Starting the Roman Road
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
This is one of the Bibles most famous passages. It is the beginning verse in many soul winning methods, including the most famous one of my younger years, The Roman Road, which also included 623, 58, and 1013. I carried in my shirt pocket a New Testament that had these verses well marked. The two short phrases in our text contain volumes of information.
Romans 323a For all have sinned,
The whole human race is guilty of desecrating the honor God deserves. We have not treated God as God, but have instead dishonored Him through disobedience. Having rebelled against Him, people often find themselves in a state of mind where the idea of God is more hateful than the idea of Satan.
Sadly, we are all guilty. All have sinned is the flat declaration of the Bible regarding us. It makes no difference what we think. The fact remains all have sinned. Russias official Communist dictionary defined sin as an archaic word denoting the transgression of a mythical divine law. Nevertheless, all have sinned.
We were Earths only creatures given opportunity to glorify God consciously and voluntarily. All others do it by instinct. Humans alone can of their own free will honor God, but instead we sin and act contrary to the purposes for which we were made. We fail to love Him, and refuse to obey the best and highest of beings.
Such activity is nothing less than desecration. We often fail to realize the true horror of our deeds. The same kind of conduct of which we are guilty is what caused angels to be cast out of heaven. Their deed was so reprehensible that God had to create an everlasting lake of fire to house them.
The same kind of sin that we commit ruined the whole world. It drove people out of Eden and introduced sin to the world. In one evil deed were contained World Wars I and II, the Holocaust, plus every rape, murder, and abortion.
Also, the sin we commit required the death of Gods only begotten Son to repair the wreckage. What desecration To live in such a way that the very Son of God must die as a criminal, naked before the world. All have sinned.
Romans 323b . . .and come short of the glory of God
We have desecrated not only God, but also ourselves. We have fallen short, not lived up to that for which we were created. Sin is an archery term that means missed the mark. The aim of every person, our mark and bulls eye, is to be the glory of God, but we have failed miserably. The chief end of man is to please God, but we too often invest our energies in other pursuits.
We prefer pleasing one another to pleasing God. Our hearts enjoy human applause. Too many people would agree with Sophocles, It is the brave mans part to live with glory, or with glory die. In other words, the praise of others is the worthiest pursuit. There is little value in this attitude. Human accolades are vanity. To seek them is to spend much for little. They are an evaporating vapor.
Frederick the Great said of human acclaim, When we examine what glory is, we discover that it is nearly nothing. Renown, praise, and honor glitter like gold but fade like smoke. Shakespeare wrote, Like madness is the glory of this life. In another place he said
Glory is like a circle in the water,
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself
Till, by broad spreading, it disperses itself to naught.
If acclaim is our desire, we are a disappointment. We were meant and made for something better than this.
The most beautiful and expensive rifle in the world disappoints if it does not shoot straight. In fact, the better it looks, the more exasperating it is to find out it does not work right. God made us for the one object of glorifying, honoring, and pleasing Him. If we fail in this, all our other decorations–intellect, politeness, art, science, position, wealth–all tend not to diminish but to increase our condemnation.
If the verdict in our text is trueand it isthen our condition is serious. Since the diagnosis is sin, the sickness reaches all the way down to the bottom of our souls.
If our problems were simply ignorance, we would need only a teacher. If our difficulty were simply a hormone imbalance, we would need only a physician. If our difficulty were only error in judgment, we would simply need an example.
Our problem, however, is much graver than any of these. We need in Him who is to help us a power greater than that possessed by a teacher, physician, or example.
When I was born, my dad was a part-time preacher and a fulltime schoolteacher. He decided people needed more than only an education. His Aunt Willie thought he was crazy to give up a steady job, but I think, for him, his decision was correct.
Over a century ago, a young American lawyer met Christ. He soon left his blossoming legal profession because he sensed that people needed more than a counselor they needed a Savior. He became the greatest revivalist reformer of all times, Charles Finney. The need is still as great. One of my friends, Bob Spradling, a Missouri pastor, gave up a partnership in the family law firm to preach the Gospel.
Moody sold shoes, but gave it up because he knew people needed more than good clothes. Billy Sunday was a professional baseball player, but left it because he knew sinners needed more than entertainment. Elisha was a farmer, but he gave it up because people needed more than food.
Years ago in Wales a physician left his brilliant career as a medical specialist to enter the ministry. He was convinced his patients needed more than just ordinary medicine. They needed the gospel of Jesus. This physician-preacher passed away in 1981 after becoming Wales greatest Bible expositor, David Martin Lloyd-Jones.
All these men recognized disaster had struck the human race. They were able to diagnose volumes of disaster in two small phrases All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.
What is the cure these men offered What message did (and do) they proclaim Simply this God Himself sent a deliverer. One has come from Heaven itself to take upon Himself our guilt, our sin, our suffering. He has died in our place and paid our debt. All who accept the pardon made available through the death of Jesus shall be transformed, born again.