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Connecting the Dots (Roman’s Road)

September 24, 2023

Teacher: John McLeod
Scripture: Colossians 4:2-6; Romans

Sermon Points

  1. The Door is for the Word
  2. Be Clear About the Problem
  3. Be Clear About the Solution
  4. Be Clear About the Response
  5. Be Clear About the Hope

Scripture Reading

Colossians 4:2–6 (ESV)

  • (2) Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
  • (3) At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—
  • (4) that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
  • (5) Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.
  • (6) Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.


Think of the most complicated thing that you’ve ever tried to draw, color, or paint from scratch. Can you begin with a blank canvas or sketchbook and freehand something that looks like the real thing? Were you one of the kids excited about going to art class, or were you like me, intimidated and embarrassed? I can still picture in my mind the art room in my school, where I tried to learn how to draw landscapes or people or animals. I eventually figured out some basic perspectives to draw a farm house with a fence. But my attempts at almost anything else were comical.

One of my daughters is a big fan of painting happy little trees with Bob Ross. Some of my other kids have taken some art classes with our own Grace Wolfe. They’ve learned to draw so much better than me. Part of what they learn is seeing a scene or picture through a grid—to help them know where they are on the paper.

I still need even more help than that. Perhaps you are more like me. I need “paint by number” or “connect the dots” to make anything look like the real thing.

Today, we will be “connecting the dots” in our series on personal evangelism.

This is the fourth and final sermon in our vision series on personal evangelism. In our first sermon, Daniel focused on the importance of prayer. Then, Mike had some helpful thoughts on how to develop relationships with others that we might effectively share the gospel with them. Last week, we learned about telling our story, as well as being ready to answer “each one.”

The emphasis on prayer reminds us that God does the heavy lifting in the evangelistic encounter. God must open our hearts to hear and understand the gospel. The long-term work of building relationships and a good reputation can often help create opportunities to share. Often, telling your own story of coming to Christ can be particularly compelling. Our goal this morning is to “connect the dots” and put into practice what we’ve been talking about for the last three Sundays.

The phrase we will zero in on this morning from our Colossians text is “that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”

The situation we’re exploring this morning is how you would answer someone if they asked you what it means to be a Christian or how to become one.

There are perhaps a thousand right ways to answer that question. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a grid, to have a paint by number to help get the right structure to our answer.

We are going to look at that question through a grid of the book of Romans this morning as one example of how to “make it clear.”

It is rare that we preach four sermons in a row from the same exact passage. I hope you’ve found this passage in Colossians 4 a compelling and inspiring call to personal evangelism.

We will begin in Colossians 4 again today, and then take a quick connect—the-dots trip through the book of Romans together.

Our points today:

  1. The Door is for the Word
  2. Be Clear About the Problem
  3. Be Clear About the Solution
  4. Be Clear About the Response
  5. Be Clear About the Hope

Pastoral Prayer

  • Eternal God, who has no beginning and no end, help us to feel the reality and certainty of eternity this morning.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (ESV) — So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
  • Thank you, Father, for the reminder at a friend’s funeral yesterday that this life is short, even when lived full of years.
  • Help us to be prepared for that day, or for your return, and lead us to help others to be prepared for that day as well.
  • Use your word this morning to stir us up to love and good deeds that would guide others to a saving knowledge of your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray, Amen.

I. The Door is for the Word

Colossians 4:3–4 (ESV)

  • (3) At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—
  • (4) that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

What exactly is Paul asking them to pray for? As we have mentioned in our series in this passage already, Paul is in prison while he is writing this letter to the Colossians. And while under this house arrest, he is asking that they would pray for him. Does he ask them to pray for his release? No. For justice? No. Paul has been miraculously released from prison before by the hand of God. But, here he is asking for different prayers.

He asks them to pray for an open door. An open door for what? The word. Paul has been testifying to the mystery of Christ and giving his own personal testimony throughout his arrest and imprisonment (see the later chapters in the book of Acts). Now he is asking them to pray specifically that he’d have an opportunity to speak “the word.” Some translations (the NIV for example) translate this as “our message.” I do like the slightly more literal “the word” here in the ESV.

Paul is not just asking for the opportunity to give any message, but “the word” (Logos) about Christ. He wants an opportunity to share the “mystery of Christ” that stirred up people so much that they put him in prison.

Paul has spoken about this word (Logos) to the Colossians already in his letter. Let’s get a clearer picture about what he’s referring to. Turn back to Chapter 1.

