The Romans Road - My Take

Recently I heard a mention of the Romans Road. At the time I thought it was referring to the Roman roads. I was wrong. Still, that got me to thinking. The Roman Empire was very important to the spread of Christianity, and perhaps one of the largest contributing factors was the presence of the Roman road system. Paul, the writer of Romans, traveled those very roads and some estimates place the distance he covered at around 20,000 miles. That's a long way, and I wondered about the actual roads.

Actually, the whole topic started me wondering about the Romans Road which was referred to. The book of Romans, or more properly the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, was a letter from Paul to the church at Rome and interestingly enough it was written in Greek. Why?

Well, to cover that I have to back up a bit. I hope you don't mind a little history lesson. You see, in order to understand why Greek was spoken throughout the Roman Empire, you have to go back to the Greek Empire, and to be fair, you would even have to go back to Cyrus the Great of Persia, but that's a different lesson.

I think that I'll start with Philip II of Macedonia. He had become the ruler of the League of Corinth by force of arms, but he was assassinated in 336 BC. His son Alexander became the king and was immediately faced with a rebellion from some cities of southern Greece. In addition to this, Macedonia was broke and Alexander had to begin conquering everyone around him.

He was very good at that and within four years, by 332 BC, he conquered Judea. A year later he took over Egypt, and over the next five years he conquered as far as India. Alexander was never defeated in a military battle and he has since been known as Alexander the Great.

Alexander died in 323 BC, which means he was only in power for little more than 13 years. After his death, though, the Greek Empire remained more or less intact until about 146 BC, and its last true ruler was Philip V of Macedonia.

Just to give you an idea of how large the Greek Empire was: Today there are 10 countries - Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan - that make up what had been the Hellenistic Greek Empire. It covered just under 2,253,000 square miles, which today would make it the seventh largest country in the world. It may have been the largest country in the world at the time, and for about 180 years, everyone in it spoke Greek. Anyone who traded with it quite likely spoke Greek as well.

One of its trading partners, the Roman Republic, started to gain power around 192 BC. In 146 BC, the Roman Republic annexed Macedonia, ending the Greek Empire. Rome engaged in several wars over the next twelve decades, evolving into the Roman Empire around 27 BC. This brings me to the Roman roads.

Because of the need to move their legions, and perhaps more importantly the commerce that was the lifeblood of their empire, the Romans spent considerable time and resources perfecting their roads. Several Roman roads are still in use today, 2,000 years later, so they obviously were well built.

It didn't matter where the road was; the steps of its construction were always the same. After deciding where to place the road, the first step was to dig the road bed down to the firmest ground they could find. This excavation was called the fossa or the ditch. They would then layer the ditch. The first layer was packed with large boulders and sand to make a solid base.

The next layer was made up of smaller stones and clay which were packed on top of the boulders. They would cover that with gravel and tamp it down, paving the road. They used shaped paving stones, as part of the pavement, and held them in place with concrete. The road would be crowned, or sloped to the edges, to aid in runoff. On the sides they would place curbstones, which would separate the road from the surrounding territory.

Along the road were milestones which let travelers know how far they had traveled, and in many cases, how far they needed to go. Also dotting the roads were the way stations, about 15 miles or so apart. These were places that Roman officials or people on official Roman business could stay safely for the night.

That finishes the construction of the Roman roads and brings me back to the initial topic, the Romans Road. There are a few things that I think are important to point out about Romans.

We know that Paul the Apostle wrote, or at least dictated, Romans, because he introduces himself at the beginning of the letter. Paul made his first appearance in Acts 7:58 and is introduced to us initially as Saul of Tarsus. Incidentally, Tarsus was conquered by Rome in 66 BC, three years before Jerusalem was.

But why was Romans written? First off, we need to understand that it was written around 57 AD, which actually predates some of the gospels and is concurrent with others. Why is this important? Because when we read "It is written," it means that it is not written in the New Testament, but rather in the Old Testament, in the Jewish teachings. It also gives us a starting point as to why. Another thing that is important to know is that Paul had not established the Church at Rome. It had been established by others, so he did not know the people in that church. Also, we have to understand that it was not written in response to a problem.

Why is all of this important? Because, based up on those facts, we can build a strong case for Romans being a general guide to Paul's theology, his own gospel if you will. He was writing to tell the Church of Rome what he believed, and what he felt the role of the Church and its members was. In addition he included his thoughts on spreading God's Word.

