Shutting Their Mouth
What are you trying to accomplish when you share the gospel? I hope it isn’t conversion because no mere human can accomplish that. Yes, you need to pray fervently for someone’s salvation, but there are goals that you can strive for that are more within the realm of human responsibility and faithfulness. What is my goal? My goal is to close a person’s mouth from excuse-making. Let me show you from the book of Romans why I aim for this goal.
Just mentioning the book of Romans and evangelism in the same paragraph would lead some to think that I use the Romans Road method of evangelism. I don’t for one main reason. It doesn’t help me accomplish my goal of shutting their mouth. The Romans Road method doesn’t match the book of Romans.
Let me explain.
In the book of Romans, after Paul’s lengthy introduction in 1:1-17, he launches into a devastating denunciation of man’s sin and the impossibility of self-righteousness from 1:18-3:20. That is a whopping 64 verses of unrelenting preaching about the heights of human guilt before God. After that, starting in 3:21, Paul gives us 6 verses that are some of the most important verses about the gospel. Then, starting at 3:27, or possibly starting at chapter 4, Paul begins explaining various features of the gospel to the Romans, who are already Christians. He is not trying to get the Romans saved, he is making sure the church in Rome is grounded in all the riches that are theirs in the gospel. So, starting with chapter 4, Paul explodes any lingering notions concerning works as a basis for their salvation. Chapter 5 fills out the glories of justification that they stand in. Chapter 6 and 7 describes their freedom from sin and the law. Chapter 8 has further implications about their status in Christ.
So to be absolutely clear, I think chapters 4 through chapter 8 are for Christians. Those chapters explain all the realities and implications the gospel has for them. Sure, there are truths in those chapters that can be used with unbelievers. But what is actually written to unbelievers is found in 1:18-3:20. This means that the truest form of doing Romans Road evangelism is to give them 64 verses of sin and guilt, and 6 glorious verses of gospel.
Is that too much sin and guilt for the sinner? Paul doesn’t think so. And the reason he doesn’t think so is because it normally takes 64 verses worth of work to shut the mouth of unbelievers. Hearts of stone don’t break easily. It normally takes many swings of the law hammer. Usually somewhere around 64.
Remember, I said that shutting the excuse-making mouths of unbelievers is my main evangelistic goal. The reason I say that is due to what we find Paul saying throughout 1:18-3:20.
To the secular or pagan person, Paul says:
Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
To the person supposedly following God’s law, Paul says:
Romans 2:1 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.
And finally to all people, Paul says:
Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;
So this is the first and foremost job in evangelism. Until you have shut down their excuse-making, and they say on their own that they are accountable before God and deserve hell, you need to stay firmly planted in 1:18-3:20. There is no more road to travel until their mouth is shut. Don’t waste time telling them about a Messiah they don’t think they need. Additionally, don’t be content when they say, “Sure, everybody is a sinner.” That is treated more as a safety net than a death sentence. Even if they have a surface acknowledgment of sin, press into them how pervasive their defilement is and how horrendously they have spurned and ignored and defied and spit upon the God who made them. Romans 1:18-3:20 is a key passage to do this vital evangelistic work.
But when they freely confess that their sin makes them guilty before God and hopeless for anything except judgement, then usher them into the glory of 3:21-26. Show them that they can be made righteous with the righteousness of God because of Jesus’ wrath-absorbing shed blood. Only when their mouth is shut from excuse-making will they finally care about a Savior, and what a Savior you have to tell them about.
I understand that many fine Christians have used the Romans Road approach. I am thankful that they cared enough for their neighbor to open the Bible, and that God graciously used it to draw people to His Son. But we are not absolute pragmatists. We don’t do things just because they have worked. We want to be biblical. We want to be faithful. We want the Bible to drive every method of ministry. I believe that the Romans Road method doesn’t actually reflect Paul’s approach in Romans, and this is something that we can change.
So take a person down the Roman Road of 1:18-3:20, and pray that God will put them on the highway of holiness which is chapters 4-8. Make it your goal to shut their mouth from excuse-making so that they, by the mercy of God, might open it again in praise to Jesus Christ the Savior.