  • Colossians 1:5–6 (ESV) — because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,
  • Colossians 1:25 (ESV) — of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,
  • Colossians 3:16–17 (ESV) — Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Paul also specifies here in our passage in chapter four that the word that he’s referring to is about the mystery of Christ. This is specific. He’s not merely referring to any and all of God’s words, but the word specifically about Christ. He has used that language earlier in his letter as well.

  • Colossians 1:26–27 (ESV) — the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
  • Colossians 2:2 (ESV) — that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,

When referring to the mystery of Christ, Paul is not saying that everything about Christ is mysterious in a way that can’t be understood. He’s saying that the ministry of Christ, and his saving work were hidden in the Old Testament, but are now made clear. It was a mystery that the Christ was coming to save Jew AND Gentile. It was a mystery that Christ would save us by his own death and resurrection. It was a mystery that his Holy Spirit would indwell all believers. This is the mystery, the word that Paul wants to speak plainly now.

I’d like us to make a very specific application of this prayer of Paul’s. I’d like us to consider it an invitation for us to speak the word of God in our evangelistic conversations.

Why is it important and helpful to use scripture when you share the Gospel?

It is great to tell our salvation story to someone, and it is important to discuss philosophy and worldview. However, God’s word IS TRUE and is ACTIVE and ACCOMPLISHES WHAT GOD SENDS IT TO DO.

Hebrews 4:12–13 (ESV) — For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV) — All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Isaiah 55:11 (ESV) — so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Ephesians 6:17 (ESV) — and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

1 Thessalonians 2:13 (ESV) — And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

John 17:17 (ESV) — Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Finally, in the parable of the sower (Mark 5:14), what does the sower sow? The Word of God.

For the rest of our sermon this morning, we’ll be exploring ways to use the Word of God itself in presenting the Gospel to others. In my church when I was a young Christian, we called this particular Gospel presentation method “The Romans Road” since all of the verses come from the book of Romans.

Of course, there are many other scriptures we could use, but for this particular sermon we’ll stick to the book of Romans.

So far, we’ve seen that Paul is asking for prayers that he’d have an open door for the Word (of God).

The next four points in our sermon will all come from Romans, but will be an attempt to answer how we can make the gospel message clear. Remember we said,

  • Be Clear About the Problem
  • Be Clear About the Solution
  • Be Clear About the Response
  • Be Clear About the Hope

Paul summarizes this in Romans 1:16

Romans 1:16 (ESV) — For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

II. Be Clear About the Problem

There is no shortage of problems in the world. Natural disasters, wars, violence, greed, slavery, human trafficking, corrupt politicians, injustice, poverty, broken families, failing schools, inflation.

It’s actually not very difficult to strike up a conversation with someone about the ills of the world. We are often quite ready to complain about the problems in the world that are affecting us negatively.

There are at least two gospel challenges with this tendency, however. First, our perspective is focused in on how these ills affect us or the people we care about. Second, it is exceedingly rare that any of us identifies ourselves as the problem. We are the victims. In comparing ourselves to others, we are almost always “the good guys.”

It’s actually helpful in the cause of evangelism that we all recognize the brokenness of the world. We actually don’t have to convince people that things are broken. G.K. Chesterton in his quotable work, Orthodoxy, says:

Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.

  • G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy. (New York: John Lane Company, 1909), 24.

It is easy to prove brokenness. The challenge for us is to orient our understanding of brokenness around God’s glory, and to see that we are at the center of the problem. The very act of putting ourselves and our experiences at the center of our understanding of the brokenness of the world is itself idolatry. Romans 1 explains this tendency to exchange the glory of God for the creature, but the first stop on our Romans Road is to see that we are all sinners.

None is righteous

Romans 3:10 (ESV) — as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;

We all try to weasel our way out of this by comparing ourselves to others who are more sinful than we are. None of us is as bad as we could be, but our fallen, sinful nature permeates all of who we are. Before we can share the “solution” to our problem, we must acknowledge that we have failed God’s perfect standard.

All have sinned

Romans 3:23 (ESV) — for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

This verse helps us see that our failure is measured against God’s glory—his standard. One excellent persuasive evangelistic method I’ve heard is using the Ten Commandments to help people see how they have fallen short of the glory of God. If you’d like to see this in action, search for “Ray Comfort just witnessing” on YouTube. He’s been using this method effectively for many years.

Convincing people, however, that they are sinners is only part of the problem. It is the consequences of our sins which should raise the alarm bells.

