin (the breaking of God’s laws) demonstrates you are guilty before God and deserving of punishment, desperately in need of something outside of yourself to save you from his wrath. This is why the message of the gospel that the Roman Road reveals is such good news.
So, to summarize, the answers to the questions that arise from the proclamation of the markers on the Roman Road (answered in the books of Moses) are as follows:
Q: What is sin?
A: Sin is disobedience to God’s laws.
Q: Where did sin come from?
A: Sin came from Adam’s disobedience.
Q: If the punishment for sin is death, when did death enter the world?
A: Death entered the world at the time of the fall (there was no death before sin).
Q: Why do I need to be saved? Saved from what?
A: You need to be saved from the consequences of your sinful actions against God because God is going to judge everyone according to his perfect righteousness. As a simple analogy, you will either represent yourself, acknowledging your sin and guilt, in God’s “courtroom” when you die and receive your just punishment, or you will be represented by Jesus Christ, who stands in your place so that you can be pardoned.
Q: How did Jesus’ death pay for sin?
A: Jesus death on the cross was a substitutionary act. He took the punishment that we deserve.
Linking the Lost Path to the Roman Road
Our origins are critical to our understanding of where we came from and where we are going.
You can see why Jesus pointed out that the origins of mankind recorded in the books of Moses are so important, for without it, his message makes little sense. Without this background information, it is much harder for people to connect to the Roman Road. Our origins are critical to our understanding of where we came from and where we are going. The “bad news” contained in the Old Testament is needed to understand the “Good News” found in the New Testament. Unfortunately, the typical evangelistic presentation today often doesn’t include this link.
What “Road” Is the World On?
Of course, the world is teaching a different, completely naturalistic story of origins: the story of evolution. This atheistic story of origins is being taught in public schools and media as fact. In a key 1995 statement, the National Association of Biology Teachers (US) said,
The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments.
And because that viewpoint is what is in most people’s minds regarding the history of our world, the history in the Bible doesn’t make any sense. This is a completely different path that does not connect to the Roman Road in any way. If the entire universe arose from natural processes, then the need for a Creator God is redundant. If death were always around and existed for millions of years prior to Adam even coming onto the scene, then death is not an enemy: it is a mechanism for evolving new creatures via survival of the fittest.
A consistent thinker understands that the Genesis account of the Bible and an evolutionary timeline do not comport with one another.
The “Universal Acid” of Darwinism!
So how did Western culture get transformed from a Christian-based worldview? Why do we see the remnants of Christianity throughout the cultural landscape in such a marred, mutated form, as if some kind of twisted force had misshapen it? Well, atheist Daniel Dennett described the story of evolution in a very interesting way, as a “universal acid” that affects everything it touches:
Little did I realize that in a few years I would encounter an idea–Darwin’s idea–bearing an unmistakable likeness to universal acid: it eats through just about every traditional concept, and leaves in its wake a revolutionized world-view, with most of the old landmarks still recognizable, but transformed in fundamental ways.
And he was correct. A belief in the evolutionary story destroys the ability to answer even the simplest and most common objections to the Christian faith, such as, “If you have such a loving God, why is there so much death, pain, and suffering in the world?” Well, if millions of years of earth history and evolution were true, and even if there is a God, he must be fine with pain, death, and suffering! Far from fortifying a Christian’s faith in the slightest, belief in the story of evolution actually disconnects the Bible from real history, weakening it immeasurably.
What About Science?
Although the evidence in support of creation can be observed all around us, many have bought into the evolutionary interpretation of the facts we see in the world and think “science” supports evolution. However, most people do not understand that the type of science dealing with events that occur in the past (which is actually an interpretation of facts, based on a preconceived worldview) is not the same as operational science (repeatable/observable in the present).
Since most people only seem to hear about the evolutionary story of how we got here, if believers get equipped with real answers to the questions everyone has about where we came from, they can help turn people towards the Roman Road. Answers in Genesis has a vast amount of resources dedicated to upholding the authority of God’s Word, much of it provided by PhD scientists who can demonstrate there is no conflict between a plain reading of observable science and Scripture.
Imagine going on a treasure hunt but only having the last half of the map. With no recognizable starting point, how would you find the treasure without the proper beginning?
Clearing the Way
Jesus reminds us that “difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14). Many Christians seem to want to cling to Christ’s teachings in the New Testament, but don’t have the same attitude about a plain reading of the Old Testament. But imagine going on a treasure hunt but only having the last half of the map. With no recognizable starting point, how would you find the treasure without the proper beginning?
Jesus taught from the OT and quoted it as his final authority, showing that the historical accounts in Scripture were the ultimate basis for his teaching. Shouldn’t we, Christ’s followers, do the same? By giving answers to the questions people have regarding the books of Moses, by showing people there is no conflict between science and the Bible, we can more effectively share the message of the Roman Road to non-believers, so they can hopefully get onto the path of salvation and find God’s greatest treasure.