When I started looking into the Romans Road, I was given a starting point of Romans 3:23 - "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." I have related this to the ditch. We are already in a hole and have to accept that before we can go any further. Romans 3:10-18 actually goes into a bit more depth, but it is summarized quite well in 3:23; basically, we are all sinners.

The second step on the Romans Road is Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." That's pretty straightforward. Not only are we guilty, but the sentence that has been placed on us is death, and that very sentence has been waived through Jesus Christ. I relate this to the packing of boulders and sand to form a solid base. There is not really a way to escape from this. It's a pretty solid sentence but it is also a pretty solid promise.

The third verse in the Romans Road is Romans 5:8 - "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." I am relating this to the paving of the roads. Clay is somewhat sticky, when it is first laid, but it provides an attachment to what is beneath it, like glue. And the glue is God's love for us even though we are sinners. That is the only reason we have been given the promise of salvation, because God loves us, even though we are sinners.

Still, glue only does so much. If nothing is placed on top of it, it is just messy. So what do I put on top of Romans 5:8? Romans 10:9 which tells us "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved." This has two important elements; first that you must confess that Jesus is Lord, rather that you have to admit it openly, and second that you believe that God raised Him from the dead. In following these steps you can be saved.

Now why should you state that Jesus is Lord? Because in doing so you admit that He is your ruler. Why should you believe that God raised Him from the dead? If you don't believe it, then there is no reason to accept Jesus' divinity. Only by being the true Son of God can Jesus make the promises that He made to us, and if we don't believe that, then how can we accept His promise, or the power He has to follow through on that promise?

The next step of the Romans Road is Romans 10:13 - "For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." This is important. It places every thing before it in perspective. I associate this with the concrete. It holds everything in place, making a solid base. By calling upon the Lord, we place ourselves in His hands. We willingly give ourselves to Him, and admit that we are His. Without the concrete, eventually all of the work that has gone before falls apart. However with the concrete it stays in place, sealed and protected from the elements. If we have given ourselves to Him we are sealed to Him.

Romans 5:1, "having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." crowns the Romans Road. On accepting this, we are no longer at war with God. We are sinners but because we have accepted Jesus, because we have believed in Him, we are at peace with God. Anything that the world throws at us rolls off to the sides. Nothing can touch us, because we are sheltered by God.

Romans 5:1 is the last step of the Romans Road, but the promise is repeated in Romans 8:38-39 - "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." I associate this with the curbstones. This separates us from the territory around us. And nothing can separate us from God if we have accepted him.

There were a couple of other passages that I think should be added to the Romans Road, but they are not officially part of it. First I want to go back to the beginning, Romans 3:23, and take the continuation of the thought from Romans 3:24-25, "being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His Righteousness, because in His forbearance God has passed over the sins that were previously committed,".

It may be better to take the thought as a whole: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His Righteousness, because in His forbearance God has passed over the sins that were previously committed,". I specifically want to highlight His grace not our own. I liken this somewhat to the milestones. Where are we? How far have we gone? How far do we have to go? Those sins we have committed, or passed, have no importance, as they are covered or rather washed by Jesus' blood. Jesus is the only milestone we need, it is the only one that is important, and it is a free gift, through His power (or grace), not through anything we have traveled or done, or will do, on our own.

The final step in my Romans Road is Romans 8:1-2 "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." This I associate with the waystations in the Roman road system. Those were places of safety. There is no safer place than the hands of God, and Paul stated clearly that we are free from the Law of Sin and the Law of death, which is perhaps the safest place of all for us to be.

What does the Romans Road do for us? Quite simply it is a journey that points out the steps we need to take to be free. It is good for us, but it can also be used as a guide to others, those that have not learned the way of Christianity. From time to time we can revisit this journey, and follow the thoughts of Paul as to God's plan for our salvation.

Paul had been raised without Christ, growing to adulthood as a person without the assurance we have. He became a teacher of Christianity. He is believed to have started his teaching around 47 AD, and by the time he wrote Romans, around 57-59 AD, he had had time to refine his thoughts into what could very well be the best treatise we have on God's plan for our salvation through the Sacrifice of Jesus, His Son. The Romans Road is an outline of these thoughts, and it is as good an introduction as any to Christianity. As an introduction it works well, and as a summary or a review it works just as well.

I hope I've given you something to think about and presented it an interesting way. Thank you.

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