The Wages of Sin is Death

Next, we turn to Romans 6. Let’s look at the first part of verse 23.

Romans 6:23 (ESV) — For the wages of sin is death…

We must understand that the death referenced here is not merely this earthly body dying. Death and hell are the punishment for our sins. When we sin against the glory of the perfect God, the one who is Holy, Holy, Holy, we earn eternal damnation and wrath and fury (Romans 2:8-10).

This relationship of sin and death has been true since the beginning.

Genesis 2:17 (ESV) — but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Disobedience to God’s law brings separation from God and death. This is the problem. It is a universal problem for every person who has ever lived.

Now, let us see the solution.

III. Be Clear About the Solution

Just as it is easy to misdiagnose the problem, it is equally easy to misunderstand the solution to it. The world is full of solutions to things that are not our fundamental problem. We have medical solutions, political solutions, educational solutions, legal solutions, climate solutions, racial equality solutions, psychological solutions. And, at one level it is commendable that humanity works to make the world a better place.

But we must focus the evangelistic solution around our primary problem of death and separation from God. We have offended and alienated ourselves from God by our sins and rebellion against him. How can this be remedied?

When I say we must be clear about the solution, I don’t merely mean that we shouldn’t focus on the wrong problem. I mean that we must not offer the wrong solution to our real problem.

Our default orientation is that the problem is outside of us, and the solution is inside us. This is completely reversed. Our problem is inside us, and the solution must come from outside of us.

Our best attempts to solve the problem ourselves either lead to self-improvement or to sacrificial appeasement. Neither of these is a sufficient problem.

Self-improvement is not a solution

We cannot remove the stain or consequences of sin by doing better. Yet, that is one of the primary ways we try to deal with the problem of our sins. We try to do better. We try to be a good person. We attempt to outweigh our bad with good. Yet, we know that this is insufficient to deal with our guilt before God. We know that no amount of good deeds can actually erase the stain from our sins.

Thankfully, there is a solution to this problem.

Christ died for sinners

One of the clearest statements of the solution to our sin problem is found in Romans 5:6-8.

Romans 5:6–8 (ESV) — For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If you’re looking for the shorter portion to memorize and share, you could just do verse 8.

  • Romans 5:8 (ESV) — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

There is so much wrapped up in these verses. God doesn’t save those who figure out how to solve their own problems. He came for those who were still weak. He came for the ungodly. He came for sinners.

We are perhaps very familiar with these verses, and they may roll of our tongues a bit too casually. Pause and consider how radical this is.

Remember that “the wages of sin is death.” We deserve death. But we don’t have to experience death. Christ died for us.

God expresses his love toward us by sending his own Son to die for us—to die in our place. Miraculously, this was not after we corrected our ways or turned ourselves around. The good news of the gospel is that Christ died for sinners.

Our message is NOT, “turn yourself around and God will save you.” It is that God saves sinners. This is why it is good news.

Eternal life is a gift

We have looked at Romans 6:23 already, but we didn’t finish the verse.

Romans 6:23 (ESV) — For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We deserve death for our sins, but God offers a gift to us, the gift of eternal life. We deserve death; he offers life. Just in case you’re thinking this is the kind of gift you get after working at your company for 25 years and you get the gold watch, it’s not. This is a free gift. It’s not based on you earning it at all. That’s what makes it a gift. It’s not a gift only for those who haven’t been naughty, but been nice.

At the core of it, this is what makes Christianity unintelligible for us. We understand justice. We understand trying to be a good person, but Christianity demolishes all of our attempts to deserve eternal life. It is only available as a gift.

How can God be just and forgive sinners?

We can’t spend much time here this morning, but one question that arises out of what we’ve learned so far is how God can be just (righteous) and save sinners. I think the clearest explanation of that is in Romans 3:23-26.

Romans 3:23–26 (ESV) — for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

This is a very dense passage, and deserves a sermon all on its own. But, it contains the answer to our question. Jesus, having lived a sinless life, died in our place and satisfied the wrath of God. He took all of God’s wrath for those who would trust in him on himself on the cross. Therefore God is righteous in that he punished our sins with death AND we can be given eternal life.


  • The problem is that we all have sinned and earned eternal damnation in Hell.
  • The solution is that Christ Jesus died for sinners to offer the forgiveness of sins and eternal life as a gift.

How then can one receive this gift?

IV. Be Clear About the Response

We have already stated that self-improvement is not a solution. How then can one receive this gift of eternal life?

