The Romans Road was and is an explanation of the gospel using a few verses from Romans. It focuses on personal guilt, forgiveness, and salvation. It misses much of the message of Romans and is too limiting, as if God’s great plan is me-centered and my personal guilt is the main issue of the gospel. It goes something like this:
–You are a sinner and guilty before God (Romans 3:23).
–Your guilt has earned you death (Romans 6:23).
–God has a plan to save you freely through faith (Romans 5:8).
–All you need to do is call on God (pray) and your faith will save you (Romans 10:9).
There is certainly truth in this Romans road (penal substitution is part of what the atonement is about). But there is more to the gospel and more to the atonement made by Messiah than that. The Ephesians Road is more like the view known as Christus Victor, the death of Messiah is a victory over the forces of evil and death.
Wax’s Ephesians Road
Ephesians lends itself more than Romans to a simple presentation of the bigger picture of the atonement and of the gospel. This is not because Romans is missing the bigger picture, but because Romans develops it in a more complex, spread out fashion.
Wax’s Ephesians Road is simple and effective (though note I will discuss a complexity about it afterward):
–Salvation is about God’s plan for the world (Ephesians 1), including election, adoption, and uniting all things in Messiah. Wax says it’s not so much that God has a wonderful plan for your life, but that God has a wonderful plan.
–Salvation is only by unearned favor (Ephesians 2:1-9), raising us from the dead and saving us from God’s wrath. Wax says we weren’t rescued while drowning, we were already dead and God made us alive.
–Salvation comes with a calling that must be fulfilled in the community of faith (Ephesians 2:10-22), including good works, kingdom community, and imaging God to the world.
Whereas the Romans Road says, “You can be forgiven and live forever,” the Ephesians Road says, “God is making a perfected cosmos and you can join in.” The Romans Road is limited because it ends in mere acceptance of future blessing. The Ephesians Road is more complete because it ends in all things united in Messiah and calls for us to work with Messiah through the community to bring about healing and redemption for the world.
Complexity Unexamined: Israel in Ephesians 1
In October 2009, I wrote about Ephesians 1, especially vs. 12, and the idea that the “us” and “we” are Israel and the “you” are the Gentiles Paul is speaking to. You can read that post here and see the evidence (the only other viable option I see is that the “us” and “we” are the apostles, but can we say that the apostles hoped in Messiah before Israel did?).
That would mean, if I am right, that Ephesians 1 is not about the church’s election, but Israel’s.
Wax doesn’t consider this issue, reading Ephesians 1 as a statement about the church in the common hermeneutic, assuming that Paul would not use such language about Israel. I don’t know if the idea even occurred to Wax or if he made the interpretive decision rejecting the Israel view and preferring the idea that the us of 1:12 is about the apostles.
But does the possibility that Ephesians 1 is about Israel’s election, not the church’s, invalidate the Ephesians Road?
I don’t think so:
–1:13-14 speaks of the inclusion of the church and, while it doesn’t specifically say this means inclusion in Israel’s election, I think it is a corollary.
–Romans 8:29-30 speaks of the church as foreknown by God and predestined.
–1 Corinthians 2:7 speaks of the wisdom decreed before the ages. The wisdom of the gospel to all, Jew and Gentile, seems to be in view.
Expanding the Ephesians Road
Still, even though Wax’s points from Ephesians are not invalidated by the strong inclusion of Israel in Ephesians 1, I think his model should be expanded.
I think as Christians grow in a bigger understanding of the gospel, it is vital to grow in an understanding of Israel’s election as well.
It is not only in Ephesians 1 that the grand picture of the gospel has Israel at the center. It is also in Ephesians 2.
Ephesians 2:12-13 speaks of Gentile salvation as an inclusion in the commonwealth of Israel.
So, here is my expanded Ephesians Road:
–Salvation is about God’s plan for the world (Ephesians 1), including the election of Israel, the adoption of Israel as the people of God, the inclusion of Gentiles in salvation, and the uniting of all things in Messiah symbolized by the new unity of Jew and Gentile in Messiah.
–Salvation is only by unearned favor (Ephesians 2:1-9), raising us from the dead and saving us from God’s wrath.
–Salvation comes with a calling that must be fulfilled in the community of faith (Ephesians 2:10-22), including good works, kingdom community of mutual blessing between Jew and Gentile, and imaging God to the world.
So, how does this strike you? Is Paul’s use of Israel in Ephesians 1 and 2 and inconsequential afterthought? Or is the Jew/Gentile issue a redemptive example of inestimable worth demonstrating what reconciliation of the cosmos will look like?