Just as with the problem and the solution, there are disastrous missteps when it comes to the proper response to this good news.

Not just a religious response

One way that we can go wrong is by making the response a mere religious exercise.

  • “Just pray this prayer after me.”
  • “Raise your hand or come forward at the end of the service.”
  • “Make a decision for Christ.”
  • “Be baptized.”

All of these things may be involved in coming to Christ for salvation, but you cannot boil it down to these activities.

Not by measuring moral change

Another way that we can get this question wrong is by adding the fruits of salvation at the front end. When one comes to Christ, his life is changed. His behaviors change. His loves change. The old is gone, the new has come. But, these are fruits of the work of salvation. We must not demand them in order to be saved.

Confess and Believe

The clearest statement of the required response comes in Chapter 10:9-10:

Romans 10:9–10 (ESV) — because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

And again in verse 13,

Romans 10:13 (ESV) — For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Saved from what? The wrath of God toward sinners.

This is a simple, yet profound response. This is not self-improvement. It is not some religious ritual.

Confess and believe. Believe and confess. Believe that God’s offer of salvation is to you. Believe that his death on the cross was for you. Believe that his resurrection from the dead was for you. Receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Believe. This is not just “believing in God.” Even the demons believe, and they tremble. This is believing that Jesus’ life and death and resurrection were for you, to pay for your sins. Believe this and you are justified—declared to be righteous. Believe, and Christ’s righteousness is yours.

Also notice what you are confessing—Jesus is Lord. You must acknowledge that Jesus is YOUR Lord. He is your King. He is your boss. He is your God. Merely saying these words, “Jesus is Lord” is not enough, it must go along with true belief.

What about repentance?

There is a turning away from our sins involved in confessing Jesus as Lord. Faith is a turning from self and sin, and turning to Christ.

Romans 2:4 (ESV) — Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

The key distinctive: Faith, not work

The key with the necessary response is that what is required is faith, not works.

Romans 4:5 (ESV) — And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

V. Be Clear About the Hope

There is one final area in which we need to be clear. We must be clear about the hope. We get off the rails when we promise the wrong results. We are not promising earthly ease and comfort. We are not promising that all our problems will disappear when we come to Christ.

It is true that living according to God’s Word can often help you avoid many pitfalls and problems, or help you deal with the problems you do have.

However, the hope of the Gospel is one of of being made right with God and one of eternal life.

Here are two passages I would turn to.

First, Romans 5:1.

Romans 5:1 (ESV) — Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is a promise of peace with God. We are no longer his enemy. God’s wrath is no longer hanging over us.

One important truth to remember here is that this is not speaking primarily of a “feeling” of peace with God, though we will experience that. It is a statement of what is true.

This peace is present tense—we HAVE peace with God. It is not just a future reality.

A second passage for the hope would be Romans 8:1.

Romans 8:1 (ESV) — There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Such an absolute promise for the believe is valuable beyond our comprehension. As we grow in sanctification and increase in our knowledge of God, it is easy for feelings of condemnation to become overwhelming. We become increasingly aware of our sins against a holy God. But, we must also become increasingly confident in the promises of the Gospel. There is NO Condemnation for those who are “in Christ Jesus,” for those who have put their faith in Christ alone for salvation, for those who have “called upon the name of the Lord.”

This is not a promise that all earthly consequences of our sins will disappear. It is a promise that those temporal consequences will fade away in the glory of eternity. It is a promise that God will do all that is needed to bring those who are in Christ into his eternal glory.

Romans 8:31–32 (ESV) — What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Conclusion / Application

Remember that we are praying for opportunities “for the Word.”

We want to make the Gospel clear:

  • Be clear about the problem
  • Be clear about the solution
  • Be clear about the response
  • Be clear about the hope

Here are some practical ways to put into practice.

  1. Mark your Bibles (underline, highlight, etc., and write in where to go next)
  2. Keep a note on your phone with these verses (Apple Notes, Google Keep, Evernote, etc.). Alternatively, you could write on a notecard and keep with you.
  3. Memorize these verses and be able to present them in order.
  4. Practice by presenting these verses to some of your Christian friends.
  5. You can practice making the gospel clear from other passages as well. Try John 3:16.
  6. Pray for and seek opportunities to share with non-Christians.

Closing Prayer

  • The dozens or hundreds of conversations that we as a congregation will have this week.

Recent Messages

Here are some other recent messages.

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